It’s college application season and scores of parents are pushing their kids to seek admission to Ivy League schools and other “brand name” institutions of higher learning.
For some parents – and many students too – if a college or university isn’t a “Top 20” school, or one with a name that everyone recognizes, it’s not even worth applying to that campus.
Why? Unfortunately, many people remain star struck when it comes to labels – and that includes educational labels.
To them, the more exclusive, pricey or selective an institution, the “better” that school must be. That’s obviously not always the case, but the myth or the perception that a “top,” “well-known” school is always a “better” one remains pervasive nonetheless.
Another big reason people select prestigious colleges is that they believe employers will fall all over themselves to court and ultimately hire college grads from the likes of Harvard, Yale, Princeton, MIT, Stanford or Duke.
Others think employers mainly pull from the talent pool at elite liberal arts colleges like Williams, Amherst, Smith, or Middlebury.
All of the previously mentioned campuses are fine schools. No doubt about it. But they’re certainly not the “best” options for everyone – even those qualified to gain admission. And these schools certainly don’t carry any guarantees.
In fact, please realize that graduating from any prestigious school won’t be a magic ticket to a great job — nor a successful, happy future.
According to a survey conducted by Gallup and released by the Lumina Foundation, the vast majority of hiring managers really don’t care where a job candidate went to school.
Corporate bosses were far more interested in a job applicant’s knowledge and experience when determining whom to hire.
Unfortunately, most people get it wrong on this front, too — mistakenly assuming that employers want to see a brand name institution on a person’s resume.
In that Gallup survey, 80% of Americans polled said that school choice is either “very important” (30%) or “somewhat important” (50%) to hiring managers.
Thank goodness that business leaders actually say just the opposite — and they’re the ones making the hiring decisions.
Among business leaders surveyed, just 9% said that where a job candidate earned his or her degree is “very important,” and 37% said it is “somewhat important.”
All of this illustrates that you don’t need to pick a pricey school or a name-brand campus just because you think it will automatically make you a more attractive job applicant. In most cases, it won’t.
Now does this mean that some employers won’t favor certain job applicants who come from specific schools – especially if it’s a campus that the hiring manager attended? Sure. This happens all the time.
But my point is that there will come a time, probably just after you land your first job, that you won’t be able to leverage your campus name forever. Simply put: after you’ve been in the workforce for a while, nobody really cares where you earned your degree.
Besides, you don’t want to sound like that 40-year-old guy talking about his glory days in high school or college. When I hear such people, I always think: What have you done since then?
In other words, your skill set and experience matter tremendously. So don’t try to lean too heavily – or even exclusively – on your alma mater as a way to stand out in the professional world.
If you feel that you “peaked” in college, or that the best you have to offer an employer is the name of the school where you obtained a diploma, well, then you’ve got your work cut out for you.
Start by cultivating the right job experience and skills – technical, financial, operational, communications and other skills. That’s what you should be doing if you want to get hired in today’s competitive work environment. And that advice applies to recent college grads and experienced workers alike.
- How the Supreme Court Created the Student Loan Bubble (spectator.org)
- Do Employers Value Online Degrees (strayer.edu)
- What College? A Consumer Advocate’s Approach (psychologytoday.com)