If you’re wondering does it matter where you go to college, the research shows that it really depends on many different factors.
There’s a belief that if you attend a more elite institution to earn your degree, you’ll achieve more success and land a better job. If you find yourself applying to colleges and wondering, “Does it matter where you go to college?” you may be surprised to find out that the answer depends on many variables. You may question if it means less to earn an online degree versus attending an on-campus institution? Does an Ivy league diploma count for more than one from a traditional state school?
While the numbers show that the most highly paid employees do come from the most highly selective schools, the research also ends up telling the story that the most telltale marker of one’s future is, in fact, the student’s work ethic and perseverance. For example, of the top eight Ivy league schools in America, less than 10% received admissions offers. This shows just how competitive and elusive these schools are so it’s obvious that even without attending these institutions, people can still pursue purposeful and passionate paths.
While the name of the institution you graduate from may have some impact on your future, it’s not the end all and be all measure for your level of success and opportunity.
Let’s take a look at all sides of the coin by checking out the pros and cons of attending an elite college, as well as the differences between attending a traditional institution versus an online university.
Pros of Elite Universities
Elite universities like the Ivy leagues, including Yale, Harvard, and Stanford, to name a few, have some clear advantages over traditional colleges.
When a recruiter or hiring manager sees these names on your resume during the application process, it automatically serves as a marker of prestige and recognition. Some employers may use this fact as a way to simplify the selection and filtering process because if a candidate made it through the gates to an elite institution, that signals that they’ve passed specific competitive criteria. Particularly in business, law and finance, many top firms have “feeder schools” or select candidates to hire from a pool who have graduated from elite universities.
At top-notch universities, the networking opportunities are naturally enhanced. This is because the alumni have often gone on to become the founders of big companies who continue to stay connected to their schools and offer donations. Additionally, the big-name schools can attract big-name speakers and lecturers, granting the students access to such notable figures.
Cons of Elite Universities
Quality of Education:
Although the elite universities make the admissions process more selective, which may seem tied to the quality of education, this may not always be the case. Because big institutions often focus more on research and have larger class sizes, the intimate and tailored learning structure may not exist for all types of students.
Personal learning style:
Not all universities offer the right fit for each student. Some students prefer directed learning while others like the freedom to explore. Some students do better in small classes or discussion groups while others prefer the ability to watch lectures online. Depending on your learning style, an elite institution could or could not be the right fit. You can always research the teaching style and class size on a university website to find out more before applying or enrolling.
It goes without saying that the most elite institutions also cost the most money. The affordability of school, despite the opportunity for grants and scholarships, plays a big role in one’s decision of where to attend.
Traditional vs Online Colleges
Like elite universities, the entire traditional system of education where attending classes in big lecture halls with hundreds of students may not be the right choice for every student. Thanks to the rise of technology, online universities are spreading rapidly and growing each day. Online universities offer both upsides and downsides when compared to traditional universities — it all is just a matter of perspective and preference. However, employers are taking notice of online universities, especially accredited institutions like University of the People.
Pros of Online Colleges
When all your classes and educational materials exist online, it’s up to you when to study. The nature of online schools allows for flexibility that cannot exist when a class is scheduled at a specific time in a specific location at a traditional institution.
Because there are less overhead costs, online universities generally cost a fraction of the price that traditional schools do. For example, at University of the People, the programs are tuition-free and course instructors are volunteers. The costs associated with earning your degree are course assessment fees and a one-time application fee, but students can apply for financial assistance like scholarships to help cover these costs.
Since online schools can be accessed from anywhere in the world, the student body is naturally diverse and hails from all over. In the case of UoPeople, students from over 200 countries and territories are in attendance.
Lower barriers for entry:
It’s commonplace for traditional universities to require the completion of standardized tests like the GRE to apply. Scores must meet a specified level to be considered and there are often required minimum GPAs to apply. However, online universities may request less specific requirements to attend. At UoPeople, students can apply from anywhere as long as they show proof of high school completion as well as the ability to communicate in English (as courses are taught in English).
Since online schools have no physical location, you can live anywhere and even travel while you learn. While traditional universities require students to attend class and pay for the cost of living and/or transportation, online programs naturally exclude those necessities.
Don’t let any time you’ve previously spent studying go to waste. Most online institutions will be more willing to accept transferred credits from other places of study.
Online programs have distinctive learning methods that prioritize a student’s needs. Because each student may choose to learn differently, the flexibility of the programs can be tailored to meet each student’s respective needs. In particular, at UoPeople, class sizes are relatively small and the teaching focuses on a peer-to-peer pedagogical model where students are highly interactive and help one another learn.
Cons of Online Colleges
For some students, being in a classroom environment is necessary to stay focused and learn best. For students who want the experience of a classroom, online schools may pose a challenge.
Online schools require discipline on behalf of the student. Since you are in control of when you learn, you have to be accountable for your own schedule.
Not all types of degrees can be earned online. For example, professions that require hands-on training like culinary school or medical school won’t be best if online.
United States vs International Schools
Regardless if you are a U.S. citizen or not, you may be questioning the difference between earning your education within America or outside of America. As a world power, here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of studying in the United States.
Pros of American Universities
As a huge country, the U.S. has an immense amount of university choices. According to the Association of American Colleges and Universities, there are over 2,600 accredited four-year colleges and universities. This gives students a vast array of options for where to apply to study.
Diverse student body:
Students from all over the world flock to American institutions to earn their higher education degrees. Although the number is decreasing slightly in recent years, data shows that the majority of international students who choose to study at American institutions come from China, India, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Canada.
As a world power, a degree from an American institution holds a lot of weight. Not only does it signal to employers that you are proficient in English, but it also shows that you can power through rigorous coursework.
Because America has so many sectors and is at the forefront of many industries like technology, having a degree from an American institution can lead to solid job opportunities within the country or in foreign countries where American businesses exist.
Where you go to school will position you to communicate with prospective employees early on, as well as peers who may turn out to be future business partners. By growing your network, you are opening doors for your future.
Cons of American Universities
Despite the world-renowned institutions, American universities are often extremely costly. However, you can always consider the online alternatives, like UoPeople, which is American accredited and tuition-free.
Depending on the type of school, whether it is private, public, or a state school, the standards of education will vary. Be sure to check the quality of education and see if you can get in contact with alumni to ask any questions you may have before making your decision.
If you’re an international student who wants to attend an on-campus university in America, you will possibly have to move away from your family and friends. The alternative is if you decide to take the online route and can study from anywhere.
Do Employees Care?
When it comes down to getting your degree, other than your own personal satisfaction, you are likely doing so to land a good job in your desired field of work. So, the real question is, “Do employees care where I go to college?”
While the answer does depend on the field and respective employer, there’s a general rule of thumb. For STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) majors, your college tends to be less relevant. Rather, most huge tech giants like Apple and Google prefer to hire candidates based on their ability, attitude and experience.
As mentioned above, when it comes to business and finance, networking is key so there are certain levels of institutions that offer expanded opportunities to connect with the right people and companies.
What Really Matters
Despite where you earn your degree, there are other factors that matter much more in determining your success. At the top of the list, student care, focus, drive and ambition are of utmost importance.
Additionally, not everyone has the luxury of choosing where they want to go whether it is because of their test scores, financial ability, test-taking abilities and the like. You’ll want to consider your ROI (return on investment), as well. Take a look at how much a school costs and compare it to the average salary in your respective career field. Follow these steps to limit student debt and assess your budget and future return of having your degree.
In the end, earning your degree, regardless of where you do so, will prove to be beneficial. It’s also good to check that the institution of your choice is accredited and that the teaching style is conducive to the way you like to learn!