Mar 13, 2013

How much does choice of college really matter in your career?

How much difference does it make to an IT career what college you attend? I mean, yeah, I understand that you are going to be more likely to get a call back if you went to Stanford, for example, versus Acme Tech, but outside of the top 10 or so schools, does it really make a significant difference over the course of your career?

I have a degree in Political Science, and I've never worked in politics or government. Heh. So that shows you how relevant my major was to my career. I've found technology to be far more interesting and stimulating than politics. Many people have also found themselves far afield from what they studied in college.
I happen to have done both - I went to a medium-sized state university undergrad (Go Catamounts!), and an internationally recognized university for grad school (Go Irish!). From a student's perspective, I definitely saw a disparity in resources, which would be expected. The quality of professors was fairly comparably, somewhat to my surprise. While the more prestigious school tended to have more professors with Ivy League pedigrees and stronger research backgrounds, the professors at the state school were, on average, as good at actually teaching. Sometimes better, in fact. The main difference was the quality of the average student. The more selective school had a larger percentage of highly motivated, academically talented students, although the best students at both schools were comparable. There were just less of the "top tier" students at my undergrad university.

Having a recognizable name on your resume does open some doors, especially when you are first entering the job market. As you build you own reputation and work history, it matters less and less, but I do think you still get a little "bonus" on your resume from a prestigious university. I'm not so sure it is enough to justify the huge difference in tuition as an undergraduate, though.
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