Does It Matter Where You Go to College?

Ah, the age-old question that has tortured many a prospective college student, and led to a global shortage of hair dye from stress-induced graying: “Does It Matter Where You Go to College?” This isn’t just a philosophical query for late-night dorm chats, but rather a fiercely debated issue with thousands of dollars, if not millions, on the line.

Getting the Most Bang for Your Buck (or Hundreds of Thousands of Them)

Back in the olden days of the early 2000s (when dial-up internet was still a thing, if you can believe that), a couple of economists called Stacy Dale and Alan Krueger decided to ruffle some academic feathers. They published a paper in November 2002 in the Quarterly Journal of Economics that reached a conclusion so startling it made even the most stoic professors drop their chalk in shock.

For most students, they argued, the salary boost from attending a super-selective school is “generally indistinguishable from zero.” Yes, you read that correctly. All those extra zeros on the tuition fee for an elite school? They don’t necessarily translate into more zeros on your future paycheck. Don’t believe it? You can see this research and much more over at So much for that Harvard MBA being a golden ticket to wealth!

Is Ivy League Overrated?

Now, this doesn’t mean that every elite school graduate is doomed to a lifetime of eating ramen while their community college peers feast on caviar. The Ivy League isn’t turning out penniless graduates, far from it. But the research suggests that the prestige of a college itself is not the major factor in future earnings. So, if you’re planning to remortgage your house, sell your car, or pawn your grandmother’s heirlooms to afford that Ivy League diploma, you may want to reconsider.

Success: It’s What You Make of It, Not Where You Make It

So, if the salary boost from an elite school is, as Dale and Krueger put it, “generally indistinguishable from zero,” what on earth should you base your college decision on? Cue the suspenseful music. Ready for the big reveal? It’s…you. Yes, you, the student. Your ambition, hard work, and ability to network can make a far greater impact on your future success than the name of the institution on your diploma.

Consider Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. They both dropped out of Harvard, and look where they ended up. It wasn’t the Ivy League magic that made them billionaires, but their innovation, determination, and yes, a generous helping of good fortune.

So, Back to the Question: Does It Matter Where You Go to College?

In light of all this evidence, we must once again ask: Does It Matter Where You Go to College? The answer, like the taste of cafeteria food, is complex and subject to individual interpretation.

The prestige of a college can open doors, true. But ultimately, it’s what you do at college, how much you apply yourself, and the relationships you build that will have the most bearing on your future.

So, before you trade in your family jewels for a ticket to an elite institution, remember: it’s not about the name of the college on your resume, but the name you make for yourself. Now, if only we could get parents to stop using their kid’s college acceptance as bragging rights at dinner parties, we’d truly be making progress.

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