It used to be true that choosing a college had a major impact on your future in terms of where you could get hired and how much you would get paid. However, several studies have now come out and confirmed that the truth is that in most fields, simply going to college is what really matters, not necessarily where you go.
The first study on this was done in 199 by Alan Krueger and Stacy Berg Dale, both economists. They focused their study on a group of people who had all been admitted to elite colleges. Some of them went to the elite school while others went to a more “moderately selective” school. 20 years after these students had graduated, there was little to no difference between their yearly earnings.
The second study was done in 2011 and was done on a much larger scale, covering roughly 19,000 students across the United States. The conclusion? Same as before: where you attend college does not have a significant impact on your future earnings. The reason for this is that there are now around 200 colleges that offer the same level of education and quality of facilities as elite schools.
Rather than focusing entirely on earnings, let’s take a moment to think about job satisfaction and overall happiness. Does where you attend college have an impact in these areas? Although they are more difficult to measure than earnings, Gregg Easterbrook wrote an essay in 2004 after interviewing countless college officials and determined a student’s overall happiness with life and their job was likewise not impacted by whether they attended an elite college or not.
So, if where you go doesn’t matter that much, what does? In today’s competitive job market, potential employers want to see that you can use the skills that you gained in college. Most interviewers have adopted a “show, don’t tell” policy when it comes to hiring, and rather than wanting to know where you went to college, they want to see what you can do for their company. This is particularly true in the quickly-growing technology field.
If you’ve been stressing about where to attend college or wondering if you made the right choice by turning down an elite school, take a moment to sigh in relief. While you are attending college, make sure you focus on really learning the skills that are being taught and be sure you are prepared to use them in real-world situations.
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Another thing that many employers are looking for that you won’t learn from a lecture are interpersonal skills. Prospective employers want to know that you can work in a team and that you’re good with people. These are skills that are being lost quickly by upcoming generations, which makes them more and more valuable to employers.
Armed with this knowledge, you now have the freedom to choose the college that is best for you rather than trying to get into an elite school that will get you to the same place as any other college. So take a deep breath and don’t stress so much about where you go, because the fact that you’re going is what matters most.