Have you ever wondered what’s the return on attending an Ivy League school? I certainly have. I considered it when a few of my high school friends ended up at Harvard, and I ended up at a “top-tier” public university. Nowadays, I consider it often, because I have my own kids and think about where they might end up attending college and whether it’d really be worth the cost of a top-tier, private university.
A good friend of mine is a school administrator, and he wrote me the following: I’ve reviewed hundreds of resumes in order to fill various teacher and staff positions. Currently, I’m working as a contract recruiter for a large public school district so once again I am reviewing a large volume of resumes on a weekly basis to fill teacher and administrator positions. I see all sorts of resumes in a wide variety of formats and interview many candidates in the hopes of finding the best of the best for our schools.
As a result, here are some thoughts I’ve pondered regarding Ivy League or top-tier schools (ie. Stanford, considered the Harvard of the West coast) versus all the others.
1. An Ivy League school makes a resume stand out. I hate to admit it, but when I look at a bunch of resumes, they all start to look ordinary. However, the worst is when I see a resume that is horribly formatted. I reviewed one the other day that was 3 pages long written in paragraph format! Sorry, I digress. So, what makes a resume stand out?
When I see that a teacher has attended Harvard, Stanford, or Columbia University. These are the top education programs in the nation. Regardless of anything else on the resume, I am compelled, at the very least, to give the applicant a phone call. I’m willing to bet that many recruiters and hiring managers would also give a second look and pause to look more carefully at a candidate who is a top-tier university graduate.
2. Ivy League school graduates are uncommon. Out of every hundred resumes I review, I’ll run across maybe 1 or 2 top-tier university graduates. The US has over 2700 4-year universities. Of these, only 8 are Ivy League, and perhaps another 10-12 more would be considered “top-tier”. That makes a total of around 20 universities out of 2700 which equals .7%. There are few Ivy League/top-tier universities, and therefore fewer Ivy League/top-tier university graduates, thus making them a rare commodity.
3. Every advantage. If the first two points are even partially true, I would want my child to have every advantage, including a top-tier university degree to put on his/her resume. I am not stating that this is the only advantage, but it certainly can’t hurt, especially given the ever-growing competitive nature of globalization.
Is it worth the 2x tuition cost of a public institution?
* Top notch education, which has produced many US presidents, US Supreme Court Justices, the founders of Facebook, Google, and Netflix
* Learn from some of the best professors in the US
* Opportunity to study with peers who are incredibly bright
* Strong alumni network connections (which of course is the case at many schools, but arguably none is as far-reaching as the Ivy network)
* Pedigree (Think brand name.)
* Possible advantage when seeking a job. While a degree from a top-tier school doesn’t guarantee someone a great job, it does, however, open doors of opportunity a little more quickly and a little more often.
Of course, not all Ivy League school graduates are “all that”. I’ve interviewed my fair share of Ivy League candidates who made me wonder if they went to Blue University instead of Brown University. But by and large, most of the Ivy League/top-tier school candidates I’ve met and interviewed have been impressive.
So, if given the choice between sending your child to Harvard University with no financial assistance or to a reputable public university on a free ride, which would you choose and why? (Assume that your child has no preference.) I look forward to hearing your thoughts!