Zia Hassan

How Much Does Where You Went To College Matter

+++ title = “03” date = 2019 +++

Applying to college in High School was an endless shame spiral. You’d take a hard look at your GPA, and then compare it to the average student that different colleges accepted. You’d make a list of reach schools, target schools, and backup schools. Then you’d apply to all of them and see what came back.

I applied to American University early decision, partially because it was nearby and I was afraid of moving too far away from home, and also because it had an audio technology program (which is what I wanted to do with my life at that point in time). AU’s average GPA for accepted students was around the same as mine, maybe slightly higher… but I could’ve applied to a ton of different schools.

I had somehow decided on a major at that point, which boggles my mind now. How can an 18 year old, someone who is barely an adult, have any idea of what they want to do with their lives? I heard about a college the other day that disallows freshman from selecting majors. You take general courses for a year or two, and then pick. Slightly better, I guess.

And then when I graduated, I met a lot of people who went to “prestigious” universities. I felt slightly envious of those who went somewhere Ivy League, because it made me feel less worthy. Until I realized the truth.

The truth, as occurred to me, was that no one really cares where I went to college. Sure, some brand names are impressive to people who care about that sort of thing, but ultimately I found that people were more impressed with my accomplishments, with what I could do with my skills, with the skills I had attained since college. A masters degree may hold more weight; after all, if you have a master’s degree, it’s likely you’ve done some work in your chosen field. You have accomplishments, even if they are minor. But it’s still meaningless.

Now, if you haven’t accomplished anything since college, then it’s probably a good idea to have gone somewhere that sounds prestigious. It’s all you have to fall back on. Or, if you intend to work somewhere that judges people based on where they went to college, like a management consulting firm, then it’s also probably advantageous to have gone to prestigious school.

But most of the world doesn’t care.

For the rest of us, it’s business as usual: try to make a dent in our tiny corner of the universe, and gain credibility through our work products and not through the institutions that trained us.