Does going to an elite college matter?

us-news-books“Does attending an elite college matter?” asked Colin, a senior at Xavier High School in Middetown, Connecticut.   “Some people tell me that it really matters and some people say it doesn’t.” He continued.

“Both are right.” I responded. I wasn’t trying to sound like a mysterious college guru.  I provided an accurate answer.

For sake of simplicity, I am going to remove the experience of the 4 years of college as well as the friendships, location, and every other “life experiential” factor from this discussion and focus exclusively on career outcomes, which was the interest of Colin’s question.

For those interested in investment banking, law, medicine, management consulting, academia, management in Fortune 500 companies and any other area where pedigree is an asset that can be leveraged, then “yes” it does matter. In some cases, it matters tremendously. The Washington DC law firm I worked for would not even look at students who didn’t graduate from a top fifteen law school. Goldman Sachs has similar standards for its college hires. I’m aware of the rare exceptions to the general rule but it drives me crazy when adult advisors provide the exceptions as the rule.

I know that former NBA star Muggsy Bogues was five foot three inches but I’m not going to tell young people that height doesn’t matter for professional basketball. Telling young adults that they can do anything they want regardless of where they go to college is similarly misleading.

For those interested in elementary education, small local business, and other areas where one’s pedigree is not critical to hiring decisions, then “no” it does not matter, or at least it does not matter than much.

So, does attending an elite college matter for one’s career? “Yes” and “no”!