I remember back when picking colleges how important everybody tried to make the rankings seem. How we all poured over sites like USNews or Forbes or Princeton Review. Agonizing over bs like acceptance rates and SAT score ranges.
Then while actually in college, my University administration acted like the school moving up or down in the rankings was going to somehow make or break our future after education.
But once out in the real world for a while, it became apparent how meaningless this all was. Its all for nothing but bragging rights for people in academia.
I’ve hired a lot of people. I’ve talked to countless hiring managers and executives across a variety of industries. I’ve been in many meetings going through applications. Consensus is…for the most part as long as you have a degree, nobody really cares where you went to school. And after you’ve landed your first job out of school…it matters even less.
In fact, when I’m browsing resumes I barely even glance at the school at all. My eyes go immediately to past work experience and skills. If they match exactly to what we need for the job, they advance to the next stage. I’m much more impressed by the guy who went to community college and has amassed a wide range of relevant skills, than the top 10 school grad who is probably smart but hasn’t proven their work value.
If somebody went to a lesser known school, I’d never assume they’re not as good of a candidate. For all I know they grew up in a poor household…or went to a bad high school…or slacked off in high school but got their act together at some point after.
Theres a few exceptions.
- Theres a select few “snobby” fields out there where the school name maybe holds some weight (like academia). But for the most part in those fields your undergrad is far less important than graduate degree.
- Theres some companies out there who recruit directly from certain top schools. But that isn’t tied to rankings so much as the quality of program they have for that specific field.
- If you went to an Ivy League school…yea its probably going to jump out out in a stack of resumes. It may get you an extra minute of attention.
- If you happened to go to the same school as the hiring manager, it could help. But that advantage can be gained just going to a huge school regardless of rank.
Other than that, nobody cares if you went to the school ranked #20 vs the school ranked #120. The hiring manager probably has no idea. And that name tells us almost nothing about whether or not you’re a good fit for the job.
And within many fields, the schools with the best programs are barely known to outsiders (and have nothing to do with rankings).
What is actually important is amassing a diverse range of relevant skills for your field, networking, and gaining work experience. Internships are more valuable than any course you’ll ever take. A lower ranked Co-Op school will probably give you more of a leg up than a higher ranked school without a lot of focus on internships. And finding a school that has a good specialized program in your desired field will be far more helpful than a higher-ranked generalist university.