Does where you graduate university/college really matter?
The next few months, for the bulk of grade 12 Canadian high schoolers, are prime time for anxiety.
As university/college applications turn into university/college acceptances and rejections, every student feels the need to measure themselves against their peers. Where is he going? Where did she get into? What kind of post-grad salary are they looking at?
Yet for all the hair-pulling and teeth-grinding, is it really worth it? In the end of it all, does where you went to university or college really matter?
We’ve all heard the notion “It’s not where you go, it’s what you do there,” though if anyone really bought into that, the Harvards and Yales of the world wouldn’t consistently charge tens of thousands per year in tuition, and wouldn’t have to routinely turn down a huge bulk of their applicants.
Why, though, all the continued fuss?
The lore of a premier post-secondary institution is undeniable, but maybe the subsequent economic payoff isn’t. By a new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), you likely need a university/college degree or diploma for your future salary’s sake, yet where it comes from probably doesn’t matter.
The NBER surveyed 6,335 post-secondary grads from 1976, then cross-referenced what school they went to with their salaries decades later. The results?
“The internal real rate of return on college tuition for students who went to college in the late 1970s was a startlingly high 16 to 18 percent,” the report notes. “But with college costs up sharply since then, returns have probably come down to a more normal range.”
The NBER calls this the “Spielberg model,” in reference to Steven, the famous movie director. Spielberg, who was notably rejected from USC and UCLA’s film schools, settled for Cal State Long Beach, where he went on to … well, you know.
These examples are U.S.-based, sure, yet while no such data exists for Canadian universities and college grads, just take a look at the educations of several prominent Canucks. Dragon’s Den panel members Arlene Dickinson, Robert Herjavec and Jim Treliving, for example, all have modest educations relative to their success.
Do you think that’s fluke or reality, then? Do you think, as long as you have a degree or diploma, it necessarily matters where it comes from anymore?
By Jason Buckland, MSN Money
Posted by: SP | Nov 30, 2021 9:14:10 PM
It depends a lot on if your income will depend upon whether you are going to rely upon your skill or who hires you. If it is your skill alone then the bare minimum to get into the field is all that matters (just ask Richard Branson).
BUT if you want to raise startup capital, get hired into some companies or certain government positions you'd better have a University name on your degree that makes people envious as demonstrated by Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Paul Martin, Kim Campbell, Bill Clinton, George Bush Jr, etc, etc, etc (proof if any needed that Credentialism is rampant in western societies)
Posted by: Albertagirl | Dec 1, 2021 10:51:08 AM
I have been trying to tell people this same fact for a number of years now- it does not matter where you get your degree from-it ONLY matters if it is some very specific field. For example if you are planning to be a medical doctor, the school you chose can make or break your future career-you will have more opportunities presented to you if the school is considered prestigious within the field( coupled with the fact they are often connected to teaching hospitals that ehance the learning and tend to have the top medical specialists -staff doctors- within each medicine speciality that you intern under. ( As well this prestige also tends to become assoicated with the individual student when viewed by outsiders such patients or other doctors who may not have completed their education at that particular institute).
There are NO (federally authorized) universities in Canada that do not have to operate( provide a basic degree of 120 required credits in specified disciplines -arts,science,engineering,etc) under strict guidelines that dictate the degree requirements university A must be the same on the whole for university B or C or D,etc. If this was not so then a student would never be able to start their university degree at another instuitute be it another university or a college with a 2yr university transfer program (couple this with the fact that all degree granting institutes have a residency requirement for receiving a degree from them- usually 60 credits with the other 60 allowable from outside that institute although some can be lower at 30 and there is even one in BC where it is only 15 that you must complete with them in order to complete a degree that has been started elsewhere) therefore a student can change institutes after the 1st yr and in some cases close to 3 yrs after they start their degree elsewhere)
Another factor to throw in , is I have yet to meet the employer ( again unless it is a very specialized field like medicine,etc) that cares abt where your degree came from- the majority of people I know have NEVER been asked to show their degree parchment because being hired was conditional upon what school you attended- only how particular courses they may have taken relate or if the job requires a degree, to prove they have it.
Hence the criteria for choosing school for an average 4 yr degree ( or the 3 yr degrees offered at some instiutes which are fairly rare these days) should focus more on how it fits with the future student's life-location, flexibilty and most important of all one's finances ( remember for most student loans are the norm and name brand institutes will reflect their status in the tuition they charge- trust me the course instruction you receive is NO different than the course instruction you receive at the less prestigious institute and most times it is quite the reverse- but the amount of student loan that will haunt you after attending that name brand school
will certainly be different then if you attending the lesser name)
Hence choose your degree granting institute wisely- that is how it works for your personal situation.
Posted by: Cult of university | Dec 1, 2021 10:50:56 PM
Garbage. Four years after you graduate from a university your education is obsolete and no one cares where you went except your MOM so get over it. It really matters who you know and what connections you have made during your university days. Your grades are far less important unless you want to enter grad school. There's way too much emphasis on going to university. It is much less useful now than 30 or more years ago. Get a skilled trade instead, it will serve you longer and probably better over the long run.
Posted by: Ms. Know It All | Dec 2, 2021 6:21:11 AM
I graduated with a B.A. and then a M.A. I am was 50 when I graduated the last time, having gone full time to university for 6 consecutive years. I thought my age would be a problem when re-entering the job market, but it was not. The economy was a problem as the competition for a good job is fierce (I am in Ottawa, ON). I applied for many jobs that required a B.A. and landed a few offers. Strangely enough no employer has ever asked to see any of my degrees, let alone check from which University I graduated or a copy of my transcript. This is though having at least a B.A. was a condition of employment. To this day, my employer has no idea if I really graduated from anywhere, let alone the "right place". In fact, most of those I report to have no degree at all and I often sense that though they want someone with a degree or two working for them, so they can exploit their skill set and knowledge base, they themselves missed the education boat and resent their grad employees even they go out of their way to hire them.
I know people who graduated from B.A. degrees who barely got a D as their final mark. So the paper it is written on, means very little and the lack of intelligence/effort at school transfers into their performance on the job. Employers should check transcripts - they tell the real story. In fact employers do not even check if the claim to hold any degree is true - unless of course they run an organization where the prestige of the organization depends on getting the right people with the right degree at the right place - and that does happen, but more often then not, it does not.
Today's B.A. is the equivalent of yesterday's high school diploma. Half of the population here in Ottawa, ON have at least one degree.
One last note: I disagree with Cult of University's comment. University teaches you analytical skills, research skills, presentation skills and many more skills that you can transfer into a lot of jobs. The precise subject matter may long be forgotten, in some areas, but the skill set acquired - never. I work in a field I never studied in university, but the theoterical underpinnings of what I learned as well as many other abilities and skills I developed, are easily transferred. Though I studied all sorts of law, for example, the law I administer now was not even touched upon in university - it is an emerging field with little caselaw - but fast growing. However, I know how to research jurisprudence, I know the legal "system", I know how to interpret legal instruments, how to read legal language and how to make a decent legal argument. The area of law does not matter - the how to get from A to Z in analyzing a legal issue and making a decision on the way forward, was learned in grad and post-grad studies. I could never have done my current job without it, with any degree of authority or intelligence (and I see many who do exactly that and who use legal terms without knowing what they mean - sometimes my own superiors). Cult of University should have known this had s/he actually gone to university. A first year university student is informed of the above this during the first month at school. Also to note, a grad student knows better than to make blanket statements. Also taught in first year.
The only skilled trades that may likely never stop needing employees will likely remain associated with the grocery trade and death trade (aka morticians) as people will continue to die (likely) and need to eat (also likely). Many fields have already become largely extinct thanks to the industrial revolution and now the information age. Learning what market is hot and an employee's market, and getting into it is your best weapon against redundancy. That's why I am in the field I am in. Its new, its hot and it is skyrocketing. It pays a bloody fortune because it is not not fun and there is no stampede to get into the field. An employee's dream.
Do your research folks. If you need the name of a prestigious university to get into your dream field - invest in it and get it, or be prepared to stay on the sidelines. Law schools matter. I don't know many politicians who are not lawyers and who did not go to the right schools.
Connections during university may/may not matter, except for what your profs can do by way of reference to you. Depends on your aspirations. Not every aspiration needs a huge network of university pals. Mine did not. I am the only grad I know, from my university, who is in my field.
Posted by: useless universities | Dec 2, 2021 10:34:50 AM
I agree with "cult of university." The only person who cares about your university degree is your Mom. That gave me a laugh. It's so true. There are only select fields of study in which a unversity degree is mandatory. However, still, unless you know someone who will help you find a career after graduation, your chances of landing that "perfect" job are very slim. In any circle, it's all about who you know, not what you know, the majority of the time.
Posted by: education | Dec 7, 2021 12:00:27 PM
Where you got your degree is a nice "finishing touch". The main things are the skills you've acquired and how well you work. Of course, prestigious universities are prestigious for a reason. They have had a history of producing good people and can therefore be picky about hiring the best professors and accepting only the best students. The contacts you make in good schools are statistically "better" than the contacts you would make in the College of tar removal and dental hygiene.
I believe that the catch-phrase "it's not what you know, it's who you know" should be rearranged a little. Your contact can get you an interview or maybe even get you into the company but your skills will determine how long you stay there (most of the time).
Technical schools are a nice option and they produce skilled workers. However, it is important to realize many doors will be closed for people with technical degrees (salary, responsibility/position, etc.) I have a hard time seeing too many companies promoting someone CEO with the following message: "John completed his grade 5 in 1995 and immediately joined the institute of welding. With his 10 years of melting stuff, he will eventually learn to read and then lead our company to great success"
Posted by: Melissa | Dec 9, 2021 9:53:10 AM
@Ms. Know It All. Don't kid yourself. Employers do check your post-secondary status. They simply contact that school and have access to the info. They even contact some of your profs without you knowing. They don't need your permission.
@education. Your last statement is so true but it even applies to other management positions even if you are very capable of doing the job. Here is a credential for you. I joined a company years ago where I was promoted to a very key position and jumped over many capable co-workers with better experience. After several months on the job, I found out I was given the promotion because I spoke fluently French. I probably had to speak French 4-5 times per year yet this credential was deemed important. I became much better at the job over the years but I honestly feel other co-workers would have been better immediately. Credentials or where you study is a door opener for sure.
Posted by: briecheese | Jan 12, 2022 2:52:49 PM
@ Melissa.. I have attended college and am now in university (both in Ontario). Parents can not even call to see if we went to school that day, let alone how well we are doing. It is a privacy issue. One prof last year emailed one of her student's mothers to tell her she missed 2 classes and she was suspended. I don't think employers can call and ask these questions.
Posted by: J L K | Mar 27, 2021 11:17:42 PM
If the university I graduated from is not important, then why do I make over $2 million per year?
Posted by: John | Apr 29, 2021 11:43:43 PM
Of course it does, DUH!