Are the advantages of going to a more prestigious/higher-ranked school worth it in the end? (Lengthy, perhaps unnecessary details inside.)
posted by sevenofspades to Education (38 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I have spent this last semester at a well-regarded public university that I spent 2.5 years of my life hoping to get into. I took easy-ish classes and never -really- had to study to get a high GPA at the community college I transferred from. I have applied to this college twice. For the first time, in the winter of 2010 for the coming fall, my application was denied. I was heartbroken, but determined to get in eventually. At that point in my life, I had obtained only crappy, mostly part-time customer service oriented jobs that paid barely minimum wage. I did not want to do that for the rest of my life. I was also somewhat dissatisfied with my personal life too, as all my friends were at college, which I, at the time, looked at as a beacon of knowledge, and living independently, which I longed to do.
The second time I applied, was this last winter, of 2011. At that point, I had obtained a salaried job doing administrative work, and while I didn't hate it, I wanted to do something that did not have me in a subservient position and that also paid more. So this time when I applied, it was really more of a career move. I have never been interested in much of the "student life" idea. I thought, at the time, if this college were online, or closer to my home, I would be just as happy, if not happier. Well, that time, I was accepted to the school. I was initially excited... for about a couple days. Then I only had doubts, which I shut away somewhere in the back of my mind. My doubts grew and grew until the point I had to put down a deposit for school. I felt like it was the wrong choice at the time, because I was so conflicted on my actual career goals (you can see my other question if you would like more detail) and dreading moving away, but after putting so much energy into this singular goal of attending this school, I did not know what else to do.
To fast forward: this last semester has not went well at all. I do not like it here. I don't like the fact my peers seem to forget that a whole world still exists outside of the walls of the university. I feel very out of place. It is almost like a live-in high school, with smarter, or perhaps just more pretentious, students. I miss my boyfriend, and my friends at home, even my old job at times. I was actually content with my life before I made this change. I had momentum with my schoolwork up to a certain point. I (unwisely, in hindsight) skipped prerequisites for a computer science course and knew I was in way over my head when the midterm came. I also did not remember enough calculus to get me through Calculus II. And my other computer science class, I bombed the midterm and figured I might as well withdraw before I outright fail. (However, this school has a policy that erases any Ws from your transcript your first term there.) That left me with one class, a philosophy class, which I am disenchanted with and disinterested in.
I am not staying in the city where this school is located next semester. I am moving in with my boyfriend, whose house I am at most of the week anyway. There is a college close to his place that is popular in our state, but not nationally known and it does not necessarily look as impressive on the resume as the school I attend(ed). It is mostly a commuter school, which I think I would feel more comfortable with.
Basically, I am trying to decide between trying to finish college at the current school, though I am moving away, or going to the college close to my boyfriend's city. I am roughly the same amount of credits toward a degree at each place. The less-prestigious college is about $4,000 to 5,000 less a year and is also more flexible with part-time classes. This is nice, because it would then be possible to finance my education while I go to school and finish without loans. The workload is also more balanced compared to my current school. The commute to the more prestigious, more expensive school is about an hour by car. Less-prestigious school is about 20 minutes. Also, I would pretty easily be able to major in both psychology and information systems without too much extra time or money spent there. (I have a lot of psych credits already.)
So, I am now deciding between Informatics/Information Systems and Psychology (in which case I would be aiming for graduate school in clinical psychology afterward). I am planning to take the next semester off and working and also volunteering at a crisis line to gauge my interest in actual work in the field of psychology. However, this question is still primarily about which school to pick.
I guess I should ask: what is the importance of prestige in an undergraduate degree? No one in my family has went to college and I don't really have anyone to ask who can give me an unbiased answer. (My bf went to the less-prestigious school and liked it well enough and he eventually found a job in his field after a few years.) The name does not matter to me personally, anymore, but I am trying to look from an employer or graduate school's point of view.
Sorry for the length. I would appreciate any insights you have. I may be making too big of a deal out of this, I realize, but I feel very confused as to which to pick. I have already wasted a whole $4,000 withdrawing from the two classes I mentioned earlier and I don't want to waste any more time and money than I need to. I am trying to remain somewhat anonymous, but if you would like to know the two schools in question, feel free to PM me.
TLDR: What is the importance of the name-brand of your school when looking for jobs (in the technology/information industry)? And what is the importance when applying for graduate school (in psychology)?