« on: October 01, 2004, 09:55:17 AM »
My hypothesis is that top schools in general spend more effort expanding student's networks and providing quality career services. The name itself can make a huge difference in your resume which is all about getting that interview. However, the largest advantage of a degree from a top school is the ability to come out in front at the beginning of the game. The longer you're in the working world, the less people care about where your degree came from. Depending on the field that you work in though, there may or may not be a substantial difference in entry-level opportunities that will justify choosing a top school.
I think that elite schools tend to be able to draw employers from a much larger range. A recruiter from a big name corporation is more willing to spend the time and money to travel afar to an elite school. For example, I held 5 different internships during college that either paid extremely well or covered all my expenses (flight, hotel, food, etc.), all except 1 recruited exclusively from my program for interns despite the fact that were in such varied locations as Ohio, N. Carolina, NY and Cali.
It's not that most students won't have an opportunity to get at those positions, but at an elite school, they're more likely to come to you rather than the other way around, and solicited resumes almost always get looked at first. Also, there's often an ego thing for the employers to supervise students/graduates from top schools. One of my bosses liked to be able to say, "Look, I've just got a degree from X State but I've got 3 Ivy Leaguers working under me now."
A good way to judge the quality of a school's career services is to see their roster of on-campus recruiters. Is there a wide variety of recruiters (industries, company size, location, positions sought)? Is there a huge difference between the number of employers versus another school that you're looking at?
BUT it really depends on your circumstances and goals. Would you rather work in the area that you currently live in or do you see yourself living in an entirely different part of the country? How important is the undergrad degree in the career field that you want to work in? Is access to research facilities/opportunities going to be a big factor in your education, and do elite schools tend to better in this area?
Of course, finances will always be a factor, but don't let that prevent you from applying to programs. If you have to choose between schools, it's always easier to do so after you have a concrete idea of what you're going to pay. Then you'll have decide for yourself whether a large difference in financial aid/debt is going to be worth choosing the better-ranked school.