NationStates Jolt Archive

College: Prestige or good courses?

02-10-2004, 00:53
I'm having a twelve round fight with my parents over whether, when choosing what university I'm going to, I should choose based on the quality of the course (as I believe) or the prestige of the university (as they believe).

Tell me that I'm right.
02-10-2004, 01:00
Quality of the courses. Especially if you are going on to other studies after this...
02-10-2004, 01:03

Think of it this way: what soudns better?

"I went to blahblah. You've probebly never heard of it, but it was a good school"
"I went to blahblah. You've heard of it? It sucks."
02-10-2004, 01:06
Actually I think both are important, the quality of the classes are for obvious reasons, but you need a good school because people look at where you went to school when you apply for jobs.
Cannot think of a name
02-10-2004, 01:14
I'm having a twelve round fight with my parents over whether, when choosing what university I'm going to, I should choose based on the quality of the course (as I believe) or the prestige of the university (as they believe).

Tell me that I'm right.
Like all good arguments, you're both right. The question is which right is more important to you. You're parents aren't getting the education, you are.

Prestigous colleges do help you a lot, they open doors and provide opportunities that others cannot. However, there is the problem of being a small fish in a big pond. Prestige means that you are not the only one to go there because of it, or be vieing to get to those resources.

Furthermore, if the prestigous school does not offer the classes that you want to take, the things you want to study, then whats the point? This is, in all likelyhood (though no garauntee) this is what you and not your parents are going to do for the rest of your life.

The other thing to consider is access. As I have stated, prestigous schools have more people competing for the resources. If you go to a place that isn't as prestigous but you'll have more access to the resources and professors (even if the resources aren't as great), then really it balances out.

But, as your parents are no doubt pointing out to you, that name on the diploma opens a disporpotionate(sp) amount of doors.
Tuesday Heights
02-10-2004, 01:27
Always choose based on the courses, not the name or prestige, in this case.

It's what I did when selecting a school, and it's been the most responsible and worthwhile decision I've made in my life.

Trust me, you won't regret it.
02-10-2004, 01:31
generally prestige schools come with strong courses. But not necessarily vice versa.
Crabcake Baba Ganoush
02-10-2004, 04:13
Had to ask this here too didn’t ya?

Oh well, here's a good old bump for you.

Personally I’d go with the courses though. But make yourself known to professors. Remember, it’s not so much what you know, but who you know that helps get you jobs.
Brittanic States
02-10-2004, 07:32
Perhaps a balance can be reached ? A good course taken at a prestige university?
As long as you have good a level results theres no reason why you cant do both,
Nueva America
02-10-2004, 07:35
Why don't you just pick a prestigious university with good courses?

In general however, I'd vote for prestige; it really does matter.
02-10-2004, 07:36
Quality mostly, but both in a long run
02-10-2004, 08:02
When you get out in the real world, no employer is going to say to you, "well, you went to Generic University but their classes are really tough so you get an edge up."

Employers look at the school. If the name of the school is recognizable, then you come off more favorable. Of course, in the real world, an employer that is a graduate of Rhode Island will generally hire a fellow Rhode Island graduate over a Princeton one. When there is no common link there, the employer looks at the prestige of the school.

You're not going to find too many employers looking through US News and World Report's rankings of quality classes.
02-10-2004, 08:48
I think it depends what you plan to do after you graduate. If you're going on to graduate school, Master's or PhD, then the initial university won't matter so much. If your second university is impressive that's fine. :p

Personally, I'd choose quality, as long as it was a decently respected university.

Employers do have a tendency to look at schools and be impressed by names. But if you can market yourself in other ways you'll be fine.
Niccolo Medici
02-10-2004, 11:34
I'm having a twelve round fight with my parents over whether, when choosing what university I'm going to, I should choose based on the quality of the course (as I believe) or the prestige of the university (as they believe).

Tell me that I'm right.

You're right.

And here's how you are wrong: "Good Courses" are almost entirely dependent on what kind of professor you are looking for and what area of study you look to specialize in.

For example, Evergreen State College in Washington State has a dynamite Biochemistry program that is well respected in the field.

That being said...Evergreen State is a Hippy school. So unless you apply to a place that KNOWS about Evergreen's amazing biochem department, you're gonna be seen as some hippy with a notebook of artwork and samples of your poetry instead of a grade and a diploma.

I went to a school with some truly talented professors, many of whom were bitter about their own experiences trying to gain recognition for their contributions to the field. Time and again I see that politics plays the dominant role in such affairs.

For example; did you know that there are over 10 different major schools of thought on how to look at history? Each has their own community of professors and contributors, each looks at the other schools with varying levels of disdain. Unlike NS, its not just right-wing left-wing; its what materials to study, who to ignore as being irrelevant and even what writing style you record your findings in!

There's a school of thought that places almost all relevant information on any given subject inthe footnotes of their articles. The articles they produce are 12 pages long including 6 pages of footnotes. The only reason to read the article itself is to gain some context on all those damn footnotes!

This kind of madness extends to all things. My advice to you is to be VERY wary of picking a school based on how strong its "courses" are. I did not find out how to pick a course based on its strength until I learned what schools of thought I could work with, what types of scholarly efforts were simply repugnant to me, and which professors were suited to my learning style.

You have to be an "insider" to know these things I think; perhaps you can know in advance, but its a mystery to me how you'd do that.The first thing to ask yourself is what you want to study? So....What do you want to study? You can go from there.
The White Hats
02-10-2004, 11:48
Imho, you're right in principle. Better to do something you respect yourself than something that others respect when you don't. You'll probably achieve better results that way too, because you'll be better motivated. That said, you might of course be wrong in your assessment of the relative merits of your options. And there is the point that prestige courses may have more value when you come to cash in your qualifications for a career, or even for a second degree.

One other point I'd add to those made above. If the courses you're interested in are at small and/or less well endowed institutions, there's the consistency issue. Prestige places maintain their reputation by using their prestige and/or money to attract a constant supply of talent. Less well off places may depend on just a few individuals to provide their quality, and if they leave, the quality could nose-dive half way through your degree. So to that extent you're taking more of a chance by going for the alternative option.

But still, in your position, I'd go for the courses you want to do. Lasting a degree course takes self-motivation, and I get the impression you have strong feelings that you know your own drivers.
02-10-2004, 13:35
If you want to win, Prestige means higher fees while the "lesser" uni might cost less. I'd try a combination of both, and don't go to one where it lacks both!

I went to the University of Queensland which is a top 10 uni in Australia.
My local uni is the Charles Darwin University (formerly the Northern Territory University) which SUCKS. I used to work there too but they did some cost cutting.
Jever Pilsener
02-10-2004, 14:43
I'm having a twelve round fight with my parents over whether, when choosing what university I'm going to, I should choose based on the quality of the course (as I believe) or the prestige of the university (as they believe).

Tell me that I'm right.
Make a statement and don't go to Uni!!!
Tropical Montana
02-10-2004, 15:00
Most employers know that the only thing a college education proves is that you can accomplish complicated assignments. Beyond that, only a 'mickey mouse' school will hurt your chances (like Arizona State) and a prestigious school will help.

Most prestigious schools have that prestige because they have superior professors and curriculum.

Name one school that has prestige that doesnt have a curriculum to back it up. That's the reason they are prestigious in the first place.

I went to Rice University. It's not a well known school among the general public. But in the science and business world, it is extremely honorable. And the classes were awesome, with a student teacher ratio of about 8:1.

So my answer is pick a prestigious school that also has good classes in the field you want to study.
02-10-2004, 15:27
The best advice I can give is to do plenty of research on the programs you're interested in.
There are a few reputable publications out there that frequently rank college programs(programs being whatever your major falls under). Keep in mind that Undergrad and Graduate programs will be ranked seperately.

For instance, the Engineering/Aviation undergrad program at the school I attend was ranked 4th in the nation. (Behind Embry-Riddle, The USAF Academy, and someone else). This ranking is a year or two old, but it does help you when choosing where to go.

Prestige has alot to do with the age of the University, and who went there. Altough prestige does tend to attract money and "top notch" professors, which are needed for good programs.

A good bet would be to go to the college with the better program. If you decide to do some graduate level stuff, then you can look at the more prestigious universities.

I'd also suggest private universities (if you're not strapped for cash, or can get some good scholarships). They tend to have far smaller classes, which is good (unless you like lecture courses...)

Also note that private universities tend to have religious affiliations. I've not really had any problems with my school (a Catholic-Jesuit Uni), despite the fact that I'm not Catholic.

In the end, it should be your choice, but don't completely ignore your parents. Moreso if their helping you pay. (Altough it may help you to point out that prestige costs money)
02-10-2004, 16:21

grrrrr let me try to remake it as wonderfully eloquently as it was before.

first of all, im an american. i dont know squat about how things work in the UK. maybe "last in my class at oxford" gets you something that "first in my class at manchester U" doesnt.

go to the top school in your field. the professionals in that field know where the really good programs are. good grades at the best program is what will impress the people who count. DO NOT go to a prestige school that is not a powerhouse in your field. it won't do you any good. if you can combine excellent program with prestige school, and it fits your other less tangible requirements, go for it.

if you are in a field where its "who you know, not what you know" then choose the prestige school. the contacts you make there will serve you well for the rest of your life. but be careful to not fall into the bad habits of these contacts. they tend to be spoiled rich kids with a bad work ethic. emulating people like that can destroy your whole life.

if you are going into an area that obviously requires higher degrees, go wherever you think youll have the most fun. (ya ya you still have to get excellent grades in order to get into graduate school) THEN go to the big name U for your graduate degree. its only the LAST degree you get that "counts" in the prestige contest. so a BS from harvard with a PhD from the university of south florida doesnt get you as much as a BS from south florida and a PhD from harvard.

the thing is that a prestige school only gets you your FIRST job, and then only if the personnel director is easily impressed. after that, its all job performance. if 2 guys are up for a promotion, one with a degree from a no name U but who has excellent job performance, one with a degree from a prestige U but poor job performance, the no name guy is getting the promotion. (unless you are in one of "those" fields and you have cultivated the backing of some rich powerful man who can insist that you get the promotion over the better qualified guy) NO ONE gives a 40 year old with a record of screwing up every job he ever held his NEXT job because he has a cambridge degree. the guy with the phd from idaho state who is now the recognized expert in his field gets whatever he wants; by that time no one cares where his degree came from.

where ever you go, work hard. top grades get noticed. go to professional meetings before you graduate. meet the top guys in your field. try to get in on some professional publications if possible. get noticed by those who count IN YOUR FIELD. there are always jobs for those who are the best. if YOU are one of the best, youll do fine no matter where you go to school.

so why do your parents want you to go to a prestige school? do they not know any better? are they looking for bragging rights ("my little spoffin is going to oxford") ? are they wanting you to follow in their footsteps by attending the same schools they did?
02-10-2004, 16:34
If you go to a prestigious college and get a poor education people when they see these are going to think. Wow he really is dense if he did this badly from such a good college. :( If you go to an unknown college and do well ppl will think more hiughly of you. :) Think of it that way.It's not your parents decision, it's your life and your decision, do what YOU want to do. :)
02-10-2004, 16:38
* maybe "last in my class at oxford" gets you something that "first in my class at manchester U" doesnt.

Manchester is a good uni thank you very much. You dont really tell ppl where you came in your class, you just get a rank of degree.

Oxbridge is very prestigious and has very good teaching. If possible Brits go there, unless you dont want to be a little fish in a big sea.