19 September 2007

Ivy League: Worth It?

I just read a very interesting analysis from Microsoft's Encarta encyclopedia service, that concludes that Ivy League universities, while brilliant, may not be the best fit for a prospective student. Some facts noted in the analysis - and my comments as a Columbia grad:
  • Ivy League schools are primarily graduate and research schools.
  • Specific departments are NOT necessarily top notch. (For example, I know that Columbia's engineering school is only so-so.)
  • Grad schools don't necessarily favor Ivy League grads over others. (I know this too well - I would've had much better chance at grad school, being the top of the class at an average state school, than what actually happened to me - barely graduating from Columbia.)
  • Ivy League can be intimidating to some. (My parents never get this, but the fact is, even though I may have been among the smartest in high school, and would've been the top of the class at other colleges as well, I was in fact only average at Columbia, since there were plenty of even smarter people.)
  • High-tech employers don't necessarily favor Ivy League grads either. (In fact, in some cases, lesser schools actually prepare their students better for a given job than the highly theoretical Ivy League schools.)
Although the experience of progressive New York and the East Coast was something I truly cherish from my college days - something the likes of UC Irvine and other schools of reactionary Southern California would have never provided - the fact remains that I would have done just as well at another progressive place, like Northern California. The only true East Coast edge, IMO, was the relative proximity to Europe, allowing me to take a cheap flight to London for spring breaks. (I will admit that this was absolutely priceless.)

Ivy League schools are also very expensive, though good financial assistance packages may be available depending on the school. However, I still count myself very lucky, to have paid off all my student loan obligations before age 30.

So the verdict is in. The only good reason, IMO, to go to the Ivy League, is if you really need/want that East Coast experience. (Or if you are rich and well-connected, like W at Yale.)