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  • Writer's pictureJunto HKIS

College Prestige

Sarah Park and Nadia Ho

Nov 25, 2021

The college admissions process for the Class of 2022 has commenced. Unquestionably, the topic of college prestige and applications to Ivy League colleges is not a foreign subject at HKIS. With an extremely competitive academic environment alongside expectations, the roles of external and internal influences that prompt the student body to consider college prestige a priority is immense. We define conventionally prestigious colleges to have characteristics such as a low acceptance rate, high name value, substantial endowments, notable alumni, and expensive school fees. In one way or another all these features are intertwined, which most likely explains why colleges with longer, richer histories, such as Harvard University, are considered to be extremely prestigious. But more specifically, we will take a closer look at what exactly are the exact reasons behind HKIS students being more inclined to attend Ivy League colleges, and the validity behind those reasons through comprehensive research of statistics behind Ivy League college graduates. Do these students have a valid reason behind their desires to attend prestigious schools?

After interviewing four seniors attending HKIS who plan on applying to Ivy League colleges about their reasons for doing so, we found that potential job opportunities is a primary rationale. Logically speaking, when job applicants show a history of attending a prestigious college, or a recognisable college, indicating high name value, job hirers may feel more inclined to hire them among a large sea of applicants. In the case of economic success, statistics show that the starting salary of newly graduated students differ greatly depending on the prestige of the school—Yale graduates have an average salary of $68,300, which is twice as much as the $32,000 average salary for graduates from Mississippi Valley State University. The higher average salary is most likely an indication of a better job position or employment in a more renowned company, and thus according to starting salary, it can be concluded that graduating from a prestigious college does provide better job opportunities in the short run. However, according to research conducted by economists Alan Krueger and Stacy Berg Dale, the earnings of university graduates twenty years later did not fundamentally differ according to university prestige. Kris Stadelman, director of the NOVA Workforce Investment Board in Silicon Valley, alongside other various employers claims that in the hiring process, they consider a person’s skill set and its applications far more important than a prestigious college degree.

Throughout the interviews, the most common answer to, “Why do you want to attend an Ivy League school?” was, “Plentiful networking opportunities and ability to build connections in the professional world.” Although a potentially arbitrary topic, networking can be measured by the abundance of alumni networks as well as internship opportunities provided by the college. Contrary to belief, the No. 1 college for networking is Pennsylvania State University, according to College Magazine. The school is in fact known for its global outreach in terms of alumni networking and its mentorship program that focuses heavily on first-year students from underrepresented backgrounds. Furthermore, the Top 10 Best Colleges for Networking ranking included zero Ivy League Schools. Business Insider’s rankings show similar results. Only one Ivy league school was included in their ranking of “Colleges with Alumni That Will Kickstart Your Career”; Pennsylvania State University was ranked second place, and Dartmouth University first. Such rankings, although limited to the subjective measurement of how active the school’s body of alumni is, does indicate to some degree that prestige does not necessarily correlate with connections in the real world.


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