I posted this comment today on Linkedin’s Forbes Woman Group. The question pertained to whether it’s better to go to a highly ranked university. Here are a few thoughts for future and current college students and their parents.
A degree from a highly ranked college can be very helpful in obtaining a desired job. The network can also be a leg up. When push comes to shove, however, what you learned while in college matters most. There are terrific professors at every college. Take their courses. Broaden your mind. Learn as much as you can from the very best. Develop an understanding of business and the politics involved in finding and keeping a job, especially if you’re a woman in a male-dominated field. If you didn’t do that as an undergraduate or graduate student, consider taking some additional courses. Learn how to network, but not in silly ways like giving your business card to everyone in a room, as I’ve seen only women do at conferences. Make a point of meeting people who have succeeded in your field and learn from them. The degree is a ticket to the game. Some tickets are for the best seats in the house. That doesn’t mean a better experience all of the time. The hardest working students, the ones interested in getting a great education, stand out. Professors want to help them and that leads to good jobs. Sometimes it’s better to stand out in a college where everyone there hasn’t been told they’re special.
Some other things to consider include knowing yourself. If you have difficulty with certain subjects required in a college curriculum, then start early getting the tutoring help you’ll need. Don’t wait for the professor or administration to come to you.
College is an investment. You wouldn’t go to a store and head right for all the picked-over junk if you could get stellar quality a few aisles over. The same is true of college. You get out of it what you put into it. Finding the best your college has to offer and making sure you are in those classes is crucial. Narrowing the fields of study to ones already of interest and then taking a few risks, again with the best professors possible, is a good way to proceed. Attend professor office hours now and then and bring your questions. These hours are an opportunity to learn one-on-one. Also, the professor will be more likely to remember you when you need a job recommendation.
Spending a fortune to go to a top college or university is fine if you have a fortune or scholarships with some loans. Otherwise, don’t despair. There are fine educational experiences to be had all over the world.