Does Which College Matter?

Posted on September 5, 2007  Comments (1)

Another essay by Paul Graham packed with great thoughts – this one on hiring, colleges, measuring the performance of people, etc..

Practically everyone thinks that someone who went to MIT or Harvard or Stanford must be smart. Even people who hate you for it believe it. But when you think about what it means to have gone to an elite college, how could this be true? We’re talking about a decision made by admissions officers—basically, HR people—based on a cursory examination of a huge pile of depressingly similar applications submitted by seventeen year olds.

At most colleges you can find at least a handful of other smart students, and most people have only a handful of close friends in college anyway. The odds of finding smart professors are even better. The curve for faculty is a lot flatter than for students, especially in math and the hard sciences; you have to go pretty far down the list of colleges before you stop finding smart professors in the math department.

What matters is what you make of yourself. I think that’s what we should tell kids. Their job isn’t to get good grades so they can get into a good college, but to learn and do.

Great article. I believe that setting up an educational environment can create a situation where people have much greater odds of flourishing: engineering schools and silicon valleyInnovative Science and Engineering Higher Education. So those responsible for creating those environments should continue their work. And student everywhere should know they can learn a great deal by making the most of their opportunities.

Related: Hiring the Right WorkersMalcolm Gladwell, Synchronicity, College Admissions…A Career in Computer ProgrammingGoogle’s Answer to Filling Jobs Is an AlgorithmHiring: Silicon Valley StyleWhat do Engineers Need To Know?

One Response to “Does Which College Matter?”

  1. xm carreira
    September 6th, 2007 @ 5:34 am

    In depends on the country. The prestige of the university is not important when hiring fresh young graduates in Continental Europe but, in the UK, an Ox-bridge degree can give you a great advantage. In some cases, employment is not based on merits and there are some aristocratic barriers for some managerial positions. Your professional experience and skills should count much more than the cost of your degree.

    Personally, I got a five year degree in engineering from my local university without paying a single penny, then I earned an MSc in a good (and expensive) British university and nowadays I am studying in the Spanish Open University. Believe or not, the differences between them are little.

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