College rankings plays surprisingly small role in post-college success

Reagan Ritterbush

In high school, it’s easy to get flustered by the process of picking a university. Seniors stress out about narrowing down the colleges that fit with the careers they want to pursue and then, of those colleges, which have the ability to make others nod in approval. Graduating students find themselves scrolling through lists of college rankings in an effort to find universities that not only meet their own career based needs, but also the sophistication that society believes a college needs.

The problem with this excruciating, painful process is that to those students’ future employers, college rankings play only a small role, if any, in determining a graduates’ qualifications.

According to a study done by National Bureau of Economic Research, where someone chooses to go to college has little impact on their job satisfaction and salary. This study proved that in the past, more prestigious schools improved its students’ job prospects, but at this point in time the faculty and opportunities offered at institutions of all prices and levels of prestige are comparable.

If this is the case, someone who only has the option of going to a small unknown college has the same opportunity to receive a job at the end of their college career as someone who had the ability to go to a well-known Ivy League school. Therefore, no one should have to worry about how high or low their college is on the annual college rankings list.

TIME Magazine writer Michael Bernick wrote that “whether your degree, for example, is from UCLA or from less prestigious Sonoma State matters less than your academic performance and the skills you can show employers.” Bernick argues that hiring employers are looking for a robust skill set and are far more interested in what someone has learned as opposed to where he or she learned it.

For example, Lynn O’Shaughnessy, a recruiter in a very selective federal agency, said she goes to “a very wide variety of schools from across the country, [that] include small exclusive liberal arts schools, less selective small schools, large state universities, historically black colleges, work colleges, women’s colleges, some Ivy Leagues, some public Ivies, etc.” She said she finds smart people who are capable of doing jobs in her agency from all these colleges.

People may assume that a recent college graduate has a far better chance of attracting the attention of employers if he or she graduated from a big power school, but even if he or she did, the employers are looking far more into the graduate’s reputation and not the school’s.

“Employers are looking for good experience,” said Daniel Stedman, a UT alumnus who works for a large global public accounting firm. “One’s ability to perform the basic skills in the field they are applying for plays a great deal into whether or not they are hired.”

In the end, it matters less about where someone received their degree and more what they did with their time when they attended college. All that matters to employers is what kind of person they are and how persistent, creative and hardworking they present themselves in the application process. So for now, don’t worry about how your future is going to go in terms of getting a job. Instead, give college your all no matter where you are and learn all you need to know to be successful. Your effort is all that matters.

Reagan Ritterbush is a journalism freshman from Sugar Land.