You know what you're studying, but not where. How do you make the decision? Do you shell out serious coin to attend a prestigious institution? Or do you go to an affordable school because, at the end of the day, a degree is a degree is a degree?
That depends on what you plan to study. You've heard the saying: “It's not what you know but who you know.” Sometimes that's true. Sometimes it's just a cliché used by people who don't know crap, but have snooty friends.
Another Way Your Major Pays
An article in Contemporary Economic Policy analyzes studies from the Brookings Institution, US News and World Report, the New York Times and other sources. It finds that, as expected, the salaries of graduates from selective private schools exceed those or less selective public schools in general. Yet when it looks closer at specific fields of study, the answer is not so simple.
The study splits colleges into “selective”, “mid-tier” and “less selective”. Students studying business, social sciences, humanities and education at a selective school earned between 9-18% more in the middle of their careers than students who studied the same major at a less selective school.
Students majoring in engineering, science and other STEM fields saw very little increase in pay. When salary is compared to the cost of education, students are definitely not seeing a return on their investment. For example, an engineering major graduating from University of Pennsylvania will make less than $1000 per year to start than a grad from Texas A&M. The difference in tuition paid? $167,000.
Are STEM Grads All the Same?
Scientific and technological fields rely mostly on a shared body of knowledge. If you know it, you're qualified to do the job. After that your talent, skill and work ethic will separate you from the pack. If you know the coding and math necessary to work in computer science, it matters not where you learned it. Your results will either shine or sink regardless of the name on your diploma.
Business, teaching and other more social fields rely more on your connections. A network of well-qualified peers will serve you well when crafting business deals or researching a paper. Also, the wow factor of your alma mater can be the weight needed to sway minds in your direction.
Science types are more impressed by numbers and data. Business types are influenced more by the power of your background. It sounds simple, but the salary statistics back it up.
Should this knowledge affect your college choice?
This is just one of the reasons it's valuable to know what it is you are interested in studying before you go to college. If you haven't thought about what major to choose yet, try this tool to get started.
Do some research into what majors different schools offer and how their graduates succeed after graduation. An easy way to do this is by browsing majors on College Factual.
Consider also your own personality. Do you easily gain comrades and keep long-term relationships? Some people are programmed to build a professional network. Others are more solitary and do not rub elbows well. Which kind are you?
Will your next college be your last? If it is a stepping stone to graduate school, it may not matter where you go. Learn, get your grades, nail your GRE and move on. The weight of your grad schools name will be the one remembered.