Doc Seidman Says……

…..Is attending an elite school worth the money? In my opinion, and this is only an opinion, the short answer is yes. A longer answer is yes, but.

What are elite schools?  I think that anyone taking the time to read this knows what they are. Elite schools include, and go beyond Ivy League schools. They include schools that are highly selective. ACT and SAT scores need to be high……really high. Taking AP classes and acing the exams in high school is a must as well. Additionally, applicants should have a stellar leadership record in high school with several genuine reference letters at the ready.

Intuitively, elite school graduates get the best jobs at the best salaries. They provide access to the best faculty. Networking opportunities abound as classmates might have parents, uncles, aunts, and cousins who can provide access to the best companies. The name and reputation of the school have a lot to offer and can be powerful career launchers.

One of the best benefits of attending an elite school comes when you are older. When you are forty years old and want to change jobs and/or careers, your resume with your elite school prominently displayed often goes to the front of the pile. It is more apt to get read than other resumes. Your chances of obtaining the new job are greater.  You are not thinking about this when you are in your twenties, but if/when you make a change, your elite school diploma is a huge asset.

Understand, however, that even with an elite school on your resume, a job offer is not a sure thing. There are many companies that avoid elite school graduates. They feel they do not fit into their company culture. Furthermore, applicants may come across as too “elite school standoffish” during the interview. Your asking price could be too high. Graduating from an elite school could have a downside. That is the “yes, but” I mentioned earlier.

Another very important downside is that elite schools come with a cost. The majority are very expensive.  Tuition, housing, food, and everything else can be over $250,000 for a four-year experience. That’s a lot of money. Is it worth it? That depends on the amount of debt you will need to take on to attend your elite school.

Let’s say you are accepted to both State U and Elite U. State U is a public school in the state where you live. It has a pretty good reputation. Since college enrollment is based on supply and demand, and you are in demand, they may have offered you some extra money to attend. This means you most likely will be able to graduate debt free. That’s a very good thing.

Elite U is one of the top schools in the country. They, too, have offered you some extra grant and scholarship money, however, you will have to borrow money from either the federal government, or the private banking system, or both, to attend. When you graduate, you will have a diploma from an elite school, but you will also have a significant debt load.

Before you make your decision about which school to attend, think carefully about your four-year debt load you obtained by attending Elite U. Find a student loan calculator on line and compute how much your monthly loan payments will be once you graduate. Look at that number carefully. Is that an amount you feel you can comfortably afford to pay every month for ten years (or more)?

If you determine the cost of your elite education would be too much, it is o.k. Take the time to read Frank Bruni’s terrific book, “Where You Go Is Not Who You Will Be.” It is filled with success stories from industry leaders who chose the schools less elite. It might help you with your decision and feel better about choosing State U over Elite U. A debt free after-college world is also a very good thing.

If you are in the category of students who can afford to attend Elite U, good for you- but take advantage of the opportunity. Take the time to know your professors. Get involved in campus activities and find friends you can relate to. After all, an elite school experience can reap many benefits, but it will take you only as far as you allow it to.

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