What’s in a name?

In a recent post, a blogger commented on a recent article in the Harvard Crimson that suggested school is simply what one makes of it. She questioned if this was true. Of course, simply attending an “elite” institution does not necessarily transform one into an “elite” student; however, as the blogger pointed out, employers often use the name of the institution as tool to minimize the cost of acquiring new employees.

Depending on the field one hopes to enter, this factor can be significant and perhaps the best reason for attending a “name” institution. In competitive industries, it is common that top organizations—the ones with the most highly coveted jobs—recruit at only a few institutions. It is not that these organizations don’t realize that smart and highly capable students attend schools like Purdue, UVA, and Grinnell, but if you’re Goldman Sachs or McKinsey, Bridgewater or SAC, there’s no need to search for those students when fifty or one hundred smart and highly capable students can be found for every opening in one visit to New Haven and another to Cambridge.

It’s not that going to MIT guarantees one a job at an SAC upon graduation. It’s simply that unless one has a ticket punched from MIT (or a handful of other schools), the likelihood one receives a call for an interview after submitting a resume cold to one of these companies approaches zero. It’s not that the call can’t happen. It’s simply unlikely barring exceptional circumstances.

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