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College 101

What's in a Name?
Article Type: Quick and Dirty

Widener Library, Harvard University


Harvard. Princeton. Yale. Slippery Rock.

If we at Shmoop were the gambling types (we’re more the gamboling types), we’d be willing to bet that you have heard of the first three schools.

We’d also be willing to bet that, unless you live in Western Pennsylvania, you may not have heard of the fourth. Here’s a list of some other colleges you may not be familiar with:

Top 10 Colleges You Have Never Heard Of

  1. Michigan Institute of Typesetting
  2. Cheyenne Academy of Not-So-Fine Arts
  3. We Wish We Were Harvard University
  4. Little Rock School of Miniature Geology
  5. Seminal Seminary of Selma
  6. Phoenix Institute of Lower Learning
  7. Las Vegas Academy of Dealing, Bartending and Troublemaking
  8. Nashville School of Rock
  9. Vermont Collage College
  10. Yonkers Institute of Silly Names

As you Generate Your Big List of schools, you may ask yourself how important name recognition is when choosing a college. And then you remind yourself that your name is Bluto. Ouch.

But here’s an answer that is going to anger people who like answers: it sort of depends.

Please… chill. Put down the shard of broken glass. Sheesh, you’re touchy.

First of all, let’s lay this all out on the table – there are definitely some advantages to going to a well-recognized, highly-esteemed school (like Hogwarts, for you non-muggles out there).

To begin with, future salaries and the likelihood of going to graduate school are much higher for students who attend top schools than for those who attend the… less top ones. However, it’s impossible to measure whether the reason for this statistic is the caliber of the institution… or of the brainiac students it attracts. In other words… you can’t get bees from vinegar. Or something like that.

Plus, there are certain schools that specialize in this, that or the other thing, and majoring in their program may potentially lead to more options upon graduation. Everyone loves a specialist (except HMO’s, apparently).

Seems like there’s no downside, right? Hold on there… as our Uncle Morty might say, “There’s always a downside.” He was fun on long trips.

For starters, the Costs of College are high, and elite schools come with a pretty elite price. If these schools aren’t prepared to offer you a sizeable chunk of financial aid, your student loan debt after graduation might cancel out any salary advantage for years to come. Might not seem like a big deal to you now, but just wait until you’ve finished hand-crafting your very first Sallie Mae dartboard.

Also, no elite school is going to make you happy just because of a well-known name. You still need to put in the research in Narrowing Down Your List of schools to make sure you find the right fit. If you’re a size 12 and your dream school is a size 11… you may find yourself running away from the ball barefoot. And this time, the prince(ton) won’t come chasing after you.

If you do do your research, and an Ivy-League school pops up on the list, great! If not… think hard about What You Want and What You Need in a school before clinging blindly to name recognition.

If you're an international student, understand that big name schools look for international students with more than just good test scores. You also have to look good in a swim suit.

Check out International Student experiences for more details.

Okay, so maybe they’d be forgiving of an imperfect beach body. But they do want students who can provide diverse multicultural backgrounds to their schools. So in that sense… it’s at least a little bit about appearances.

"Do you think Harvard will accept Tollhouse as a down payment?"


Time to recap (if you haven’t capped already):

If an elite school matches your criteria for a college, offers you a reasonable financial aid package, and you are willing to bust your butt to make your college experience as rich as possible, go for it.

If the costs are going to be too high or you are attracted to the school only for the name, spend your dough and energy elsewhere. After all… you’re gonna want that dough to rise some day.

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