Tip #3: Don’t pick a college for the prestige (unless your parents are millionaires)

This tip should be blindingly obvious, and people in the United States are already starting to follow it. Many children of relatively affluent parents are flocking to less expensive colleges, sobered by the news of astronomical, crippling debt. Yet still, there are tens of thousands of parents throughout the world who think that their children must go to the most prestigious college possible.


One could make the argument that some, with emphasis on some, of the departments in Ivy League or private schools are better than public ones. They may provide something of an advantage in job-seeking. However, these arguments are rarely measured against the cost – either of the heavy debt, or of the diminishing value of a BA in an age where an increasing percentage of the population has a BA.

In my opinion, there are two major reasons to endorse a university because of its prestige. The first is ignorance of the present situation of college debt and degree inflation. The second is social prestige. A degree, hell even getting into a BA program in a well-known university is cause for bragging rights – not just for the student but for his or her parents.

What you, the student, need to ask yourself – yourself and no-one else – is how much you’re willing to pay for social bragging rights, as opposed to real skills and knowledge? $50,000? $100,000? $150,000? How much are you willing to suffer, possibly for decades, for what amounts to the academic equivalent of a rolex or a Porsche?

If you have decided what profession to pursue, and you believe college is necessary to train you for it, then you must ask yourself this question and answer it to your satisfaction. Because four years down the line, if the answer is negative, then it will be too late.

NEXT: Tip #4: Get some real world experience first


Hi, my name is Avi Woolf. I'm an American-Israeli MO Jew living in Israel. I have a background in Israeli (as in Land of Israel) and Jewish History and an insatiable need for knowledge. I also have professional experience as an editor, translator and indexer. Enjoy the ride! If you are interested in using my services or just want to drop me a line, contact me at: opdycke1861NOSPAM@yahoo.com
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9 Responses to Tip #3: Don’t pick a college for the prestige (unless your parents are millionaires)

  1. fred says:

    when louis finkelstein was a young man and wanted to become a student at jts, he met with solomon schechter. ss asked lf why he wanted to come to the seminary. lf said, so he could learn. ss told him we have an excellent library here; feel free to study. okay, lf said, so why should i want to come to the seminary? ss answered: to meet great people. [there is a video interview of lf where he relates the story.]
    this principle still holds for the ivies.

    • AIWAC says:

      There are less costly ways to meet celebrities – academic or otherwise – or learn from them.

      • Shlomo says:

        Not celebrities – you go to a good college for networking opportunities with your peers. In a “bad” college, the people you meet will be much less worth knowing, professionally and often personally.

      • AIWAC says:


        Yes, but this assumes that those networks are beneficial. If all the students are heading on the same path to “no-job-ville”, then the utility of such networks is doubtful. Furthermore, there are many opportunities for such “networks” be it the army, high school, youth groups or your family’s networks. Networks alone do not justify a 3-year BA humanities degree.

      • Shlomo says:

        In humanities – agreed.

  2. fred says:

    i would think the best way to get to hang around with gedolim of a particular field is to be their professional student, no?

    • AIWAC says:

      Yes, but there are other ways, more difficult but less expensive. For instance:

      1) Attending lectures for the general public and asking questions.

      2) Running a correspondence with them – I’ve had just such a correspondence with a top-level historian I’ve only met once.

      3) Hearing individual courses as an auditor.

      and so forth. None of this requires a full three-year degree investment.

  3. fred says:

    youre right, i suppose. these ideas can work. but there are merits to the university system. if you take classes in a structured format you will not fall prey to the pitfalls of the autodidact [or at least it will be hard to fall prey to them…]. among the pitfalls is gaping holes in your knowledge that you are not even aware of. your methods demand a degree of self-discipline or guts most are incapable of. there is no way to test your knowledge. your accomplishments are not demonstrable to others, either in the job market or socially.

    this is not 18th century europe anymore…

    • AIWAC says:


      You’re confusing “meeting with the greats” with getting a structured education. One can get a good, structured education at a less expensive school, and upgrade that knowledge by taking individual courses at higher institutions and/or reading on your own.

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