Introduction

U.S. News, Forbes, and countless other websites rank colleges by a variety of factors every year. The most "prestigious" universities in America such as Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Johns Hopkins, and a few dozen more top the list. For the longest time, attending these universities was a clear indicator of success in later life. However, is that notion still true?

Top-ranked schools boast $100 million+ in endowments, high graduation rates, and high salaries after graduation. However, this is only a small part of the picture. In reality, the students who attend top 30 schools tend to be wealthy, meaning they have fewer barriers to success. The Equality of Opportunity Project says that "more students come from families in the top 1 percent of the income distribution than the bottom half of the income distribution," in selective schools. Those schools often do have connections, an expansive network, and many resources, but at the end of the day, college is what you make of it. Pursuing interests and opportunities, meeting new people, and receiving a quality education are what matter.

Payscale.com calculates a “20-year net ROI” for over 2,000 colleges and universities. The U.S. Military Academy, SUNY Maritime College, and Colorado School of Mines are in the top 10 on the ROI list. When looking at the Forbes or U.S. News rankings, those schools are not in the top 10. The highest-rated Ivy is Princeton (#15). A Brookings Institute analysis found that the schools that had the most value (mid-career earnings) included a few prestigious schools but no Ivy Leagues.

What Matters in Choosing a College

💼 Business Majors

🤑 Finance Majors