I’ve met a lot of students and parents who think particular colleges offer “great connections” for their graduates. And yet, I have never once met a person who got a job just because he or she went to the same college the boss attended.
You might think that attending a school like USC, Duke, Michigan or another school with a strong alumni network will guarantee you job opportunities when you graduate. But the world doesn’t work that way. Real connections are born from the work you do to earn them, not by sharing a loose affiliation with a person of consequence. And you can do that work at lots of colleges that aren’t famous.
When you work closely with a professor on a project and impress her with your work, you can later ask her for advice or to write you a letter of recommendation because you’ve earned that connection. You can do the same thing with the supervisor at your internship, the housing director who oversaw your work as a resident advisor, or the director at the non-profit where you volunteered. Wherever you go to college, you’re going to have virtually unlimited opportunities to earn those kinds of connections. But it doesn’t matter whether it’s Princeton or Prescott.
Is there any value to attending a college with a large, national alumni network? Of course. If you take a job in a new city where you don’t know anybody, you can go to a local alumni meeting. You can tailgate at the football games with the other alums. Wherever you go, you’ll have a home base of people with whom you share at least one common interest.
But don’t expect any of those people to give you a job just because you know the same fight songs. You’ll need to have earned some connections along the way, and keep earning them once you meet these new groups.
Don’t pick a college just because you think they’ll give you connections when you leave. Pick a college where you think you can do your best work to earn them.