Going To The Perfect College, By Shaciah Lee

Mike Ouert and Anders Groseth, both of whom work on the admissions committee at Montana State University, agree that the “perfect college” doesn’t really exist. With over 4,000 colleges of different varieties throughout the country, and thousands more worldwide, it seems that what consists of a “perfect college” is entirely individual to each student.
Groseth, an admissions counselor, believes there are many factors that help determine which college is best for a student, including what they plan to study, school size, location, academic programs, and what a student wants to get out of their college experience.
“There is something to be said for a name-brand appeal, names that no matter where you are in the country, people know those schools right from the very get-go. There’s some sort of common identifying factor of ‘Oh, you went to ‘XYZ’ University,’” says Groseth, “but it really is up to the student, with how hard they want to work and what they do with their opportunities.”
“When it comes down to it,” shares Montana State University’s assistant director of recruitment Ouert, “it doesn’t really matter what school you go to. I think that’s where a lot of people get hung up, on an Ivy League for example, or a name brand. I think it really comes down to what students make of their education and their time. That plays a bigger role in what they’ll do in their future.”
“A student who goes to Harvard and does the bare minimal versus a student who goes to any public and works their tail off for four years, [the latter student] is probably going to see more success even though their diploma doesn’t say Harvard, simply because they have a work ethic,” says Ouert. “Does having that name-brand on your diploma help simply because it carries weight? Of course, but I think more employers want to see students work and willing to continue to work.”
“There’s no way any sort of ball is going to get rolling,” agrees Groseth, “if a student doesn’t have a work ethic. Doors are going to open and you need to be able to take advantage of those opportunities when they are.”

There are noticeable differences, though, between name-brands and Ivy Leagues in comparison to other schools. According to PayScale, a website dedicated to finding data regarding each college and graduates’ future salaries, Harvard graduates average $61,000 when starting out and $126,000 mid career, which is the third best in the nation, with Caltech, MIT and Stanford following closely behind. MSU graduates average $47,600 early career and $84,000 mid career, leaving it ranked as 242nd in the nation.
“That comes back to that name-brand thing. You don’t have to question the assumed merit of someone coming from, say, Princeton, because Princeton is a very selective school, and because of that you’re going to be amongst this very elite group of students across the country. There is merit to that,” shares Groseth
Ouert believes that the location of the university is also very important for students to look at. Many name-brand or Ivy League institutions are located near cities that will naturally pay more due to a higher cost of living, whereas Montana is one of the lower-paying states, making it so that graduates from a college such as MSU who stay in Montana will not be likely to make as much as someone living in a city.
Ouert believes that one of the best ways to evaluate a potential college is by looking at its job placement rates.
“Like anything else, [rankings] be skewed, and that’s one thing that you can’t skew: job placement. I mean if no one’s getting a job out of there, that’s not a good sign later on, but if you go somewhere and a lot of people are getting good jobs from there, that says a lot about the institution,” says Ouert.
Groseth and Ouert say that any outcome a college promises is dependent on what the individual student is willing to put into their college experience, leaving no one college as the defined and general “perfect school.”
“There’s hundreds of thousands of students every year, and I think they need to do what’s best for them individually, instead of what everyone tells them to do,” says Ouert.

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