Thomas Sowell

By contrast, at a small college without the prestige of big-name research universities, the introductory courses which provide a foundation for higher courses are more likely to be taught by experienced professors who are teachers more so than researchers.

Maybe that is why graduates of such colleges often go on to do better than the graduates of big-name research universities.

You may never have heard of Harvey Mudd College but a higher percentage of its graduates go on to get Ph.D.s than do the graduates of Harvard, Yale, Stanford or M.I.T. So do the graduates of Grinnell, Reed, and various other small colleges.

Of the chief executive officers of the 50 largest American corporations surveyed in 2006, only four had Ivy League degrees. Some -- including Michael Dell of Dell computers and Bill Gates of Microsoft -- had no degree at all.

Apparently getting into Prestige U. is not the life or death thing that some students or their parents think it is.

Unfortunately, prestige rankings are so hyped in the media -- especially by U.S. News & World Report magazine -- that many people think that is how to choose a college.

What you really want is not the "best" college but the college that fits you best. For that, you need in-depth information, not statistical rankings. For such information, you could start looking up colleges in the 900-page guide, "Choosing the Right College." After that, campus visits would be in order.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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