The name game—how to choose a college

How much does a college’s name brand matter to you when deciding which school to attend?

The name game—how to choose a college

Does it matter to you if your school is well-known?
Let’s face it: We live in a society where many of us are driven to buy something based on the brand name.

Sometimes the name brand is superior in quality; sometimes it’s no better than the lesser-known label.

The stakes are a lot higher when choosing a college because of the hefty price tag involved.

Take a minute to answer the following to see if brand name is something that’s factoring into your college choice.


1. How important is it that peers recognize the name of your college?

    1         2                         3         4

(Not important)        (Very important)

2. How important is it that your college is nationally recognized?

    1         2                         3         4

(Not important)          (Very important)

3. How important is it that others are impressed by the name connected to your specific program?

    1         2                         3         4

(Not important)         (Very important)

4. How important do you think the name of your college is to employers who will hire you right out of college?

    1         2                         3         4

(Not important)         (Very important)

5. How important do you think the name of your college is to employers who hire you more than five years after you graduate college?

    1         2                         3         4

(Not important)         (Very important)

6. How important do you think the name of your undergraduate school is when you apply to a graduate, medical or law school?

    1         2                         3         4

(Not important)         (Very important)

7. How important is the price tag of your education?

    1         2                         3         4

(Not important)         (Very important)

Total your answers and match them to the descriptions on the next page to see how a college’s name affects your choice during the college admissions process.



Numb to name
7-11 points: You most likely feel that the name of your school truly doesn’t have much, if any, effect on your future. You are not influenced by brand names. You know a good value and will make your decision during the college admissions process without being influenced by its name.

Focused on fit
12-16 points: You are only slightly influenced by the name of a college. Sure, you think about it, but you most likely will not give in to the pressure during the college admissions process by choosing a college based solely on its name.

Pondering prestige
17-22 points: You believe that the name and reputation of your college is going to be a factor in determining how easily you can get an interview for your first few jobs. You appreciate that typically, a well-known name indicates a good product. You won’t hesitate to consider this in your college decision.

Brand name or bust
23-28 points: Brand names and brand recognition are very important to you. The popularity and success of a brand-name college provides reassurance that you are making the right choice.

Were you surprised by your score? It’s important to understand what factors are influencing your college choices.

From the trenches
“It’s nice if someone recognizes the name of my school, but that’s only because I believe that they must understand the amount of hard work that was required to be accepted to such a selective university,” says Branden, a neuroscience major at Brown University (

Wendy, a political science sophomore at Dartmouth College (, says a name-brand school can be an asset when it comes time to network with alumni.

But consider your major before you think a brand name is a must-have.
“In the art world, your artwork says more than your school name,” says Benjamin, a senior art major at SUNY New Paltz (

And SUNY Fredonia ( senior Ashley reminds us that, “College is what you make it. If you work hard, you will get a lot out of it regardless of where you attend college.”

In the professional realm
“There are clearly colleges geared toward specific professions where the college name helps the student pursue further education or specific jobs,” says Michael Miller, CEO of One Beacon Insurance Company. “However … it is the experience and the opportunity to learn and be exposed to a variety of things that is much more important than the name of the college you attended.” Understand the many factors that go into your college decision, including how much emphasis you put on the school’s name. Remember, it’s only a name!


Megan Osinski is a senior at Pittsford Mendon High School. She enjoys art, community service and student council.


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