T Nation

Higher Education


And no, I don't mean going to school in the Alps.

I'm stuck between college decisions. I applied to a bunch of places, and have to make a matriculation choice before May 1. The problem comes down to school reputation vs. cost.

I would really like to go to Princeton. I've been accepted there, but they offer only ~$5000 worth of aid, leaving me with nearly $41000 worth of debt a year. Same with Duke. These schools sound amazing and I would love to go there, but my parents don't have that kind of money, so the honus to pay it falls on me.

I've also been accepted at UNC-Chapel Hill. Also a good school, ranked high as public schools go, but not on the level of Princeton or Harvard. They've offered me a full ride, for eigth semesters of undergrad. This sounds very appealing, because I'll graduate with 0 debt.

However, I wonder what it would be like to go to school at one of these Ivy elites. I've heard that this is where all the business relationships etc. are forged, you meet people that scratch your back the rest of your life.

I'm pretty self-absorbed (clearly, or I wouldn't post on this site). Thus, I'm afraid that I'll spend all four years of my undergraduate years telling people "Well, I got accepted at Princeton but.." and that's just going to make me (feel/look/be) an asshole.

Do you think the debt is worth incurring ? Is it feasible to expect that an Ivy league education can help pay that off?


In the bygone days of yore, (i just like that intro) It made a difference where one went to college. However, in the times we live with, where you get your BA is relatively unimportant. The main thing now is the quality of your law/medical/graduate program. That being said, screw Princeton/Duke and go for the free ride, it's still a great school and if you get good grades/standardized test scores there, it will get you into any gradu/law/med program you want. You'll get into enough debt acquiring an advanced degree, don't tack on an undergraduate bill as well.


Consider what you want to study, and which school's program best fits your needs in the near term and in the long term.

Consider weather or not you will attend graduate or professional school. As long as your grades and test scores are good you should be alright - but if you intend to attend the cream of the crop your point of origin will matter more than it might otherwise.

Consider which school would put you in better financial standing 10 years down the road. (ie: will you be able to get a job sufficiently better paying out of princeton or duke that it will offset the debt that you would take on)

The good news is that you are going to be more than fine if you go to any one of those schools as they are all top-50 schools in the US by more than one analysis.


I agree with this completely.

What are you going to major in?


I don't think you can go wrong with any of these choices. Are you going into a graduate or professional degree afterwards? If so, these are all good schools to get you where you need to go. Either way, graduating with ~$160,000 debt is a HUGE burden, especially if you have to finance a grad degree after that. I had friends that had to turn down jobs they would have preferred and go into the most lucrative fields simply because of the amount of debt they were saddled with after they graduated.
I would advise you not to look back after you make your choice, if you go to UNC, don't worry about the fact that you could have gone somewhere else.
Congrats by the way.


If you want to go to Princeton, go to Princeton. Life is only so long, and you only get one go at it. I'd rather go somewhere I really wanted and be in debt up to my ears then "settle". Of course, in your case, you're not really settling with your second choice.

I just can't see somebody regretting what they truly want, in this situation.


For the love of all things holy and good, don't go to Duke!

Seriously, though, the previous posts were right in that your undergrad alma mater really doesn't mean squat if you go on to graduate school. In fact, one could even argue that (at least in the sciences), your post-doctoral work is really what matters.

Believe me, UNC is a great place to go to school (except for all the frat boys in their pink polo shirts and plaid shorts...), and is a prestigious university.

I went to a state school for my undergraduate education, and am loving my relatively debt-free existence.

Oh, and in case I didn't mention it already, FUCK DOOK!


These guys exist in Miami, too, except maybe without the plaid shirts.

Seriously, opt for the free ride. You really can't get a better deal than that. Everyone here knows what he's saying. It really doesn't matter where you get your undergrad so long as you're planning to go to grad school. Go to UNC for free, maintain a decent GPA, and you'll be fine.

Oh, and don't pull that whole, "Yeah, I got accepted to Princeton, but..." deal. That's really annoying.


This is very true. The rich hang out with their own and get richer.

Go to the one you can afford.

If it means taking the free ride and working hard to keep your scholarship and then working hard in the business world so be it.

It is better to create your own success rather than rely of rich friends to get you jobs.


I'm going to go against the flow here and say Princeton is the way to go.

Over the years I have learned the power of the old boy network, and it's the biggest force on this planet. Get in to that and you'll climb to the top very quickly.

$160K is a lot of debt, but it's also a huge tax deduction!


I like HOV's point a lot... Dont get me wrong the allure of a free education is exciting but to be honest, I watch my coworker do the same work I do with the same title and get paid more because she went to an Ivy. I know this isnt always the case but I can tell you the education will pay for itself over time. Furthermore, I've also seen the quality of the college pay off a lot more than your GPA. Again, this wont always be the case, especially once you end up going to grad school but so far in the business world its made a hell of a difference.

Anyway, you sound like the kind of person that will kick themselves if they dont end up at a more prestigious school... dont waste the opportunity...