Say you’ve fallen in love with a school that isn’t as well-known as some other schools on your list, or you’re desperate to get into an Ivy League and aren’t sure if you should look at “lesser” school. Really, just how important is college reputation?

College Reputation Does Matter

College reputation (largely garnered from its annual rankings) is often a key attractor for incoming students. For example, a high school’s best and brightest are more likely to apply to higher ranking schools because of their reputation, meaning that the student bodies at those schools are naturally going to be more elite as far as academics go. This in turn leads to employers looking to recruit more from these schools.

If You’re Poor, You Have to Work Harder to Get into a Good School

While it may sound cliché, the sad truth is that a good portion of Ivy League students come from wealthier backgrounds and have been given an academic advantage since childhood, whereas smart students from poorer backgrounds are more likely to shy away from these schools altogether. Those that do get in may be receive scholarships based on financial need, but they will need to work harder not only to get the money, but also to keep up the necessary grades for it during their entire college careers. The financial struggle may not seem worth it for some smart students, and many will seek out cheaper education options.

‘Good Reputation’ Doesn’t Always Equate to ‘Good Education’

A good college reputation take years to form, and they also take years to disintegrate. The truth is that many colleges’ reputations were formed long ago, under completely different administrations and professors. A student going to an expensive private school that has been esteemed for many decades could very well be getting the same education (or a lesser one) than a student at another school that isn’t as well known. Unfortunately, students don’t often find out what the education at a specific school is really like until they’re actually enrolled.

Employers Can Be Unfairly Biased

Despite good reputations not always meaning good education, many employers do not think this through when looking at resumes. Indeed, some very bright, experienced job candidates may be passed over if competing with someone with a “better” school on their resume. On the other hand, an employer may be more likely to hire someone from their own alma mater over someone from a higher-ranking college.

You Can Still Be Highly Successful if You Go to a ‘Lesser’ School

Don’t let the above information scare you too much. Many people still go on to lead very successful and lucrative careers after graduating from schools without the best reputations. College is largely what you make of it. Some students go to high-ranking schools and fail to network properly, get good grades or do internships, while others excel at all of these things when going to lower-ranking schools and succeed as a result.