Prestigious undergrad or prestigious grad school?

April 7, 2009 at 11:14 am 1 comment

Once I heard a speaker recommend attending a state university for undergrad and a prestigious school for grad school, on the assumption that people only care where your terminal degree comes from.

That assumes a student doesn’t decide to stop after the B.A.   But is it really good advice?  Or does going to a less prestigious undergrad school limit one’s grad school choices?

“The assault on affirmative action could have significant long-term consequences for students rejected from prestigious universities because of the practice of “grade weighting” by some postgraduate programs.  This policy, which is common in the top tier of law schools nationwide, gives greater weight to the grades of applicants from elite colleges and universities.   UC Berkeley’s prestigious Boalt Hall School of  Law, for example, gives applicants from schools such as Yale, Stanford, and Harvard extra points in the admissions process, while students from schools such as Howard University, a historic black college, and California state universities, which are less expensive and less selective than the UCs [ Universities of California], have their GPAs lowered.  (In the fall of 1997, the faculty at Boalt Hall eliminated grade weighting in the wake of a complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights by the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and other groups.]

And Still We Rise: The Trials and Triumphs of Twelve Gifted Inner-City Students by Miles Corwin, p.127

Plus, once a student gets an undergraduate degree, their parent’s assets are not considered in the financial aid calculations, so grad school financial aid is easier to get.

So, if you can get more financial aid for grad school and it is easier to get into a prestigious grad school if you go to a prestigious undergrad school, why would you scrimp on spending for undergrad?


Entry filed under: grad school, Ivy League, Paying for College.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Amanda  |  April 14, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    Great advice! I say get into the best undergrad you can. Also a big fan of going to a junior college if you can’t get into one of the great schools. And, if you don’t get into a prestigious undergrad (or are lame and just don’t choose one like I did), definitely go big for grad school.


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Insights and advice from a parent of two gifted teenagers



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