The Trouble With ‘Top Tier’ Schools

diploma blog postHaving switched career paths in my mid-20’s I am very familiar with combing over job postings. I have spent a lot of time checking out how companies represent themselves in their career or job section, and  there is always one bullet point that makes me stop and wonder what people were thinking. It’s the bullet point that says, either directly or indirectly, that the applicant must be from a ‘top tier’ school in order to be considered. I’ve seen this in a wide range of company posts and it never ceases to shock me. Everyone from start-ups to large corporations are guilty of this and it bothers me and should bother a lot more people out there. I can only guess  that by saying ‘top tier’ companies mean Ivy League schools. They may also mean schools that are ranked highly on a major report that goes out every year but we all get the point. They really are referring to a small percentage of schools out there. Why does this matter?

1)  Well, for one you are deciding to eliminate a lot of talented people or at least openly saying you are willing to.   In my opinion this is harmful to innovation and positive change. Let’s be clear here. I’m not saying graduates at ‘top schools’ are preventing innovation or positive change. I am saying  only picking from the same pool means you can’t possibly be taking advantage of all the talent out there that is needed to drive innovation and change. I am not 100% sure about the stats but let’s just do a quick estimate about the percentages here. In the United States there are 8 Ivy League schools. I think we can safely assume that under 1% of new grads out there come from that small group. After that let’s say the posting is counting maybe the top 100 schools in the nation decided by one or two organizations. So we might go up a few % points. Do companies really think only a small % of individuals have what it takes to do a specific job?  I find it hard to believe this is true and I find it even more ridiculous when companies do this for entry level positions that only require a bachelors degree.

2)  This practice is classist.   I’m sure this will ruffle people’s feathers but I stand by the statement. Let’s be real here for a moment.  The majority of people graduating from these  ‘top’ schools come from families who are pretty high on the socio-economic ladder. I may be accused of making a generalization here, but I would like to see data that says otherwise.  I was lucky enough to get my undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan. I would take a guess and say many  companies might consider that a top school. I had the financial and emotional support to get me there and not everyone has that luxury. As a society, we need to be more inclusive and open minded about who might be the best person for the job. It shouldn’t just be about the name stamped on the paper you received after graduation. We all know many of those big names means you paid big money or walked away with some serious debt.

There are endless ways to screen candidates and one of them shouldn’t be what school you went to. Hopefully, if someone does applies from a non ‘top tier’ school and is qualified, the company won’t care.

What do you think? Is it acceptable to screen a candidate based on where they earned their degree?


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