Choosing the Right College

Is it worth paying more for a “top 10” school?

You get accepted to a private school / Ivy League that will cost a fortune. You’re also accepted by a public university which doesn’t have as good a reputation but costs much less. Does it matter which one you choose?

One factor in your decision is if the school will increase your chance of being successful. A school could be ‘worth it’ if it produces successful people, which we define as its alumni appearing in Wikipedia.

To answer this question, we identified the number of ‘successful’ graduates for each college (defined as the alumni appearing in Wikipedia). We calculated the likelihood of appearing in Wikipedia if one was an alumni from a given college.

Method Details:
The likelihood of a college alumnus appearing in Wikipedia is calculated as a relative ratio.
If the relative ratio is 1, then that means that the number of alumnus observed in Wikipedia follows what’s expected based on the college size.
If the relative ratio is greater than 1, then that means that the number of people in Wikipedia is higher than what’s expected base on its college size — and this school increases your chance of success.
Equations here

The table below shows the colleges with the most Wikipedia enrichment.

For example, Harvard has a relative ratio of 50, which means that alumni are 50x more likely to appear in Wikipedia than expected.

CollegeEnrichment in Wikipedia
American Conservatory Theater124.63
Harvard College50.38
Curtis Institute of Music59.97
Columbia University33.50
Juilliard School33.90
Yale University24.37
San Francisco Art Institute25.80
Princeton University20.05
Manhattan School of Music16.17
New England Conservatory of Music16.12
California Institute of the Arts14.62
Stanford University12.06
California Institute of Technology12.96
Massachusetts Institute of Technology11.27
Swarthmore College12.14
Northwestern University10.23
Amherst College11.03
Golden Gate University12.22
Williams College9.99
Bennington College10.70
Trinity College10.26
Cleveland Institute of Music12.57
Shimer College14.20
Johns Hopkins University8.20
University of Chicago7.96
Brown University7.96
Sarah Lawrence College8.83
Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art9.25
Vassar College8.39
Columbia College8.71
Duke University7.45
Dartmouth College7.65
Wesleyan University7.87
Berklee College of Music7.43
Goddard College8.66
Oberlin College7.53
Rhode Island School of Design7.68
Georgetown University6.36
Pomona College7.04
Haverford College7.25
Reed College7.05
San Francisco Conservatory of Music8.36
Brandeis University5.82
University of Pennsylvania5.36
Cornell University5.30
Barnard College5.89
Bowdoin College5.99
National Defense University6.69
University of California Berkeley4.95
University of Southern California4.77
University of California Los Angeles4.75
St. John's College6.72
American University4.92
Davidson College5.56
Art Center College of Design5.49
Occidental College5.28
Wellesley College5.16
Bard College5.17
Hastings College5.57
Howard University4.67
University of Notre Dame4.50
Pontifical College Josephinum8.50
University of Michigan3.99
Smith College4.55
University of Rochester4.15
School of Visual Arts4.39
University of Miami4.04
Westminster College5.02
Marietta College4.78
University of Virginia3.90
New York University3.80
Middlebury College4.45
Mannes College of Music4.84
Southern Methodist University3.89
United States Military Academy4.10
Union College4.56
United States Naval Academy3.99
Kenyon College4.43
Naval Postgraduate School4.43
Illinois College4.78
Boston College3.65
United States Air Force Academy3.91
Wake Forest University3.75
Boston Conservatory4.92
University of Richmond3.96
College of the Holy Cross3.99
Wheaton College3.97
Mitchell College4.52
Colgate University3.93
Tulane University3.47
Lake Forest College4.21
Morehouse College3.92
Hampshire College4.16
School of the Museum of Fine Arts4.58
Carleton College3.94
Mills College4.00
Bryn Mawr College3.87
Rush University6.10
Catholic University of America3.34
Grinnell College3.84
Rice University3.34
Antioch University Los Angeles6.24
Kansas City Art Institute4.28
Colorado College3.60
Carnegie Mellon University3.04
Pratt Institute3.24
Bates College3.60
Vanderbilt University2.97
Tufts University2.92
Mount Holyoke College3.27
Hamilton College3.34
St. Charles Borromeo Seminary5.24
Syracuse University2.68
School of the Art Institute of Chicago3.06
Warren Wilson College3.59
York College4.03
Lincoln University3.71
University of Texas at Austin2.38
Otis College of Art and Design3.18
Texas College3.30
Lawrence University3.05
Whitman College2.98
Millsaps College3.14
Louisiana State University2.26
University of Tulsa2.59
University of Dallas2.70
Southwestern University3.00
Fisk University3.42
Macalester College2.77
University of the Southwest3.49
Willamette University2.64

The relative ratio of appearing in Wikipedia is plotted against the U.S. News & World Report rankings. We see that people who attend the top-ranked schools do have a higher likelihood of appearing in Wikipedia.

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So this supports going to a top-rank school. Also notice what happens after rank 40, the college doesn’t seem to matter for getting into Wikipedia.

Full analysis with gory details

Also, check out my earlier post which show that you don’t even need to go to college for certain professions.