Which Colleges are Worth It?

When some colleges cost over $60,000 per year and others $10,000 or less, the wrong question is being asked. Many wonder if college is worth it, but we don’t deal in absolutes here, so instead I will tell you which colleges are worth it and at what price point. When a rank 200 college costs as much as Harvard, you know something is off. It’s like buying a Nissan for a Bentley price. Knowing things like this has allowed me to retire before I turned 30. I know how employers all over the corporate world think and act based on your college. I also know how potential spouses judge you on your college, and now I want to pass that info onto you.

Luckily I identified 16 colleges that are worth their full price. 5-12 that are great if you can get in-state tuition, and also which schools are worth it if you can get a full scholarship.

Whether you go to college or not depends on your goals in life, your career, and your current skillset. If you want to become a plumber, then no, college is not for you. If you have been developing apps since you were 12, then sure, go make your startup and skip college. However, if you want an nearly risk free route to success, chances are you would greatly benefit from going to a top college. Anyone who tells you that a top college isn’t worth the money likely have never experienced or seen anyone experience the benefits of a top tier degree, or they take it for granted. Personally for me, I feel like I wasted 4 years of my life by going to college because I already had the skills to succeed in the world. I also didn’t go to a golden ticket college–I went to a top 50 college but paid the price, so the piece of paper that some people call a diploma did not help me much nor was it worth the money. Time is also money, so when you look at college prices, you have to factor in the 4 years it takes to complete in addition to the tuition cost.

Let’s get into the first list, the holy grail of American colleges. If you can get into any of these top 16 colleges that I’m about to list, take out loans and attend. While I recommend going for a useful major, even a bullshit major can work if you go here.

In no particular order, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, MIT, Columbia, Dartmouth, Cornell, Upenn, Brown, Caltech, Duke, Johns Hopkins, Northwestern, Berkeley, and Georgetown. If you did not go to any of these schools, please do not take offense as I didn’t either. There are many good colleges, but I don’t care what the rankings say. I don’t care if XYZ college has a great XYZ program. If you can get into one of these 16 schools, go to them. These schools have the highest prestige and any employer or potential spouse who hears these colleges will immediately bump you up to the top of their recruitment list. Are there some schools on the borderline? yes, but when you are forking out $50,000-60,000 your list is going to be short and sweet. I know some other colleges may outrank some on this list, but rankings change every year. Prestige and pedigree is forever.

Now, if you can’t get into any of these, have no fear. If you can qualify for scholarships and make the total cost per year under $15,000, then I recommend you go to any top 50 university or top 10 liberal arts college.

Next, we also have colleges that differentiate between in-state and out-of-state students. In-state students at some colleges pay a lot less. For example at the University of Michigan charges around $53,000 to most students but only $17,000 to in-state students. This makes the University of Michigan very worth it if you live there. Let’s go over all the other schools that are worth it if you have in-state tuition.

University of California (any of the schools are good enough with in-state tuition), University of Michigan, UVA, UNC, and William & Mary. That’s the short list. The borderline schools are University of Florida, Georgia Institute of Technology, UT Austin, University of Georgia, University of Wisconsin Madison, Ohio State, and UMD. I say borderline because while you won’t have an easy pass to the high life, your diploma will still on average get you a good career from attending these schools.

If you can’t get into any of the colleges mentioned under their specific criteria, I suggest not going to college. You can learn so much in 4 years on your own, and then having $200,000 to top it off from not paying tuition makes it that much more worth it. There are around 5,300 colleges in the US, but I am only recommending less than 1% of those. The truth is that many colleges simply aren’t worth it (no suprise there). Y’all already know how much I love investing, and you know that time is money. The earlier you invest, the better. Time was Warren Buffett’s best friend. Imagine putting yourself in debt for a degree that frankly just isn’t that worth it. Taking on debt is like reverse investing. Only do it if the rewards are extraordinary. I really regret going to college, but I was forced to because of my parents. In fact, I actually could have graduated in 3 years, but they forced me to stay a 4th year. That’s how much immigrant parents value college (topic for a different day).

Now I know what you are about to ask–“Hey, what about if I qualify for a free community college?” Don’t even consider going there. Not worth the time because no one values your degree from there, and you are better off spending that time learning about subjects yourself. “Wait, what if I go to community college for 2 years, then transfer into a school on the list? that way I can save tons of money!!!” Also no because it is extremely difficult to pull that off. Many gurus will delude you into thinking you can ‘save money’ by skipping years at the top tier universities by going to a community college and then transferring in. On paper it sounds great, but in practice, it is messy. Ask almost anyone who has done this, many credits do not transfer because of changed criteria, your acceptance is not guaranteed, and half the point of attending a top school is for networking, which you will miss out on 2 years of. If you go to Yale for example, even if you do a bullshit major, there is a high chance you will meet people who will shape the next generation of the world.

Maybe in the future I can make a sliding scale and rate each college individually. Have a list of schools for $10,000, $20,000 and so on, but this list should get you started. I know it sounds very harsh to make this list, but many things in life are ugly and harsh. I don’t make the rules, this is just how people in the real and corporate world play out. When a certain college is mentioned, people’s facial expressions change. The top 16 I listed out before have those reactions. Of course there are exceptions and borderline cases. Again, I went to a non golden ticket school, so I have seen people reap the advantages of them while also experiencing what having a top 50 degree is like. Life isn’t fair and I want to arm you with the most knowledge possible. If I spent 4 years of my life improving myself as a person through self-learning and building a company and then armed myself with the over $200,000 tuition that was paid, I would be living a much better life than I am now.

For what comes after college, check out How Half of Americans Can Retire in 10 Years

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