Why a big-name college doesn't matter

Here’s a refreshing exchange between New York Times columnists David Brooks and Gail Collins, who stress the irrelevance of rankings and getting into big-name, elite colleges:

David Brooks:

I’ve learned that if you put me in an unmarked room with students from any of the top 100 colleges in the country, and let me have a one-hour discussion with them, I wouldn’t be able to tell if I were at the school that was No. 1 in the U.S. News ranking or No. 100. There are a lot of smart kids everywhere.

Gail Collins:

I totally agree with you. We can do a great service to the youth and parents of America by telling them to stop obsessing about choosing a college. It doesn’t matter! … The U.S. News rankings have ruined the college selection process and I think are also possibly one of the driving factors behind the ever-soaring cost of higher education. Really, people, all you have to ask yourself is: 1.) Am I more comfortable with a big school or small 2.) Which schools offer the stuff I’m interested in; and 3.) Can we afford it? After that it’s all spin and pretending that the dining room looks like the one at Hogwarts.

(FYI, Brooks went to the University of Chicago, and Collins went to Marquette University for her undergrad and the state-run University of Massachusetts Amherst for her master’s.)