How Will Businesses Evaluate an Ivy League Degree in the Future?

A smart reader of mine pointed to this post and observed that given recent college events, we will likely see some changes.  In that post I had pointed to something written by Peter Thiel:

Peter Thiel describes higher education as a "giant selection mechanism" and estimates that only 10% of the value of a college degree comes from actual learning, and 50% of the value comes from selection (getting into a selective university) and 40% comes from signalling (graduating from a selective college becomes known to employers).  If employers could use intelligence tests instead of college degrees as measures of aptitude, it might be a lot more efficient and more cost-effective than the current practice of using very expensive four-year college degrees that add very little in terms of educational value (at least according to Thiel).

What does being a Yale grad signal after the last few weeks?  What does Yale appear to be selecting for?

I further observed:

There is some rationality in this approach [to hiring mainly from the Ivies] – it is not all mindless snobbism.   Take Princeton.  It screens something like 25,000 already exceptional applicants down to just 1500, and then further carefully monitors their performance through intensive contact over a four year period.  This is WAY more work and resources than a private firm could ever apply to the hiring process.  In effect, by limiting their hiring to just a few top schools, they are outsourcing a lot of their performance evaluation work to those schools.

All this pre-supposed that colleges were looking for the same things that corporations were looking for -- bright, hard-working, clear-thinking, rational, easily educable people.  But what if that is not what the Ivy League is selecting for any more?  Do I really want to hire thin-skinned authoritarians who are unable to reasonably handle disagreement and will shut down the work of their peers over the smallest grievance?  I had already quit the Princeton high school interviewing team because I no longer wanted to be part of a process that I thought was hosing hard-working Asian students.  Now that I see who is being admitted in their stead, I am even more reluctant to be part of the admissions process.

According to my son, who is a senior at Amherst (one of the recent sites where the SJW Olympics have been held), more and more firms are doing different sorts of testing.  Consultants all do case interviews now, which is a form of testing, and at least once he has been in investment banking interviews where he had to sit down and take an Excel skills test.

Update:  Just saw this from Stephen Moore

Can you imagine the tyranny you would bring upon yourself by actually hiring one of these self-righteous complainers. Within a month they’d be slapping you with a lawsuit for not having a transgender bathroom. And you’ll be thinking: Right, but did you actually finish that assignment I gave you? Employers tell me despondently that the millennials are by far the highest maintenance generation they’ve ever seen. One recruiter recently told me: “They need their hands held, they demand affirmation, they are forever whining about their feelings. We really don’t have time to deal with their petty grievances.”


  1. Bram:

    I'm not much interested in interviewing a liberal arts major from anywhere. Sad because I was a History Major long ago before going back to business school. Judging from our intern classes, STEM and business majors seem much more willing to work hard, not complain, and have actual job skills.

  2. irandom419:

    Why aren't liberals trying to level the field by prohibiting consideration of the prestigiousness in hiring? Oh, wait they go to those institutions and it might hurt them.

  3. J_W_W:

    Would making potential employees explain the bill of rights be an acceptable question? I'm beginning to think that might be our best bet going forward.

  4. steamboatlion:

    Wouldn't a useful hiring heuristic be to recruit the top Asians from second tier schools because a) you know they're smarter than most of the Ivy grads, and b) they probably learned a more valuable life lesson than the kids who got into an Ivy school.

    The problem with signaling is it only works until people realize the signal has been corrupted. There's this idea that only the very smartest people graduate from an Ivy league university. Unless of course they're not Asian, in which case maybe, or an alumni, in which case maybe, and so on. There's a lot of noise in that signal.

  5. Tom Lindmark:

    About a year ago I had a conversation with a seasoned and very successful software engineer. I asked what schools he preferred to hire from and he grinned and said that he didn't care where or if potential employees went to college, just could they code at a high level.

  6. disqus_DCPbdeGXic:

    The snobbism comes from the hiring firms that won't consider a candidate from a non-elite school. True story: a recruiter for McKinsey told a friend (who had a perfect 4.0 in math and economics from the University of Arizona) that she couldn't be considered because she didn't go to a target school. A partner at Bain more or less said the same thing, that I had great work experience, great grades, and high test scores, but that I wasn't one of them. What a bunch of assholes.

  7. Tom Murin:

    I believe the real value in elite institutions is in the contacts and networking. You go there and you're in the club.