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.

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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.