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Grad, Law And Med School Applicants: Should You Go To An Ivy League College?
Attorney Harvey Wax has been widely interviewed about a law school rejection letter he received. In 1957, before the advent of the Internet and online applications, Wax wrote a series of letters to Ivy League universities applying to their law schools. Princeton turned him down, with this reply: “In response to your recent letter, I regret to inform you that Princeton University has no law school.”
Wax’s letter appears in a new book called Bill Shapiro Other People’s Rejection Letters, according to a CNN report. He went to Harvard Law School.
Wax’s mistake is comical, but it made me wonder: How many people apply to graduate schools that have name recognition, without serious inquiry into the value of the program?
I think it is important to note here that the Ivy League began as an athletic conference in the Northeastern United States, not as a prestigious academic club. Over time it evolved into a status symbol. While it is true that Ivy League colleges tend to live up to their reputation for academic excellence (the Ivy League is made up of Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, and Penn, and Yale), “Ivy League” does not necessarily mean “the best.” Not many people argue the excellence of schools like MIT, Stanford, the University of Chicago, and Duke, none of which are Ivies and which all rank above Cornell and Brown in the News rankings of the United States and World Report.
If you’re applying to grad, law, business, or medical school, rankings vary more widely than a straight Ivy League ticker, and it would be a big mistake to choose a program simply for its name, without investigating the reputation of the specify. program that interests you. Different schools are known for their programs in different fields. The best schools are often not Ivy League; in the job market for every industry, the best programs are known and respected.
The type of grad school I’m most familiar with is law school, and it’s well known that NYU, ranked #32 for undergrad, is up there with Yale, Harvard, Stanford and Columbia for -its law school. For tax law, NYU is #1; for international law is #2. For health law the Ivies don’t even rank.
- For biology, chemistry and computer science, Stanford, MIT and UC Berkeley tend to be the top picks.
- For math geniuses, Princeton is #1.
- Are you looking for a Master in Fine Arts? Try the Rhode Island School of Design. It’s #1.
- Library and Information Studies? University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign and University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill are tied for first place.
Make your grad school applications after seriously studying programs to find the best fit for you. Maybe you want to choose the most ranked program, or the best place because of your needs, or the school that gives you the best scholarship package. If you can get all three from the same school, you are all set!
Location is especially important with law school and other geographically specific fields (architecture can be one). A lower level law school often offers an affordable and smart option if you want to practice at a smaller company or firm in the school’s geographic area – there are many other professionals from that school who practice in the area, and they like to hire their fellow alumni.
With the availability of the internet, Princeton probably won’t have too many applications for their non-existent law school. You probably won’t make a mistake like that. But make sure you don’t make the mistake of choosing schools at random. Do your research, weigh the factors that are important to you, and submit your best applications.
Where will you apply? Why does that school have the best program for you?
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