Paul Graham, the millionaire, Harvard graduate, Italy art school graduate, the same guy who wrote that Americans would keep the upper hand because all of the best professors are parked in a few small elite colleges instead of wasting their time all over the country teaching to lesser kids, the guy who has written that elite colleges were important because that is where the most brilliant kids meet up and create the best start-ups, the guy who wrote that keeping housing extremely expensive and refusing to tax the rich was key to producing innovation, well, this guy had revelation last week:
It may not matter all that much where you go to college.
And he had this revelation because, time and time again, when recruiting kids for his start-up incubator, he found out that kids who graduated from MIT, Stanford or Harvard were not smarter.
How he explains it is great too:
Because how much you learn in college depends a lot more on you than the college. A determined party animal can get through the best school without learning anything. And someone with a real thirst for knowledge will be able to find a few smart people to learn from at a school that isn’t prestigious at all. At most colleges you can find at least a handful of other smart students, and most people have only a handful of close friends in college anyway. The odds of finding smart professors are even better. The curve for faculty is a lot flatter than for students, especially in math and the hard sciences; you have to go pretty far down the list of colleges before you stop finding smart professors in the math department.
(Also see my post Big schools are no longer giving researchers an edge?)