There's plenty of anxiety in the U.S. over getting into a top college. But a new Gallup poll suggests that, later in life, it doesn't matter nearly as much as we think. In fact, when you ask college graduates whether they're "engaged" with their work or "thriving" in all aspects of their lives, their responses don't vary one bit whether they went to a prestigious college or not.
The surprising findings come in a survey of 29,650 college graduates of all ages by Gallup pollsters working with researchers at Purdue University. The poll asked graduates a range of questions designed to measure how well they are doing in life across factors such as income and "engagement" in their jobs and careers.
The survey set a high bar. It found that 39 percent of college grads overall say they're "engaged" at work (which is 10 points higher than the population at large). And, while almost 5 in 6 self-report doing great in at least one sphere — whether sense of purpose, financial security, physical health, close relationships or community pride — only 11 percent are "thriving" in all five areas of well-being.
And here's the kicker.
Those percentages did not vary based on whether the grads went to a fancy name-brand school or a regional state college, one of the top 100 in the U.S. News & World Report rankings or one of the bottom 100. A slight edge did go to those who attended campuses with more than 10,000 students, while for-profit college graduates saw worse outcomes.
No opinion poll can fully capture the impact — or allure — of attending a world-famous institution. But this isn't the first time studies have documented no edge for highly selective schools. Previous studies have shown no link between expensive private colleges and later salary for graduates. Income is much more closely tied to a person's choice of a major, which is a finding the Gallup survey also supported.