Does college branding really matter?

The U.S. is a nation composed of power tiers, with status ruling many a life. One way this status is sought is through acceptance to a well-known school. 

Ivy Leagues like Yale and Harvard have been around for over 300 years, giving them plenty of time to develop a solid reputation — one of amazing professors, high regard and elitism. For this reason, some students believe alma mater holds more weight than anything. 

However, one must recognize that efforts to “brand” such schools play largely into their reverence. Colleges rarely depend on integrity alone to pull in the applicants. Many — Guilford College included — pay through the nose to maintain their renown. Such branding efforts are not innately bad, but they are often not representative of the institution as a whole. 

Attending a prestigious school no doubt has its perks, but will it really give you the best education, or is that just a marketing ploy? 

First-year Sam Bernhardt believes the latter. “I’m more concerned with the experience at college than the degree itself,” Bernhardt said. “It is so beneficial compared to an Ivy League school and all the stress it brings.”

For someone who values life skills just as much as formal education, a diploma is not the end-all-be-all. Of course, one must consider that although Bernhardt is indifferent towards alma mater, he is already in college. 

“The more prestigious a college is, the more respected the degree will be,” said Early College junior Annie Fullwood. 

Many ECG students place great value on the name-recognition of their future school. That being said, many also strive for specialized careers within medicine, law and the like, where a “name-brand” degree will serve you well.

Ultimately, there is a lot of gray area when it comes to choosing schools. Just because a school is right for someone else doesn’t mean it is best for you and vice-versa.

“Guilford is a college immediately recognized as one with a Quaker heritage,” said sophomore CCE student Melissa Fourrier. “For me, that’s very complimentary.” 

Despite ties to several Ivy Leagues throughout the country, Fourrier chose Guilford because it best suited her peace & conflict studies interests.  She proves that lesser-known colleges can brand themselves in an effective, albeit different, way in relation to the others. 

Fourrier also believes that varying schools have distinct things to offer and cannot always be equated. 

“If we’re trying to compare ourselves to Harvard … I don’t think comparisons fare well on that scale,” said Fourrier.

What Fourrier is pointing out is that different paths lead to different results. That does not mean one is better or worse nor that “one size fits all.” 

So, does an “elite” title really pay out in the end? A resounding yes or no cannot be concluded. National acclaim of a school is important, but so is the acclaim you give to it. 

For all of the brand-worshippers, there are those who reject the concept. They wear it because they like it. Hopefully, over time, more will begin to adopt this attitude.