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Prestigious diploma not key to success Two college graduates are interviewing for a job. One is from a highly selective school, the other is from a no-name one. Who gets hired? According to a recent study conducted by the the National Bureau of Economic Research, the student from the more prestigious school won't necessarily be a shoo-in. Basing the selectivity of an institution on the average SAT score of its students, researchers found that intelligent, hard-working people will succeed in the job market regardless of the school they attend. "The study showed that students who go to a more selective college do tend to have higher paying jobs, but it appears that it's not caused by the fact that they attended more selective colleges," said Alan Krueger, the study's co-author and a Princeton University Economics professor. "It appears that students who attend highly selective schools are highly motivated going into college? and would attain high-paying jobs regardless," he added. The study did find, however, that students from disadvantaged backgrounds do benefit from attending well-known schools, which can provide them with contacts they might otherwise not have had. Krueger and co-author Stacy Berg Dale, a researcher at the Arthur W. Mellon Foundation, based their findings on two separate studies -- the College and Beyond Survey and the National Longitudinal Survey of the High School Class of 1972. The College and Beyond Survey includes information about the labor market outcomes in 1995 for students who graduated in 1980 from highly selective and less-selective colleges and universities nationwide. The National Longitudinal Survey shows the correlations among the incomes of students who entered college in 1972, the average SAT scores of all the schools to which they applied and the average SAT scores of the schools they attended. Krueger noted that the survey results should not deter students from attending costly schools, as there are many factors to take into account when choosing which college or university to attend. "For example, if a student is interested in business, he is better off going to a school that specializes in business, like Wharton," Krueger added. According to Penn Career Services Director Patricia Rose, the prospect of finding a well-paid job is only one of several reasons why students come to a top school like Penn. Many students choose Penn for "the richness of the intellectual experience [and] the opportunity to study with outstanding faculty, to live with very smart, very interesting classmates," she said. Caren Lissner, who received her bachelor's degree in English from Penn in 1993 and now is the managing editor of the Hudson Reporter Newspaper Group in New Jersey, agreed. "Being with smart people and with very intelligent professors? is more important than getting out and making a lot of money," Lissner said. "I think that people get can out of a school what they put into it." However, she pointed out that graduating from a prestigious school like Penn does make a difference, despite the study's results. "It is unfortunate, but I think the name [of a school] plays a role," Lissner said. "Sometimes people are judged by where they went to school." But 1986 Penn graduate Henry Kahwaty, who earned his doctoral degree in Economics in 1991 and is now employed as an economist at the Washington, D.C.-based Navigant Consulting, said he is not particularly concerned with where potential employees earned their degrees. "They really have to know economics," Kahwaty said. "But schools with the most rigorous economic programs like Penn and Vanderbilt have the most successful students, and we certainly see a difference in the qualities of candidates."

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