In an earlier Apples to Apples post, I discussed (and showed findings) how going to one college over another has little to no effect on the future success of a student. Namely, I want to revisit this portion of my previous post:
Now, you would think that the more ambitious student is the one who would choose to go to Penn, and the ones choosing to go to Penn State might be a little less confident in their abilities or have a little lower family income, and both of those factors would point to people doing worse later on. But they don't.
I witnessed firsthand that this is the case during my weekend at Colby. I found out that some of the students I met had been accepted to "more prestigious" schools but had gone to Colby for various other reasons. These reasons ranged from wanting to be closer to family to financial reasons (such as Colby offering more money in scholarships than other schools). One particular person's story stuck out at me because that person chose Colby over other colleges for financial reasons, made the best of their time at Colby, graduated with great grades and has managed to get a full ride to graduate school. It just really goes to show you that it all comes down to the student, not the school, in determining future success.
And related to this topic, this article in the NY Times about Tony Jack and how he has overcome obstacles to achieve success at Amherst is absolutely wonderful.