Hey kids, it’s still all about location, location, location.

Did you know the image of the American college town has been redefined from the bucolic New England village with tree-lined quads and ivy-covered neo-Gothic buildings to vibrant cities of “eds” and “meds?”

small schoolSo says Jeffrey J. Selingo, author of There Is Life After College.

Today, in every one of the 20 largest U.S. cities, a college, university or medical center is among the top 10 employers in town. You won’t find those sorts of stats at Colby, Ramapo or Oberlin.

That’s because cutting-edge colleges have re(de?)signed the urban education experience and are running rings around their smaller, rural peers.

A survey called the College Destinations Index ranks the top schools in four ways:

  • Impact of off-college student experience
  • Economic health of the surrounding community
  • Cultural advantages offered within walking distance of campus
  • Employment opportunities

Boston, San Jose, Boulder and Ithaca came out on top.

Colleges and universities in these four areas in particular (Shout out: Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington, DC, scored equally well) have had the foresight to do two things:

  • They’ve fully integrated with the surrounding community (you won’t see Harvard or Yale-type brick walks separating, say, Drexel from its neighboring Philadelphia neighborhoods).
  • They’re located where the strategic jobs of the future will be in greatest demand.

Boston, for example, plays home to countless hospitals, medical device manufacturers, cyber security think tanks and advanced engineering companies (to name just a few). These fields are what Northeastern University President Joseph Aoun calls, “robot-proof professions” and areas where students with a passion for careers in such disciplines should be studying.

Across the country, USC is another world-class example of an urban school that’s connected with the surrounding community and now is a vibrant part of LaLa Land (as well as a great place to pursue a career in media, entertainment and the arts).

There are countless other examples, but the big message here is to think twice before enrolling in a small, isolated liberal arts school (a la Iona, Drew or Haverford). And think twice before declaring a major: incredibly, 65 percent of the jobs that will exist in 10 years have yet to be invented.

So, do your homework, identify your passion, match it with an urban university that will provide the richest cultural experience and maybe, just maybe, you’ll not only be able to pay off those dreaded college loans a whole lot sooner, you might actually one day earn more money than your parents.


6 thoughts on “Hey kids, it’s still all about location, location, location.

  1. Pingback: It’s about diversity of experience: A response. | PRiscope

  2. I respectfully disagree with your disagreement. Urban schools provide two distinct advantages over their more suburban/rural counterparts:

    1.) The opportunity to immerse oneself in the larger community which affords students a rich and nearly endless selection of cultural, social and other activities in which to engage. You just can’t find that in, say, Storrs, Ct.

    2.) The urban universities are surrounded with best-in-class, forward-looking employers (think: AI and robotics, to name just two fields). And these cutting-edge corporations are providing internships right now that will prepare students for jobs that haven’t even been created yet. Again, the dearth of that kind of depth and breadth in, say, Altoona, is a huge handicap.

    The schools you mention may be becoming more selective, but their ROI will dwindle over time as the conventional careers they’re prepping students for today disappear tomorrow. You really should read the book. I’d say it’s a must for any high school senior, guidance counselor or parent of a high school student.

  3. I respectfully disagree with the premise of this post. While location has always been important, top schools located outside of major cities are and will be highly in demand because of the value they offer. And, those schools will continue to churn out some of the most successful entrants into the employment market. These kids will simply graduate and then be recruited to these cities because they represent among the best talent out there. Schools like Amherst, Williams, Swarthmore, Dartmouth, Trinity College, Syracuse, Clemson, Wake Forest (just to name a few) are all based in rural areas or tiny cities, falling outside the cities highlighted in this post. Yet, they all are incredibly popular and accept only between 10-30 percent of applicants. Their brands are actually becoming stronger because of the unique level of value each provides to students. I just can’t see how a top of the class robotic engineer graduating from Dartmouth would be less appealing to an employer in Boulder or Boston simply because he/she didn’t go to school in that fast growing city. Or, how a business/economics major graduating with high honors from Williams College, based in the middle of no where, wouldn’t be a top target of an investment bank in one of the “hot” cities featured in this post. Just Doesn’t compute to me….

  4. Perhaps. Perhaps. Perhaps. I’m sure some of what you say is true but rural colleges lacking a vibrant urban experience and immediate access to future-focused corporations bode ill for the cut-of-the-mill psychology or archeology student. As the book stresses, it’s. Ritical for a high school graduate to take a deep breath, not do what’s expected of them (i.e. Follow dad’s footsteps and earn a B.S. in literature and, instead match passion with location with fields such as nano
    science, computer engineering, robotics, I.A. that will dominate tomorrow’s job market.).

    One final point: I’d urge high school guidance counselors, students and their parents to read this book now. It could save them from ridiculous loans and dead-end career prospects down the road.

  5. Happy to see a shout out to our mutual alma mater, Northeastern. I think attending a school (1) near incredible employers and opportunities, and (2) with a formal program to take advantage of those career opportunities was incredibly important. However, I don’t think that those who opt to attend schools in more rural locations are automatically at a disadvantage.

    Perhaps they have a rigorous course of study and prefer to focus more exclusively on it, vs. take advantage of city distractions. Perhaps the school has a great program in the field in which they’re interested. Perhaps its a more economical option, and they’d rather not start their careers saddled with mind-numbing debt. Perhaps they choose to take advantage of their breaks, the increasingly remote workforce, or other means to gain work experience.

    To survive in an increasingly robotic workforce, diversity is key. And that means diversity of experience and thought, as well.

    TL;DR Choosing a school is a deeply personal decision, and there are ample arguments on all sides.