TIME Education

Going to a Top College Won’t Make You Happier, Poll Says

A Gallup poll found that the biggest factor in post-grad satisfaction was engagement in college — no matter whether you went to a state school or an Ivy league college

The agony of college applications is often endured because of a supposed light at the end of the tunnel: Entrance into a top school will ensure a life of happiness ahead. But a new Gallup poll suggests that attending a prestigious college has almost nothing to do with a person’s happiness in work or life after graduation.

Gallup paired up with researchers at Purdue University, Ind. to track the longterm well-being of over 29,560 college graduates of all ages who attended all types of higher learning institutions. According to the study, “The schools these college graduates attended—public or private, small or large, very selective or less selective—hardly matters at all to their workplace engagement and current well-being.”

A total of 39% of college graduates said they were “engaged” at work and 5 out of 6 claimed to be thriving in at least one area of well-being, ranging from close relationships to physical health to financial security.

But these statistics remained constant whether someone had attended a school at the very top or very bottom of the U.S. News & World Report’s list of ranked colleges. In fact, people who attended schools with 10,000-plus students were found to be more satisfied.

Gallup’s Brandon Busteed told NPR, If you can go to Podunk U debt free vs. Harvard for $100,000, go to Podunk. And concentrate on what you do when you get there.”

The most important factor for being happier later in life, the poll found, was being engaged throughout college through internships, relationships with professors, and extracurricular activities.


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