Is Studying at a Top University Worth the Cost?

Aside from being an impressive interior design element, does a certifica from a prestigious university provide any tangible benefits? Is it really worth the price you pay? In more recent times, it seems as though the value of graduating from a top-rated institution has diminished.

This is partly due to a change in recruiting processes that accommodates a broader applicant pool, which has seemingly reduced the importance of university prestige. At least, that’s what appears to be the case. The truth might be a little more complicated than that. Let’s take a deeper look into whether studying at a top university is still a good idea.

What is a Top University?

Before we begin, it’s important to understand what exactly it means to be a top university. The general consensus is that they’re the institutions with the most graduates who obtain lucrative positions at large organisations. They tend to be held in high regard for their research, teaching and global impact.

A ratings website that provides university league tables can help you identify the top universities in your area. For instance, the Uni Compare 2020 league table provides the 100 best universities in the UK, with a wealth of information on each, including details such as tuition costs, student reviews, courses, accommodation and more.

It’s worth noting that choosing a university is an extremely personal endeavour. Rankings are a solid foundation, but factors such as your personal goals and preferences are no less important in helping you make the right decision.

Access to Opportunities

We know that top universities have extremely stringent screening processes. This goes a long way in ensuring that only the most talented and intelligent students can attend. As a result, they are more desirable to elite companies that are looking for the best graduates, which is why there has always been an inherent bias.

Florida State University lecture hall

As we touched on earlier, there has been a trend among organisations to avoid this approach and make their hiring decisions based on other criteria instead, especially among big tech companies where diversity is a strong value.

This is where it’s worth mentioning the importance of connections. Put simply, top universities have much stronger connections with top companies.

As an example, Google has a high number of alumni at Ivy League universities. Attending one of them will certainly increase your likelihood of landing an interview at the search giant, as you’ll inevitably bump into someone who works there. You could apply without a connection, but that would just make you one of two million who try every year.

In a similar vein, Fortune 500 companies still assign most of their recruitment representatives to top universities. Consequently, the students who attend them have more opportunities to mingle with recruiters. This is prevalent across all industries.


Will attending a top university line you up for a higher salary after graduating? The statistics would have you believe that to be true, but it’s worth noting that most students who leave prestigious institutions enter higher-paying fields such as tech, finance and consulting. This naturally increases the numbers.

A close up shot of a calculator

While that doesn’t mean the likelihood of you earning a more lucrative salary after graduating from a top university isn’t higher than if you attended a normal university, it’s important to avoid basing your decision on the numbers alone. That said, you can safely expect a more generous compensation – just don’t forget to factor in your tuition fees.


It is often said that prestigious universities give their students the option to fail. What does this mean?

We now know that top institutions provide easier access to the best internships at the best companies with the highest salaries. As a result, they offer an advantage that other universities don’t. This is because you have access to opportunities that give you the freedom to take risks.

Graduating from a lower-tier school might get you to the door of your local law firm or tech startup, while a top university’s strong alumni network will take you much further than that. This is important to note if you’re unsure as to where exactly you want to work in the future. Studying somewhere prestigious might give you more time to decide.


To substantiate the higher cost, top universities strive to provide their students with a better experience. This can include more after-hours events and social activities that make you feel a greater sense of involvement with campus life. Lecturers might be more willing to spend extra one-on-one time with you and pay attention to your needs.

Yoga and fitness

Chances are that you’ll find more clubs and sports teams to become a part of. There could also be better facilities such as gyms with fitness classes and cafeterias with higher quality food. The time and effort your university will put into helping you find a job before and after graduating will likely be higher as well.

To sum it up, you can expect an overall more enjoyable life on campus at a top university. This will undoubtedly influence your grades to some degree. If you don’t enjoy the environment, you’ll be less motivated to achieve. It will also determine your social life, which most students find important.

Institutions to Consider

So, what are some of the top universities in the UK? You can look at the aforementioned league table for a more insightful list, but the likes of Oxford and Cambridge are naturally popular options. However, they’re not for everyone. Be sure to consider your desired career path when making the decision.

It will undoubtedly be wise to choose a university that specialises in your specific subject matter. This will ensure a better experience and will increase your likelihood of being recruited by an elite company in the field you wish to enter.

Studying at a top university clearly has its benefits. Given that it’s a major investment, it’s worth spending some time thinking about it. Perhaps you don’t need the prestige to succeed in your chosen field. Maybe it’s a necessary prerequisite for landing a lucrative position. It’s up to you to make an informed decision.

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