College is partly about connections, especially for students who attend a larger research university. This is one of the reasons that the most selective research universities are so popular with the best and brightest college-bound high school students.
But if someone were to choose a research university for the undergraduate educational experience as well as the possible connections they could make, especially in a pre-professional major, what would be the “best connected” school?
A large state university, especially one that appears high in rankings such as the University of Michigan or the University of California-Berkeley? Perhaps, especially for a student who lives in Michigan or California. But those schools are very large. The classroom experience is very large, too. Maybe larger than an excellent student might like.
An Ivy League school, or a similar school such as Stanford or the University of Chicago? Perhaps, depending on the school. An engineering degree from Stanford, especially one backed by excellent grades, will be an excellent ticket to a job after graduation or a very fine graduate degree program. However, most of these schools are not as large as some would think. Harvard, for example, has around 7,000 undergraduates.The University of Chicago has fewer than 3,000. Rice has slightly more than that. Harvard and Chicago are also mainly liberal arts schools for undergraduates. The more career-oriented education for their graduates happens on the job or in graduate school.
If not a famous state university or a mid-sized Ivy or Ivy-like school, than which research university is the best connected for its undergraduates?
It’s the University of Notre Dame.
Notre Dame is a truly national university with approximately 8,500 undergraduates, about the same as Stanford. Among the Ivy League schools, only Cornell and Penn have larger undergraduate student bodies. Only seven percent of its undergraduate student body comes from Indiana. While the largest cohort of Notre Dame alumni are based in Chicago, according to LinkedIn, and nearly 6,000 have stuck around South Bend, nearly 7,000 are based in and around New York City. There are no fewer than 2,200 Notre Dame alumni based in each one of these metropolitan areas: Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington DC and just under 1,900 in and around Philadelphia.
Notre Dame also has:
The best measures of a research university for an undergraduate are not those that talk about a freshman class that has not yet completed a semester of classes, or about the awards earned by faculty, many of whom teach only small numbers of undergraduates outside of lecture classes. The best measures are those that tell you what a school will do for its students and alumni. There are great research universities in the US that will direct their students to greatness. But none leave as powerful a mark as Notre Dame.
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