An Ivy League degree doesn’t make you happier at work. Here’s why.


Students walk across the green at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., on Sept. 30, 2003. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)

The bad news: This year only roughly eight percent of students who applied got into Ivy League schools. The good news: Those eight percent probably won’t be more satisfied professionally than the kids who went elsewhere.

When it comes to engagement at work — or whether you’re involved or enthusiastic about your work– where you attended college isn’t as important as the experience you had there, according to a new Gallup-Purdue University survey of 30,000 college graduates nationwide.

Graduates of public schools are just as engaged and committed to their work as not-for-profit private school graduates. Similarly, graduates of  public schools report thriving in all areas of their life as much as not-for-profit private school graduates.


(Gallup-Perdue University)

When it comes to overall well-being and whether people reported that they were “thriving” in different areas of their lives, where they attended college — and how selective the university — didn’t matter significantly, either. 


(Gallup-Perdue University)

And at a time when parents, graduates and lawmakers are increasingly concerned about the crippling impact of student loan debt on recent graduates, this report’s findings confirm that the issue is critical to their overall well-being.

The data are clear and dramatic: 14 percent of graduates with no debt reported thriving in all areas of their lives, compared with just 4 percent of graduates with $20,000 to $40,000 in student loan debt and 2 percent of graduates with more than $40,000 in debt.

According to the survey, “the higher the loan amount, the worse the well-being.”


(Gallup-Perdue University)

For parents who stress about their child’s college prospects at birth, the takeaway is simple: Attending a selective college isn’t a shortcut to a happy work or private life.

The most selective colleges have their advantages, but the Gallup survey suggests that overall life and job satisfaction are much more closely tied to other factors — such as whether a graduate had a mentor in college or a professor who made them excited about learning, whether college prepared them well for life after school and whether they were emotionally attached to their school.

There is, however, one major caveat to these findings: private, for-profit colleges.

According to the survey, private, for-profit graduates are significantly less likely to report being engaged at work than graduates of other private or public colleges. And they are significantly less likely to report that they are thriving in all areas of their lives.

RELATED: The happiest post we’ve ever done. 

Abby Phillip is a general assignment national reporter for the Washington Post. She can be reached at abby.phillip@washpost.com. On Twitter: @abbydphillip
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