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Have people considered that "credentials and connections" are actually a valuable signaling mechanism? Connections (in the broadest sense of the word) indicate that a candidate is able to form strong personal relationships. People are not robots, and this ability goes a long way in the workforce. If you are hiring someone, you know you're going to spend the majority of your waking time with that person for the foreseeable future. So any kind of signal that this will prove a positive use of your time is a valuable one. This is not to say that other schools don't offer this mechanism. I'm simply observing that the idea of "connections" does not carry nearly as much negative weight as its connotations often imply.

Similarly, credentials indicate that a candidate has conaistently passed more screening processes over a long duration of time than a company could practically present to the candidate. Consider that nobody is born into Yale (contrary to popular belief, and any exceptions to this are in the minority). To get to Yale, you effectively must pass through a fifteen year funnel. No company can match that kind of screening rigor, so why not leverage it? From a company's point of view, it would be dumb not to. (Also, think about it this way -- if you are a high school senior with a choice of any school, and therefore one of the smartest in your class, will you choose Yale or a state school? I parenthesized this because it's a straw man argument, but do consider that financial barriers to the Ivy League are basically non-existent nowadays.) Yes, you can get qualified candidates from other schools. But your chances of getting a "lemon" candidate from Yale are, I presume, much lower than getting one from another school. You know that at the very least the candidate is capable of learning quickly on the job. In many industries, especially those where most domain knowledge comes from real world experience, like finance and consulting, the ability to learn quickly is a candidates most valuable asset. If every candidate will arrive at the company with a "blank slate"of knowledge and experience, why not recruit the ones who can fill up their slate the best? This is why finance companies recruit history majors, for instance. They know that success in a liberal arts education demonstrates an ability to learn quickly (not to mention strong writing skills).

I know many people on here are anti-liberal arts or anti-Ivy favoritism. Those arguments, especially the latter, have obvious validity. But I hope this post will cause you to consider the other side of the argument.

Disclaimer: I go to Yale. I realize we are extremely spoiled in the job market, but I also do not necessarily think it's undeserved. It's unfortunate that other people suffer, but I do not feel like we are disproportionately favored. I think a VERY high majority of Yale students are top 1% job candidates. Everybody gets in here for a reason.

You got into Yale because you were privileged. You had literate, educated parents. Your high school didn't have metal detectors on the doors and a razorwire fence. You didn't have to cut school if a younger sibling got sick, you didn't spend every spare minute looking after an elderly relative. Nobody on your block was a crack dealer.

Sure, you're smart, but America is full of people much smarter than you who didn't even finish high school. The "fifteen year funnel" is a filter primarily of socioeconomic status and only secondarily of ability. Most people fall out of that funnel through no fault of their own, because they didn't catch the breaks that you did.

That's the fundamental failing of a meritocracy - unless you take steps to ensure equality of opportunity, you just end up with an oligarchy.

The funny thing is that "meritocracy" was never supposed to have a positive connotation. It was satire.


Unless you personally know the other person, I'm not quite sure how you make these claims. On the face of it, you're slinging mud at walls and, of course, some may stick. In other words, your claims may be on point some of the time. Some Yale students (undergraduate or graduate) may have had literate, educated parents. Mine aren't. Many others here could say similar things. Some Yale students may have come from Andover, Loomis Chaffee, and the like. Not all. And I'm willing to bet there are numerous students who came from high schools like the ones you describe. Or, as in at least a few cases, came from "schools" that were essentially converted sheds or barns. Some Yale students may not have had to worry about taking care of their families or being the breadwinner during adolescence. But others did. Some Yale students may not have lived in shady areas. Many did.

We're an intelligent lot, certainly. And certainly there are many others who are much more intelligent than us. But Yale does not exist to serve the world. Yale is not a public service. Yale is exclusive by design. You don't get here by being intelligent, but by the same token, being here does not mean we're more intelligent than you (in the plural sense). The fifteen year funnel notion that the other person described is, in fact, much more a filter of ability, grit, and exceptional achievement than you could ever dream of. A minority of students here come from the sort of Gatsby-ish background that popular myth suggests. There are students here who may not be the most intelligent in the world (certainly, not all of us are MENSA members), but they are, for the most part, people who have proved time and again their exceptional qualities. There is a reason this institution has been an incubator for leaders around the world.

Yale is not a meritocracy. Yale is one among a few institutions that have carefully cultivated the ability to choose from an exceptional pool of human beings each year. If you point out the issue of legacy admits, I'd ask: why not? Why not give back to those who have given to Yale? I don't simply mean monetary contributions, though certainly I would wish to signal appreciation of someone who has endowed a chair, a library, or has done something to grow Yale as an institution. But, in general, if someone has reflected well on Yale, then I believe it is worth nurturing that relationship. So, yes, not all legacy admits are evil.

The world is not equal, and equality is not a given. We will never be equal, as long as scarcity exists. But instead of whining about how "all Yale students are privileged" and thereby exposing your own prejudices and jaundiced perceptions, why not make the best of your circumstances, much as we have of ours?

> I'm not quite sure how you make these claims.

Because statistically, this is nearly always the case.

>And I'm willing to bet there are numerous students who came from high schools like the ones you describe.

I'd be surprised if there is even one student from the kind of school the GP describes. Even if you find one, you've found an anecdote. An exception that proves the rule.

> There is a reason this institution has been an incubator for leaders around the world.

And right here is where your argument flies out the window. "Leaders around the world" are usually not better than anyone else, often worse. They're simply better connected. Which, incidentally, is what is being pointed out.

I know you really want to believe it was grit, determination, and something extra that everyone else doesn't have that got you where you are but it was actually privilege. If you had been born to the wrong family all the "grit" you think you have wouldn't have gained you anything.

Statistically, what is nearly always the case? Please, point out these statistics specifically instead of making airy allusions.

You may be surprised to see "even one student" from the 'wrong' sides of the city, the 'wrong' skin of colour, the 'wrong' nationality, or the 'wrong' religion. Get here and get your mind exploded, then. Or learn to accept that you are clinging (futilely) to popular misconceptions and that Yale, like most other "elite" institutions, is a home to all kinds of people. Privilege may have gotten some of them in, but it sure as hell is not the norm.

As for your final claims: You wish to imply that leaders in various fields got there solely by leveraging connections. I am pointing out that leveraging connections is by no means disproportionally represented. Leveraging connections is an incredibly useful skill, and of course it has its place. What I am pointing out is that for most undergraduates who ever got here, connections didn't exactly play a big role. Yes, the people here probably have a lot more grit, determination, and "something extra" that most of you don't. Some of us are here thanks to family connections, sure. Now go find out just how many students Yale (for example) has graduated in its entire history, and compare that with the number of legacy admits. Or compare that with the number of admits for whom a plausible case of "connections" may be argued. I can assure you that it won't be a pretty picture for your case.

I'll reiterate what I've said before. Most of you are using popular misconceptions to make straw-man arguments. Most of us here are not from "connected" families, and most of us are here not because of some mythical privilege. The sort of logic you people are using would make the mere fact that you can go to the corner store and buy a pack of bread a "privilege." Privilege is relative. Most of us got here because, yes, we did a few things more and were a little better at some things than a lot of other people.

No reason to whine about it.

Let it go. You lost. Not only did you lose, you lost so bad that yahoo! wrote an article about how stupid your post was.

No one likes a person telling them that he/she is better then them. Especially when that's clearly not the case.

Rare to see such insight here. Can't upvote enough.

I regret I have but one upvote to give you sir!

> Everybody gets in here for a reason.

Oh no doubt.

But consider the criteria for getting into any top-tier school: teenage academic performance and extracurricular participation between the ages of 14 and 17.

And while top-tier schools are demanding and hold you to higher standards, they're not SEAL school meat-grinders. Your school, and several other Ivies, have a graduation rate in the high 90's... and something tells me those 2-6% who don't make it aren't dropping because it's too hard.

Ultimately, your prowess on the job market is tied to your conduct as a teenager. That's weird, but I guess that's how things work.

As someone who is apart of the 2-6% who dropped out of an Ivy (about a year and a half ago), I assure you it wasn't because it was too hard. The reasons are multi-faceted, and closer to wanting to get away from this pervasive air of "I realize we are extremely spoiled (so lets milk it for what it's worth and cba about anything else)".

Been trying to find my way through the start up world in NYC for about a year (coming from the midwest), meeting amazing people and experiencing things with a perspective many would even be afraid to try because of fears that are so far removed from things like death. I haven't "made it" yet (not sure if I will ever feel like I will no matter what I do), but I am far from being spoiled (I've been sleeping on a couch for over a year, doing occasional freelance work, and helping out with friends projects, meeting founders of start ups, sitting in on university classess), have a good beachhead, content with where I am and what direction I am moving in.

I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life when I was a teen - all I wanted to do was play music, but I was grounded enough to know that that wasn't a safe and reliable bet at all. Sure, I could have buckled down more and tried to get top grades in everything just in case it turned out that I wanted a profession were grades matter a lot, but at that point I might as well have ended up being a plumber who did really good at the local quiz nights.

Thankfully, "Ivy League" is a foreign concept in my part of the world.

I have a Yale degree. I hope one day you grow up enough to be embarrassed by your post.

do consider that financial barriers to the Ivy League are basically non-existent nowadays

For middle-class families, that is categorically false.

The point is that right now people don't look at anything other than the fact that you went to Yale. If you didn't go to a good school, it's very hard to get noticed in today's job market. There's something fundamentally wrong with that given that with a few exceptions, where you went to school is directly correlated with your family's household income.

That may have been true ten years ago, but is completely untrue today. Every Ivy League school, at least, is completely need blind. Financial aid packages are extremely generous and you pay only what you can afford. If your family's income is less than $70k (or more if you have siblings), you pay nothing.

I'm sure there is a correlation, but I disagree that it is a causation. Much of the correlation is probably the result of early-life educational advantages for stronger socioeconomic families. That's an unfortunate correlation indicative of a larger social problem, but not indicative of admission to Yale depending on income, as you seem to be implying. The two just unfortunately correlate.

> where you went to school is directly correlated with your family's household income.

Not sure where you got causation from that statement. Ultimately, it doesn't matter if Yale "means" to discriminate against poor people, but the fact is that if you are poor, you are far less likely to experience a childhood and academic life that will do well against the Yale admission requirements.

I think you're missing the point. The argument is not, as far as I can tell, that fancy schools provide no signal at all. What it's saying is that they're unfortunately the best proxy historically available, but that it's possible to improve on it. You've marshaled various arguments on why it might be a decent proxy, and of course other people can marshal arguments on why it's not as good as you think. That's a reasonable debate, though I disagree with your side of it (context: I went to MIT for undergrad and have worked in the job market for almost a decade with people from a broad range of educational backgrounds). But I don't think it's the relevant debate.

The point is that regardless of the merits of a Yale degree, it doesn't really come close to measuring, "will this person be good at this job?" Signaling is a shortcut, something you do because you don't have time or energy to measure something more directly aligned with what you need. It's not wrong, just a blunt instrument. Yale will graduate tons of dud candidates, and far lesser schools will graduate hoards of great ones, even if they do so at a lower rate. So the question is, can we create a more precise tool for measuring what we actually want to measure? We should certainly be trying. A Yale education might be well correlated to, say, the ability to learn quickly, but a good test for the ability to learn quickly would be even better correlated. If the talents that got you into Yale, not to mention the stellar education you got there, cause you do better in those measurements, then good for you! (None of that is to say this particular company is successful at this measurement, BTW.)

Another thing that went unstated in the article is value. Yale (and MIT) grads are expensive! Penn State grads, relatively speaking, are not, which creates a huge incentive to find the good ones and hire them instead. So at the very least, you should agree there's a big opportunity in a more precise tool for separating the chaff from the wheat, even if you think all the Yale wheat is pre-husked.

>>>What it's saying is that they're unfortunately the best proxy historically available

And yet most of the global industries of today were formed by people with little or no formal education (Carnegie and steel, for one). And then ruined by those who have had it.

You go to Yale? As an undergrad? I am no old man, but it's pretty smug of you as a very young person to be so sure your cohort is top 1% when you have such little life experience and have likely met and interacted with a very small percentage of the 99% of people you're claiming superiority to.

Pure ignorance.....Setting aside admissions because of who your grandfathers, fathers and mothers families were/are and the prospect of future donations to the endowment program from same, it appears that the gifted students among the student population know who arrived on campus by merit and those who arrived via the silver spoon (similarity of diploma does not translate to similarity of characteristics) Concerning employment, I believe personnel officers make judgements reference their selections on a Yale bias (Yale is a great school; Jimmie went to Yale ; Jimmie must be a great person) which saves time and effort on their part no matter the consequences i.e. George"Dubya" Bush

>I think a VERY high majority of Yale students are top 1% job candidates.

I'll grant that, but how much of the 1% pool do Yale students make up? Are employers missing the other 99 top 1% candidates because "university name" != Ivy League?

Also, about this:

Have people considered that "credentials and connections" are actually a valuable signaling mechanism? Connections (in the broadest sense of the word) indicate that a candidate is able to form strong personal relationships.

They don't care if you have strong personal relationships. They don't care how many close friends you have, if all of them are plebs. They only care if you have ties to the right kind of people.

Credentials and connections are a valuable signaling mechanism because having them most certainly does create value--knowing powerful and wealthy people is how you close the biggest of deals.

I have heard (anecdotally, I have no proof of this) that the most selective, high-paying employers are now asking candidates what prep schools they went to, because they no longer consider an Ivy League education a reliable enough marker of social class. If this is true, it's sadly ironic.


HN officially jumped the shark when some off hand comment becomes yahoo headline

I don't know. It's certainly a sign that the quality here has gone down, but at least the quality is still good enough that such an ignorant comment still stands out as such.

You know you are following right on the heals of a lifetime earnings study that shows grads from U. Penn earn no more than grads from Penn State? If the Ivy League is really better, it doesn't show up in paychecks.


That was a very sad incident, but I fail to see the relevance at all.

It's "consistently" not "conaistently". The fifteen year funnel apparently omitted proofreading...

Have people considered that "credentials and connections" are actually a valuable signaling mechanism?

Credentials, yes. There is some signal there, no doubt. There's no question that the average Yale or Harvard student is going to be better than the average X student for almost all values of X. Most people agree with this. The problem is more in society's attempts to enforce a total ordering. How would compare 75th percentile Penn State vs. 50th percentile Harvard? I actually have access to numbers on how strong students are across schools, and the 75th percentile Penn State student is a better bet. (Student quality-- work ethic plus capability-- in the Ivy League seems to be a N(1.70, 0.65) distribution by most measures; at the state flagships it's about N(1.35, 0.75), so you're comparing 1.85 vs. 1.70.)

Or, here's another question. Which has more positive signal? That Tom went to an Ivy League school? Or that Bob majored in math? The latter, actually. This is borne out, for one example, in LSAT performance. The average Ivy Leaguer scores about 160-163. The average math major scores 165-166.

Connections? No, not really meritocratic at all, because there are social connections and then there's Connections. The kind you work for aren't that powerful. The kind you're born with open doors that are closed to almost everyone else (e.g. getting VC funding without having to take risks with personal finances that only 25-year-olds can afford). Connections are powerful in inverse proportion to the amount of work involved in scoring them. That's what you're missing in that analysis.

Where is this data coming from? I'm assuming you have law school admissions data from somewhere?

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