High School Academics & Orchestras?

January 10, 2019, 11:13 AM · I recently found this forum, and have enjoyed and learned a lot from reading many of the discussion posts! I was wondering if there is an organization that publishes a list of national public high schools ranked by academic AND orchestra performance? Schools that have high average SAT scores with many AP classes offered (also possibly IB), with at least four orchestra levels? Currently I’ve been searching Niche.com for 'Best High Schools for the Arts', but then also have to check academic scores and class offerings, and then check the school’s website to see if/what kind of orchestra instruction is provided. If there are multiple orchestra levels, then check to see if there are any videos posted on YouTube or FB to discern the orchestra’s quality of playing. It seems there has to be an easier way! Thanks in advance for any information.

Replies (31)

January 10, 2019, 11:29 AM · Great topic. I can't answer your question, but I'll be following this thread.

Sometimes HS orchestras can be quite good, better even than the orchestras at some universities. Just saying there's a broad distribution at both levels and the two distributions overlap.

January 10, 2019, 12:33 PM · It seems to me it would be easier to find a high school with lofty academic standards in an area with a strong youth orchestra program than it would be to find a package containing everything in one building. An orchestra which draws players from a metropolitan area can select from a larger pool than a single high school, so the average ability might be higher, as well.
January 10, 2019, 1:00 PM · Multiple orchestra levels don't necessarily indicate quality so much as the size of a high school. However, I don't think that any organization ranks high school orchestra quality.

Most arts-centric high schools -- specifically, arts magnet programs -- generally attract students that are highly interested in the arts and very academically capable. Indeed many students who attend such magnet programs will go on to other careers and likely non-conservatory postsecondary education.

Holly, what is it that you are trying to find, specifically? i.e. what are you, personally, wanting to do?

January 10, 2019, 1:24 PM · "Multiple orchestra levels don't necessarily indicate quality so much as the size of a high school." Correct. And the median family income of the district.
January 10, 2019, 2:11 PM · Thank you all for your responses and I definitely agree with your input. Lydia, I was hoping there was entity that perhaps ranked size/performance of school orchestras, sigh. In specific, we're looking for high schools for our girls (currently in 5th and 7th grade). They're in full-time gifted schools, have played piano for six years, violin for a little over two years, and my older daughter also plays clarinet in her school band. The girls currently have an excellent teacher who plays in the Florida Orchestra, and are working on the first song in Book 6 of Suzuki.

Last year they played in a local youth Philharmonic orchestra, but opted not to audition for the next-tier Symphony orchestra this year. There's a number of reasons they didn't want to continue with the youth orchestra... I think foremost was that they didn't really make any new friends (my 4th grader's stand partner was a boy 4 years older and probably 2 feet taller than her). They also didn't like missing out on play dates with friends when they had to go to orchestra practice every Sunday. Also the next level up Symphony orchestra plays almost exclusively heavily classical pieces that didn’t hold the girls’ interest. Finally my older daughter got frustrated listening to out-of-tune playing in the Philharmonic.

Right now their practice is mostly mom-driven, however I think their passion could be ignited if they could play great music with friends in an inclusive school setting. I don’t suspect that either one of them will choose music as a career, however I think music will always be a part of their lives. We are considering moving (top choices of states being Colorado and North Carolina). In an ideal world, they could attend a great academic school with fantastic multiple level orchestras. Then they would have the option to take their violin playing as far as they wanted.

Last night we had the opportunity to watch Douglas Anderson High School’s chamber orchestra play at the FMEA conference in Tampa, which was outstanding. It was very inspirational to watch and listen to the passion the kids played with, and the variety of music they played really showed the girls the possibilities of string instruments. Long story short… that was my reason for posting. Thanks!

January 10, 2019, 3:53 PM · Holly,

Are your goals and your children's goals close to being the same? Considering the number of years of musical study so far, my guess is that if they were to "catch fire" it would have happened by now.

Unless they want to become professional musicians or music teachers the ideal goal at their age is to become self-starting, life-long, learners with an open interest. Yes, music should be a part of that but not the central focus of their lives.

FWIW: During my time in Bell-Labs I met a lot of really smart people doing extraordinary work that also happened to be musicians when they weren't doing science.

Edited: January 10, 2019, 4:22 PM · TBH, it's very difficult to talk about "quality" of high school orchestras because their goals and philosophies vary so greatly. Many of the more highly regarded high school orchestra programs also seem to play heavier classical music -- that may be part of why they're highly regarded. In some places, like Texas when I was in high school, the "best" orchestra programs may not be inclusive at all. My public high school's orchestra kept winning competitions and had five or six future pros in it at any given time, but the district had no beginner-level orchestras and even the lowest level orchestras required at least 4-5 years of private lessons and an audition.

In general, though, any high school with high academic standards is also likely to have a strong orchestra program.

Edited: January 10, 2019, 7:20 PM · My daughter (16 yo, violin) takes lessons through a local private music school. The school has its own Junior and Senior Orchestras. The junior orchestra is very small, maybe 8 violins and 2 cellos, and no violas. The kids are learning to listen to each other, to watch the conductor, and to extend their attention span. There is a lot of goofing around, and the conductor's goal is to encourage genuine enjoyment. The arrangements are all super easy, like Book 3 level. The senior orchestra is small but very good. The top few kids are conservatory-bound. My daughter (not conservatory bound) is Principal Second. There is a fee to play, and all string students in the school are compelled to play in the senior orchestra if they are good enough. (Since I am a student of that school I am permitted to play too, and since they need violas desperately, I play viola. There is often one other adult student in the orchestra.)

If there are any music schools in your area of this type, chances are they need more violinists for their orchestra. My daughters' orchestra will accept "outsiders" for a slightly higher fee if they are at the right level, which the conductor can determine in a 5-minute audition.

What your daughters' teacher needs most of all is a weekly or biweekly Suzuki Class where all the students come and play as many tunes as they can with piano accompaniment. It can be made mandatory, and an additional fee can be charged. My daughters' school has that also, and that's where a lot of them make friends with other violin students.

George Wells makes a good point. You will know in a couple of years when your oldest gets to high school. If she starts begging to do a team sport, you will know because that will be her means of escape. My daughter continued with violin and the team sport but not without some continued prodding, and even then, not at the same rate of improvement as she enjoyed before. We didn't stress out about that because she has been also so strong academically, and because, honestly, the team sport has been very good for her in many ways. And she is glad that she stayed with violin now that she is a senior, because she sees that her skill is something that adds a nice premium to her college applications, and I think she hopes to continue with orchestra (or such) in college. The important thing is that she is managing all of that for herself now, driving herself to her lessons, etc.

The Roanoke Symphony (one hour by car) also has a good youth symphony (with winds and percussion etc.) My guess is the minimum violin level might be a solid Bach A Minor and the top kids are probably at the Bruch Level. Does the Florida orchestra you mentioned have any such youth symphony?

You said they don't like heavy-duty classical symphonic music. Well that can be challenging stuff for a 5th grader. Does the teacher encourage any old-time fiddle playing or improvisation? A good friend of mine in New Jersey has a daughter who really flourished when she switched from a Suzuki teacher to a teacher who uses the Mark O'Connor books. Midway through high school she was playing Mozart.

January 10, 2019, 7:19 PM · Since I have kids close in age (4th and 8th grades) and we are going through the process of high school choice, I'll let you know what I have found.

1. Even the schools with the absolute best high school orchestras are still not fabulous. If your kids are truly interested in violin or another orchestral instrument, they will never be satisfied by a high school orchestra. High school orchestras are for kids who are mostly medium committed to their instruments who aren't going to conservatory. The ones who are going to conservatory may play in the orchestra, but they are always involved in external activities like youth orchestra or a pre-conservatory program.

2. In my research of arts schools, including both magnets and private programs, I was very surprised at the low quality of their music programs. With few exceptions, and particularly regarding the magnets, the orchestras are not as good as the orchestras in the top academic programs. In my city it is pretty glaring. The "arts" school, and all of the arts magnet programs but one are made up of kids who don't even play as well as my 9-year-old. The good orchestras are all in the selective enrollment (gifted) high schools.

3. Your best bet is to find a large city and find the wealthy surrounding suburbs with the highest academic programs (or gifted programs in the city). That's where the good high school orchestras tend to be. Then, if your children end up excelling, there will likely be a youth orchestra in the city for them and a pre-conservatory program. The other place to find good programs is near a high level university.

4. If your kids didn't enjoy youth symphony or playing classical music, they probably won't like high school orchestra either.

Edited: January 10, 2019, 7:54 PM · We're in North Carolina at the AG and arts magnet in this area and it's only one part of many musical resources we are utilizing. The music program there is quite good and fun and leads to many friendships over the years, but because there are so many additional opportunities outside of school it's not the central focus.

The youth orchestras outside of school have a broader talent pool to pull from and are able to tackle more ambitious repertoire. And there are excellent chamber programs here - one coached largely by NC Symphony folks, the other part of the Duke strings program with coaching from the Ciompi Quartet; playing chamber music is what has significantly deepened my kids' love of music.

For a medium sized area like this we do quite well, but I expect that larger metro areas have even more and better opportunities outside of school. So unless you're looking at schools devoted primarily to the arts, I'd probably think of the good music program more as a nice bonus and not the deciding factor for selecting a school.

January 10, 2019, 7:50 PM · Keep in mind that the good youth symphonies, whether independent or at a school, will almost exclusively play "heavy-duty classical", as you put it.

There's often a phase where the kids need to play abridged or simplified music. In schools, at the middle school level, and sometimes in low-tier high school orchestras, they will play music like this. Contemporary composers often write for this level, since there's a ready market for it in schools, and there's often something that seems like more of a range of genres -- reflecting something that seems more like contemporary film score composition.

If your kids want to play an instrument in a group, in nonclassical styles, I'd suggest that they focus on an instrument that's used in marching band. There's usually a much broader range of music performed in those during the school years, especially more pop music. Does your clarinet-playing child enjoy band?

January 10, 2019, 7:55 PM · One more thing: The quality of a school orchestra can fluctuate significantly from year to year, especially at smaller schools. This is because a couple of conservatory-bound seniors (or graduating 8th graders) can really influence what the group is able to do.
January 10, 2019, 8:08 PM · Another thing to consider: Where do your kids want to end up in college? If you're considering NC and CO, NC public colleges and universities are vastly better than Colorado's. NC is also closer to east coast schools as well, in case they don't want to go in state. BTW, In state college tuition will save you and yours thousands and thousands of dollars. It could be the difference between living in an apartment while paying off student loans for 50 years or buying a house before 30! Admissions preference is given to in-state students in North Carolina and several other states. (I don't know about Colorado; my kids weren't looking there.)

Some research shortcuts:
1. Look at the couple of stands in the all-state orchestras. Wherever they go to high school is more likely to be good.
2. Who is the conductor? Where did they go to college? How long have they been teaching? Is s/he also the band director?
3. Contact the conductor! Ask how many kids completed in UIL? How many made all region and all state?

Youth Orchestras were never as much fun as my HS orchestra- as you pointed out, the age difference is awkward, and you have nothing in common with the YO kids. HS Orchestra trips are pretty fun too!

Edited: January 10, 2019, 8:58 PM · Julie is right about the universities. UNC Chapel Hill is a much better university than CU Boulder.
January 10, 2019, 9:38 PM · I loved my youth symphony experiences (and Suzuki program experiences) and made lifelong friends there. In fact, my youth symphony friends later turned into my school friends when I switched from private to public school, and my freshman stand partner from public high school orchestra (who didn't play in my youth symphony) became my best friend in high school.

The blunt truth is that the best high school orchestras will be in large metropolitan areas that support a world-class orchestra and great performing arts scene, which have a big pool of top-notch teachers and a resource-rich musical community that sponsors youth programs. Specifically, they will be located in the wealthiest suburbs (where the parents can afford to start kids on instruments while they're preschoolers, and pay for the very best private lesson teachers, top-quality instruments, etc.), the highest-income city neighborhoods, or at magnet schools. There's going to be an extremely high correlation between high socioeconomic status, and excellent string players.

January 11, 2019, 9:00 AM · I agree with Lydia, and I want to make a larger point

Judging the quality of a high school by its average student SAT scores is putting the cart before the horse. The largest predictors of a student's test scores are the socioeconomic status of the parents and their education level. For example, the high school my sons graduated from, which is the same school where my daughter is currently a senior, looks pretty mediocre by the test score metric. It isn't the star school in our district, based on test scores--in fact, among many parents it has a "bad" reputation. Not coincidentally, it is 69% low income (this has a direct correlation to the test scores) and sadly, I believe the fact that it is 85% minority contributes to its "bad" reputation.

I sent my kids there without hesitation, and they got (or are getting) an excellent education from dedicated teachers. I knew they would score well on tests anyway, because my husband and I both have graduate degrees, we have books in the house, we read to our children from the beginning, we provided private music lessons--all the things that contribute to academic success, we did. These are things that you will find in higher numbers in the richer schools but they are not the things that make a school itself excellent.

As a side benefit, my kids' high school friends were (are) some of the nicest kids I've ever met. This is not a school full of entitled young princes and princesses--not that all wealthy kids are entitled by any means, but the percentages do seem to go up along with familial wealth. I had always wanted my kids to grow up grateful for what they had instead of resentful for what they did not have, and I think we have achieved that. It might have been harder to pull that off if they were surrounded by kids who got a gift-wrapped new car on their 16th birthday when they did not.

I'm not trying to persuade anyone to avoid the famous "good schools" with high test scores. If we'd lived in the attendance district of one of those schools, then that's most likely where our kids would have gone. But test scores tell you little to nothing about the actual quality of education in a particular school; they only tell you about the dominant socioeconomic level there.

Edited: January 11, 2019, 9:13 AM · Consider looking for excellent youth orchestras or university orchestras that will take community members on audition. That way you can choose the right academic program and not lose out on the musical side.

As one example, in the Boston area you have several excellent private day and boarding schools, not all of which are strong in music. But then you have BYSO, NEC YPO, and BPO Youth Orchestra, as well as the whole youth program at the Conservatory. Not to mention the orchestras at Harvard, MIT, and BU, and several excellent semi-pro community orchestras.

January 11, 2019, 9:51 AM · I'm right there with you, Mary Ellen. Blacksburg is a college town. Plenty of upper-middle-class folks in the community. But 40% of the kids in our local elementary school are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches. Surprised? I'm not. Many neighborhoods have the international-graduate-student families and the folks who work for the university but at the lowest pay bands. We wanted our kids to have that diverse experience, and they did, organically, through their own friendships. They are keen on academics and also therefore it is also not a surprise that many of their friends are children of immigrants -- from all corners of the world including Africa and South America in addition to Asia and Europe. By the way the local private music school that I mentioned always has one or two scholarship families where the kids are practicing diligently but there is no way they could pay full freight or even anything at all for their lessons. This is why I don't mind paying the fee to play in the orchestra.
January 11, 2019, 11:47 AM · Thank you all again for your input. It’s impossible to know what interests kids at ages 10 and 12 will have as they mature. As George and Paul said, it’s our job as parents to open the world of possibilities to them (as best we can), yet encourage specific areas they enjoy and are talented in (as time permits).

Just for the record, I didn’t mean to sound as if the girls don’t like classical music, they do. In fact we listen to classical music in our house probably more than any other genre, as it is foundational for teaching. While the girls really don’t do computer games or tv, they do love to watch and laugh at TwoSetViolin (humorous violin antics with educational merit). An example of my comment about “heavy” classical music was during the Holiday Concert last year, the local youth symphony orchestra (that the girls opted not to audition for this year) played movements I, II and IV of Dvorak’s Symphony No. 6 in D major. I thought it seemed a little “heavy” for a youth concert, and particularly so for a Holiday Christmas time concert. Is that a typical piece other youth orchestras would play? I think my girls would enjoy one movement, along with a pop or holiday-sounding piece, and a minor piece or fast and showy, dramatic piece.

Paul thank you for sharing your personal experience with your older daughter. I’m hoping to continue to kindle my girls’ interest in music as well, regardless of other after-school commitments they enjoy. The girls like the Suzuki pieces, but along with his Florida Orchestra commitment, their teacher only has time for a handful of students. There is another orchestra in our area, but even 45 minutes is too far away for us as the kids already have significant bus rides to and from their respective schools each day. Not to mention that other orchestra’s rehearsal time would conflict with the gymnastics that my younger one loves.

As I know life only gets busier as kids get older, I was hoping to find the “all-in-one” (academics + orchestra) high school package that Madeye referred to. Thank you Andrew, Susan, Stan, Julie and Lydia for your insights. Stan, what is the full name of the AG and arts magnet school you mentioned? Academics is top priority, of course, but we will focus our school searches more on larger cities with a “pool” of talented kids to draw from. Lydia, my older daughter did enjoy clarinet her first year, but is now bored with the simple, short pieces they play in their top-level school band. Julie, I did find the Colorado All-State Orchestras for the last couple years and checked out schools that way : ). I haven’t checked North Carolina’s All-State lists yet though. Sorry for my ignorance, but what is “UIL”?

I am concerned for the pressure/stress/competition that can exist in many of the top-rated academic high schools. If the girls do experience any of the former, I was hoping to alleviate that with the musical outlet/social bonding/group identity/friends that could be found in a solid orchestral program. While I’m sure stress and competition also exists in orchestra at the highest level for kids going on to attend conservatory, I don’t see my kids doing that. I was looking to foster my girls interest in music with like-minded friends, and of course let them travel on fun field trips (thanks Julie).

Thanks again for the advice.

Edited: January 11, 2019, 12:07 PM · Mary Ellen, Stephen and Paul you posted after I had already written my last comment. I agree 100% that just because a school's academic scores look to the be the highest on paper, that doesn't necessarily mean it's the best option. My original post about avg. SAT scores was only to indicate that we are looking for challenging academics. Both of our daughters' current schools are magnet programs within a local school in generally lower-income areas (the district's thought was that it could help to boost the local area). Also in higher-income and higher-performing high schools, elitism and drugs can be an issue. So many things to consider.
January 11, 2019, 12:11 PM · I haven't read the whole thread, so maybe this point has already been made. Most kids even in performing arts high schools have private teachers. The quality of the teacher is going to matter a lot more than the school for improving their playing. I don't know exactly how the performing arts school here (Colorado) is structured, but I would hope that it would provide solid resources for kids that can't afford them, and let the kids that do have all the private resources have time to do their thing.

Kids can always audition for youth orchestras, and most states have solid youth orchestras - Some are private and are completely outside of the school system (I think Colorado has at least a few of these - Denver Young Artists Orchestra) and some states have big all-state orchestra systems.

I guess what I'm getting at is that I think you are slightly overthinking this. There are probably going to be plenty of options wherever you move, and it's unlikely that your school choice is going to have any effect on SAT scores.

And as for UNC being better than CU Boulder, it really depends on what you study.

January 11, 2019, 12:37 PM · UIL is the Texas umbrella organization of public school competitions. It oversees everything from football to solo and ensemble.
January 11, 2019, 1:43 PM · "An example of my comment about 'heavy' classical music was during the Holiday Concert last year, the local youth symphony orchestra (that the girls opted not to audition for this year) played movements I, II and IV of Dvorak’s Symphony No. 6 in D major. I thought it seemed a little 'heavy' for a youth concert, and particularly so for a Holiday Christmas time concert. Is that a typical piece other youth orchestras would play?"

As far as I can tell, yes. The local youth symphony orchestra in my area played this program for its most recent winter concert:

Smetana, The Moldau
Mozart, Piano Concerto No. 23, 3rd movement
Grieg, Piano Concerto, 1st movement
Brahms, Symphony No. 1

Edited: January 11, 2019, 3:06 PM · Holly wrote, "I am concerned for the pressure/stress/competition that can exist in many of the top-rated academic high schools. If the girls do experience any of the former, I was hoping to alleviate that with the musical outlet."

That might work. Certainly, there are kids who carry that competitive spirit through everything they do. I kind of wonder if they concentrate in places like "magnet schools." Of the high schoolers that I know who are very competitive academically, some are just as driven in their extracurriculars, and some just want the extracurriculars so that they can have a nice predictable social life.

To some degree, academic competitiveness is a good thing. What I see is that kids are mainly competing with themselves. They glean support from other students who are in the same boat, trying to get the best possible grades and test scores so they can gain entry into good colleges. Having said that, the strain that students must be feeling if they (or more commonly their parents) have their hearts set on Ivy League institutions, must be awful. Since I teach at a state university, I'm well aware that you can get a damned good education there.

When I said UNC was better than CU Boulder, certainly that won't apply to *every* program, but the difference in overall national rankings is pretty stark (30 vs 95, respectively). Now, one can likely ascribe some of that to the presence of a medical school on the UNC campus, whereas CU's medical school is affiliated with the Denver campus.

January 11, 2019, 3:10 PM · Regarding "holiday" concert programming: "I think my girls would enjoy one movement, along with a pop or holiday-sounding piece, and a minor piece or fast and showy, dramatic piece."
The local symphony-affiliated youth orchestra program has a fall concert (Dec) and a spring concert (varies). Their 2 top groups play from standard literature, the next plays mostly arrangements, and only the beginner level group would play holiday music (easier arrangements). A school might have more room to venture out of "serious classical" because of having more performance events, the needs and capabilities of the student body, etc.

The youth orchestra I was in as a high schooler had only one level and we always played the entire symphony/suite/concerto (plus other pieces). In the aforementioned youth orchestra program, they would do single movements from multiple works - good for exposure to variety but not for studying the context of a complete composition. Yet another program, my colleague was telling me she was dissatisfied that they had too much of the pop type pieces and not enough "proper classical" works.

As for hearing out-of-tune playing...I think that's unavoidable in high school orchestra! Maybe the Philharmonic players, if they are weak on intonation, won't make the cut for Symphony.

January 11, 2019, 3:33 PM · Holly, you seem to be overlooking the fact that many of the kids playing in the school orchestra are doing so in order to bolster their college admissions chances. Many kids will be stressbunnies who may also be very competitive, especially since seating in many school orchestras is ranked (and multiple tiered orchestras certainly results in explicit ranking).

Three movements of a Dvorak symphony is not "heavy classical". Youth symphonies and the better high school orchestras will essentially do full symphony programs, drawing from the standard symphonic literature. Many of them will do the whole symphony, not just some of the movements. An overture (or similar short work, full symphony, and another work (often a concerto) is pretty common.

You will find that school music programs change when kids reach high school. Because kids begin band instruments later (often as late as 5th grade, with relatively few kids learning earlier because of the difficulty of playing such instruments at younger age), in middle school they're still really learning to play. But by high school the kids are fairly accomplished -- the learning curve just to draw a decent sound isn't as tough as it is with strings. String players are very much bifurcated into those who learn in public school, and those who take private lessons (often beginning at young ages), and that's already apparent in middle school, and more sharply divided in high school.

If what you are seeking is a more casual experience than a good youth symphony or pre-conservatory program, look for the second or third-tier youth symphonies, who play less challenging repertoire (and more arrangements) and shorter programs. Or look for community music schools that have a casual string orchestra, or chamber-music offerings. Or choose a lower-income area where the vast majority of students do not take private lessons, and the school orchestra will be significantly more casual.

In particular, I want to emphasize that a lot of orchestras don't offer kids much in the way of social time to chatter, especially not if the rehearsal is efficiently run. Chamber music is the way to go if you want that.

Edited: January 11, 2019, 4:17 PM · No decent youth orchestra--at least not the flagship orchestra at the top of its program--is going to waste the kids' time on arrangements and certainly not on the type of holiday pops fare that you typically see on professional orchestra programs for December.

Our local excellent youth orchestra program has something like seven ranked orchestras with the top two orchestras being full orchestras and the others being string groups. The top three orchestras (including the best string ensemble) play music exactly as the composer wrote it, no arrangements. The lower groups do play arrangements but they are high quality simplifications of classical works.

The top orchestra's most recent concert included Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, a Ned Rorem piece, and something else that escapes me right now.

I have students who attend one of the wealthiest high schools in our district, which has something like five ranked orchestras in their program. The top orchestra in my kids' low-income high school, same district, remember, plays music that at my students' wealthy high school might be played by the fourth orchestra. The difference is in the number of kids who are taking private lessons, exactly as Lydia said.

January 11, 2019, 4:56 PM · I sent my youngest to a less competitive public high school so that she wouldn’t feel left behind the hyper competitive kids.

pffffft- UC Boulder is in no way comparable to Carolina, which consistently ranks in the upper end of colleges and universities, public and private.

January 11, 2019, 6:45 PM · I guess if you don't know what you are studying, then you will want to go to a better ranked university, but if you know what you are studying, you should look into the major and compare. CU Boulder has a number of environmental and engineering programs that are pretty highly ranked. For liberal arts, maybe a little less so. The human microbiome project was running out of there for a while, but I think they moved out to a university in California.

I'm not particularly convinced that where someone does their undergrad makes a big difference in their ability to do their work out in the real world, unless you are talking about more specialized majors, but maybe that's just sour grapes since I never got into Stanford ;-)

I'm endlessly fascinated by the way where people go to school is used as a shortcut to determining their worth in this country, and I don't mean that as a dig to anyone here. Smart kids with supportive families will thrive anywhere, and just looking at how the pipeline for important judicial clerkships runs through a few individuals makes, to me, a case for expanding our fields of view beyond a couple of ivies.

Edited: January 11, 2019, 8:04 PM · The difference is recruitment and networking. Many companies recruit students out of only a couple of schools, and to be recruited externally to those formal recruitment programs is extremely hard. Where you get your first job can determine a lot about your future career trajectory. And because many companies prefer to recruit experienced hires via the networks of existing employees, who you are connected to makes an immense difference -- even just your LinkedIn connections can determine how recruiters look at you. Plus, some companies continue to hire almost exclusively people who graduated from certain universities.

Sure, you can live a nice life if you don't go to a top school. But it is a different path than if you go to an Ivy or similar top-tier school.

I went to an Ivy. My husband went to a second-rate big state school (on a full scholarship that also covered his master's). The differences in opportunity are astounding, despite the fact that my husband is at least as smart, and more hardworking, than I am. Indeed, my husband works at a company that rarely hires outside a small cadre of top schools, and his recruitment was very much an exception.

Edited: January 11, 2019, 8:36 PM · What about their music? Colorado's looks pretty impressive based on what I see on their website. They have a College of Music as opposed to just a department at UNC Chapel Hill. They also seem to have pretty strong jazz offerings.

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