It’s a common mistake to think that going to the most prestigious university or medical school will lead to greatness. Often when we read the profiles of highly acclaimed scientists and doctors, it seems like an Ivy League education or a degree at a top school is needed to achieve success. This idea of belonging to a prestigious and famous institution leads to success is in fact backwards. You won’t become a successful person just because you went to Harvard or the likes.
The reality is that these schools attract people who are already successful. Highly accomplished individuals will choose prestigious schools because it is often there that they will receive the resources and funding needed to continue their work. The faculty of the best universities don’t go there to become a successful person. They are there because they are already qualified and that happens to be the best environment for them.
In the long run, it’s much more important to find a school that will help you help you develop as a person. As Terence Tao, a world-famous mathematician, says “It is common to focus on the general prestige of the institution, but actually it is the specific strengths of an institution which should play a more important role in your decisions.”
At any institution, it’s much more important to find opportunities and positions that enrich yourself. The old cliche, “it’s better to a big fish in a small pond that a small fish in the ocean” should be in the back of your mind when you are choosing schools. Everyone should find the place that fits them best, sometimes that happens to be a prestigious sounding university, but more often than not, it doesn’t have to be.
In medicine, you will get your prestige and respect regardless of where you graduate from. If you are a fully licensed doctor who is competent and good at what you do, patients won’t care where you did your training. A job well done is a job well done.
When you do end up choosing a school, the real factors you should consider are 1) location, 2) quality of program, 3) finances. Each school has a different fit for each person. A perfect school for you may not be for someone else.
If you understand the relative insignificance fame and glory, and base your decisions on rational and personal reasons that matter, you will be much better off in the long run. After all, it’s not the credentials and degrees after your name that matters, but what you can do with what you have learned that matters.