An acclaimed university, particularly one in the Ivy Leagues, can be a costly undertaking, with CNN reporting in 2011 that tuition and fees at these schools often exceed $50,000 per year. The payoff, however, may be a better job, a broader social network and more opportunities. There's no guarantee that going to an acclaimed university will jump-start your career or life, but a good school can attract recruiters and make you a more interesting candidate.
One of the most significant benefits of an acclaimed university is an intangible one that's impossible to measure -- a vastly connected social network. People who attend prestigious universities tend to get prestigious jobs, and they may have parents who work in lucrative or politically connected fields. This means you'll have more access to people with a variety of connections who may be able to refer you to employers, write you compelling recommendations or expose you to new skills.
Acclaimed schools are frequently able to recruit highly educated or famous professors. This means you'll have access to professors doing cutting-edge research in your field, and your professors will likely have connections that can benefit you. For example, famed linguist and social activist Noam Chomsky teaches at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, while primatologist Frans de Waal teaches at Emory University. If you're interested in a particular field, a highly ranked university can provide you with professors who have contributed greatly to the field.
It's typically more challenging to get into an acclaimed university. For example, at Harvard University, the average SAT score is between 2120 and 2390, and only 8 percent of applicants are admitted. Getting into one of these schools shows that you're intelligent and work hard, and graduating from such a school is even more impressive. The coursework is often more rigorous at high-ranking schools, so this demonstrates to prospective employers that you're at or near the top of your field.
Putting an impressive college on your resume can help you stand out from the competition, particularly have you have a high GPA. Some jobs may only accept candidates who have attended competitive schools. If your future employer attended the same school, your attendance at the school can give you common ground that increases your likelihood of getting the job.