Something my dad taught me that seems to still be true - "The only thing your diploma does is get you in the first door, what you do after you get in the door determines your career from there".
I think that's still true. In a big, big company, hiring tech managers can't easily redirect the massive HR department to recruit from smaller schools. Its a numbers game and the recruiters go back to schools that have produced good hires in the past. Having tried to get new schools into the mix, I have found it isn't easy.
That said, I'd like to point out that the concept of "prestigious" is different list for tech work than it is for ?other work?. While people love to cite the Ivy League as the pinnacle for college graduation recruitment - I don't find that true when it comes to hiring engineers. Of the Ivy League (Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Penn, Princeton and Yale), only a few produce grads that are enticing as programmers, and none of the list are hotly recruited colleges for my company.
In comparison, I'd say the prestigious schools for engineering are the various institutes of tech, and polytechnic institutes. Our listing for great schools is fairly regional - in Boston, we find it easiest to recruit from the Boston schools - so BU, BC, WPI, NorthEastern are our favorites. Plus RIT, Rensselaer once and a while.
The focus for me, as a manager, is to look for students with a hands on background. I don't really care what school the diploma says, I look for a program that has:
- at least one killer course - typically an operating system course where you had to program a great deal of an operating system. Sometimes I hear of a compiler course that has similar challenges (like writing a compiler, or delving seriously into how languages are compiled). I'm open to other Killer Courses, but I have to be able to figure out that the student had to face several "what the heck is that??? This is too hard!!!" problems in the span of the term, and overcome them, preferably with team work.
- software engineering course - don't care what it's called, but it made students do a project from requirements through system test, where they had to intuit vague requirements from a clueless "customer".
- a college that actively encouraged work in the field - I don't really care whether the student had to get credits for it, but to know that the college prepped students for an internship, and that student actually did an an intership is a big huge win.
- Work in a heavy duty language - a student has to go above and beyond if he hasn't done anything but high level languages. I want to see something like C, C++, Assembly, (LISP is a plus), or something else that is closer to the bare bones of the hardware.
If I see these basic elements, plus a sound grounding in general language concepts that are fairly standard for CS programs - I'm not going to turn down the applicant, provided they seem Smart and Able to Get Things Done.