This just in (on the cover of Time magazine): top tier schools not all that important. This is actually semi-related to a post I've started and not gotten up yet about how pursuit of an academic career is, umm, challenging. While it was very true 50 years ago that if you wanted success in most fields which required college degrees, going to a premier university was a huge leg up, any more: not so much. Lots of reasons for that including the fact that more people (and more highly capable people) going to college, and more new jobs being created (particularly technology related).
Even when I was applying to college way back in 1994, things were changing. Of the (likely) brightest 10 people in my high school class, at least 5 (including the top 2-3, one of whom, I think nearly, won a Rhodes Scholarship ...memory bad, don't care) went to state schools, and none of the rest went to any large, famous university (mostly smaller colleges, with varying degrees of name recognition). The fact is that ability is rewarded in the private sector, particularly if you work in a technology field. Jargon-speek (4337-speek for management types) is also helpful for advancement and something that the school you went to won't really advance. Having a B.A. in English from Harvard may help a touch when applying for various (typically business) jobs, but once you are hired for the first time your education has done all it can. You need to learn new things, and work well (smarter or harder, or both if you are a lawyer) to move up. There are ceilings related to your terminal degree, field and luck, but not the name of the school on your diploma.