“Commercial college rankings like U.S. News and World Report have an unhealthy grip on the culture of college admission in this country and around the world. Unfortunately, these subjective and flawed lists not only dictate policy and practice at schools but also perpetuate a focus on status and prestige rather than a meaningful match.” These words were published this month in the Concord Monitor and a truer statement has never been made. College professionals publish similar pieces throughout the entire year, every year but the message has been unable to stem the tide of frenzied families during application season.
The important part about selecting a college is to find those that offer the things you want. Of course, you have to know what you want in order to do that. So, what do you want a college to provide? How about your undergraduate major? That’s certainly important. Are they the right size for you? What is the city around them like? How is the weather where the college is located? What is there to do within a 30-minute drive from the college? Are the class sizes generally large or small? Do they have a good retention rate? What percentage of their graduates are working or in grad school six months after graduation? How long does it take the typical student to graduate and how much debt does the average student have at graduation?
These are just a few of the things that should be considered before committing to give lots of hard-earned money to any college. Commercial rankings don’t take many of these things into consideration. Just take a look at the parameters used to arrive at those rankings. Most of the criteria have little to do with a good undergraduate education.
If you want a really good pep talk about how to be smart when searching for colleges, watch the video below. I have provided the speaker name and title of the talk as well as the link on YouTube. If you can shield your eyes long enough from the shiny label of a prestigious college to watch it, I believe that it will make a life-changing difference.
Frank Bruni – Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania