Princeton, Harvard, Yale—these three colleges will be getting even more recognition this upcoming year due to the release of the U.S. News and World Report’s 2016 list of best colleges. With college application season underway, high school seniors are stressing, crying, and not sleeping, all because they feel they have to get into one of the “Top Colleges” to be happy and have a successful future. Is it true? Do students have to get into one of these colleges to have the future they want? Or is it just another superficial label society has placed on college?
The fact is that students don’t need to go to an Ivy League school to be successful. A great college experience comes from choosing the college that is right for each student, and some ranking systems won’t help in that department. While the U.S. News’ rankings should be taken into account to some extent, students should stay open to other colleges and ranking systems. They should also talk to students who are currently attending their colleges of interest.
One important factor to look for in a college is the financial aspect, which is not always found in academic ranking systems. For example, College Scorecard (http://collegescorecard.ed.gov), put out this year by the U.S. Department of Education, allows applicants to look at many factors, including the expected salary graduates will receive, the cost of tuition, and what kind of financial aid they may qualify for. This information is critical to making sure college graduates aren’t paying off student loans for the rest of their lives.
Another useful resource for the college applicant is The Princeton Review. Established in 1992, it has 62 rankings, many of which are more personal because they’re made by current students for future students. In addition to rankings for academics, administration, and libraries, The Princeton Review ranks levels of student happiness, average study times, quality of cafeteria food, dorms, campus newspaper, theater productions, and intercollegiate and intramural sports. Students can also learn which schools are party schools and which are the most sober. Additionally, The Princeton Review gives a very detailed review of each college, which includes what the school has to say about itself, what the students have to say about the school and social scene, and the demographics of the student body.
Interestingly, the Ivy Leagues are not littered among the top ten in every ranking on The College Scorecard or on The Princeton Review. In the College Scorecard, the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences is ranked second for salary earned after attending. The Princeton Review ranks Vanderbilt University as the happiest school. This shows that the college ranking systems that are the most well-known might not provide the information each individual student really needs to find their best college option.
In addition to looking at different rankings, future college students should talk to current students to learn the inside scoop. To see what young adults are looking for in college today, I talked to two current college students, Kate Scorziell and Rivian Anderson, who applied to college in the fall of 2014. Both are of the class of 2019 for their respective schools.
Scorziell attends UC Berkeley, one of the top colleges in the nation. She says she didn’t choose Berkeley because of the fame it gains from the U.S. News and World Report.
“I went because I fit in well with the kids there. I was from a public school and so were they. I liked its location and all the things you could do around campus. Berkeley also has a beautiful campus and wasn’t as pricey as private colleges,” she said.
After being at the campus for over 100 days, she loves her classes, especially “Drugs and the Brain” and “Hollywood, the Place, the Industry, the Fantasy.” Scorziell didn’t apply to any of the other top U.S. News’ schools because she felt Berkeley was the fit for her.
Anderson goes to California State University, San Marcos. She is a first generation college student and went to San Marcos for the support the school offered her.
“Cal State San Marcos has an excellent nursing program, so it was the right choice for me. It also has a great support program for its students, which is great,” she said.
Anderson loves her school because of the tight community. She has developed relationships with her professors and feels that she’s not “just another number in the system.”
Both of these students are great examples of applicants who went to college, not because of its ranking on a specific list, but because they felt they would thrive there. What can be learned from them is that the school that’s right for you is the one where you will fit in the best, feel comfortable to be yourself, and, hopefully, one you can afford. To find that kind of individual fit, make sure you look beyond one-size-fits-all rankings and look for more detailed rankings with information personal to you.
The thoughts and opinions represented in this article are strictly those of the writer and do not represent those of Rim of the World High School or School District.