A few months ago, in an effort to help you understand why you shouldn’t start with college rankings as you begin building your college list, we published this blog post with a detailed breakdown of the US News & World Report college ranking methodology. We also did a webinar on this topic; during the first half, Evelyn talks about rankings, and during the second half, she gives you some great resources for building your college list.
Lynn O’Shaughnessy, a well-respected expert on college financial aid issues, recently published a very extensive critique of the US News ranking system, detailing why students and families should not rely on these rankings to build their college list. In reality, there are over 2,200 four-year colleges in the United States. We know that you have to start building your college list somewhere, but most of us who spend all day, every day thinking about college would encourage you not to start with rankings – they give you some information, but they may not give you the information that is most relevant to your college search.
So we’ve told you where NOT to start, and hopefully you believe us that building your college list from college rankings is not the best way to go. But where SHOULD you start?
- Here’s some advice from University of Pennsylvania Admissions Dean Eric Furda about how you should evaluate colleges: take a look at their culture, curriculum, community and conclusions – the outcomes their graduates experience.
- Here’s an article from TeenLife that gives you some specific things to look at as you research colleges. You’ll probably not be surprised that we’ll tell you to skip right past their first recommendation (“rankings”), and move on to the other items on their list.
- In this YouTube video, Evelyn suggests some resources for you as you begin building your college list
Finally, we made this short video to help you evaluate colleges and look for the most relevant information on their websites.
As you begin building your college list, what you should really be trying to determine is how well you will FIT at each college. You may or may not have time to visit each college on your list – and that’s fine for now – you can visit after you are admitted! But you absolutely should research the academic offerings (not just majors – what courses are offered within the subjects most interesting to you? How large are the classes? Can you double major or minor? Can you get extra help from a professor? What is required to graduate with X major?), the extra-curricular activities (what clubs are available? This tells you what students do in their spare time – do they like to do what you like to do? Are these “your people?”), and the overall culture of the school. As you can see, rankings don’t answer these questions for YOU.
If you feel like you need some personal help with building your college list, please get in touch! We love helping students with this part of the exploration process!