If you search the Internet for “college rankings” you’ll get hundreds of results, including rankings of best colleges from well-known sources such as US News & World Report, Princeton Review and the Washington Post. Rankings from lesser-known sources such as Mother Jones, SB Nation and various blogs and Facebook pages also exist, along with worst-colleges lists, rankings of online schools and lists of schools rated solely on athletic performance, weather, parking and concert venues. It seems like everybody else knows best where YOU should take this important next step in your life!
Take control of the decision by knowing the specifics about schools that also take your personal requirements into consideration.
First the facts
What factors do you need to consider for all of your postsecondary options:
- Major or program availability and quality
You may or may not have decided on a particular field of study, but you know what interests you. Whether it’s nature, construction, art, electronics or anything else, limit your list to schools that offer strong programs that match your preferences.
Know what you or your family can afford, and be realistic about cost when you’re narrowing down your schools list. Expensive schools, especially private academic colleges, offer significant amounts of financial aid; you just need to know what you’ll end up paying after scholarships, loans and grants are figured in. And don’t forget the costs of housing, books and tools or supplies.
- Type and size of school
There are lots of options, from online classes to two-year academic or professional-technical schools to four-year (and beyond) colleges. You may want a small school for a more personal feel, a school that incorporates religion into student life or a large school with lots of outside-class activities and services.
Other important criteria to be taken into account when ranking schools can be found in Idaho’s Career Information System through School Sort and Choosing a School which can be used to create a workable list of schools that meet your requirements.
Your personal wants and needs are also important.
For instance, do you want to live away from home for the freedom but see family for long weekends and all holidays? If so, consider location and transportation options – driving, flying, carpooling – that will let you visit home without costing too much time and money for travel.
Do you want your old friends with you when you start a new school? Share what you want from your college or training school experience and see what you have in common. It’s great to have a built-in support system at the new place, but don’t sacrifice, or let your friends sacrifice goals and needs just to go to school together. Need proof? Read what this recent college graduate has to say about what happens to your high school friends when you go to college.
The same goes for your boyfriend or girlfriend. There will be loads of opportunities to meet new people – dorms, campus restaurants, study groups and of course parties. If you want to go off to school together, examine your relationship and make sure the school you choose will be right for you as an individual, more than as part of a couple.
Don’t forget about your favorite kinds of recreation. Whether you prefer to go whitewater rafting, climb cliffs, ski the back country or visit museums, shop high-fashion and meet with a book club, find a school in a town or city that supports your downtime.
For some people, the area’s climate is important. If you suffer from allergies or asthma, go where the air is best. If rain and cloudy skies bring you down, stay away from regions with consistently damp weather. If you never want to suffer through another hard winter, go where it’s warm – you’ll only have to shovel snow on your Christmas visit back home.
So which college ranking list is best?
The fact is, there are dozens of reputable postsecondary school rating sites, but you are your own best ranking system. Your personal feelings about what school, or even what kind of school you choose are of utmost importance – be sure to pay attention. For this super-significant decision, use your heart and your head.
– Terry Mocettini,
training, support and marketing coordinator,
Idaho Career Information System