At College Planning Experts we are asked, time and time again, how to pick the best college. Parents and students always want to know what the best college is in the United States. Some argue that it is Stanford with its less than 5% of admitted applicants. Others argue that it is Harvard with its prestige and networking potential. Well… I am here to tell you how to pick the best college.
First of all, there isn’t a “best college in the United States.” Colleges are institutions of learning. You go to college to learn about issues, topics, history, scientific breakthroughs, etc… so here is the first thing I must say: there is no “best college in the United States.” Sure, there are lists that rank colleges and provide a scale of “average to stellar,” but these lists should be reviewed carefully. Know that colleges are graded and ranked on a number of things. College selectivity, for example, is one way we rate colleges. The more selective the college, the better the ranking. This is really just a numbers game. Selectivity means that the school is selecting a small percentage of applicants. How do you get a small percentage? You have a TON of applicants and only select a few, or you keep your class size small. This is great to know, but it doesn’t mean the learning your student will receive there is better than somewhere else. What you should be focusing on is fit.
Finding the best “fit” college is your first step in finding the best college. What I mean by fit is finding a place where your child will succeed. To repeat myself, you go to college to learn. You want to make sure that the place you are receiving your education is in line with your goals. If you want to be a mechanical engineer then go to a school with a strong mechanical engineering program. See what the faculty at various institutions are researching and decide if it aligns with your goals. If you want a career after college, isn’t it a good idea to be at a college with a strong program for your intended future job?
You’ll also want to focus on a social and environmental fit. Sure, it is great to go to a college with a strong program for your major; however, if that college is in a place that is grey and cold outside 6 months out of the year, know if you can tolerate it. If you can, wonderful! If you can’t, then will you be happy and able to focus to get good grades? You need to be able to thrive in the environment. This is why social fit is important too. If you’re big into community, then a school that is mostly commuter students may be a bad fit for you. If you’re “green” and want to be with like-minded classmates, then look to those types of schools. You want to have friends when you’re in college, right?
To sum it up in my brief post, I want to leave you with these points: a best college is in the eye of the beholder and a best “fit” college is where you should aim to attend college. Figure out your path, and pick your best “fit” school by looking through your career lens (and filter with social and environmental fit).
Because there are over 4,000 colleges in the U.S., this selection process takes time. Start planning early, and if you need help then turn to a college planning expert… like the College Planning Experts. We’re happy to assist you in this process (661)295-9946.