It’s that time of year again. The excitement and frenzy surrounding college applications is starting to pick up and colleges are trying to put their best foot forward in appealing to high school students around the world. When it comes to appealing to potential applicants, it certainly doesn’t hurt to be highly ranked in the U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges list!
We know how important college rankings are – graduating from a school that consistently ranks at the top often leads to jobs sooner after graduation, higher salaries and a competitive advantage when applying to graduate programs. As we’ve seen for the past several years, Princeton University, Harvard University and Yale University continue to hold the top three spots, respectively. These top schools are all members of the Ivy League and admit less than 8% of applicants each year.
While their acceptance rate is quite low, they estimate that over three quarters of students who apply for admission are qualified candidates. This is a true testament to the sheer number of talented and successful students are out there. That means there are hundreds of thousands who are fighting for spots at the most selective schools in the country.
With these published lists comes the (sometimes daunting) task of assembling a ranking system for your own. When assembling your list of top schools, it is important to not only consider where they rank overall, but also where they rank in terms of other important factors like academic programs, student life, size and value. So, when you scroll through the lists and get a sense of the top schools in the U.S., you should also focus on the factors that could make them your top pick. Just a few things to consider when reviewing the college ranking lists:
1. Academic programs: Do they have a strong academic program for the area you’d like to study? What kind of classes can you take? Who are the Professors and what are their backgrounds? Will this school help you get an internship in this industry? What percentage of graduates get jobs in this industry after graduation?
2. Student life: Does this school have students who live on or off campus (or both)? Do they guarantee housing for freshman? What athletic programs do they offer? Do they have clubs already on campus that you’re interested in joining? Is Greek Life prominent on campus?
3. Size: How many undergraduate students are there? What is the average number of students in each class? What is the faculty to student ratio? How many clubs are on campus? Is Greek Life part of the student community?
4. Best value: How well does the school support students who require need-based financial assistance? What is the average cost after receiving grants based on needs? What scholarships are available? Do they have funding in the programs you’re interested in?
Answering these essential questions early on will help you narrow down your college list and develop a ranking system for your own top schools. It is important to remember that the schools you select should meet your own specific criteria, not necessarily the criteria that others use to make these annual rankings.
Speaking of, you might be interested to know how the U.S. News & World Report makes their rankings! To learn more about how U.S. News & World Report generates these rankings every year, click here!
Laura Smith is Program Manager of Admissions Consulting at Veritas Prep. Laura received her Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Missouri, followed by a College Counseling Certificate from UCLA.