College has a great deal of value for a number of reasons. Of course, there are the intangible reasons, like the actual learning. There’s great value in the information you’ll get, the habits you’ll create, and the skills you’ll acquire. There’s also something to be said for the social life. College is a unique time in a person’s life with a unique atmosphere.
There are new relationships formed and some of them may last for your entire life. I could rattle off a few hundred things about college that you could start adding up to understand how it benefits you, and that’s one of the reasons examining how colleges rank with their competitors is so important. We’ll look at three things college rankings can help you weigh.
1. The Value of the Degree You’ll Get.You already know some colleges are better than others, right? No. You don’t, really. What you know is that some colleges are perceived to be better than others. You know that if a person went to Harvard they’re likely to make more money than a person in the same field who attended a state university. Why? Is the quality of education better? Maybe, in some cases, but not always. One thing is certain, though, the value of the degree from Harvard is far greater, right. Well, that’s true for the most part. If you were studying computer engineering, though, you’d be far better off going to UC Berkely. This might be the hardest thing for a typical student with college plans to understand. The value of your degree is impacted by two factors, the overall reputation of the school and the reputation of its particular program in a given field. Your degree will be an asset that you’ll use to “purchase” a job, a promotion, or influence. The larger the value of that degree, the bigger your asset.
2. The Value of Your EducationAlthough it’s wonderful to know that your degree is marketable and helpful, you’ll also want to know that what you learn in college will actually be useful to you, and that the education you receive is high quality and valuable. You’ll want to consider class sizes, ratio of paid professors to graduate student fellows in undergraduate classes, study aids available, and overall educational philosophy. The transition from a highly structured educational environment such as high school to a student-driven structure in college has given some of the best and brightest students difficulty. You’ll want to look at rankings relevant to how many students finish their degrees. Apart from that, you’ll want to examine how well students place in their fields. A university that ranks well for job placement usually takes the performance of those students very seriously and actively insures adequate preparation for a successful career. Remember also that a great deal of funding for particular departments comes from alumni. The best-ranked schools have placed a focus on ensuring the success of their students, anticipating that that focus will be rewarded with alumni contributions in the future. Don’t discount the value of an education from a university well-ranked in your particular field of study.
3. The Value of Your Experience.Don’t discount that your introduction into college life involves entering into a unique social experience. You can get rankings such as “Top Ten Party Schools” and other subjective lists, but those won’t help you as much as understanding fields of study. If you’re politically active, you can look for high rankings in political science, activism, and social consciousness. There are more schools available for those looking to change the world! There are rankings available as well for small colleges (10,000 or fewer students) set in small towns. If you’re looking for a culture of a college town, you’d be best served looking at those rankings and avoiding universities that will rank well but are located in very large metropolitan areas. Remember that you aren’t starting your life after you graduate from college, you’re already living it! What research you do now to ensure that you find the right fit for you will pay back dramatic dividends. Most students drop out for emotional, not academic, reasons. Make sure you’re setting yourself up for success and not failure.
There are a number of wonderful ranking methodologies and lists that can help you make your decisions about your further education. Don’t make the mistake of trying to pick a college based on purely anecdotal information. Use the rankings that are relevant to you and make a fully informed decision. It can impact you for a number of years to come!
Choosing a College Using Rankings posted by WJ Rosser at USCollegeRanking.org