With the end of the year quickly approaching, many seniors are concerned with their future educations. Students compare universities, visit campuses and read reviews of academic programs, but do rankings and manicured campuses always equate optimum education? The truth is that there is no absolute best university, but rather a range of great choices based on individual values and preferences.
College rankings should not be the deciding factor when choosing where to enroll. Many college ratings are based upon values that may not matter to individual students who wish to pursue different programs.
One university may be ranked higher than another because it has a program that the other is missing, while the rest of both schools’ academics may be fairly equal. In that case, would a prospective English major really mind if a school does not have a complete engineering program?
College rankings are also frequently based on the quality of graduate schools, and can sometimes reflect little on the undergraduate education seniors will be receiving in the fall. While expert ratings of universities can be helpful indicators of the quality, they should not be taken gravely and should be only one of many factors students consider when deciding upon a school.
Students should consider their feelings with regard to college choices. People will always do better in places where they can feel comfortable and happy.
If a university seems to emphasize values that students agree with, or is set in an appealing environment, then it is probably a good fit. Academics are important, but students will likely spend at least four years in the institutions they pick. It is important to consider the quality of life they will experience during that time.
Tuition is also a major factor when deciding on a college. One university may be ranked higher than another and cost more, but would the difference in reputation be worth years of debt? College costs have been on the rise, and many students find it difficult to afford tuition. It is important to analyze the cost of tuition, living expenses, and transportation for each school. Scholarships and financial aid can make paying for college much more realistic, and should hold weight when considering the advantages and disadvantages of each college.
Choosing a university is a highly personal process. There is no one factor or even equation of factors that can universally guarantee that a college will be a good fit. Students must balance financial, academic, emotional, and social considerations in order to decide on a college that is best for them.