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Articles / Applying to College / Rankings and College Choice

Rankings and College Choice

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | April 4, 2005

Question: I am currently trying to decide between two universities. I have checked the rankings of both schools on various lists. Is this a good way to decide which university would be better for me?

General rankings aren't tremendously helpful when deciding which college is the best fit for YOU. It's more important to consider your own personal priorities---and these may include everything from climate to location to housing options to whether or not there's an Ultimate Frisbee team, a backgammon club, or a Kosher kitchen. Obviously, you should look most closely at the academic programs and see if one seems to speak to you more loudly than the other.

If your two universities are ranked quite far apart, then the rankings may play SOME role in your decision. For instance, if one is ranked quite high--suggesting very selective admission and an academically powerful student body--you may prefer to enroll there if you like to be in classes that are competitive and in an environment where studying may take priority over social life. If, on the other hand, you do your best work when you can be at or near the top of your class, then the lower-ranked school MIGHT be a better match. But it's hard to say without knowing a lot more about you and the specific institutions involved.

If the rankings you're exploring include those organized by specific topic (e.g., "Schools with the Most Diverse Student Bodies" or "Best Party Schools") then you may be able to discern a good fit for you from these ratings. But do keep in mind that they're often subjective, so never take them as gospel truth.

In any case, we're glad you have a choice--even if it's a tough one--and we wish you well as you make it.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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