Looking Beyond College Rankings

For many students and parents, picking a college to attend is determined primarily by rankings. However, the system of education in USA universities is built less on rankings and more on FIT.

When a university looks at admitting a student, in addition to the academic record and profile, they pay immense importance in trying to determine if a student will fit into their campus life and thrive in their community.


Similarly, students must realise the importance of determining the FIT and match between themselves and a college. Each college perpetuates a campus culture and philosophy, hence attracting a certain type of student that they feel will fit into the community that has been built over the years.

What students and parents often neglect to consider is that the overall academic experience also occurs outside of the classroom and hence determining the personality type of their child and where they will fit in is imperative in helping them gain admission to a college they will be happy at.


If a child requires the hustle-bustle and ease of access to a big city – then despite how good the ranking or a student’s chances of being admitted to a suburban/rural college are, the student will never thrive or be happy, which in turn will diminish his ability to get the maximum out of his education. Students who have been engaged in competitive sports during high school will be naturally more suitable towards institutions that lay emphasis on sports while those looking to undertake research will be more inclined towards institutions that offer undergraduates opportunities in that field; recognising a student’s interests and matching them with what an institution can provide are important in helping to determine fit. In addition, factors like location, size of student body, student-faculty ratio, opportunities to research, access to industry opportunities, and the weather, among others, are important factors to consider.


For example, Santa Clara University is a university that is immensely committed to giving back to the community and likes to admit students that have profiles that speak towards community engagement and social service. This in no way means that a student who is not involved in social service will NOT get in but only that the university is attracted towards and positions itself as a community that gives importance to this facet.


Just like universities like SCU consider the type of student they wish to admit, students should also consider their fit within the campus community before they decide to apply to, or attend, a college. Take the example of a college like Vassar – a premier liberal arts college in Poughkeepsie, NY. The institution encourages student freedom and has always been known to push the envelope with respect to education. Vassar prides itself on being a community that is committed to using their education to bring a change to the world and breaking stereotypes. While it is not a hyper social campus, a majority of students on Vassar’s campus are internally motivated with the desire to bring change and are intellectually engaged in exploring and creating initiatives to spark that change. Thus, a student looking to attend a competitive liberal arts school needs to look beyond Vassar’s rankings and consider his FIT and match. Vassar is a competitive liberal arts school but a student may not be looking for a campus experience as provided by the community at Vassar. Therefore, even if a student gains admission into Vassar, he may not find himself fully satisfied by the experience as his wants and needs may be different.


Hence, in addition to a matching the expectations of a college with a student’s academic profile- it is also important to FIT the personality of a student so as to ensure that a student gains an education that is immersive, integrative and most of all, enjoyable.

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