As you and your soon-to-be college student prepare for their college journey to begin, you’re probably looking at all sorts of sources to find the right college fit. Maybe you’re talking to friends or co-workers or your student is showing you information on college websites and twitter accounts. These could all be ok sources, but how do you know that they are the RIGHT sources? When it comes to considering colleges, not every source is created equal. Considering the sources of college choices is critical. Why? Read on!

Before citing the sources of potential college choices, consider these ideas first:

Higher Education is a BUSINESS: Not unlike much of our society, colleges and universities are businesses, and successful businesses at that – with the cost of college being up 121% since 2010. Colleges being a business isn’t necessarily a bad thing – they’ll compete for the best applicants and reward those applicants (you) like a business would. But what has to be considered and planted in your mind, is that a business will always represent its pros and never its cons. A school isn’t going to tell you that certain classrooms smell a little funky or that your walk from your dorm is ridiculously long or maybe something more critical like how many professors actually teach classes over TA’s – they will only highlight the institutions’ best features.

Nationally Ranked Lists are BIASED: Even some of the most notable and best rankings out there, like U.S. News & World Report “Best Colleges” rankings have bias. How? It’s not difficult for colleges to reverse the formula used by lists like this, in order to help their chances of ranking higher. You also can’t be sure if all information submitted by the college is accurate – there’s been a lot of controversy over this lately – or if the ranking system is completely accurate either. On top of that, personal relationships exist in every industry and can affect rankings like these.

Even though a college is highly ranked, it may not be your BEST BET: What does this mean? Let’s look at an example: You’re interested in a career in medicine. So, you pull up a college ranking list to see what schools are considered the “best” in this field. You see that John Hopkins is ranked the highest and you decide that you have to get your undergrad degree from there. But, here’s what you didn’t know: Bucknell University is actually highly regarded as the best biomedical undergrad program in the country. The only reason they are not ranked in a similar spot to John Hopkins is because they don’t offer a doctoral program. By getting your undergrad from a school like Bucknell, you have a greater chance of acceptance and will probably save a good bit of money to boot. If you go off of rankings like these, ALONE, you could miss some really great places for your future education.

So, what are some practical steps you can take to ensure you are considering the right sources so you can win the college game? Here are a few ideas:

Never trust one source. Read through college ranking lists, but don’t use these solely to make your choice off of.

Talk to students currently attending colleges you’re considering as well alumni.

Look beyond ranking lists. Remember to think with the end in mind. Research schools specifically with your interests and passions in mind, not just the top 10 rankings.

Nothing replaces a college visit. Seeing something in person can you tell you much more about it and give you a much better idea if it would be a good fit. Make sure to plan visits for the future! 

The quality of the answer, depends on the quality of the question. As you narrow down choices, think critically about the answers you want on college experience, culture, and academics. Determine what you want to know and critically think about the questions that need to be asked.

Accurate information is crucial in making the right college choice. Always consider the source and ultimately rely on your own research.

Let us know if you have any questions or if there is any way we can help you in your college journey!