I still remember being a restless high school senior waiting to cut my ties and finally make it to college. My sister had chosen a community college for her freshman-sophomore experience just three years before me, and since I followed in her footsteps in most areas I naturally considered taking the same route.
So on a hot day in mid-May back in 2004, my mom and I made the journey just one hour south of Wichita, Kansas, to check out the college that would soon be my new home. While my stay there was short – just two years until I could snag my associates degree – it was memorable. And the following two years spent at Wichita State University securing my bachelor’s degree were even more enjoyable than the first.
When I was looking for schools, my top priorities were proximity, price and degree offerings, among other minor considerations. Out-of-state universities weren’t an option for me as tuition would’ve been outrageous. And along the consideration of price, I also wanted a school that could offer me a scholarship.
Earlier this month, Forbes announced its list of top 650 colleges in America. Among its highest-ranking universities were Princeton, Williams College and Stanford, with Johnson & Wales and Texas Southern University snagging the last spots in 649th and 650th place.
While some have criticized the methods Forbes and other news sources, including US News and Newsweek, use to determine their respective rankings, there’s really no one, tried and true way to determine which colleges are superior. Because the truth is, everyone has their own opinion about what makes one college better than another.
The factors Forbes weighs its rankings on include student satisfaction (27.5%), post-graduate success (32.5%), student debt (17.5%), four-year graduation rate (11.25%), and academic success (11.25%). Categories within those areas include student evaluations from RateMyProfessor.com, salary of alumni from Payscale.com, student loan default rates, actual four-year graduation rate, and alumni receiving PhDs.
Based on these categories, here are the top 10 universities as selected by Forbes.
1. Princeton University
2. Williams College
3. Stanford University
4. University of Chicago
5. Yale University
6. Harvard University
7. United States Military Academy
8. Columbia University in City of New York
9. Pomona College
10. Swarthmore College
There’s no dispute that these are all phenomenal colleges. But no matter if your university made the list or not, just make sure it’s a good fit for you. Looking back on my choice in colleges, I’m glad I picked the ones that best equipped me to pursue a career I would enjoy. And that – more than any top college rankings – should be the primary thing to consider.
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