Guide to US Applications • MBA

Shortlisting US Colleges? Don’t Miss These 6 Key Factors Beyond Rankings

POSTED ON 02/22/2023 BY The Red Pen

Selecting universities to study abroad

According to the U.S. Department of Education, there are more than 4,000 higher education institutions in the country, and selecting universities is an understandably overwhelming process. That’s why, while shortlisting colleges, some students focus on the ‘highly ranked’ ones in the hope that they will improve their prospects after graduation. While there are a few merits to rankings, you should use them as reference points rather than the gospel. Identifying what the college offers and how it will help achieve your future goals is a better selection method. There is also a certain degree of subjectivity in all popular, published rankings like U.S. News, QS World University Rankings, and the Princeton Review. Each ranking list is based on parameters the publisher deems important.

Here are six factors to look at, beyond rankings, when shortlisting universities:

1) Public vs private colleges:

Local and state governments fund public US colleges. For instance, the state of California funds the University of California. These colleges usually boast a lower tuition fee, but only for residents of a particular state. Typically, these high-quality, low-cost options are rarely extended to out-of-state or international students. Private colleges, on the other hand, depend on their endowment funds and tuition fees. They receive less from the government but aren’t mandated to admit students from within the state. Some of these colleges are Rice University, Stanford University, Grinnell College and Duke University, among others.

2) College size:

Some students prefer being a big fish in a small pond, while others prefer to be a small fish in a big pond. A big US college like New York University is perfect if you want anonymity and exposure to various courses and infrastructure. Students who are confident go-getters will thrive in these massive institutions. But remember that it’s easy to get lost in such colleges.

In contrast, small colleges, such as Haverford College and Babson College, may not have the magnitude of opportunities available at the bigger institution. But they offer a more personalised approach that allows you to flourish and build bonds with other students. Due to smaller class sizes, students here have a better chance of building personal relationships with their professors.

3) Student diversity:

While selecting universities, consider the diversity of the student body. If you prefer being part of a community with an eclectic mix of people, you will enjoy studying and living on the campus of a big institution in the city. These schools have a larger student body, which includes people from multiple nationalities, ethnicities and backgrounds. Better still, they have processes in place to make everyone feel welcome. In the fall of 2021, according to U.S. News, 12 percent of Harvard University’s and 24 percent of New York University’s student body was international.

4) Campus setting:

It’s a good idea to evaluate the location of the campus. It helps you determine accessibility, costs, safety and networking opportunities. You will find colleges across urban, suburban and rural settings in the US.

Colleges in rural settings (usually near small towns), like Cornell University, Kansas State University and Middlebury College, have a strong sense of community where most students live on campus. The institution usually provides transportation, while entertainment options are on campus or within the vicinity.

Suburban campuses such as Haverford College or Bryn Mawr College usually provide the best of rural and urban life. Since they are located outside cities and have transportation, they are easy to access.

Urban campuses, such as the University of Pennsylvania or Boston University are either self-contained or spread across the city. In addition to more entertainment options, better transport and a diverse culture, city colleges offer easy access to internships and career opportunities.

5) College expertise:

Each university has a distinct teaching style. For instance, Columbia University is renowned for its core curriculum, while Brown University is known for its open curriculum. While selecting universities, choose those that match your learning style.

Furthermore, whether it is mentors and professors who are accessible or study groups and career services, select universities where you will learn and grow. For example, some students may need research facilities, while others may prefer experiential learning. Therefore, identifying your specific needs while selecting universities is essential.

You must also consider the academic opportunities available. Colleges that teach only undergraduates have specially crafted research opportunities. For instance, Harvey Mudd College is known for its Clinic Program, which enables students to participate in a project with a corporate sponsor.

6) Recruitment and job opportunities:

In addition to getting a world-class education, students seek competitive colleges to pursue fulfilling careers. While selecting universities, check each institution’s career services and ensure that it provides employment opportunities and internships at good companies.

Ideally, a university’s career services should also guide students’ higher education plans. Most career services also offer additional support like resume building, interview preparation, referrals and guidance on selecting companies where students will thrive.

So, instead of just looking at the college rankings, students should use the process of university shortlisting to discover what they want. Once you understand your goals and interest, creating a college list becomes easier.

However, if you need help shortlisting US colleges, our experts will evaluate your goals and interests and help you identify colleges that resonate with them. For more information, get in touch with us.