Finding the Top Colleges for You

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Finding the Top Colleges for You

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If someone were to ask you what the top 5 colleges are in the United States—what schools would show up on your list?

For a few decades now, U.S. News has been calculating and publishing national college rankings. Schools are ranked in different categories including national universities, national liberal arts colleges, regional universities, specialty schools, and more. It’s no surprise that in one of the most recent rankings of national universities, the top national universities include: Princeton, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Harvard, Stanford, and Yale. Ivy League and other prestigious institutions often occupy the top spots on these lists. Were any of those schools in your list of top 5 colleges?

While the U.S. News list has very specific criteria for its rankings, it is important to note that your personal criteria are truly important as you build a college list and apply to schools. And while Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Princeton, and MIT are all top colleges that often land on the lists of many College Ready students, it’s worthwhile to assess what a top college is for you as an individual. Read on to learn more about some of the top colleges in the nation.

Fame, fortune, and top colleges: Top schools are often touted in the news, media, and even in entertainment. Often, having famous figures as alumni can raise a school’s perceived prestige. Oprah Winfrey attended Spelman, the top ranked HBCU in the nation. Barack Obama went to Columbia, and Bill Gates attended Harvard (for a couple of years, at least). Even famous fictional characters like Elle Woods (Harvard), Serena Van Der Woodsen (Yale), and Bruce Wayne (Princeton) have listed the Ivies on their resumes. One thing is certain, top schools can be enchanting. They can also be quite selective in their admissions. There’s good reason for this selectivity; the top schools often offer solid academics as well as connections to a strong alumni network. Both of these factors can lead to great opportunities for undergraduates and young alumni who are entering the work force.

Top college qualities: How do schools make it onto these lists year after year? Often, schools consistently rank high in areas like academic reputation, graduation and retention rates, admissions selectivity, various resources (such as financial and faculty), as well as a high quality student life. Are these qualities important to you as a student? Be sure to create a college list that covers your personal priorities, not just a prestigious name.

Broaden your horizons. Just a few slots down from the top 5 colleges are many wonderful choices for higher education. Some of the colleges that rank in the top 25 on the U.S. News list include Vanderbilt, Rice, Emory, UVA, and UCLA. However, depending on your course of study, desired school size, or even geographic location, the top 25 colleges may not be the top 25 colleges for you.

College Ready consultants encourage students to dream big and reach high when creating their college lists, and admissions statistics have taught our experts to be thorough and thoughtful when helping students to create a college list. Consider the selectivity of schools when building your list so that you have a varied, balanced, and sensible list of schools to choose from.

Acceptance can depend on many different factors. So often, students may think that they have just the right recipe and resume to earn them an acceptance to a top college. Sometimes—when it comes to not getting accepted to a top college—It’s not you, it’s them. Many schools have a certain number of slots to fill in each specific major. These numbers can directly affect admissions decisions. Your service work, sports, extracurriculars, and leadership are all parts of the puzzle that you present to schools. College Ready can help you to organize and edit all of your activities, application details, and essay in order to put your best foot forward.

Specialize: Narrowing down your area of study can help you to discover that there are even more top colleges in your specific major. What if you get even more specific about your course of study?

  • Interested in a liberal arts college? Check out Williams, Pomona, and Amherst. Do you have a head for business? UPenn, MIT, and UC Berkeley are listed as top business schools.
  • If you’re looking into International business, a few of those top schools include: the University of South Carolina, Florida International University, and Georgetown.
  • In a world that needs organization and big business brains (especially after pandemic disruptions and economic issues), consider looking applying to the top schools for supply chain management and logistics: Michigan State, Arizona State, and the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.
  • While famous top college MIT is a great school for engineering, an engineer interested in biological or agricultural engineering might consider UC Davis, Purdue, or the University of Illinois for their college lists.

Getting your application together: So often in our culture, we talk about “doing the work.” Students who are applying to college are already doing the work in their classrooms as well as on the field, at volunteer jobs, in school clubs, on passion projects, and even at part time jobs. When it comes to organizing, preparing, and applying to colleges, it is so helpful to have experienced, trusted advisors like the team at College Ready to help.

Tried and True Strategies: College Ready uses techniques such as College Search and College Match to help students curate their own personal lists of top colleges. Harvard and MIT happen to be some of the top colleges that College Ready students have attended. UCs, great state schools, and other institutions across the nation (and worldwide) are among the places that College Ready students are proud to call their alma maters.

Get personal. While the U.S. News rankings are a useful tool to learn about top colleges, students need to think about their own academic and professional goals as well as their qualifications when it comes to ranking their own top schools. Gather your data, and ensure that a school is a good fit for you and vice versa.

Work with experts. College Ready’s team has helped students make their way onto campuses across the nation. The first College Ready student ever just happens to be a Harvard graduate (and a doctor). Reach out to College Ready to map out your college and career goals, and figure out your personal list of top colleges for you.

Do you need help finding the best fit schools for you? College Ready has consultants who are trained to help students create a balanced and tailored college list. Reach out to College Ready to schedule a free discovery call and learn more.

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