When I was searching for colleges to apply to, I was looking for a school that could increase my credentials and propel my career.
My family members drove me to the bookstore and library to give me a quiet pace to think and plan.
I had no idea where to start so I would take books off the shelf one by one.
My first task was to sift through thousands of colleges, and find suitable ones I would realistically get accepted to.
I knew I wasn’t a superstar candidate, but I thought I was a catch.
Like most kids I dreamt of getting accepted by Harvard, Yale, Stanford or any other Ivy League caliber school that would have me.
I didn’t mind playing NCAA football for Ohio State University, USC or University of Oregon either, but based on my size and skills I knew that was out of the question.
Then I thought about going to school close to my home in Garland, TX at the time. I looked at Texas A&M, Baylor University, and SMU.
Texas Tech was my back up if no one else accepted me.
The resource that I used to find the best school I could get into was none other than US News and World Report’s Best Colleges magazine.
I thought “This is great! I don’t have to start from scratch and figure out which school is better than the other. They’ve already sorted them for me.”
So, I combed through all their lists to see where different colleges stood on the totem pole.
Texas Tech was listed way in the back, ranked 170 or so. University of North Texas wasn’t even ranked numerically.
“Oh, no.” I said.
“I can do better than that. Nothing but the best for me!”
Schools I’d heard of like Georgetown University, Cal Tech, Cornell University and University of North Carolina were listed prominently in the top 30.
I also saw schools I’d never heard of like Wake Forest University, Emory University, Tufts University and Rice University and for the first time understood that these schools were to be included in the conversation when you mentioned some of the best, and most prestigious colleges in the country.
Fanatically, I went home and looked up each of these schools on Collegeboard.org to find out what kind of SAT score, GPA, AP Classes, etc I would need to get accepted.
That night was rough because I realized there was no way I could get into any these schools with a 2.8 GPA.
It seemed like in order to get into these top 30 schools you either had to have been a downright genius or a super disciplined and diligent student that followed a strict regimen starting long before senior year of high school.
But I didn’t throw in the towel.
I immediately looked down the list at schools that were ranked in the top 50, top 75, top 100 and so forth.
As you can see, I assigned so much meaning to the US News college rankings that it governed which colleges I applied to and which ones I didn’t.
I took their opinion of the best colleges as authoritative and assumed there was a strong rational behind the rank number they assigned these schools.
If a school was listed as 104, then it must not be as good as the number 60 or 90 school on the list.
It wasn’t until I became a professional at sending kids off to college with free money scholarships and grants that I realized the criteria these publications use to figure out which school is the “best” are embarrassingly oversimplified, superficial, and often irrelevant to what most families find important in selecting a college for their child.
For instance, schools are ranked higher on the list if they spend more money per student.
On the surface level this sounds great, but there is no clear way to tell if the money spent was used to improve the educational outcomes of your child or if it was mostly used to add unnecessary services and amenities that get other high school kids to fall in love with the campus as well and enroll.
This pressure to keep spending lots of money per student leads to higher tuition rates each and every year just to fudge the formula and keep the school high on the rank list.
As I’m writing you, UC Berkeley has just been removed from the US News Rankings this year for fudging their alumni donation numbers.
Also, 20% of the formula US News uses to determine which school is better than the other is done by asking presidents, deans and provosts at each college to fill out a survey assigned to rate over 100 nearby colleges on a 5-point scale.
Many of these people surveyed have no idea what all goes on at their own campus, much less 100 other campuses they haven’t visited in several years if ever.
The way to find the right college for your child is the start with what you and your family find important and look closely for what schools speak to that need.
You also want to make sure your child can be academically challenged and fit in socially at the school.
You’ll want to find a school where your child knows they will participate in the activities and engage in the community.
The school will also need to provide you with a clear direction on how your child can get started in their career field or help your child figure out what they’re great at and find a path they can follow.
The school should be constantly giving your child feedback on how they’re doing, not just testing them twice per semester.
You may be thinking that sending your child to a school with other high performing students could boost their confidence and self-image, but this can often backfire.
When some students enter an environment that lacks nurturing but is instead filled with elitism, competition and pressure it can take several years for the child to regain their self-confidence.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against highly competitive universities because for some students it can bring out the best in them.
My point is that many families will send their kids into these kinds of environments simply because it was the highest ranked school their child got into even if the school does not address you and your child’s needs.
It’s like buying an expensive vehicle without having a need for 90% of the features the car comes with.
I can help you find the right college for your child, and pay wholesale for tuition so your family can avoid taking out hundreds of thousands of dollars in educational loans that take decades to pay back.
To learn more you can register for my upcoming webinar here www.collegeprepwebinar.com or call 626-657-7887.