I have spent a lot of time conversing with college and high school students. These young people are dealing with a new transition almost weekly. Fall is the time the younger group is applying to and planning for their transition to college. And man is the stress level high!
I remember talking to a group of college students about my academic path. None of them had ever heard of the colleges I chose. Yet my bachelor’s prepared me well for grad school, and my masters allowed me to work in a career I loved; one that brought me meaning and satisfaction. (And yes, I was making a comfortable living.)
I also remember talking with one young man who had no desire to go to college, much to his parents dismay. Then one day he bounced into my office and said I had to see this college he visited. As he flipped thru the campus pictures he took, I immediately understood - this was the perfect college for him! And that fit got him excited about how college could help him meet his unique needs and goals.
Julie Lythcott-Haims is kind of my parenting hero. In her book How to Raise and Adult she talks constantly about broadening your students mind when it comes to choosing a college. She warns parents to be realistic about their teen’s chances of getting into the “top 10.” She espouses helping them find a good fit for their personality and goals. The Alumni Factor ranked colleges based on alumni interviews around a variety of life factors and came up with their own top 10 (most are mid-sized regional colleges, some of which you’ve never heard of!) (pp. 254-255.) And she suggests lowering expectations about what a big name school can promise. Students who attended a lower ranked college v. an ivy league attained the same level of financial and professional success. (p. 249.)
There are approximately 2800 accredited colleges in the US. Some of them are 2 year colleges with wonderful faculty, academics, and certificate training programs. A great transition to a 4 year campus for teens not quite ready socially or academically. Some of them are small liberal arts colleges with dedicated faculty who support the development of the whole person. Some of them promote unique academic formats that just might spark a passion for learning in your teen who hates school! Hopefully knowing that there is a college out there that is a good fit you and your teen will make the stress of college application season a little more bearable.
For a different perspective on college rankings, check out: