Perception & Rank – Do College Rankings Really Matter?

If you ask any random person what the best colleges in the United States are and they will probably start with the typical premier Ivy League schools like Harvard, Yale and Princeton.  Once they are done with those schools, they will move on to other prestigious schools like Stanford and MIT.

The perception of prestige is rooted deep within our culture.  Ask any early teen kid where he wants to go to college and he’s likely to name one of the few with high prestige.

But the important question is whether prestige really matters.  To answer that question, you have to ask yourself what you want out of your college education.

Some people want a line item on their resume.  If this is you, then going to one of the most well-perceived upper-echelon colleges might be important.  Other people might want to get a good job after graduating.  If this is you, then you should know that employers are actually less interested in the school that you went to than what you are individually capable of and what you’ve achieved in life so far.

Still others want a high quality education.  If this is you, then things get a little complicated.   Why?  Because most of the prestigious schools are busy preserving the perception of their high rankings and hire the most notable and famous professors.  A lot of times, these professors are research professors who are consumed in their research and their conference papers. Because of this, their teaching can be sub-par.

On the other hand, small liberal arts colleges sometimes have the best teaching, primarily because that is the main job of their professors.  Plus, at small liberal arts colleges, you are more likely to be taught and mentored by an actual professor rather than a graduate student or teaching aid.

So when considering whether college rankings really matter you need to first ask yourself what you want out of your education.  More often than not, there are sacrifices that get made no matter what.  So lining up your college choice with your educational priorities is the most important step.

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