Rank Them Yourself

"In the Pac-10 schools, where does USC stand, academically?"

That’s the question my neighbor asked me today.  And he was surprised when I told him there was almost no way to answer it. 

He told me he thought that Stanford had to be "on top," followed by Berkeley and then UCLA.   But he wasn’t naming those schools based on the quality of the education or the success of their graduates.  He did what lots of parents and students do; he deduced that the harder it is to get admitted, the better the school must be. 

I disagree.

So many outstanding students from around the world
apply to Stanford that the school can only take 9 out of every 100
applicants.  I don’t think it’s unreasonable to argue that Stanford
must have something going on. 

But to say that it’s "better" than Berkeley?  Or
UCLA?  Or Oberlin or Lewis and Clark or St. John’s?  Selectivity can’t
tell you that.  And anyone who claims that it (or college rankings) can tell you that is wrong.   

Selectivity can’t tell you if you’ll find a history
professor who makes you want to learn everything there is to know about
the Civil War.  It can’t tell you if you’ll be invited to be a
teacher’s assistant for a psychology course, or if you’ll discover your
passion for journalism while writing for the campus paper, if you’ll become a
resident assistant in the dorms or a member of the tennis team or a
volunteer in the admissions office (all of these things happened to
counselors here at Collegewise).

The quality of a college can be evaluated; but it
can’t be measured or ranked.  So don’t try to do it.   You’ll drive
yourself crazy.  Instead, rank the colleges yourself, based on what you hope or expect to gain from your college experience, and if you think the colleges on your list could deliver those things.  Figure out where
you want to go based on what’s important to you.

Stanford is the hardest school to get into in the
Pac-10.  And USC is a great place.  But I’d pick Berkeley or University of
Oregon if I were applying to college again.  My rankings are a little different.