Why I Stopped Caring About College Rankings and Why You Should Too

March 10, 2017

Go back a few years to eighth grade, I was one  hell of a nerd with two nerdier friends by my side and we all planned on going to Ivy League universities. In fact, I was sure I was going to my mother's alma mater, Cornell University. I was determined to get excellent grades in junior high, because high grades in junior high meant I could get into advanced courses in high school which meant getting into an Ivy. Yes I was that obsessed with college.

Freshman Sam thinking she knows where she wants to go and won't get the freshman 15

Move ahead a few years, and sophomore year of high school I still thought I was going to Cornell, until I went to a three week intensive there where I took a course on medicine and found out I didn't actually like the school (or medicine, I mean I can barely take a needle who knows what I was doing there). I don't know if it was the lack of city life or it was just too much pressure to be in an Ivy League for me, but I just knew it wasn't the right fit. For the first time in my life I didn't have a clue where I was going to college; I just knew one thing, I would go to a top 25 ranked school.

By junior year I had moved from my hometown in upstate New York to Arizona, and pushed myself into an angry depression. I hated the place, I hated moving from my home I loved, I hated the weather, I hated the slowness of the west coast... let me repeat it, I. HATED. IT. Over 75% of my high school went to an instate institution (all of which were not even in the top  100 college rankings to my disgust) and a lot went to a 2 year school, or didn't even go to school at all. For me, that was never an option, and I didn't even know it could be one that worked out or was the best option for many. I felt like the I was the only one who cared about where I went to school and began driving myself to do more to get myself into a good school and not end up like the majority of my class. I visited over 10 schools across the country that year and applied to about 12. But one school stuck out more than any of them, The University of California: Los Angeles, aka, UCLA. I was obsessed with the environment, the city life, the big sports, its high ranking; it was a dream come true until of course, I was rejected admission. I had a great shot at it too, my scores were right in the middle of accepted applicants, I was a varsity captain, second chair flute in band, and did my fair share of volunteering, but it was still a resounding no. I of course, didn't give up and appealed the decision, but with an appeal acceptance rate of about 3% it was still a no.

I looked at my back up options and realized I never applied to another school I really liked. I was stuck with some great options; University of Maryland, University of California: San Diego, California State: Long Beach, University of Miami, and Northeastern University, where I ultimately decided to go simply because they were the second highest ranked on my list and had an outstanding career services department along with a unique internship program that went along with the curriculum. There was never a point senior year where I felt like saying "hey everyone I'm going to an amazing school that I love!" I didn't ever feel 100% with my decision but thought it was just freshman jitters and would grow to love this school I had hardly looked at before even applying.

It was this first year at a school I found out I hated and was not right for me whatsoever that I really realized the stupidity of caring about college rankings. Those high school friends who went to the big in-state schools were having a great time, while getting an affordable education at a well-known institution. Although Northeastern University was highly ranked and regarded by those who knew it, no one I knew had even heard of it. It's "big name" didn't even make a difference, and I wasn't getting the type of college experience I wanted.

(A much happier) Me with my dad after transferring to THE Ohio State University

This is why I urge you to stop looking at those Forbes.com and US News college rankings, because there's so many other factors that matter 1000% more! Is it in a location you like, do you want Greek life, how big do you want the sports to be, etc. Think of someone who goes to MIT to get a journalism degree; it may be an amazing school (recently ranked #1 by Business Insider), but why would someone who wants to do journalism go to a school with emphasis on technology? I doubt you're going to find a school that fits what you want to a T, but at the end of the day, getting a job comes down a lot more about experience and skill than where you went. Sure, going to Harvard might put your application at the top of the pile, but after that entry level it's about making your company better, be it more sales or more viewers. My father works for a Fortune 10 (yes top 10!) and went to Florida International University...ever heard of it? Probably not since it's not even ranked in any of those top rankings. He's managing people who went to Harvard and Georgia Tech, and at one point, another person who went to a state school was chosen for a position over the person who went to Harvard.

Strive to go somewhere that will challenge you, but don't let that challenge be simply an academic one. Let it be academics, social life, political ideas, culture and more.

Xo, S.

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