Every year, U.S. News & World Report releases its famous list of the top 100 colleges, based on factors like academic reputation, student retention, and faculty resources. Other businesses and organizations also compile lists of the best colleges based on their own standards. Students across the nation turn to these lists for guidance, thinking that a degree from one of those schools is likely to help them earn a high-paying job after graduation. While that certainly does happen, a college's ranking shouldn't be the first thing you look at when choosing a college.

graduationSchool and Class Size

Many of the top colleges admit thousands of students, making for large class sizes. Some people like this type of environment, but there's no doubt that it's hard to get to know your professor if there are 100 other kids in your Intro to Psychology class. Schools that have smaller class sizes mean that you might have more opportunities to develop a relationship with your professors or gain the leadership experience that will help you after graduation. The type of school experience you want should play a bigger role in your decision than the school's ranking.


Students who live in the Northeast will find plenty of colleges on the top 100 list nearby, but those who live in other areas will have to travel far to attend those schools. While you might want to go to a school far enough away to feel like you're independent, remember that travel costs between semesters can be high, especially if you need to take an airplane. Those types of costs aren't included in a financial aid package.

Getting In

Obviously, there's a lot of competition to get into the top schools, no matter which list you're using. It's important to take a realistic look at your test scores and report cards to see which schools you are likely to get into. Most people suggest applying to a few schools that are a "sure thing," a few that are a "long shot" and a few that are right in your sweet spot. 

You're the only one who can decide which schools are the right ones for you, but at Method Test Prep, we can do our best to help you improve your SAT and ACT scores. Contact us to learn more about how our tutoring programs can help.