Congratulations Graduates! Now Pick a School
It’s graduation weekend, and that means people everywhere are gathering to celebrate the academic accomplishments of someone in their life. Along with graduations themselves, there are parties, dinners, etc. all around celebrating those accomplishments.
These are the type of events were a lot of small talk is made about schools: reflecting on those schools they have been attending, talking about schools they may be possibly attending next, while others give their input on what their time in school was like to add to the conversation. People talk about schools in a more macro sense in those conversations than they do in almost any other time.
If asked by prospective students where they should go, and I tell them that while I have my own opinions and experiences, only they can decide what school is best for them. Based on the limited number of topics I am capable of talking about, the conversation will likely quickly redirect to the Ducks, in which I will express a number of opinions about Oregon and other schools in a completely different context.
Despite their different conversational contexts, I realized that the thought process is the same. While I have opinions about plenty of different colleges and events that take place on the field can shape my opinion of them, my opinions about which schools I like or don’t like all follow the same baseline: Would I want to go to school there?
Of course, my time for attending college has passed (in the fun, life-discovering undergrad way, not the soul-crushing, all-in-the-name-of-professional-development grad school kind of way), but what advice would I give to someone still deciding on schools? What schools would I, as a prospective college student version of me, be interested in? And what criteria would I use?
Last year, I wrote an article about the impact football success had on admissions applications, and how Oregon’s success on the field had driven that number up. For some, football is the only criteria, though I would use a slight more diverse set of criteria than that.
So I decided to dive into the topic, figure out where I would go if were doing the process all over again:
A Football Team: Anyone who is as big a football fan as I am is going to need to attend a school with a football team. A real, power conference, braggable kind of school.
But having a football team isn’t just about attending games in undergrad, it’s about having the connection to your school after you graduate. My brother went to a small, private Division I school without a football team, and you know who he roots for now? His grad school, because they have a FBS team. For many, the alumni connection is fairly limited for those who don’t give their alumni a reason to return to campus regularly.
Other Sports: No matter how much anyone loves football, it only lasts for 15 weeks. Then what is there to follow? Having great teams in other sports matters as well, as it is important to have bragging rights over multiple levels.
Partying Campus Life: Now were talking! I’m a college student, what else are my priorities going to be?
Academics: Oh, I guess this. I guess the quality of your school is somewhat important when making a decision about college.
Pro tip: Now, this is just me. Prospective student me, who is precocious enough to have already figured out that in 2014, undergrad degrees are the new high school diploma, and a Master’s is the new Bachelor’s. So rather than fretting about the quality of a particular school’s academic status for undergrad, you can just pick a school that has the right culture fit for you, have a blast, discover who you are, and focus on getting really good grades at the school you enjoy so when you do figure out what you want to do, you can get into the grad school of your choice to move your career along then. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. You’re not going run a Fortune 500 company at 22.
The City the School is In: A lot of prospective students make a classic undergrad mistake: they want to assert their adulthood, so they pick a school in the middle of a city with an urban campus, only to learn to that they can’t do anything because every activity costs a million dollars and that city’s residents aren’t exactly overjoyed to have a bunch of college kids running around all the time. Look at where the biggest party schools are located: Iowa City, Morgantown, Athens (both the Ohio and Georgia versions), etc. These are not metropolitan hotspots. It’s college, appreciate being in a place where everyone enjoys having the school be the center of attention.
At the same time, if you can’t live in a town as remote as Pullman or as small as Corvallis, that’s totally reasonable too.
So we have our criteria, but how do we decide amongst the choices? There’s only one criterion amongst the group that eliminates other candidates: Power conference football school, which shrinks our pool considerably.
It’s hard to rank schools against each other with such diverse cultures and geography, so let’s go conference-by-conference instead. Ranking the schools one through last in their conference in the five categories, weighting the more important criteria, and letting the numbers do the talking.
Note: These rankings are based solely on my personal preference if I were deciding on a school as a prospective student. Additionally, I have ignored all previous on-field outcomes in my decision-making, so while I may personally not like schools that have dealt Oregon crippling losses, I will evaluate them objectively from the lens of someone who has no previously existing bias against those schools.
Also, I’m going about this the way any prospective college student would, by culling existing information that has been written, rather than any first-hand experiences. Your school may be a better party school than a school I’ve ranked higher, but if that is the case, take it up with those who have written about it previously.
While the rankings may be completely my own, I’ve tried to be as objective as possible, compiling multiple rankings from multiple sources for each category.
Here’s how they’ll be scored and weighted:
Football (ranking x5): For the prospective college student, recency counts. Historical success is great, but only for knowing that a program will be around for a while. Having a fun team to watch (I did end up at Oregon originally, after all), or school that has a lot of buzz matters as well.
Other Sports (ranking x2): Most of the weight will be on basketball, as well as other sports in the public discussion.
Campus Life (ranking x5): I would be spending a lot more time outside the classroom than inside it.
Academics (ranking x3): What is the original intent of going to school again? This should probably matter a little bit.
City (ranking x3): You might be attending school somewhere, but you still have to live there.
Let’s see how schools in other conferences stack up, shall we?
[Click here to read our first breakdown, the SEC].
Top image source: Wikimedia Commons