Hamilton Gregg is the founder of International Educational Consulting and has worked in education since 1985. He helps students and their families understand their personal and educational needs and find the right school to meet their requirements. If you are a student or parent who would like to ask Gregg a question on our blog, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
The United States has approximately 4,000 colleges and universities. All of the schools are at least known for being “good” at something, a lot are “good” for several things, but many schools in the US are actually “great” for lots of specific academic options. Sorting through these schools and making choices can be overwhelming if you have not separated what you think you know about attending school in the US and what is actually true.
By relying on the US News and World Report or other ranking systems, you are missing the most fundamental fact about students who attend university in the US – smart students attend all sorts of universities, not just the top schools. Why? Because the country has so many types of schools in different locations offering a multitude of programs and opportunities. Many factors play a role in why a student attends one school as opposed to another. Factors range from the size of the school, the location, the weather, and choices of major, to the sports teams, the success of preparing students for graduate programs, ability to engage in research the first year, finances, and many other factors.
The assumption that the best students attend the best universities is only partially true. There is no question that Ivy League schools have smart students, but so do community colleges, state universities, religious schools and so on. Did you consider that not every smart student has the financial backing to pay the tuition at many top schools? Maybe some students want to go to the university in their city or state. Perhaps some students have a family tradition of attending a specific university. Maybe they want more opportunities by attending a school for personal, social, or academic reasons. Again, there are countless reasons why not every smart student attends the Ivies or top 50,000 etc schools.
But here is the challenge – In China and many countries, admission to the top schools requires passing rigorous entrance examinations. Therefore, generally speaking, the top students go to the top schools. It is a matter of performing well on the university entrance examination. This is not entirely the case in the US where performance on the SAT or ACT is only one factor admission committees use to determine acceptance. Certainly the better a student does on the SAT helps, but it is not a university entrance examination in the same vein as the GaoKao. Not even close. This is why finding that school that “fits” you is so important. It’s not just about the test, but also about you: your academic performance, your extra curricular activities, and your personality.
Furthermore, brilliant minds populate every university and brilliant professors teach at every university. Professors at these schools attended, taught at, and graduated from some of the best universities the world has to offer. So open your mind to the potential that each school can challenge, excite, and motivate you to become the best you can be.
If you run with this information, you will be surprised that there are tons of great schools in the US. By accepting the fact that smart and even super smart students go to almost every university, you will realize the important point that choosing the right school comes down to some very personal choices. But in order to adeptly focus your research, it is important to do some self-assessment to determine what school makes the most sense to you.