Personal college ranking

Inspired by the discussion on the WSJ ranking thread. What was/is your student’s personal ranking system? IMO, that’s way more important than someone else’s ranking!

I’ll start with my kid’s:
40% hands on engineering curriculum with first year design class
20% cooperative education offered and well supported, but not required
20% collaborative and upbeat learning environment
10% abundant labs, shops, and maker spaces
10% non urban location


Kid one:

  1. Major metro area
  2. Excellent applied music teacher
  3. Access to excellent opportunities to hear and play in orchestras.

Kid two:

  1. Excellent sciences
  2. Urban but with a defined campus
  3. Pleasing weather (meaning…no snow)

Kid one:

  1. It’s gorgeous (aesthetically clean and very green/lush) and I could get my own room and only share a bathroom with one other. He said 100% - but I’ll say 90%.

  2. Closer to mom than the previous top choice that had nothing like #1 housing wise and that was going to make him anxious and miserable - 10%

Kid two:

  1. It felt like home, I just love it here 80%.

  2. It hit the pre defined budget my dad provided 20% (she was great about eliminating schools that didn’t, without even a hint of argument.


My kid’s focus was entirely on the quality of undergrad education and experience, and the following “ranking system” (not necessarily in the order listed) reflects such. His application list was thus naturally heavy with LAC’s and few research universities.

  1. Greater undergrad population than the grad
  2. Small teacher-to-student ratio
  3. Courses taught directly by the faculty as opposed to grad students
  4. Endowment per student (reflects greater resources directed at students, including FA)
  5. Undergrad pedagogical and curricular philosophy
  6. Available programs, facilities and the major for intended study and EC campus resources
  7. Generous financial aid (EFC affordability)
  8. Reputation
  9. Campus (aesthetic, residential system, dining)
  10. Diverse student body

Kid one (and only): Tanks.

And a good engineering program.

Parents: Wolverine football.


First kid

  1. Reinforcement learning
  2. Reinforcement learning
  3. Reinforcement learning
  4. Lab opportunities

Second kid

  1. Strong BME program
  2. Undergrad research
  3. Med school advising
  4. Must have discernible winter, spring, summer, and fall

Thing 1: immediate proximity to world class skiing, as ONLY priority. Hence, SLC comm college with transfer agreement to U of Utah business school, got degree mostly at night while working full time and skiing part time. Academics were very, very low on that kid’s list.

Thing 2: Leading linguistics department (and by parental decree, within a couple hours’ drive from home, and not too expensive). Hence only applied to 4 publics - in-state flagship, local 4 yr state college, and two neighboring flagships, one of which had very highly ranked linguistics. Luckily was awarded max OOS merit money for that school. Worked out better than I ever could have hoped for.

Thing 3: 99.999% Strong and compatible teacher for their instrument. Other factors were strong performing instrumental music program plus strong academics (so could do premed pre-reqs) in a university with a school of music, not in an isolated rural location, preferred in or near a major metropolitan area, and at least the semblance of a Jewish community. Wound up at a tippy-top school with NO performing arts majors, and NO teacher for their instrument, and continues to play performance music constantly, while pursuing a non-music major and premed prereqs. Is insanely happy there.

So, the moral of the story: the ranking factors may change as the kid goes through the process.


I made my own when I read the article, but haven’t asked my D yet…
Courses offered/ availability of said courses
Teacher appreciation ratings by students
Music availability (orchestra/ ensembles, lessons)
Campus attractiveness (cleanliness, architecture, environment, safety)
Food and Lodging combined (as in, not a danger to health and preferably pleasant with no favoritism in housing).
Benefit to society ( students enter a field of service, like medicine, teaching, government…)

Edit: because we are far away, not too far from family who can help in an emergency.



I think my S24 is still figuring it out, actually. But currently, on the basis of revealed preferences, I would say:

30% Would-this-be-good-given-my-academic-interests ranking
30% Is-this-far-enough-from-home-but-somewhere-I-want-to-be ranking
30% Social-and-chill-but-not-Greekish vibe ranking
30% You-can-see-where-the-money-went campus ranking
20% Dad’s academic-snob ranking
5% Dad’s how-old-school-elites-actually-think ranking
5% Peers’ you-did-good ranking

Now you are saying to yourself, gee, NUM, that seems like 150%. But there is one more:

-50% Will-this-save-my-parents-any-money ranking


For my son:
Strong business program with business analytics
Classes taught by professors
Dance/performance opportunities
Under 10,000 students
Attractive, walkable campus
Interesting students


What school was that ?

Mine ended up at William and Mary. Elon and Wake were the others he strongly considered.


40%-located in NYC (or rather located in a world city a manageable flight away…so NYC.)
30%-strong in at least 1 of the arts-related majors of interest
20%-a critical mass of smart motivated students


10% price - that was your students - but what was that for you?? :slight_smile:

Congrats on that btw - that’s AWESOME. Sounds like the student is at the perfect school!!

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Yeah, it loomed larger in my personal formula, it’s true! My personal formula might have swapped the NYC and price percentages.

Personally, I would be willing to pay full price for an expensive school, but only in a narrow set of circumstances. I do believe there are kids who benefit from an elite education in a way that can be difficult (although not impossible) to replicate at a non-elite school. But I didn’t feel my kid was one of those kids or in one of those circumstances.

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(rough estimates)
Cost - 25
Majors - 20
Size - 15
Location - 15
Diversity - 10
Internship/Research opps - 10
Food/Dorms/Eco Friendly/Student Life - 5

My personal items of importance for her:


Good teacher:student ratio/only professors teaching
Food/Dorms/Campus/Surrounding area

Although outside of the first four items, I am looking more at the whole picture as I make suggestions. She’s doing pretty good on her own.



  1. “Not in middle of nowhere” (at least a good-sized town with restaurants)
    2.over 3000 undergrads (only 1 of her schools is under that, with 2300)
  2. decent Psych programs
  3. full range of majors in case of change
  4. social life on campus
  5. not too many commuters (see #4)
  6. politically varied students
  7. not too far away (i.e 3 hours by plane max)
  8. accepting atmosphere
  9. not an ugly campus

see her #8 (accepting atmosphere)–she didn’t know enough to rule a specific type of school out, because she has attended a hugely diverse, working-class and middle-class high school, so I did it for her. No college with mostly affluent, preppy and socially ambitious students (i.e. I crossed off Colgate and C0nnecticut College, which aren’t in an ideal location anyway. :slight_smile: ) We’ll see how it all works out!

  1. “This place makes my heart happy.” - 20%

  2. Mid-to-large size - 20%

  3. Robust pre-professional programs with lots of majors, internships, opportunities - 20%

  4. Well within budget - 18%

  5. Smaller city location, but not too remote - 4%

  6. Direct admit to major and easy access to clubs - 10%

  7. Greek life option -3%

  8. Driveable to home, but not within 30 minutes - 3%

  9. Not full of dozens and dozens of people from her high school - 2%

  1. Affordable
  2. Has a good reputation in the field (Neuroscience) in academia (a future PhD ws part of her plans while applying), i.e., a high percent of students who end up at highly reputable PhD programs.
  3. LGBTQ friendly
  4. LGBTQ friendly region
  5. Diverse
  6. Has the possibility of a creative writing or dance minor
  7. Jewish life, but progressive.
  8. The campus
  9. Accommodations and food.

These are not ranked, since all must-have requirements, though both 8 and 9 were open to “good enough”.

By way of PhD reputation - it’s the proportion of graduates who were accepted to highly reputable PhD programs, and the “reputation” of the PhD programs were the ones with the highest number of graduates who were TT or FT faculty. This does not mean that these are the “best” in any objective measure, but the ones which would provide the best opportunities for her to follow her career choices.

She preferred a LAC, if possible, but only if everything else was met. State flagships were more likely.

Financially, it had to “beat” UIUC, for which we would have paid half in-state tuition (since my wife worked for the U of I system). She was NMF, so that was added to the consideration.

At the end, our list was not entirely relevant…