Knowledge Bound: The RSC Blog

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Posted on Mar 12, 2012 - 06:00 AM | Selecting a College | Comments (0)

Starting tomorrow, 68 NCAAA men’s basketball teams will compete for a coveted title – champion. Starting Saturday, 64 women’s teams will compete for the same title. It’s a one-loss elimination tournament that dominates office pools and water cooler conversations everywhere.
It’s March Madness. For some schools in the tournament – both big programs and Cinderella stories, it’s a recruiting tool. Students want to go to a college that’s a winner.
But is it really the best way to pick a college? Not unless you play for the team.
Make Your Own College Ranking System
There are more than two dozen ways to rank colleges. Picking a school with a great basketball program (or football, fencing, or any other sport) is only one way. Make sure the schools on your list meet your needs.
  1. Academics. Does a college have a great reputation in the major you want? Do you rank among the top 25% of students at that college? Do its graduates receive a degree valued by employers and grad schools?
  2. Career. Examine a college’s job-placement rates and career specialties. Do they offer career guidance, internships and more?
  3. Social. Everyone has social needs. Are you looking for a campus with extreme diversity or one very close to your own ideas and opinions? Do you want to attend a campus with plenty of social activities or one with just a few options? Conduct a proper campus visit to see how you fit in.
  4. Financial Aid. This may be a family’s biggest concern, and is often the overtime tie-breaker. Can you afford the college? How good is its typical financial aid offer? This step requires a lot of research – often difficult research – but can make a big difference between graduating and dropping out. If two schools are equal in every way but one costs less, it’s likely you’ll do better at that college. You need an accurate college-cost estimate before you agree to go. Know what a college will cost you in advance. Consider it part of your college-selection strategy.
Every year, sports reporters and pundits pick the team they expect to win it all and every year they’re wrong. Teams rarely go the entire season ranked number one, and at least one number one seed fails to make the Final Four every year. But as you make your rankings, you have an advantage over sports analysts: colleges only have to meet your needs. With the right tools at your disposal, you can know everything you need to know about them.
Make Your Own Tournament Bracket
There are plenty of ways to set up your ranking chart, but the easiest (and the one in keeping with the spirit of March Madness) is to set up your own bracket. List 16 schools you’re considering and compare two of them. The one that meets your need best advances to the next round, until you’re left with the one school that’s works best for you.
Congratulations! Your champion is your first-choice college. It might never win the NCAA tournament, but it’s won your approval, and that’s far more important to your future.
Of course, you need to apply to more than one college, so take your Elite Eight and look closely at them. Can you see yourself there, too? If you can, add those to the schools you should apply to.
To make it easy for you, we’ve already created a college search bracket for you. Download your March Madness Academic Bracket now!


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