Those two questions in almost every situation result in very different answers for most international students. What does #1 mean? Is it the be all and end all if you do not get admitted to the “best” college? In the United States, one thing that is very different from most other countries is that there is no official ranking of institutions.
While many students and parents rely on U.S. News and World Report (USN&WR) Best Colleges rankings, even within those unofficial ratings, there are many categories that U.S. colleges and universities are separated into by USN&WR, fifty different categories actually!
As you might have guessed, one of the main reasons for this is that with over 4,500 colleges in the United States, and with the great diversity in the types of institutions that exist, being number one depends largely on who you talk to and what kind of college you want to “rank.” Our friends at EducationUSA rightly state on their site: “No official ranking system exists for colleges and universities in the United States. The best college or university is the one that is best for you and meets your requirements—academic, financial, and personal.”
Many parents and students when considering where to apply have a list of schools they’ve heard of and perhaps have had family members talk about or attend. Part of the challenge in relying with this method is that it likely leaves out 99% percent of the schools that might be outstanding choices for international students. It might be a useful starting point but certainly should not be the only way to develop a list of possible best schools. Keep in mind that these “top” universities have admissions rates under 10% for first-year (freshman) applicants. For international students those percentages can be even lower.
What school is the best for you will depend on a lot of different factors which we’ve discussed in past blog posts, but one thing is for certain, the #1 college for you may be a very different one than it is for your best friend. Here’s a thought to think on: if your parents and/or you would be happy with you attending a top 10% college in the U.S., would they be happy with that? If so, that means 450 colleges meet that criteria.