Why Studying a Bachelor's Degree at a Top-Ranked University Is Not for Everyone

If you are considering doing a Bachelor’s degree abroad, you are probably keeping a close eye on ranked universities because of their reputation and quality of studies. 

However, applying to a university that best fits your needs as a student matters more than applying to some of the best ranked universities, according to a recent Stanford study.  Let’s see what are the pros and cons of ranked universities and how you can make the most of your undergraduate studies abroad.

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Some of the most well-known providers of university rankings are: Times Higher Education, Shanghai University, Top Universities and U.S. News Rankings. For example, according to THE, the top 5 universities in the U.S. are:

These rankings usually feature between 800 and 1000 universities, all listed from best downwards. However, even universities ranked in let’s say the 800 position are something to be proud of, as some universities don’t even make the top.

What does a best-fit university mean?

In short, to each their own. The concept refers to you finding a college or university that matches as closely as possible what you want from your higher education. This means it’s personal. It’s about you thinking clearly and deciding what is important for you.

The Stanford report mentions that when choosing a university, factors like costs, proximity, top-research facilities, or professional courses can influence people’s choice and ultimately their satisfaction with their education. Additional aspects include:

"The decision might include cultural opportunities: a university with a strong international languages program, a culturally diverse student body, and a track record of successful study-abroad exchanges. The presence or absence of a Greek system or a large Division 1 athletics program might be important factors for some students. Perhaps religious denomination, institutional size, or comprehensive support for those with learning differences may sway the decision. And of course, financial aid and cost are key factors as well.”

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Choose to study at an American university that suits your student needs!

Ranked or not-ranked, what matters is to find a university that matches your own expectations and gives you the type of training you need as a future professional. Here are some examples of American universities that you can check out:

Why is a university that fits your needs better than a top ranked one?

Because university tops are so popular there’s a tendency – particularly in the USA – for students (and parents!) to assume that going for a Bachelor’s at a top ranking university is the best choice they can make.  However, the new Stanford study has found otherwise.

The study reveals that high school graduates care more about their learning, well-being and future job satisfaction (professionally and financially).  And rankings often don’t give any guarantee that you will achieve this by going to a reputed university.

Denise Pope, a senior lecturer at Stanford’s Education School, explained, "Research tells us that the most successful students, both in college and beyond, are the ones who engage in the undergraduate experience regardless of how selective a school may be. This is almost always the case whether a student attends the top-ranked or 200th-ranked college."

Also, a few Gallup surveys say that what students like you value more is nor reputation, but rather having professors who cared about them and who made them more interested in what they were studying.

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The Stanford report’s advice is that there’s no one-size fits-all when it comes to searching and choosing the right college. Ranking criteria are only working for a minority of students, but misdirect most others.

The report adds that “rather than choosing a school based primarily on a flawed scoring system, students should ask whether they will be engaged at the college in ways that will allow them to form strong relationships with professors and mentors, apply their learning via internships and long-term projects, and find a sense of community.”

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