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A college president says don’t be swayed byone-size-fits-all lists.

Imagine a magazine that claimed to rank all of the year’smusic releases in descending order of “quality.” No. 1 might be the latestalbum by a popular hip-hop artist; No. 2, a Beethoven symphony; No. 3, a moviesoundtrack; No. 4, an R&B collection. What an obviously silly idea! But itgets worse. Suppose the basis for these rankings turned out to be an arbitrarymathematical formula dreamed up by the magazine editors, and the data used tocompute the rankings all came from the record companies themselves.

You would throw the magazine in the wastebasket. Yet that,in essence, is a description of the most popular college rankings. They glossover crucially important variations in the curricular, pedagogical,philosophical, and social characteristics of different schools. They rely on amagazine editor’s guesswork about the factors to consider and the relativeweights to assign to those factors. And they depend on information—much of itunverifiable—that is supplied by the very institutions whose ranking willsupposedly determine their reputations in the marketplace.

Choosing which college or university to attend is a very bigdecision. Think of choosing a college as the equivalent of buying a verycomplicated product. The “product” is a package of services including classes,courses, academic advising, tutoring, athletic programs, entertainment, socialexperiences, accommodations, and food. This complex package provides not onlyfour years’ worth of experiences, but also a gateway to future graduate schoolsor jobs, a lifetime network of friends and connections, and a lastingprofessional and personal credential. Whatever the price you actually pay, thevalue of that package of services may be as much as several hundred thousanddollars.

Making a decision of that magnitude cannot be reduced to aformula. So, having thrown the rankings in the wastebasket, what should you do?Start by asking a few hard questions about yourself and be ruthlessly honestwith the answers. What have you liked, and what have you disliked, about youreducational experiences? How do you learn best: by listening to lectures, insmall-group discussions, by sitting in front of a computer, by hands-onapplication? How do you feel about academic work? Do you enjoy it for its intrinsicvalue or do you do it because you feel you have to? Do you learn best when youtake subjects that you choose or when you discover new things that have beenchosen for you? What kind of person are you, and what kind of person do youwant to be: how intellectual, how creative, how social, how athletic? How muchdo you care about prestige and bragging rights? Do you need lots of structureor do you thrive with lots of freedom? How important is it to be surrounded bypeople similar to you or different from you? What kind of setting do you findmost supportive and stimulating: large or small, urban or rural, near to homeor far from home? What kinds of extracurricular opportunities are important toyou? And the big question: how difficult will it be financially for you toattend college?

Having compiled answers to questions like these, begin yoursearch for colleges or universities that seem likely to fit. Of course the bestresource might be a college counselor, if you are lucky enough to have accessto one. But, even if you don’t, you can glean useful information from thisguide as well as college search sites like U-Can, College Navigator, CollegeSearch, Peterson’s, U.S. News, Princeton Review, and College InSight. Surfthese sites, not for rankings, but for search variables that seem like goodmeasures for the things you really care about. For example, if finances arereally tight, focus on average undergraduate debt at graduation. (By the way,don’t focus on published tuition because schools with the highest tuitions alsotend to have the most generous financial-aid programs.) If you learn best insmall settings, focus on measures of class size, such as average class size orpercentage of classes with enrollment below 20, or on student-faculty ratio. Ifyou really care about diversity, check the racial, ethnic, and nationalbreakdown of the student body. And if you—be honest!—care most about prestigeor reputation, focus on rankings, because that is all that most of them reallymeasure.
[font=宋体]在将这些问题集中起来之后,你开始搜索看起来适合你的学院或者大[/font][font=宋体]学。当然,最好的资源是有一个辅导员,如果你能幸运地找到一个。但是,尽管你没有,你可以从本指南中获得信息,或者从大学的搜索网站获得信息,例如[/font]U- can[font=宋体]、[/font]CollegeNavigator[font=宋体]、[/font]CollegeSearch[font=宋体]、[/font]Peterson's[font=宋体]、[/font]U.S. News[font=宋体]、[/font]PrincetonReview[font=宋体]、和[/font] CollegeInSight[font=宋体]。浏览这些网站,不是看排名,而是看你真正在意的事情在各个学校之间不同的地方。例如,你的财务紧张,就注重寻找在毕业时平均大学生贷款[/font][font=宋体](顺便说一句,不要看公布的奖学金,因为有最高奖学金的学校大概都有财务支持安排。)如果你在小地方学得好,专注于班级规模,例如班级的平均人数或者在[/font] 20[font=宋体]人以下班级的百分比,或者看师生比例。如果你对差异化比较在意,看看学生中种族、民族和国家的分项统计。如果你真正最在乎的是声望或声誉,那就看排[/font][font=宋体]名,因为大多数排名就是按照这个标准。[/font]

Having narrowed your search in this way, take virtual toursby going on the Web sites of the schools you find attractive. Recognizing thatWeb sites are a form of advertising, you can still pick up a lot of informationabout what a school values by how it presents itself. If you can afford to doso, there is no substitute for personal visits to campus. Make an appointmentwith the admission office, and go when school is in session. Follow the cannedtour and information session, but then wander off to talk to students andfaculty. Spend a night in the dorms. Sit in on two or three classes. Check outthe library and the sports center and the student union. You are looking forthe place you’ll call home for the next four years. If, after all this, thecollege feels right, you know you have found that home.

Or, to return to my musical metaphor, you will know whichcollege is playing your tune.

Diver is the president of Reed College in Portland, Oregon.
[font=宋体]本文作者[/font] Diver [font=宋体]是俄勒冈州波特兰市[/font]Reed College [font=宋体]的校长。[/font]


1. 麻省理工学院(Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT)
著名校友:摩根大通(JPMorgan Chase)前执行长雷顿(Donald Layton)、白宫科技长史密斯(Megan Smith)。
麻省理工学院拥有全美最佳的工学院,许多毕业生进入谷歌(Google)、甲骨文(Oracle)、麦肯锡(McKinsey)或是摩根士丹利(Morgan Stanley)工作。
2. 加州理工学院(California Institute of Technology)
加州理工学院名列《美国新闻与世界报导》(U.S. News & World Report)最佳大学工程课程第4名,最有价值学校第8名以及《商业内幕》最佳大学排行第5名。
3. 达特茅斯学院(Dartmouth College)
4. 哈维姆德学院(Harvey Mudd College)
5. 莱斯大学(Rice University)
著名校友:安永会计师事务所(Ernst & Young)前执行长特里(Jim Turley)。
6. 安默斯特学院(Amherst College)
著名校友:总统卡尔文·柯立芝(Calvin Coolidge)、美国国务卿罗伯特·兰辛(Robert Lansing)。
安默斯特学院是“五校联盟”(Five College Consortium)之一,凡是“五校联盟”的学生皆可以互相修课,它们是汉普郡学院(Hampshire College)、曼荷莲学院(Mount Holyoke College)、史密斯学院(Smith Colleges)以及马萨诸塞州大学安城分校(University of Massachusetts Amherst)。
7. 美国海军学院(United States Naval Academy)
著名校友:美国海军学院诞生许多著名校友,包括52名宇航员、48名「罗德学者」(Rhodes Scholars)以及卡特(Jimmy Carter)总统。
8. 西点军校(United States Military Academy)
校址:纽约州西点(West Point)
著名校友:美国总统和陆军五星上将德怀特·艾森豪威尔(Dwight David Eisenhower)。
9. 威廉斯学院(Williams College)
著名校友:美国在线(America Online)创始人暨前执行长凯斯(Steve Case)。
10. 鲍登大学(Bowdoin College)
著名校友:美国总统富兰克林·皮尔斯(Franklin Pierce)

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