如何充分借鉴“Best School”榜单?——美国大学毕业生分享“过来人”经验

    上次我们的博客发表了一篇介绍美国大学各类排名的博文,阐明了不同分类不仅代表了榜单制作者的不同目的,同时也为不同需求的学员提供多样化的参考。事实上,只有学生本人才清楚自己究竟需要一所什么样的学校,而这五花八门的分类又让人应接不暇。这次,凯斯教育特意邀请一批毕业于美国顶尖大学的毕业生前来分享他们的经验——讨论榜单中哪些信息是最为重要的?哪类信息最终决定了他们是哪所大学?

Sasha Klein, Harvard University, Class of 2011, English Major

My college search criteria were personal and specific. I certainly considered the rankings– looking for strong humanities schools in particular– but I simply ignored most schools that didn’t fit my clear mental image of where I wanted to live. For me, it was all about cities. After crossing out schools in every small town or city I couldn’t imagine living in, I was left with a more manageable group: New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and Boston, as well as London, and Edinburgh, overseas. I further limited this list by looking particularly for schools that were in, but not overwhelmed by their cities, places on the fringes of bigger metropolises that had small communities of their own. These two criteria, along with concerns about distribution requirements and my gut feelings, transformed a large and generic list of well-ranked universities into a smaller, more personal group of good schools where I knew I’d be happy to spend
four years.

 

Megha Majumdar, Harvard University, Class of 2010, Social Anthropology Major

As an international applicant, I found rankings very helpful. It was that, or go through alphabetical lists of universities in order to begin learning about which universities existed and what they were like. The numbers—Top 20!—were not as important as the fact that I learned about colleges I had not heard of before. Amherst, Williams, Vassar, Mt. Holyoke—these were names that had not travelled all the way to India. 

 I'd suggest you use rankings as a starting point—not once did I use them as a pre-made list of colleges recommended to me, but only as a page from which I could then go to college websites and read about each. This exploration was vital in me learning the basics—what is a major? What are the classes like? Who are the professors? What is ultimate frisbee? 

 And then, how are the colleges different? 
And finally, which ones make me want to write fervent application essays until four in the morning? 
Those were some questions I found—a long way from rankings, but enabled by those lists all the same. 

 

Noah Hoch, Harvard University Class of 2011, Folklore & Mythology Major

 

I wasn't really all that well prepared or informed going into the college search process.  The only school I had genuinely considered was Columbia University in New York City because I wanted to go to a school in NYC with a great writing program.  I looked at a few other schools with good writing programs, but mostly I thought I was going to get into Columbia so I didn't pay them too much mind.  It was only when I got deferred from early decision to regular decision by Columbia that I gave any other school a chance.  At that point, I thought about schools that were not too far away from my family and had solid reputations.  I applied to Harvard as a joke because my brother had applied and been denied there seven years before me. I told him I'd apply, get in, and then not go just to spite him.  As it turned out, I didn't get into my top school, and then somehow got into Harvard.

 

那么,在挑选最适合自己的大学时,哪种信息决定了他们最终的选择呢?

 

Chris Whitney Vassar College, Class of 2011, Sociology Major

 Even for Americans, finding out which colleges are good and which colleges are good fits is not easy. Like most people I looked to ranking systems to help me identify the schools at which I could get the best education, but I didn't look at the list of top National Universities.

I was not into math and science. My favorite subjects in high school had been social studies and English. I decided that a small school where I could sample from different kinds of classes would be best for me, so I focused on liberal arts colleges.

I was particularly interested in a school with a rich cultural scene on campus. I enjoyed doing theater in high school, and although I didn't do much of it in college, I liked being around people who, in addition to valuing academics and politics, cared about the arts. A super-competitive business-focused status-obsessed school wouldn't have been good for me, so with campus culture in mind, I did my best to  flush out where I might be successful.

 

Michael Wert,Brown University, Class of 2008, Classics Major

 The story of my college search is a little bit different from a lot of people’s, because I did it twice: once for admission as a freshman and once as a transfer student. I was looking for very different things each time, but some themes run through both rounds of application. In either case, it was important for me to find a school that was distinguished in the areas in which I was interested, and a campus population whose interests overlapped with mine. Although I never actively considered rankings in either case, I know that reputation was in the back of my mind the whole time.

 When I was in high school I was convinced that I wanted to major in music performance but still be able to cultivate my academic and social interests outside of music. I looked mainly at liberal arts schools with very good music programs. I remember one university that I loved during a visit was stricken from the list because their wall of music majors consisted of two people. I ended up at Skidmore, a great liberal arts school in New York state, which hit every box on my short checklist: a great music program, an “artsy” social scene, and not in a city.

 

The story of why I decided to transfer deserves its own blog post, but it became clear very early in my first semester that I was no longer interested in being a music major. I wanted to study classics, but Skidmore’s department was small at the time, which limited the number and variety of courses it could offer. I looked at a number of schools, and Brown seemed to be the best fit. It had one of the best classics departments in the country, a similarly “artsy” scene, a music department that was active enough that I could keep playing casually, and was in a city (9 months in Saratoga Springs, NY had changed my perspective on going to an urban school).

 I think that I reached the right decision in both cases. I was fortunate to have strong ideas about what I wanted to study, but my most vivid memories from college are my interactions with my friends and fellow students outside the classroom.  While a college’s identity is subjective, dynamic, and problematic, I think that considering what I wanted from the people around me had more to do with my happiness at Skidmore and at Brown than any examination of rankings or programs.