Th Big Eight colleges in US are the dream destinations for Indian students. But are they really all that they are made out to be?
“Just because a school is highly ranked or well known, doesn’t mean that it’s the perfect fit for every student,” said Vaishali Ravi, an undergraduate student at Scripps College. Scripps is a small school in Claremont (California) with 950 undergraduate students. It has an acceptance rate of 36 per cent and is one of the most competitive liberal arts schools in the United States. But not everyone’s heard of it.
With hordes of Indians flocking to schools like University of Michigan and Purdue, the smaller, more competitive schools, that are just as good, are going unnoticed. Besides the popular ones, the Ivy leagues are the only highly regarded colleges. But do rankings and popularity say everything about a school?
“When I go to India, most people cannot name a single other Ivy League except Harvard. Though Harvard is listed as the number one school in the world, it isn’t the best for Engineering,” said Vaishali. Students from her school who were accepted to MIT, Stanford and Caltech (The California Institute of Technology) chose to attend Scripps instead. “Scripps has really small classes with just around 20 students. The biggest class I’ve ever attended had 30 students,” said Vaishali. “It is a very nurturing community and extremely welcoming,” added Vaishali. Scripps has a lot of international students from Asia, but has predominantly more Americans.
Supriya Chak, a student from Tufts, also loves the small-school atmosphere. Tufts University is a private college in Boston with around 6,000 undergraduates. “You are not just a name or a face to a professor, you are actually somebody,” she said. “Tufts was the number one school on my college list. It is everything I expected it to be,” she added. According to Supriya, rankings are a combination of many factors. “They don’t always tell us everything about a school,” said Supriya.
Forbes, the American business magazine, ranks Williams College as the number one undergraduate institution in the United States while US News lists Harvard. While Princeton and Harvard are among the top 10 on Forbes, Brown, Dartmouth and Columbia have slumped to the low 20s and 40s. But why is there such a startling difference?
Because US News claims that it tests the quality of students being accepted to college through factors like acceptance rates, high school ranks and test scores. On the other hand, Forbes claims to assess students who graduate from college. It ignores the “reputation” and “spending” factors and instead focuses on alumni salaries, post-graduate success and the number of nationally acclaimed awards and scholarships students receive, like the Marshall and Rhodes. Another major difference between the two is that Forbes considers the amount of student debt after graduation while US News does not.
Suhas Tummalapalli said, “I don’t enjoy big lectures. I really like classes that are interactive and discussion-based. The professors are extremely accessible in these type of classes.” Suhas studies at Carleton College in Minnesota, which has an undergraduate population of around 2,000 students. “Though Ivy Leagues accept the best students from around the world, the quality of education and the professors are overrated. But that’s the problem in India, everyone relies on rankings which are generalised. Every student has different needs so it’s hard to go by just rankings.”
There will always be a disagreement on how to judge a school. The Ivies have given us geniuses like Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs but Yale also gave us George W Bush. So no school in the world can assure you of anything. Maybe, just maybe, college is more of what you make of it, than what it is. Think about it.