Weighing One College's Degree Program against Another

If you know what you want to study when you get to college, then the degree program you will enter should be a major factor in making your final college selection. Carefully consider the degree programs at each of your final two or three colleges. Below are some ways to compare one college or university's degree program against another:

  • Look at national statistics and rankings. U.S. News & World Report puts out a well-respected, annual list of the best colleges in various fields. Or you could start with a simple Google search for phrases like, "ranking best undergraduate _____ schools," and see what comes up. Obviously, the lists you find are somewhat subjective, but if you keep seeing the same schools on various lists, you can be pretty sure that these schools have well-respected programs. If the school(s) you're considering isn't on the list, call the admissions office and ask for the national ranking of the degree program of your choice.
  • Compare the classes you'll take at each school. Look over the list of core classes you will have to take to earn your degree from each college you're thinking about. You might find, for example, that one college requires more classes in business ethics whereas another school requires more study in future trends and technology. Does one of the programs seem more in line with your interests?
  • Compare the backgrounds and experience of the deans, professors, and educators at each school. Ask for biographies of each college's staff in the program you intend to enter. Analyze each professor individually. (How long have they been teaching? What is their professional experience before coming to the college? What books have they published?) Do you see any particular professor that you might envision as a mentor? Also compare each college's staff collectively to determine which school offers the most experience, education, and credentials.
  • Sit in on a class at each school. Choose a class that you will have to take to earn your degree and pay a visit. Do you feel comfortable with the class size? Is the instructor interesting — more importantly, are you learning anything? Are you energized by the classroom and department atmosphere? Can you imagine yourself being in this environment every day for four years?
  • Visit the administrative offices of your degree program at each school. Ask to speak to an academic advisor within your chosen field. Ask about the class enrollment process, and about the program's freshman retention rate. Watch how the administrators treat other students: Does the staff strike you as helpful and eager or annoyed and bureaucratic?

Weigh what you find at each college's program carefully and you'll have a better chance at finding a college that fits your needs and makes you happy.