I remember once when I asked a professor this, about grad schools, and he said to write the name of each college on a separate piece of paper or notecard. Then, go to the top of a staircase in your house or school. Then shuffle the stack of papers or cards. Then, think positive thoughts about college, like, I like college. I will love college. Then, toss the papers or cards down the stairs and whichever one lands on the top step is the one you should absolutely go to! Pick them all up in order from top to bottom, and that should be prettyyyyyyy accurate for a solid ranking system of your list.
I tried that, because I really admired that professor (I think he’s retired now). And I had some suspicions about the scientific accuracy of this method, though of course I didn’t say that to him, so I decided to do a double blind study involving pet mice and coffee beans, placebo vaccines, and some pictures of the colleges on my list. When this, too, seemed to yield spurious data, I resorted to reading about the colleges on College Confidential.
Since then, I became a college counselor! Now I tell my students to think of these factors:
- Urban, suburban, rural
- Small, medium, large
- Competitive or collaborative
- Festive, balanced, or focused
- Reach, Match, Likely
- Spirited or quiet
- Edgy or serene
- Artsy, conservative, liberal, athletic, or diverse
Thinking about factors like these can really help you identify what matters to you and what fits for you! And the best way to arrive at these criteria for yourself is to visit (in person OR virtually) and talk to current students.
Let me know if this answer was too dull! 🙂