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The Search for the Perfect College

written by: Mihir Shah•edited by: Amanda Grove•updated: 10/22/2010

Is it time to decide which college to apply to? Use this article to help in the search for the perfect college. Brains, find the top-ranked programs for academics, while brawns can learn about the best sports towns and colleges.

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    Introduction to the Perfect College

    The perfect college is in the eye of the beholder. While some students are attracted by the name or rank of the college, others are drawn in by athletic programs, low tuition costs, extravagant locations, proximity of beaches, weather, etc. There are a myriad of elements that dictate what the perfect college will be. For all prospective college students--undergraduate or graduate--the search for the perfect college varies depending on the person. Ideally, the perfect college will have an excellent academic program, athletic program, welcoming professors and faculty, great nightlife around town, etc. Ultimately, the search for the perfect college must begin with the individual and what he or she is looking to accomplish and the type of environment one wishes to be immersed for likely four years of their life.

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    Perfect Academic Schools

    While the perfect school will have a multitude of positive aspects, it is better to break down the different elements and determine the perfect schools within those categories. In the majority of cases, academics precede most other categories. Hence, looking for the perfect academic school requires researching the different programs a school offers and where it ranks in comparison to other top notch colleges. The best way to narrow down a search of the best academic universities is through national rankings such as U.S. News. According to U.S. News, Harvard University, Princeton University, Yale University, Colombia University, and Stanford University round out the top five national universities. At these schools, students are challenged on rigorous academic levels and understand that their careers will most likely revolve in a particular academic field. A good start is to take a look at the top schools in your program of interest, as done below with some popular majors.

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    Top Biology Programs

    For future doctors, check out the top biology programs:

    1) Stanford University- located in Stanford, CA

    2) Harvard University- located in Boston, Massachusetts

    3) Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)- located in Boston, Massachusetts

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    Top Education Programs

    Most aspiring educators are unaware of the teacher and administrative education offered to students as undergraduates. In fact, students can complete their undergrad and get their credential during their fifth year of undergraduate studies. The top schools in the nation for education include:

    1) Dartmouth College-located in Hanover, New Hampshire

    2) Miami University-Oxford- located in Oxford, OH

    3) Princeton University-located in Princeton, New Jersey

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    Top Liberal Arts Programs

    While there are countless liberal arts programs, the top three are in a class of their own. Not surprisingly, the following schools are also some of the best overall private institutions in the nation:

    1. Williams College-located in Williams, Massachusetts

    2. Amherst College-Amherst, Massachusetts

    3. Swarthmore College- Swarthmore, Pennsylvania

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    Top Nursing Schools

    While nursing may not be as popular a major or career track as medicine, law, or engineering, there is still a strong demand for it. The top nursing programs are:

    1) University of Washington- located in Seattle, Washington

    2) University of California, San Francisco- located in San Francisco, California

    3) University of Pennsylvania- located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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    Two-Year Colleges With the Best Transfer Rate

    For students that choose to complete their general education requirements at a community college--prior to transferring to a four-year university, here are the top community colleges in no particular order:

    1. Saint Paul College-located in Minnesota

    2. De Anza College-located in California

    3. Santa Monica College-located in Santa Monica, CA

    For a complete list of top-ranked community colleges, please see the reference section below.

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    Perfect Athletic Schools

    It is undoubtedly difficult to determine which university features the top overall athletic program. However, the top sports programs are those that one hears about whenever tuning in to sports news or radio. Schools such as the University of Southern California, albeit strong in academics, are known as a football haven. On the contrary, University of California, Los Angeles, while excellent in academics, is mainly known for its legendary history of basketball championships. In other words, universities can be successful on a number of different levels; however, there is usually a dominant characteristic that creates the identity of the university.

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    Ultimately, the search for the perfect college will begin with the identification of essential college programs: academic, athletic, etc. For example, students pursuing athletic scholarships will not isolate their options to Ivy League colleges. On the other hand, students aspiring for full academic scholarships will not seek out colleges that are primarily known as heavy sports towns. In the search for the perfect college, it is important to remove the name (e.g. Stanford, Yale, Harvard) from the college, and determine if the college fulfills the needs the individual himself requires.

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    1. Overall College Rankings:

    2.Top Liberal Arts Colleges:

    3.Top Education Programs:

    4. List of Top Nursing Schools:

    5. Top Community Colleges: