To put it lightly, choosing the right college can be a process. Every year, U.S. News and other publications rank universities in an attempt to help prospective students figure out their futures (It’s also a sleazy way to profit off these students’ anxieties, but hey, this is America). Just a few months ago, Forbes magazine put out its own rankings, with UCSB coming in as the 199th best school in America.
Just to put this number into perspective, the Times Higher Education, a British publication that annually ranks universities around the world, has UCSB at 98 on its list. If we take these numbers at face value, UCSB is not only one of the top 100 universities in the entire world, but it’s also – by a hair – one of the top 200 universities in America! Wait. These numbers aren’t consistent at all. Perhaps these lists are completely subjective and aren’t really much more than just one publication’s skewed logic. Using Forbes as an example, we learn that 25 percent of their judgment comes from www.ratemyprofessors.com ratings, while another 25 percent is based on the number of alumni who have been listed as notables in Who’s Who in America – a publication every good American has on their coffee table. What, you don’t have a copy? You’ve never even heard of the book? Hmm… forget it.
The point is, these lists are entirely subjective and arguably pointless, which is exactly why I’ve decided to make my own criteria for the best schools in the nation. I could make my own rankings, but due to space constraints and the inane nature of rankings in general, I’ll stick with the criteria and let you place schools within these parameters. In an attempt to cut through the shoddy methodologies typically used and make a more legitimate system of criteria, my three fail-proof, subjective categories of judgment are: 1) location, 2) attractiveness of the student population and 3) student-to-teacher ratio.
Location: Why no other ranking system includes this as part of its criteria is beyond me. Going away to school for four or more years involves more than just finding the right lecture hall or library. Your university should become your new home, and as such, it should have the perfect location. Growing up by the ocean, I value my close proximity to the beach more than anything. UCSB has its own private stretch of beach, albeit a disgusting, sand flea-infested one, but you get the point. A 10-minute drive up or down the 101 freeway, and you’ll find beautiful beaches. As for the campus itself, the north side has been turned into a clusterfuck of new buildings, but once you head south to the lagoon and Campus Point, you quickly realize how beautiful this place really is.
Then there’s Isla Vista. With parties, food and the beach at your doorstep, you never have to drive anywhere. It’s perfect. My neighbor’s car was left outside untouched for so long last year he got it towed by that gremlin parking maid with the rolling suitcase. Also, since practically every person living in I.V. is a student, you rarely have to worry about noise complaints ending parties. Try having four keggers in a row in San Diego or Westwood.
All of this isn’t to say UCSB is the only campus with a good location. Hardly. Berkeley is right next to San Francisco, where you can arguably find better food and bars on one block than you can in all of Santa Barbara. And their public transportation is top-notch. If you’re a city person, any school in or around New York, Boston or Chicago is sure to keep you entertained. Except there’s one problem: The weather is terrible compared to Santa Barbara. Can a Tufts student by Boston bronze on the beach in January? No. Can you go to a Red Sox game in Goleta? No, but after a 30-pack or two I’ll gladly reenact the Boston Tea Party in an inflatable kiddy pool in my backyard – so whatever.
The attractiveness of the student body: Anyone who has walked through I.V. or campus knows that there’s a lot of eye candy. Even my Grandpa from Montreal jokes about the girls here. Without getting overly scientific, I think it’s fair to conclude that being around sexy people makes you happy, and when you’re smiling and enjoying life, the days go by easier, you’re more relaxed, get better grades and so on.
Student-to-teacher ratio: I believe that if you actually want to get anything out of your classes, it’s best if you can see the teacher’s face and preferably know him or her on a first-name basis. Playing solitaire in a 400 person lecture hall won’t help you learn much, even if you tooled/bribed/slept with your TA and got an A in the class. UCSB has a 17:1 student-to-teacher ratio, which isn’t great. In comparison, Whitman College in Washington has a ratio of 9:1. But that ratio will cost you $43,000 a year.
With my criteria laid out, I hope people can realize that a school is more about what you make and take out of it, rather than what a bunch of graybeards at Forbes tell you it is. I also hope we’ve learned that UCSB is an amazing university that offers just as much, if not more than other, “higher ranked” universities, despite the propaganda student counselors and magazines spew your way.
It took my best friend at Berkeley four years to visit me here. After staying for three days, he only had one thing to say: “Man, if I wasn’t about to graduate, I would totally study abroad at UCSB.” The sarcasm of the joke aside, there was an air of truth in what he said. There’s a reason thousands of Irish flock here every summer, hundreds of foreign exchange students pick Santa Barbara as their final destination and Chancellor Yang is able to lure Nobel Prize winning engineers to our campus: this place ain’t so bad. In fact, I might go so far as to say it’s one of the top five… oh never mind.