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Best Colleges – Academically and Athletically

Learn what the best colleges and best universities are.

Several aspects go into what determines the best colleges, and this is ultimately a very personal choice. The best universities depend on several factors that are individual to you. However, you will only be able to come to a meaningful personal ranking of the best universities in the USA and the best universities after researching various types of rankings that others have compiled. Fortunately, you can easily consult several of these metrics to help you come up with your own ranking.

One of the best resources that you can use is U.S. News Best Colleges. It ranks the best colleges individually and places the rest in tiers. This is done via several elements, including assessments by both those at other institutions and guidance counselors, retention rates, resources, class sizes, student-faculty ratios and graduation rates.

Another option is The Princeton Review. Although known more for test preparation services, this organization also ranks the best colleges but in a different fashion. It utilizes survey answers from more than 125,000 students attending the 384 universities that it analyzes. Note that it does not rank these schools but is useful in comparing different aspects of the college experiences at these schools.

When looking for the best athletic colleges, it's essential to consider academic and social factors in addition to the quality of the teams and the coaching staffs. You should also consider that, if you have a specific major in mind, some schools may be much stronger in that major than in other fields. Next College Student Athlete, the leading athletic recruiting service in the U.S, provides power rankings in the top 100 schools. They give the top 50 schools in football, baseball, and basketball. They rank these schools both academically and athletically every year.

But you do want to place a high priority on athletic-based rankings as sports will take up much of your time and focus while there. One useful ranking of the best sports colleges that solely focuses on athletic performances is the NACDA Directors' Cup. For example, California Baptist University won the 2017-18 Directors' Cup's rankings of the best Division 2 colleges.

Comparing the best colleges

How should you go about comparing the best universities? Of course, consider how the schools are ranked by the major ranking services. However, you want to place special emphasis on the factors that are of importance to you. In many cases, these will include more measurable ones. This includes areas like the cost of tuition and fees and whether they offer one or more majors that you are considering. You will also want to assess how selective the schools are. Acceptance rate is a good starting point although it does not tell the whole story. Also consult selectivity rankings such as the ones that College Simply provides.

One way that you can rank the best colleges that is very individually focused is by distance from you or proximity from a place where you want to attend school. If you are solely considering going to school in a specific state, also consult the various state-specific rankings that exist.

In addition to the other resources that have already been provided here, also consider ones that are regularly published by Niche, College Choice, College Factual and Best Colleges.

Best universities in your sport

Although it can be interesting and even useful to view how the best sports colleges are ranked, it is more important to see how the best athletic colleges are ranked as they relate to your sport specifically. Although the overall quality of the athletics department that you are considering joining will play a significant role in your experience there, your athletic-based time will be very focused on your team.

One of the best ways to see how the best Division 1 colleges are ranked from top to bottom is through the RPI. Although primarily used as a tool to select and rank teams that advance to the NCAA Tournament in each sport, the RPI is also helpful to those interested in where every school ranked in the current or most recent season. A couple of examples are the rankings of the best college soccer teams for both men's and women's.

Of course, a number of polls are also regularly released for various sports, not just of the best college soccer teams. For example, the best college baseball teams are ranked by several organizations. This is also true for the best Division 3 colleges as the best college baseball teams at all levels of the sport are regularly appraised.

Conversely, when researching the best college basketball teams, take into account the College Basketball Power Index (BPI) as this ranks all of the best Division 1 colleges that play this sport. Conversely, other types of rankings, including NCAA top 25s, allow you to also see lists of, for example, the best Division 2 colleges in this sport.

It is also helpful to see where the best colleges rank in your sport historically. One example is the ESPN Top 100, which compiles an all-top NCAA top 25, revealing the best college football teams of all time. Those schools that may not have the best college football teams today but are high on this list will likely return to glory soon.

Of course, if you are a football player, you do want to place emphasis on who the best college football teams are today as well as which ones have the potential to be one soon. For example, Washington State University was not one of the best college football teams in 2014, finishing with a 3-9 mark. However, the Cougars immediately turned that around, going 9-4 in 2015 and finishing the 2018 season in the top 10.

Discover what the best colleges and best universities are.

Which of the best athletic colleges should you play at?

The most important thing that you should consider when compiling your own personal ranking of the best colleges is what division you are most suited to play. Consider the various differences between the best colleges as they relate to their college division levels. At the same time, do understand that there is overlap. For example, some of the best sports colleges in the D2 ranks can and oftentimes do compete at a level commensurate with D1 schools.

How can you get recruited to play sports at the best colleges?

Are you looking to compete at the next level and be considered for athletic scholarships? Do you see yourself representing one of the best universities in the USA on the field, hardwood, ice or other playing surface? If so, it is important to understand the recruiting process and the facts behind athletic scholarships, what's available and what goes into the awarding of them. One important thing to consider if you are looking to play for an Ivy League university is that they do not provide athletic scholarships, but they do offer a significant amount of non-athletic financial aid.

Probably the best piece of advice to take advantage of is to start the recruiting process now. The best universities often have their eyes on top recruits in their freshman year. If you are already past your freshman year, do not stress. Simply get the process going now so that you can improve your chances of receiving invites to play at the best sports colleges.

Research the academic requirements of the schools that you are considering. This is in addition to, if you are considering an NCAA school, the NCAA's own requirements. Additionally, consider that coaching staffs at the best universities will generally place a high value on what you bring to the table academically. This will impact your ability to more easily fit into the school environment, especially if it is a school that is amongst the top on lists of best colleges. Also, the less concerned they need to be with your academic progress while attending the university and playing for them, the more highly they will consider you as a prospect.

Ensure that you have realistic expectations. You want to only consider the best colleges that fit what you can offer. Athletically, maybe you may or may not be good enough to play football at Alabama or soccer at Stanford. If you realistically have the potential to contribute to programs such as those make sure that they know about you. However, if you do not, it will save you and them time by focusing on places where you can contribute.

It also helps to compile and disseminate highlight videos. In fact, this is a point that is strongly emphasized by many. In most cases, the first introduction that a coach will have of what you bring athletically is through a video. After seeing that, a decision may be made to see you play in person, but, most likely, not before.

One other aspect of your personality that is of utmost importance to coaches and those who would look to hire you for jobs now and down the line, is your work ethic. Not only do you want to have a strong work ethic, but you also want to show that you respond to adversity in productive ways. This especially applies when the adversity is unexpected and unplanned for.

Read about what the best colleges and best universities are.

What is an athletic scholarship?

First, it's important to note that not only the best Division 3 colleges but all schools at this classification do not award athletic scholarships. However, like Ivy League schools, they do tend to award a considerable amount of financial aid, so do not discount them because of this. If you do, you might be dismissing an incredible experience at one of the world's best universities and one that may have ended up being the best fit for you overall and made financial sense in the end too.

For those who do receive athletic scholarships, what that entails depends on if you are awarded a full-ride scholarship or a partial one. The former will take care of the entire cost of tuition as well as fees, books and room and board. If you receive a scholarship to play D1 football or basketball on the men's side or D1 basketball, gymnastics, tennis or volleyball if you are a female athlete, you will either receive a full-ride one or none. You can also be awarded full-ride scholarships while playing a different sport or by playing either of those sports at a non-D1 school, but, in many of those cases, partials are awarded instead.

About NCSA

Next College Student Athlete provides a number of resources for helping high school players secure their spots on teams at the best colleges. These include putting a plan into place and into motion that improves your chances of ultimately being awarded a slot at one of the country's best athletic colleges.

It's important to note that college coaches use NCSA as well. Those at NCSA also have the best interests of coaches in mind as they fill out their rosters. In the end, the goal is to help create the best fits, both for the student-athletes as well as for the 35,000 coaches who are in the NCSA network.

NCSA has been in business since 2000, when Chris Krause founded the organization. In the 1980s, he was a high school linebacker doing his best to navigate the recruiting process as he looked to play football at one of the best universities. However, it was not an easy process, and much of it was confusing. As a result, he wanted to ensure that student-athletes today do not have to go through the process in the way he did.

This company has also received positive reviews over the years, including a Google Reviews score of 4.9 out of 5, as it helps around 25,000 student-athletes commit to a college for sports every year. If you would like to join this group and earn your spot on a sports roster at one of the best colleges, start your set up a free sports recruiting profile today in order to get your recruiting process going and ensure that you are seen by coaches. If you have any questions, call (866) 495-5172.

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