Finding the Best College for you in California

The way people have traditionally selected colleges, especially in California, is wrong. Here’s why.

Today, virtually everyone chooses a college based on one—and only one consideration—consideration: prestige. “Prestige” is shorthand for the typical ideas about what constitutes a “good” college education, such as:

· The quality of learning,

· The exclusivity of the admissions process, and even

· The medieval look to campus architecture.

When people say that ABC College is “good” and XYC College is “bad,” they are using concepts embodied within the word “prestige” in choosing the best college.

But solely choosing a college based on prestige is a terrible idea. Why? Because the idea of “prestige” fails to consider the practical considerations of college. Things like employment prospects, tuition costs, and student loans aren’t even in the discussion. Even the most popular college rankings systems, the ones everyone use, bizarrely fail to consider the “practical” elements of college.

When students only consider the elements of prestige, crazy outcomes occur. Consider the story of thousands of Ph.ds on food stamps, the surge of advanced college degree holders on welfare, and the public school teacher with $410,000+ in student loans. You must make sure this doesn’t happen to you.

Clearly, a new approach is needed to choosing the best colleges.

Welcome to Reality: the HACKiversity College Rankings Chart

Using the following two principles, the chart below more accurately shows students where the best colleges in California are.

Principle #1: Reality Determines Value

In determining college value, everything about a college must be considered. That includes elements typically associated with prestige and elements associated with practicality.

Principle #2: The “Barbell” Relationship Between College Categories

In reality, the value of college is highly concentrated within specific college categories and virtually absent in others. The spikes in value at the end of the HACKiversity College Rankings Chart represent the significant areas of value inside the college arena. The flat lining in the middle of the chart symbolizes the little value of everything else.

The most surprising (and important) thing about the distribution is just how lopsided the value is. If you’re inside one of the college categories at the ends of the spectrum, you’re receiving exponentially more value than those attending a college located inside the middle of the college spectrum. In reality, the difference in value between college categories is extraordinary. Choosing the best colleges is a world of extremes.

So how do you know which college in California is the best for you? Focus on the following two college categories:

College Category #1: Elite Colleges

Elite Colleges are pictured on one end of the spectrum in the HACKiversity College Rankings Chart, meaning Elite Colleges represent one of the two college categories containing virtually all of the college value.

Elite Colleges are the approximate top-20 colleges in America. Think of the Ivy-League schools, the West Coast powerhouses, and the other brand names scattered throughout the country. Only about 1 percent of graduates go to Elite Colleges, so they are the most exclusive of the lot.

The reason to “Go Elite” includes better job prospects, smarter classmates, and often cheaper attendance costs. In California, the most prominent Elite Colleges are:

1. Stanford (National HACKiversity Ranking: 7)

2. California Institute of Technology (National HACKiversity Ranking: 12)

The bottom line is this: if given the opportunity, California students should enroll in Elite Colleges, even if cheaper options exist elsewhere. The upside is just so great for California students.

College Category #2: Value Colleges

Most people intuitively grasp that Elite Colleges are extraordinarily valuable. What’s less intuitive is how competitive “Value Colleges” are, which are the colleges located at the opposite end of the spectrum on the HACKiversity College Rankings Chart.

One of the reasons that Value Colleges are so valuable is that employers love them, especially major public colleges. In California, according to the HACKiversity College Selector, the best Value Colleges based on rankings are, in order (starting with the most valuable):

1. University of California: Los Angeles

2. University of California: Berkeley University of California: Santa Barbara

3. University of California: Irvine

4. University of California: Davis

5. University of California: San Diego

The University of California system isn’t the sole holder of extremely great Value Colleges. The California State University system holds significant value, too. According to the HACKiversity College Rankings the following colleges also provide tremendous value:

8. California State University: Fresno

9. California State University: Fullerton

12. California Poly State

College Category #3: Prestigious Impostors

After exploring the two college categories that provide significant value, it’s time to explore the middle of the barbell distribution in the HACKiversity Rankings Chart—the area depicting college categories that offer students little value.

The first college category is what I call “Prestigious Impostor” colleges. Prestigious Impostors are the ones that market themselves as Elite Colleges, but are not. In particular, Prestigious Impostors charge $40,000 to $60,000 a year in tuition, just like the Elite Colleges, but without the prestige or network. It’s like paying full price for an Elite College but receiving only a fraction of the benefits.

The poster child of a Prestigious Impostor is an uber-expensive, non-Elite liberal arts school. The practical considerations are insufficient to justify the outrageous costs.

Here are some Prestigious Impostors to avoid:

1. Pepperdine University ($53,932/year)