Don't just apply to college… Position yourself.

Finding the Best College for Your Major

“My son is interested in sports marketing,” the father explains when I pick up the BATPHONE at Position U 4 College. “What colleges should we look at that would offer that major?”

Fortunately, I can suggest several excellent books for finding schools that offer (and are known for strong programs in) the major an applicant is interested in pursuing. I recommend The College Finder: Choose the School That’s Right for You! by Steven R. Antonoff (now also offered online at and Rugg’s Recommendations on the Colleges 27th Ed. by Frederick E. Rugg.

The College Board’s Book of Majors does not describe how strong a given college is for one’s desired major, but does list which schools offer each major (thus, a very thick book!). This resource can be used indirectly to find out how strong a given college is in a specific major. For example, to find universities with “deep” foreign language departments, check out rarer  offerings like Arabic, Persian, Mandarin, Gaelic….schools that offer these specialties, not just Spanish or French, are a good bet!

I can suggest excellent books for applicants interested in specific fields of study. For teens focused on the arts, I recommend Creative Colleges: A Guide for Student Actors, Artists, Dancers, Musicians, and Writers by Elaina Loveland and A Guide to College Choices for the Performing and Visual Arts by Ed Schoenberg.

US News & World Report rankings can help identify schools that belong on the radar screen for specific fields. It ranks undergrad business and engineering programs. One can also extrapolate from grad rankings whether a school’s undergrad programs are worth considering. For example, US News ranks Vanderbilt’s Peabody School first in grad programs in education, so an education undergrad may want to consider Peabody’s BA program.

Professional organizations, their publications and websites often offer undergraduate program rankings for specific fields. For example, the journal DesignIntelligence ranks graduate and undergraduate architecture programs obtained by surveying hundreds of  practitioners. Architect Magazine and Architectural Record also rank top undergraduate programs.

Don’t forget informational interviewing. Encourage your student to talk to adult friends of the family who have pursued fields similar to your teen’s interest. Your teen can ask what schools they attended, what schools they recommend for this field, and what the longterm frustrations and rewards of this career have been for them.

Related Posts: Liberal Arts and the Real World (in my other blog: careerblog), Do You Need a Passion to Get Into College?, Why Study Liberal Arts in College?, Preparing to Major in…the Performing Arts, Preparing for Pre-Professional Programs: Pre-Medicine and Pre-Dentistry, Preparing to Major in…Psychology, Preparing to Major in…Marine Science.