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In our next series, MapsofWorld.com will be taking a tour of the best universities across the United States. We will be determining which universities in the United States have the most to offer their students – like a wide variety of courses and majors to choose from, the best professors, research facilities, sports teams – all for a reasonable cost. The U.S. Universities Tour will discuss and rate an assortment of the best universities of the United States, both public and private, large and small, in urban environments, and otherwise. In this introductory article, we will discuss the methodology this series will use to determine our list of the top twenty-five universities in the United States.

Just as the university admissions department prefers to see applications from well-rounded students, whose applications include extracurricular activities and diverse backgrounds, MapsofWorld is on the hunt for well-rounded universities that offer their students the complete college package. There’s more to a school than rank and prestige, though these are certainly important aspects of choosing a college and will continue to factor into our selections. Student life, which includes extracurricular activities like clubs, sports, and community events can make or break a college experience. The social scene is an important part of a student’s life at university that needs to be the right fit with each individual student for a successful experience, since it can provide the support and comfort students will need while away from their families, friends, and home for the first time in their lives.

The U.S. Universities Tour will follow a selection of universities with locations across the country, choosing twenty-five diverse schools from the Ivy Leagues to large public universities and tiny Liberal Arts colleges. Schools in large cities, suburbs, and rural environments each offer a vastly different student experience that has the potential to provide numerous opportunities to the student population. We will look at tuition costs, school size, and the ratio of students to faculty. There are benefits to both small and large universities as well as drawbacks. Larger universities have more to offer in terms of course offerings, research and athletic facilities, and diversity in the student population. Smaller universities usually foster tight communities, which can improve networking opportunities long after graduation, greatly improving job prospects. Smaller universities also usually have smaller class sizes, giving students a better change to get to know their professors, who can provide important references and work closely with the students. To offer a more complete view of the options for great universities in the United States, we will take a look at schools from various regions, sizes, and their general environments.

In the current economic climate, choosing the right path for higher education is more important than ever, and total cost is at the core of this decision. Students need to strike a balance between finding the best school they can get into and the best school they can afford. At a time when student loan debt is at its highest, and there are not enough jobs for graduates to take to begin paying off loans, the importance of finding an affordable school is obvious. For this, we will be rating the schools based on how much bang for your buck they offer, examining the student debt of recent graduates, their employment rate, and grants financial aid offers, in addition to both in-state tuition and out-of-state tuition. In addition to tuition, rent averages for students also factor in to the decision.

And finally, it is important to note that ratings and review of universities can only tell prospective students so much about each school. A visit and tour of the potential universities of choice will give applicants a more complete perspective on their options and make the college decision easier. And while rankings are important to many students, each individual needs to find the right match for their personality, expectations, and educational needs, which can make a much bigger difference than any ranking system.

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