(This is part 6 of Comparison of Top 11 College Search Engines)
The fifth college criteria for our fictional student is that it must be located in or near a major city. There are plenty of good reasons for this requirement including transportation access, cultural and recreational attractions, part-time employment opportunities, and availability of internships.
The problem is that Albuquerque, Lexington, and Milwaukee all would qualify under this definition. Chances are, most students don’t mean these kinds of cities when talking about colleges in large cities.
What do they mean? Well, more than likely, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Chicago, and possibly the major metro areas on the west coast. For most students, this isn’t about numbers but reputation, or rather perception.
It generally doesn’t matter that you can offer some disadvantages in living in such cities such as higher cost of living, more competition for jobs, safety concerns, and congestion. After all, this is about the vision of the perfect setting.
Yet by eliminating schools because they aren’t in cities glamorized in the media, students and their families are significantly reducing their chances for cutting their college costs not to mention incredible education opportunities.
Given the difficulty in defining “major city,” it’s not surprising that three of the college search websites don’t even offer users the chance to search by city setting. The remaining eight websites do provide some option.
These options are based on the 12 census code classifications used by the National Center for Education Statistics. The codes identify the geographic status of a school on an urban continuum ranging from “large city”? to “rural.” Only two of the websites provide a definition of their categories.
For the comparison search in the DIY College Rankings Spreadsheet, I used the “Large City” and “Large Suburb” definitions.
City: Large: Territory inside an urbanized area and inside a principal city with population of 250,000 or more.
Suburb: Large: Territory outside a principal city and inside an urbanized area with population of 250,000 or more.
All things considered, location type is probably not worth using as a search factor unless you have a very specific reason to. There are 90 “Large cities” and 271 “Large suburbs” with four-year institutions. That really doesn’t narrow the field much. Furthermore, most people won’t recognize the suburbs names to know which city to connect the suburb to. It would probably make more sense just to go by MSA definitions since people are generally just looking for certain names anyway.
But back to our fictional student and her search results. The following table shows the number of search categories available at each of the websites. The column “With Search” shows how many schools found using all of the criteria we have discussed so far including size and location. The “Without Search” shows the results just for four-year institutions using whatever passes as “major city’ for the category. The schools with “`” don’t provide a count of the search results for me to include. The * indicates the search was done without the state requirements because the website doesn’t allow you can to enter multiple states.
|Number of Categories||Results With Search||Results Without Search|
|College Reality Check*||0|
|My College Options||4||37||399|
|DIY College Rankings||12||47||571|