Princeton. Harvard. Yale. Hearing those names brings to mind images of ivy-covered walls and students of Einstein’s caliber working on solving all the world’s problems. And rightfully so. Harvard, for example, has been a top name in higher education for 370 years. And the minds produced by such institutions are forces to be reckoned with.

Seven U.S. presidents graduated from Harvard, 16 Supreme Court justices were Yale alums, and at least 15 Pulitzer Prize winners are associated with Princeton. With such brilliant achievements coming from those connected to the various Ivy League schools, it is not hard to believe that such universities are considered the best in the nation. In fact, in the Aug. 28 edition of U.S. News & World Report, Princeton, Harvard and Yale were named the top three best colleges in America.

St. John’s, on the other hand, failed to receive a ranking in the annual college guide. Rather, the publication’s Web site listed St. John’s as a third-tier school based on its analysis. And while St. John’s may not be in the same league as Harvard and Yale, it should not be belittled in such a fashion.

In recent years, St. John’s has built up its academic profile. Students enter with higher average GPA’s and SAT scores than ever before. Add that to the more than 25,000 applications received for the current academic year and one would surely be led to believe that St. John’s is the place to be. Too bad U.S. News & World Report doesn’t agree.

Yes, there are better colleges out there. There always will be. But there are also worse schools. They, too, will always exist. It’s the nature of things. However, a particular university being cited as being the “best” in the nation does not necessarily mean that it is the best for everyone.

The University’s Honors Program is full of students who could easily have gone to any number of “better” institutions of higher learning, and yet they chose St. John’s. Some came because of the scholarships, others because of the quality of the Honors Program and still others came because of the University as a whole.

Harvard may be great for some people, but a student looking to learn fashion design would surely make FIT his/her first choice. Students looking to focus on graphic design may believe that the School of Visual Arts is in fact the best choice for them. Yet neither school is the “best” in the nation.

As the headline of a recent Time Magazine article asked, “Who Needs Harvard?” They may have some wonderful things to offer, but St. John’s does too. Mike Francesa, SJU alumnus and WFAN sportscaster, said at the 2005 President’s Dinner that schools such as Harvard “deal in theory [whereas] we deal in reality.” So maybe U.S. News & World Report thinks that Harvard is better, and maybe their rankings are fairly accurate, but there is something to be said for choosing a school based on your own needs rather than on the rankings of a magazine.