Every year, Fortune Magazine compiles a list of The 100 Best Companies to Work For. Considered in the mix, among other attributes, are best benefits, perks, health care, job security and management-employee relations. [And it should come as no surprise -- as it is no coincidence -- that the best companies to work for are, more often than not, the most profitable companies, given that a happy, satisfied employee is typically a productive and loyal employee!]

So it naturally flows, if there are great companies to work for, there must be -- among the laundry lists compiled by the folks whose lives are consumed by the process of classifying, categorizing and quantifying -- great colleges to enroll in and attend; colleges with a breadth and scope of programs and courses, an in touch and in tune administration, a caring, accessible, dare we suggest English-speaking faculty, a state-of-the-art campus, dorm rooms to die for (or better still, to live in) and dining hall food to satiate a gourmet's palate.

Well, of course. Don't think, for even a nanosecond, that the Lilliputians of minutia haven't tweaked the numbers and skewed the stats, giving us even more suet to chew on by way of lists of colleges that students absolutely love.

Take, for instance, the ranking by MyPlan.com of Overall Satisfaction & Happiness with Choice. Now, there's a lot to swallow, let alone digest, what with criteria ranging from Campus Setting to Greek Scene, Personal Safety to Competitiveness, but just try to soak it all in and take this "survey" for what it is -- and may not be -- worth.

The colleges you've heard about and are considering not on the list of top 600? Not to worry. There are nearly 3000 other accredited colleges and universities where you may well find academic, social, political and/or fraternal bliss -- as well as a decent food fight and keg party.

As YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary) as to what your ideal college experience should be (after all, the subjective is difficult enough to quantify, let alone to measure on the "happiness" scale), by beginning your search for the perfect fit early and in earnest -- with the help, of course, of those who know -- you are more than likely to find that college you could fall in love with (If not necessarily at first sight, then surely over the course of the next four years).

While assessing student satisfaction may be an arduous -- if not nearly impossible -- task, the folks who undertake such esoteric (and quite creative) endeavors (so-called Higher Education Consultants), have elevated the process to a near-science. [Take the Noel-Levitz Student Satisfaction Inventory (please), which is said to "Strengthen the quality of the student experience through precise, comprehensive satisfaction assessment."] Talk about the old Razzle-Dazzle 'em! Where's P.T. Barnum when we need him?

Anyway, the index of the Love-Like-Hate relationship between student and campus is as complicated and complex as the intricacies of the cosmos. Still, we manage to parley such infinite and oft times convoluted data into studies, reports and, ultimately, lists (no doubt available for purchase in the college bookstore) designed to tell us which colleges we'd simply love to attend, and to sell us a tuition bill-of-goods based on what may well be good for the goose but not necessarily a match made in college heaven for this college-bound gander.

Sure, take that extra large grain of salt and peruse those surveys. Sit down with a pint of Ben & Jerry's and absorb the trends. Take two aspirin and read the studies and reports. Check your crystal ball and phone your favorite psychic. Then gather round the kitchen table as a family, convene with your local neighborhood independent college counselor, and begin to explore the possibilities of that much more defined (and certainly smaller) list of colleges and universities that you will love -- and which will show some of that love right back at ya!

Rankings, studies, surveys and lists are fun, even mildly informative. But when it comes to choosing a college -- along with the many and varied factors that must go into that all-important decision -- cast aside those lists and, within the constraints of wallet and the confines of a continent (or three) -- follow your hearts and your dreams.

You can get satisfaction on campus (The Rolling Stones notwithstanding). You just won't find it on a list!
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For karma in college admissions and peace of mind in planning for college, call COLLEGE CONNECTION today. 516-345-8766. Get satisfaction!