Thank you all for your replies; I'll be sure to take it all into consideration.
Personally I don't think ranks really matter. It's the skill that speaks for you when you train. You might be a 1st kyu but your techniques blow or you might be a seasoned aikidoka and the last time you took a test was a 6th kyu test 5 years ago. If your goal is to aim for shodan then i'd talk to the chief instructor of the dojo you'll be training at, do your best on the mat then whatever rank he/she puts you in then it'll be your rank there.
I completely agree with you; learning aikido and following the aikido way is much more important than just a number/title, especially considering there are no competitions in aikido-it's more like a lifestyle. However, it would be nice to be able to progress from a rank anyway, sort of as a marker of progress.
Whatever I end up doing I'll just try my best at training, put in the time and effort, and talk to the person in charge and it should work out, though I guess the details depend on the specific dojo. That being said I'm highly considering a college that's very close to my current dojo anyway, so that would be convenient.
If anyone else has any input, thanks in advance