Understand their criteria.
- Some are more data-driven and, therefore, more objective. Others are opinion-driven and more subjective.
- "Money" uses only data retrieved from the U.S. Dept of Education and from the schools own data, published in standardized format (to make school-to-school comparison easier).
- Some focus on outcomes. For example the "Washington Monthly" ranks schools based on how many graduates enter not-for-profit, public service or government service careers. Several others include job placement and entrance incomes to rank the schools.
- A few rely heavily on student reviews of their own college perhaps the most subjective analysis of all. Others ask College Presidents to rate their competition.
- Somewhere in the fine print you may find the criteria used by each publisher. That will be a helpful guide to understanding and making use of what you are reading.
Let the lists inform you as to a "type of college" to search out.
- The most significant issue with nationally published rankings is how few colleges are mentioned out of a total census of 5,000 6,000 campuses.
- For example, a highly rated college in California may be of theoretical interest to a North Carolina family, but a remote practicality.
- That school in California, however, does have qualities and characteristics that can be found in similar colleges closer to home. Your job is to find those other schools.
- The criteria of different lists also can help with different aspects of the decision-making process. Before sending in your deposit to the University of Great-Expense consider (1) post-graduate outcomes, (2) campus culture and (3) net costs. Those three, critical factors can be drawn from reading a variety of lists.
November 5, 2014
Different news organizations and research groups publish "Best Colleges" rankings. What use can you make of them?
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