The Junior College Conferences are well underway, and I’m really enjoying getting to know our Junior class and their parents. Please continue to complete your questionnaires and contact Bridghette to set up your conference. I have read thoughtful and enlightening interview forms and participated in lively discussions about a topic near and dear to the hearts of high school students everywhere—what college will ultimately be the place that will shape the next few years of your life, and create relationships that will last a lifetime?
You know how when you are on an airplane, the flight attendant tells you to look for the nearest exit, “Keeping in mind that it may be behind you.” Our message today is: the perfect college for you may be one you have never heard of yet! “So, how do you find that perfect college?”
Don’t think you need to have created a “list” for yourself yet. We will be doing that together, based on several elements: our discussion, research, (mine and yours— and also my personal experience. I would like to encourage you to set up a college search, try www.cappex.com or , www.collegeboard.org [Big Future] also is a good option—or try both. You don’t need to choose or narrow these down—just run the search and print). After our meeting, I will be sending a list of “colleges to consider” to begin the process, in hope that, come fall, students will apply to a range of schools every one of which they would be thrilled to attend.
One place I will likely not be looking (and definitely not using as a primary resource) is the “U.S. News and World Report” college ranking! Why is this? High school counselors have long said that the rankings are of very little help, since they are designed more for the colleges’ bragging rights than a tool for sound, student-centered decision-making. For example, each college is comprised of different schools with multiple majors—a generic ranking can’t possibly address these differences. Moreover, it completely fails to take into consideration individual student learning styles, preferences, psychology, social needs, etc.
To add to this, the rankings have had the effect, since their introduction approximately 30 years ago, of creating among colleges a race to see who can move up in the rankings by increasing “selectivity” (Vanderbilt had 9000 applications in 1994 and nearly 30,000 this year, so naturally they will take a smaller percentage of applicants) “increasing yield” (often by putting more students on a “wait list”), or “raising average SAT/ACT scores.” Unfortunately, many colleges have allowed their ranking formula to drive their goals and policies. This has affected how financial aid is awarded, for example, and a precipitous rise in acceptance of students in the Early Decision pool
And of course the inevitable happened: such highly respected colleges as Tulane, George Washington, Emory, Bucknell, Claremont McKenna and Iona falsified data in such ways as inflating SAT scores, disguising yield and retention rates, and misrepresenting student-faculty ratios. Iona College in New Rochelle, NY submitted years of falsified data, raising their ranking from 50th to 30th. In some cases administrators resigned, in some cases the colleges lost their ranking. (Sources: The Washington Post, 2-2-13; Symantec Education 2-20-12; timesunion.com 2-5-12; The Chronicle of Higher Education 11-8-11)
But the message is that rankings alone can’t begin to tell the story of what is college is like, let alone whether it is right for you! Now, are Tulane, GW, Emory, Bucknell, Claremont McKenna and Iona top notch colleges with a lot to offer? Absolutely they are! But not because of their arbitrary ranking! Looking deeper, we find commitment to undergraduate education, well-kept campuses, happy, intellectually stimulated students and successful alumni. Every time I have visited a college and met with students, the number one reason they give for choosing their college is that it “seemed like the perfect place for me.”
Never has anyone said, “Because it was highly ranked by U.S. News and World Report.”