to Evaluate Colleges
provided by Kaplan Test Prep
Between all the unsolicited mail you're getting from Noidea U.,
college fairs, and everyone you know offering their opinions,
how do you evaluate which school would be best for you? Here are
10 handy guidelines to follow to avoid common pitfalls and make
the right decision.
Pay little (if any) attention to school rankings.
There are as many ranked lists of colleges out there
as there are colleges themselves. You shouldn't put much
credence in these us—they're way too subjective to give you
any valuable insight into a particular college or university.
And they change drastically year by year.
Also, ignore the student/faculty ratio.
Trust us—it's not going to matter whether
there are 4 or 400 students in your biology lecture class.
Generally, the student/faculty ratio reported by campuses is
meaningless; it's an average: there are going to be far more
students in an intro level lecture than in, say, a freshman
writing workshop. (But do pay attention to what percentage of
classes are taught by grad students us—if it's high, be wary).
Some stats are worth noting.
Namely, you'll want to know a school's
freshman year retention rate (should be 93% or better) and the
alumni giving rate (should be around 60%). These both reflect
how students feel about the school us—whether they like it
enough to stay, and then whether they remember it fondly enough
to give money back in the future. If you're applying for
financial aid, check the average percentage of demonstrated need
met us—it will tell you more than just the dollar amount of
the average aid package.
This is where you will be living for at least
4 years. Is the food edible? Does the school guarantee housing?
How are the dorms? Are the bathrooms clean? If you don't think
you'd be able to live there, you probably shouldn't try. This is
why campus visits are so important.
Ask about other colleges.
This is a question for an admissions officer.
You should ask, "What other colleges would I be interested
in?" It's not necessarily something to bring up at an
admissions interview, but on a standard campus visit, it's a
good way to gauge the type of school this college sees itself as
being, as well as a good way to expand your list of target
Check campus crime statistics.
New federal legislation requires colleges to
produce and report campus crime stats. Try to read between the
lines on this one us—if you are in love with a school that has
a "high" crime rate, do some investigating us—that
rate could be attributed to nothing more than a rash of bike
thefts. Don't hesitate to contact campus security on your own to
Talk to alumni from your high school.
Or contact someone from your high school who's
currently attending a particular college or university. Asking
just any student at a college their opinion of the school can be
helpful, but it doesn't offer the same insight as would someone
who comes from the same town, same school, etc.
How wired is the campus?
This goes beyond the number of computers in
the school's computer lab. Is there a T1 connection in all dorm
Check that price again.
A state school at first glance may seem a
fraction of the cost of a private college or university. But do
students at state schools generally graduate in four years? As a
rule, not many do. Check that state school's four-year
graduation rate before choosing it over a private school for
more tips on financing your college education,
Identify the 3 most important attributes of the ideal school.
You should spend time thinking about the
"must-haves" of a college. For some, location is an
important factor. For others, size (big or small) is a
consideration. Some students don't mind if their school doesn't
focus on athletics if students seem to have a strong interest in
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