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If national universities strive to be in the "Top 100," what do liberal arts colleges strive for? What about regional schools?


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7 minutes ago, pitterpatter said:

Yes, this! I'm trying to figure out what the middle ground is. At what rank does quality and overall value dissipate?

 

Researching colleges requires far more nuance than ranking.  Ranking can be completely irrelevant.  I know that there has been zero correlation between rank and career goal achievement for my kids.  My oldest ds is a chemE with an excellent career who attended a U ranked in the low 200s.  What really mattered is that industry actively recruits grads from the U.  What industry values is more important than what USWNR values.  Industry is seeking employees that are able to meet their needs.  USNWR rankings (and the schools playing that game) are focused on a whole list of other criteria that are not directly related to UG education.

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@pitterpatter I would spend more time researching common data sets (CDS or IPEDs data) to better understand U's profiles.  For example, here is Iowa's CDS: cds_2021_1.pdf (uiowa.edu)  There is a lot of info packed into the cds.  Section C will give you info on academic profile of accepted students and academic/non-academic factors considered in admission.

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17 minutes ago, pitterpatter said:

Yes, this! I'm trying to figure out what the middle ground is. At what rank does quality and overall value dissipate?

 

The rankings don't really reflect quality and value. The rankings are trying to condense a ton of things into a single list. They don't speak to individual programs. They don't speak to the specific things that students are looking for - if a student wants more internships vs. more opportunities for research, it doesn't tell you which schools have what sorts of approaches. They especially don't reflect value. In most fields, a degree is enough and once you've been working for a few years, where the degree came from means next to nothing. Even if a student goes into a more academic field, where they did their masters matters more. And kids doing undergrad at lesser known schools get in just fine. 

There's a sort of snobbery going on sometimes with people hyper focused on the rankings. I think it's tied to actual fears - that your kid won't be well connected enough for jobs or well educated enough for grad schools - but that's highly unlikely if you choose a school that has a good program in your area of interest (again, that's more about fit). Or maybe it's that your smart kid who did all this intellectual learning in high school could end up with peers who bore them academically. And there are schools where that could happen. But that's why fit is important. If it's important for a student to be challenged and have an atmosphere where they can have intellectual peers, then they want to look at schools where that will happen where the student body is a group they can fit in with. And some schools with a decent rank won't be challenging while others without a decent rank could be. If a student applies widely to schools across the spectrum of acceptance rates that could all be good fits, then they'll almost certainly find a good match.

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Yes, yes!! I've recently discovered the info about the Common Data Set. (And, how to use it to determine the probability of being awarded merit aid.)  I was just hoping for an easier way to narrow the search. I'm sure it will get easier when DD hones in on what she wants to study. DD is passionate about what she cares about, but she's never been super competitive. I doubt she'll be one to want to go to a specific college based on prestige alone. She's always been more of a niche girl.

I have an appointment...gotta go.

12 minutes ago, 8filltheheart said:

@pitterpatter I would spend more time researching common data sets (CDS or IPEDs data) to better understand U's profiles.  For example, here is Iowa's CDS: cds_2021_1.pdf (uiowa.edu)  There is a lot of info packed into the cds.  Section C will give you info on academic profile of accepted students and academic/non-academic factors considered in admission.

 

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5 hours ago, Farrar said:

The rankings don't really reflect quality and value. The rankings are trying to condense a ton of things into a single list. They don't speak to individual programs. They don't speak to the specific things that students are looking for - if a student wants more internships vs. more opportunities for research, it doesn't tell you which schools have what sorts of approaches. They especially don't reflect value. In most fields, a degree is enough and once you've been working for a few years, where the degree came from means next to nothing. Even if a student goes into a more academic field, where they did their masters matters more. And kids doing undergrad at lesser known schools get in just fine. 

There's a sort of snobbery going on sometimes with people hyper focused on the rankings. I think it's tied to actual fears - that your kid won't be well connected enough for jobs or well educated enough for grad schools - but that's highly unlikely if you choose a school that has a good program in your area of interest (again, that's more about fit). Or maybe it's that your smart kid who did all this intellectual learning in high school could end up with peers who bore them academically. And there are schools where that could happen. But that's why fit is important. If it's important for a student to be challenged and have an atmosphere where they can have intellectual peers, then they want to look at schools where that will happen where the student body is a group they can fit in with. And some schools with a decent rank won't be challenging while others without a decent rank could be. If a student applies widely to schools across the spectrum of acceptance rates that could all be good fits, then they'll almost certainly find a good match.

This! But as a parent trying to research things, I can tell you reading websites isn't very useful other than figuring out if they offer majors. 

I am a product of small (or shall we say tiny) liberal arts schools. I have a strong bias toward them because I think academic advising, mentorship, hand holding, are all invaluable for young kids on this journey, or at least kids like my older one. To me it's almost as important as teaching. This is completely absent at large state schools in CA as far as I can tell. People look at me weird when I even ask those questions. My friend's DD went to Loyola Marymount and absolutely loved her time there. We shall see if it gets her into med school. Fingers crossed here. However her friends (many on top of their class) have been having a very hard time getting into grad schools. Loyola was on our list. Now I am rethinking. See what I am saying? We all know rankings are stupid, but doing college research for details isn't as easy as I thought it would be. Honestly that's why people gravitate to those rankings. It's easier to say, oh, you love math, U Chicago. We all know you get top notch education in math at U Chicago. But knowing if you get that at a place like say Oberlin College is another game. So I do think large schools win out because there is perceived quality. 

 

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42 minutes ago, Roadrunner said:

This! But as a parent trying to research things, I can tell you reading websites isn't very useful other than figuring out if they offer majors. 

I am a product of small (or shall we say tiny) liberal arts schools. I have a strong bias toward them because I think academic advising, mentorship, hand holding, are all invaluable for young kids on this journey, or at least kids like my older one. To me it's almost as important as teaching. This is completely absent at large state schools in CA as far as I can tell. People look at me weird when I even ask those questions. ...

, but doing college research for details isn't as easy as I thought it would be. 

This is info best obtained from the academic department you're interested in. Check their website, their facebook, take a tour.
The general college tour or school website won't get you those answers. But when families tour my department, I will tell them in detail: how advising works, that the advisors are faculty in the department who know the coursework and meet with every student every semester; that any student interested in research will have an opportunity to be involved; how research is built into the curriculum; where our graduates go. What support specifically is offered for the introductory classes. What the class sizes are. Etc.
Any parent checking out my department's facebook page will see that our students win prizes at the campus-wide research competition and attend conferences to present their undergrad research, or that a former grad student has just landed a faculty position. They will see that we're proud of our students, our faculty, our staff. That we celebrate their successes They will learn something about our departmental culture.

Edited by regentrude
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13 minutes ago, regentrude said:

This is info best obtained from the academic department you're interested in. Check their website, their facebook, take a tour.
The general college tour or school website won't get you those answers. But when families tour my department, I will tell them in detail: how advising works, that the advisors are faculty in the department who know the coursework and meet with every student every semester; that any student interested in research will have an opportunity to be involved; how research is built into the curriculum; where our graduates go. What support specifically is offered for the introductory classes. What the class sizes are. Etc.
Any parent checking out my department's facebook page will see that our students win prizes at the campus-wide research competition and attend conferences to present their undergrad research, or that a former grad student has just landed a faculty position. They will see that we're proud of our students, our faculty, our staff. That we celebrate their successes They will learn something about our departmental culture.

That’s basically what I have been doing on websites.
 

But that still doesn’t say much about the quality of teaching. 
 

Visiting schools while living in CA is very difficult. It’s not just money, but time as well. 

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2 minutes ago, Roadrunner said:

But that still doesn’t say much about the quality of teaching. 

Not sure if you'll ever get a great picture of quality of teaching. Every school is going to have great teachers and terrible teachers, even more so at the university/college level because there are going to be faculty there for reasons other than teaching. 

A professor once told me that to know how rigorous a university/college is going to be is too look at the textbook they are using and compare it to schools that you consider to be rigorous (in this case he suggested Ivy league). Chances are he said if they use the same textbook they are going to cover the same topics. Also at that level of education you will have to learn from the textbook not just from your lecturer. I'm not sure if that'll be different for humanities/liberal arts. I definitely found the textbooks were more important than the professors for engineering, in terms of learning material. Professors were great for mentoring in life, providing opportunities and letting me know when I was on the wrong track.  

As an aside, I actually liked being "just a number"  at a large university. It was a huge weight off my shoulders for 4 years where I wasn't a woman in a male dominated field. After graduation I could say all my grades were based on my work and not my looks because  my projects, homework and tests only ever had my number on it and not my name. The first 2 years were definitely full of 100+ people (150 - 400+) classes but my last 2 years in my bachelor's program were mostly <20 people per class.    

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39 minutes ago, Clarita said:

Not sure if you'll ever get a great picture of quality of teaching. Every school is going to have great teachers and terrible teachers, even more so at the university/college level because there are going to be faculty there for reasons other than teaching. 

A professor once told me that to know how rigorous a university/college is going to be is too look at the textbook they are using and compare it to schools that you consider to be rigorous (in this case he suggested Ivy league). Chances are he said if they use the same textbook they are going to cover the same topics. Also at that level of education you will have to learn from the textbook not just from your lecturer. I'm not sure if that'll be different for humanities/liberal arts. I definitely found the textbooks were more important than the professors for engineering, in terms of learning material. Professors were great for mentoring in life, providing opportunities and letting me know when I was on the wrong track.  

Yes to the bolded. I don't think you'll find a school with all great teachers and one with all bad ones.

I don't agree on the textbook though. I can teach vastly different level of classes using the same textbook. You can create exams that are boilerplate homework regurgitation or exams where students have to think outside the box and make inferences and work problems with high complexity. 
In many textbooks in physics, for example, homework problems are rated by level of difficulty. You can create a class where the assignments are all easy problems and a class with all hard ones. I do not think the textbook alone is meaningful information since you won't know how it is being used.

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1 hour ago, Roadrunner said:

But that still doesn’t say much about the quality of teaching.  

I do not think you can make blanket statements about the quality of teaching per institution.
Each school will have good and bad teachers. Even one course may have sections with good and some with bad teachers.
Knowing whether teachers are tenured or non-tenured also does not allow any inference about the quality of the teaching.

My DD attended an extremely selective elite school. She had outstanding teachers and crappy teachers.
I teach at a public uni. We have excellent teachers and horrible ones.

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13 minutes ago, regentrude said:

In many textbooks in physics, for example, homework problems are rated by level of difficulty. You can create a class where the assignments are all easy problems and a class with all hard ones. I do not think the textbook alone is meaningful information since you won't know how it is being used.

I guess I'm naive then. I just thought at the college/university level they would expect you to be at the top of your educational life, so there would just be the one level.

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28 minutes ago, regentrude said:

I do not think you can make blanket statements about the quality of teaching per institution.
Each school will have good and bad teachers. Even one course may have sections with good and some with bad teachers.
Knowing whether teachers are tenured or non-tenured also does not allow any inference about the quality of the teaching.

My DD attended an extremely selective elite school. She had outstanding teachers and crappy teachers.
I teach at a public uni. We have excellent teachers and horrible ones.

Yes,  it you can say that math taught at Chicago isn’t the same as in my community college, where my kid had a 130% average. 

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10 minutes ago, Clarita said:

I guess I'm naive then. I just thought at the college/university level they would expect you to be at the top of your educational life, so there would just be the one level.

No, absolutely not. Differences between different institutions for a class that has the same name can be huge. "Calculus 1" or "College Physics" means nothing without seeing the rigor of the assignments and assessments.

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1 hour ago, regentrude said:

No, absolutely not. Differences between different institutions for a class that has the same name can be huge. "Calculus 1" or "College Physics" means nothing without seeing the rigor of the assignments and assessments.

So is there a way to research that aspect? 

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24 minutes ago, Roadrunner said:

So is there a way to research that aspect? 

Not really. That's where ranking and reputation do come in. A school that rejects 90+% of students can cherry-pick among the top students and will have more rigorous classes than a non-selective school, because it has the better prepared students. The less selective a college is, the more weak students it will accept, and classwork will have to be structured so that these students can succeed. A school with a high acceptance rate has to teach differently, because otherwise a large portion of students would fail.
Your best bet is to talk to recent graduates from the schools and see what they have to say.

Edited by regentrude
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2 hours ago, Clarita said:

I guess I'm naive then. I just thought at the college/university level they would expect you to be at the top of your educational life, so there would just be the one level.

No. There are not just differences between colleges but even for courses within a college. For example, there might be multiple different levels of Calc I, ranging from a more theoretical proof-based class to a more applied one for life science majors and one or two in between.

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@pitterpatter   I have not read all of the responses. The title includes National Universities wanting to be in the Top 100 of the rankings. Yes, they would like that. They would be even happier to be in the top 25 or the top 50.

The truth is there are so many National Universities that IMO being in the top 300 or possibly above that is a very good school. An example I am familiar with is TTU (Texas Tech University) which is tied for 217 on the U.S. News ratings of National Universities. A very good school, with lots of competition.

 

 

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On 7/19/2021 at 6:08 AM, pitterpatter said:

Yes, this! I'm trying to figure out what the middle ground is. At what rank does quality and overall value dissipate?

 

Another thing to watch out for is that the overall rank of a university glosses over the ranks of the individual departments.  This example is an overgeneralization, but a #1 ranked school for performing arts is probably not where you want to earn your EE degree.  Or vice versa.  (Or maybe it is, if it excels in both areas, in that case, you probably don't want to send your future chemistry major there.)  

And with that caveat, I think value sort of dissipates as you go down the rankings but what I would say that a school ranked #27 is not really much different from a school ranked #35, for example.  But that #27 school is probably much better and probably much more competitive than a school ranked #227.  

Or maybe not depending on the department.  

Sigh.  It's so hard.  

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32 minutes ago, daijobu said:

Another thing to watch out for is that the overall rank of a university glosses over the ranks of the individual departments.  This example is an overgeneralization, but a #1 ranked school for performing arts is probably not where you want to earn your EE degree.  Or vice versa.  (Or maybe it is, if it excels in both areas, in that case, you probably don't want to send your future chemistry major there.)  

And with that caveat, I think value sort of dissipates as you go down the rankings but what I would say that a school ranked #27 is not really much different from a school ranked #35, for example.  But that #27 school is probably much better and probably much more competitive than a school ranked #227.  

Or maybe not depending on the department.  

Sigh.  It's so hard.  

Competitive for admissions,  absolutely. Career breaker? Absolutely not for 99% of careers or grad school admissions. For jobs and grad school, with the exception of a handful of employers, what students do is far more important than where they attended. 

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4 hours ago, 8filltheheart said:

Competitive for admissions,  absolutely. Career breaker? Absolutely not for 99% of careers or grad school admissions. For jobs and grad school, with the exception of a handful of employers, what students do is far more important than where they attended

Agreed!  

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