What makes a top college? Nobel winners? PhDs? Rhodes scholars?
What exactly makes a college considered a "top school," one of those schools on the tip of everyone’s tongue?
There are, of course, various rankings of colleges that look at different measures, including average SAT scores, selectivity rate, etc. The U.S. News & World Report annual list, the best known, has a list of criteria, though 25 percent is a subjective "peer evaluation," in which college officials are asked to rank other schools. My colleague, Dan deVise wrote in today's Washington Post about college presidents opting out of the "reputation survey."
This question was considered recently by a group of college admissions counselors in high schools across the country in a series of e-mails. Here is one from Frank Betkowski, associate director of college counseling at Mercersburg Academy, an independent college-preparatory boarding school in south-central Pennsylvania:
"I always wonder where, for example, Sewanee [the University of the South in Tennessee] falls on people’s lists. Is it or isn’t it a top college? Despite its two-thirds admit rate, it’s one of the nation’s leading producers of Rhodes Scholars (adjusted for size or not), having produced more than many other schools that are generally considered ‘top’ colleges (I won’t mention them by name, but I recall that a one or more belong to a famous athletic league in the Northeast).
"And what about Reed [College in Oregon]? It has seen its admit rate drop considerably of late, but has always been one of the top (if not THE) top producer of eventual PhDs (as a percentage of its student body). Did all those PhDs in the past not qualify it as a top college? Is it only now that it’s much harder to get into that it’s even nipping at the heels of the ‘top’ colleges? (I think St. John’s College, despite its continually high admit rate, rubs elbows with Reed in this regard.)
"And then there’s the University of Chicago. It used to be that Ivy-bound kids applied to Chicago as a ‘back up’. Its admit rate has plummeted in the last several years. I once read in the NYT that Chicago has had, throughout its history, more Nobel laureates on its faculty than any other university. Did all those Nobel prizes not count for anything? Is Chicago only recently a ‘top’ college?
"And let’s not forget tiny Ursinus [College in Pennsylvania] whose MCAT average gives the ‘top’ colleges a run for their money.
"Or, do too many people simply suffer from what I like to call “the Groucho Marx syndrome?” "I don’t care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members."
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| May 3, 2010; 6:30 AM ET
Categories: College Admissions | Tags: college admissions, top colleges
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