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56

DECEMBER 2014

|

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

EDUCATION SUPPLEMENT

J

ust as your high school

student begins his senior

year, guess what pops up on

the newsstand?

at’s right;

it’s the

U.S. News &World

Report

annual special issue

of America’s top colleges.

Started 30 years ago, this list of ranked

colleges has become a huge phenomenon

among high school seniors, their parents,

alumni, and the colleges and universities

themselves. Although newer lists now

exist, published by

Washington Monthly

and others, the

U.S. News

rankings are still

the most popular.

But how helpful are they? Let’s take

them apart to see how they work.

en

we’ll look at some alternative lists of U.S.

colleges that may be more useful in nd-

ing the right school.

Francesca Kelly is a freelance writer, editor and college application tutor. She served as AFSA

News editor from 2009 to 2012 and is a frequent contributor to the

Journal

. She is married to

Ambassador Ian Kelly, an FSO since 1985.

published, it has become enormously

successful, and

U.S. News

has expanded

rankings to include high schools, graduate

schools and other institutions, as well as a

new “Best Global Universities” list.

eir

Education Web page receives 30 million

visits per month.

U.S. News

o ers a list of about 1,800

colleges and universities, which constitute

roughly half of the total number of higher

learning institutions in the United States.

ese are divided into four categories:

• National liberal arts colleges

• National universities

• Regional colleges (North, South,

Midwest and West)

• Regional universities (North, South,

Midwest and West)

What’s In the

U.S. News

Ranking?

e following factors go into deter-

mining a college’s score, and hence, its

ranking. Each factor’s weight is given as a

U.S. News & World Report

’s

Golden Egg

U.S. News

began ranking colleges back

in 1983, based on a simple questionnaire

sent to college presidents asking which

colleges they considered “the best.” In

1987, the publication became a stand-

alone, annual issue of the magazine, and

colleges began to take notice and demand

more objective methodology.

U.S. News

then expanded its opinion survey to

include deans and administrators, and

added criteria such as SAT scores of appli-

cants and the colleges’ retention rates.

Over the years, the magazine’s editors

have met regularly with college o cials,

guidance counselors and others in an

e ort to respond to criticism, revise their

methodology and expand their market.

Since the “Best Colleges” list was rst

American

College Rankings

HOW THEY WORK AND WHAT THEY MEAN

This in-depth look at U.S. college rankings o ers a fresh perspective on the high school

student’s college search and a wealth of resources to help find the “right” school.

BY FRANCESCA KE L LY