Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

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Our Counselors Answered:

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

Roland Allen

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

I think that guidebooks are one tool students should use in researching colleges. However, I hope that students don’t overly rely on the opinions of others. Personal research is important if a student is to find a college that is a good match. I’m not a fan of rankings because they are subjective. Rankings offer a shortcut that may cause students to overlook learning about colleges that might be good for them. Also, rankings build the myth that there are winners and losers in the college admission process, which is certainly not true. Finding the right college is about match, which is not something that comes with a ranking.

Roland Allen

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

I think that guidebooks are one tool students should use in researching colleges. However, I hope that students don’t overly rely on the opinions of others. Personal research is important if a student is to find a college that is a good match. I’m not a fan of rankings because they are subjective. Rankings offer a shortcut that may cause students to overlook learning about colleges that might be good for them. Also, rankings build the myth that there are winners and losers in the college admission process, which is certainly not true. Finding the right college is about match.

Roland Allen

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

I think that guidebooks are one tool students should use in researching colleges. However, I hope that students don’t overly rely on the opinions of others. Personal research is important if a student is to find a college that is a good match. I’m not a fan of rankings because they are subjective. Rankings offer a shortcut that may cause students to overlook learning about colleges that might be good for them. Also, rankings build the myth that there are winners and losers in the college admission process, which is certainly not true. Finding the right college is about match.

Zahir RobbCollege CounselorThe Right Fit College

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

All of these items provide a good starting point to learn about new schools and increase your exposure, but I wouldn’t put too much stock in the advice you get from these sources as the real “guidebook” is your own experience. Use the information you gather from these sources to help generate questions you may have about the school. If the rankings are low for a school’s math program, make sure you sit in on a class when you visit; if your uncle tells you that the students have an attitude, walk around the school and talk to a few. kids.

Susan Knoppow

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

Everything and anything can be useful to select a school if used intelligently. Keep in mind that someone else wrote a guidebook, your relative is not you and a ranking does not mean a school is or is not a good choice for you. So yes, read everything. Yes, talk to relatives who went to a school you are considering. Yes, ask people questions. In the end, you are the only one who can know which school is right for you. Apply to schools you are qualified to attend. Trust your gut. Listen to others with a healthy respect. Choose a school that is a good fit for you.

Andrew BelascoCEOCollege Transitions LLC

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

Rankings provide a good introduction to the “hierarchy” of higher education and prove as an initial means of gauging the selectivity and resources of a particular institution. However, I would advise against relying on them to judge the quality and/or desirability of a college. Rankings, such as those provided by U.S. News, are largely based on student inputs–in other words, they can measure the credentials of incoming students or an institution’s investments in instruction and research, but they often cannot provide insight into an institution’s value-added impact (i.e., how the institution actually adds to the student’s learning, skills, abilities, etc.). Guidebooks can be an excellent source of information for students seeking to learn more about the offerings and environment of a college. They often provide useful information about strong programs, important admission indicators, and social/extracurricular opportunities. However, they also have a couple drawbacks. First guidebooks are usually limited to a certain set of highly competitive institutions. Second, many guidebooks are written from the perspective of someone who is not currently enrolled at the institution, and who may describe an institution in a vague or unrealistically positive manner. Therefore, in addition to reading guidebooks, it is also important that you conduct your own research. Meet with a college’s faculty and staff, talk with current students, and if possible, take time to visit campus. Relatives can also provide valuable insight into prospective colleges, especially if they have previous experience in higher education. However, it is important that prospective college students also seek out other individuals who may be able to provide a more objective, intimate and/or recent account of a college’s offerings.

Diana HansonCommon Sense College CounselingCollege Mentors

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

They certainly can be, as long as you make them one part of your college search. You’ll want to make sure that you look at several, that you understand what criteria the book or site uses to assign rank, and so on. They’re all a good way to start investigating, but not the best way to make your final selection. When you’re deciding which college to attend, take in offered information from trusted sources, and then make sure you’re spending time at the college’s website, talking to alumni or current students, visting the campus, and talking to admissions.

Mary O’MalleyIndependent School CounselorMary O’Malley

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

All information is useful to a point. The prospective student needs to be able to articulately explain what they want in a college (big, small, rural, urban, etc) before soliciting information from outside sources. Family members are going to give you the best bits of their experiences–hardly the whole picture. Guide books will give facts and figures. Rankings are so vastly different that you have to know the matrix behind how they came up with the rankings. If a student knows how to wade through those pieces of information, they are useful.

Mary O’MalleyIndependent School CounselorMary O’Malley

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

All information is useful to a point. The prospective student needs to be able to articulately explain what they want in a college (big, small, rural, urban, etc) before soliciting information from outside sources. Family members are going to give you the best bits of their experiences–hardly the whole picture. Guide books will give facts and figures. Rankings are so vastly different that you have to know the matrix behind how they came up with the rankings. If a student knows how to wade through those pieces of information, with proper respect toward Uncle Division One’s glory days, they are useful.

James SimonCollege Counselor

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

Gathering information from multiple sources can be very helpful in the search process. However, you should always make informed decisions about what is best for you. Students should make well informed decisions based off multiple sources and after doing their own research. Students who spend time thinking and research the various colleges tend to have a better college experience.

Katie MacConnellHigh School CounselorSchool District of Philadelphia

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

Sure! Any information you can find out about a school is useful in your decision making. Be careful not to make your decision solely on the opinions of others, but to take this into account with your own findings. There is nothing like talking to admissions reps, actual students, and actually visiting the campus. They are definitely the best ways to decide if the school will fit your academic and personal goals.

Deborah HellerDirector of College CounselingBeacon School

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

Are they useful, yes. Are they determining factors, probably not. At the beginning of your college search these should be part of the myriad of different sources you use for information. Ultimately its about finding the right fit for YOU, not your mom or your great aunt. Rankings are typically not based on the factors that might be the most important to you as a student. Visiting the campus is always the best way to see if the college is right one for you, but if that is impossible certainly speaking to current students there and using expert guidebooks are helpful.

Andrew BelascoCEOCollege Transitions LLC

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

Rankings provide a good introduction to the “hierarchy” of higher education and prove as initial means of gauging the selectivity and resources of a particular institution. However, I would advise against relying on them solely to judge the quality and/or desirability of a college. Rankings, such as those provided by U.S. News, are largely based on student inputs–in other words, they can measure the credentials of incoming students or an institution’s investments in instruction and research, but they often cannot provide insight into an institution’s value-added impact (i.e., how the institution actually adds to the students learning, skills, abilities, etc.). Guidebooks can be an excellent source of information for students seeking to learn more about the offerings and environment of a set of colleges. They often provide useful information about strong programs, important admission indicators, and social/extracurricular opportunities. However, they also have a couple drawbacks. First guidebooks are usually limited to a certain set of highly competitive institutions. Second, many guidebooks are written from the perspective of someone who is not currently enrolled at the institution, and who may describe an institution in a vague or unrealistically positive manner. Therefore, in addition, to reading guidebooks, it is also important that you conduct your own research. Meet with a college’s faculty and staff, talk with current students, and if possible, take time to visit campus. Relatives can also provide valuable insight into prospective colleges, especially if they have previous experience in higher education. However, it important that prospective college students seek out other individuals who may be able to provide a more objective, intimate and/or recent account of a college’s offerings.

Andrew BelascoCEOCollege Transitions LLC

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

Rankings provide a good introduction to the “hierarchy” of higher education and prove as initial means of gauging the selectivity and resources of a particular institution. However, I would advise against relying on them solely to judge the quality and/or desirability of a college. Rankings, such as those provided by U.S. News, are largely based on student inputs–in other words, they can measure the credentials of incoming students or an institution’s investments in instruction and research, but they often cannot provide insight into an institution’s value-added impact (i.e., how the institution actually adds to the students learning, skills, abilities, etc.). Guidebooks can be an excellent source of information for students seeking to learn more about the offerings and environment of a set of colleges. They often provide useful information about strong programs, important admission indicators, and social/extracurricular opportunities. However, they also have a couple drawbacks. First guidebooks are usually limited to a certain set of highly competitive institutions. Second, many guidebooks are written from the perspective of someone who is not currently enrolled at the institution, and who may describe an institution in a vague or unrealistically positive manner. Therefore, in addition, to reading guidebooks, it is also important that you conduct your own research. Meet with a college’s faculty and staff, talk with current students, and if possible, take time to visit campus. Relatives can also provide valuable insight into prospective colleges, especially if they have previous experience in higher education. However, it is important that prospective college students seek out other individuals who may be able to provide a more objective, intimate and/or recent account of a college’s offerings.

Andrew BelascoCEOCollege Transitions LLC

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

Rankings provide a good introduction to the “hierarchy” of higher education and prove as an initial means of gauging the selectivity and resources of a particular institution. However, I would advise against relying on them solely to judge the quality and/or desirability of a college. Rankings, such as those provided by U.S. News, are largely based on student inputs–in other words, they can measure the credentials of incoming students or an institution’s investments in instruction and research, but they often cannot provide insight into an institution’s value-added impact (i.e., how the institution actually adds to the student’s learning, skills, abilities, etc.). Guidebooks can be an excellent source of information for students seeking to learn more about the offerings and environment of a set of colleges. They often provide useful information about strong programs, important admission indicators, and social/extracurricular opportunities. However, they also have a couple drawbacks. First guidebooks are usually limited to a certain set of highly competitive institutions. Second, many guidebooks are written from the perspective of someone who is not currently enrolled at the institution, and who may describe an institution in a vague or unrealistically positive manner. Therefore, in addition, to reading guidebooks, it is also important that you conduct your own research. Meet with a college’s faculty and staff, talk with current students, and if possible, take time to visit campus. Relatives can also provide valuable insight into prospective colleges, especially if they have previous experience in higher education. However, it is important that prospective college students also seek out other individuals who may be able to provide a more objective, intimate and/or recent account of a college’s offerings.

IRMA TORRES

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

YES THEY WILL PROVIDE YOU WITH INFORMATION ABOUT THEIR RANKING AND IF THEY ARE RECOGNIZED. LAST THING YOU WANT IS TO GET A DEGREE BY AN INSTITUION NO ONE RECOGNIZE OR WORST RECOGNIZES FOR BAD PREPARATION. DO THE HOME WORK SEARCH THE INTERNET AND OTHER MEDIA TOOLS FOR COMPARISON.

IRMA TORRES

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

YES THEY WILL PROVIDE YOU WITH INFORMATION ABOUT THEIR RANKING AND IF THEY ARE RECOGNIZED. LAST THING YOU WANT IS TO GET A DEGREE BY AN INSTITUION NO ONE RECOGNIZE OR WORST RECOGNIZES FOR BAD PREPARATION. DO THE HOME WORK SEARCH THE INTERNET AND OTHER MEDIA TOOLS FOR COMPARISON.

Laura M.S.

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

I think that doing your own homework is important, and that can include looking at guidebooks and speaking with different people. It is important to remember, however, that what another person might value, you may not, so keep it in perspective. A college visit is a great way for a student to determine if a certain college is a good fit for them. No guidebook or conversation can determine that.

Natalie Sanchez CamposOwnerNext Step LLC

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

Yes, of course. Various sources of information can be useful in choosing a college. Just be sure that you don’t choose or apply to schools that you have no interest in attending. The effort of transferring can be intense.

John Sy

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

They can be but it has to be part of comprehensive research done on a particular college or university. Don’t simply rely on one or two things to determine whether or not a school is right for you. Visit the school, peruse the web site, email professors and students…these are other excellent ways to figure out if a school is right for you.

Joyce Vining MorganFounder and college counselorEducational Transitions

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

Guidebooks can give you general information – a bit more out-of-date than college websites, given that gathering the information, collating and publishing it, takes time. So the most current information will be on college websites, but guidebooks let you browse through information about a lot of colleges quickly – and the information is current within a couple of years if the publishing date. Some guidebooks are individually authored, or written by a group of individuals – so you get their opinions. Ed Fiske, for example, has made gathering information about college his career; the contributors to guides written by students are not so expert, but have recently attended the college. Know through whose eyes you are viewing the college. Relatives know what they know – a lot, or a little, and you know the relatives, so you know through whose eyes you are viewing the college. Rankings sell magazines – I’m not sure they are of much more use than that. The data is not always reliable, and attempts to quantify the college experience are iffy at best. Since the rankings began, colleges have tried to game the system – the most recent egregious examples are chronicled in this February 1 New York Times article: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/01/education/gaming-the-college-rankings.html?_r=1&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha23

Joyce Vining MorganFounder and college counselorEducational Transitions

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

Guidebooks can give you general information – a bit more out-of-date than college websites, given that gathering the information, collating and publishing it, takes time. So the most current information will be on college websites, but guidebooks let you browse through information about a lot of colleges quickly – and the information is current within a couple of years if the publishing date. Some guidebooks are individually authored, or written by a group of individuals – so you get their opinions. Ed Fiske, for example, has made gathering information about college his career; the contributors to guides written by students are not so expert, but have recently attended the college. Know through whose eyes you are viewing the college. Relatives know what they know – a lot, or a little, and you know the relatives, so you know through whose eyes you are viewing the college. Rankings sell magazines – I’m not sure they are of much more use than that. The data is not always reliable, and attempts to quantify the college experience are iffy at best. Since the rankings began, colleges have tried to game the system – the most recent egregious examples are chronicled in this February 1 New York Times article: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/01/education/gaming-the-college-rankings.html?_r=1&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha23

Ellen [email protected]OwnerEllen Richards Admissions Consulting

Summer reading list for college bound students: guides to help you decide

Guidebooks can be helpful in choosing a school if for not other reason than they offer the statistics that are helpful to students when narrowing the college list. They also offer quick summaries of colleges that provide the quick analysis that students need to keep a school on the list or take it off. For example, if a college is primarily devoted to business majors, a student who wants to major in art might find that information useful. Also, students may choose prospective colleges based on the number of undergraduate students; a guidebook offers that information. One book that I find indispensable is “Rugg’s Recommendations on the Colleges” (Frederick Young). Relatives can sometimes sway an applicant’s opinion of a school before a students even sees it or researches it. For this reason, it’s best to avoid subjective opinions altogether and make decisions based on personal interaction with representatives and students at the school, research, and visits to the campus. To that end, students should not be swayed by the rankings. Most of the time these statistics are self serving and inaccurate and do not demonstrate anything of substance about a college. Too often students make decisions to apply or not apply to colleges and doing this is often a huge mistake.

Ryan AldrichDirector of College CounselingThe White Mountain School

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

Guidebooks such as the Fiske Guide and a few others can be very helpful in providing an objective view on colleges and universities. This type of research can help supplement college visits and online research. While relatives often have words of wisdom and recommendations on colleges, students need to keep in mind that this view is only representative of one person’s experience. Since relatives most likely know the student well, it is helpful to hear what they think may be a good match, but remember, don’t let these opinions sway your judgment too much as you need to make your own opinion. Rankings are not a good way to assess whether a school is a good match. The rankings are subjective and only include criteria deemed worthwhile by that respective organization. Just because a school is ranked highly does not mean it is a good fit for the needs of a student.

Scott WhiteDirector of GuidanceMontclair High School

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

In context. The Princeton Review lists are both funny and revealing. US News lists certainly tells you what is popular, if that is what is important. The College Navigator is a wealth of information of college statistics with things like graduation rates, etc. There is a great list of lists (begun by me and taken over by someone else) at http://collegelists.pbworks.com/w/page/16119456/College%20Lists%20Wiki.

Suzanne ShafferOwnerParents Countdown to College Coach

They are all components in the decision

Guidebooks, relatives and rankings are all valuable components in the decision process. But college visits will help you decide whether or not the campus is a good fit. Talking to current students and even professors are other components in your decision. Relying solely on one or two things can cause you to have a distorted view of the college and keep you from being realistic about what they can offer you.

Nina BerlerFounderunCommon Apps

Guidebooks, Relatives and Rankings

I am very selective in the use of all of these in choosing a school. After all, they are often collections of opinions and swayed by the attractive, the popular and, of course, data. The NACAC is very sensitive about the use of certain rankings. That is not to say, however, that guidebooks, relatives and rankings can’t be useful. The Fiske Guide is enormously helpful because of its format, readability and overlap schools (that’s a favorite of mine and particularly helpful when extending an applicant’s target list). Unigo is wonderful because it is written for this generation of college student and presents its content in an appealing visual manner and from the perspective of existing students. That is so helpful when applicants are comparing schools and validating their impressions. Success at a particular school varies so much with student interests and readiness, so users of all these sources should consider the circumstances.

王文君 June ScortinoPresidentIVY Counselors Network

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

not really. use them to gain different perspective. your experiences will be different from the others. Rankings create confusion and take individualized focus away from the college selection process.

Lora LewisEducational ConsultantLora Lewis Consulting

Do Your Research to Become Your Own Expert

There’s an abundance of information about colleges out there, as well as plenty of friends and relatives who are more than willing to give you advice about where you should apply. Choosing a college that’s right for you is a complex process, and while it’s wise to do your research and gather information from as many sources as possible, don’t let publications or people have undue influence on your choices. A college might be ranked #1 in the nation, but that doesn’t mean it’s the #1 college for you. Aunt Sadie might have had an incredible experience at University X, but University Y might be a better fit for your personality and educational goals. Do your research, ask questions, and seek opinions, but remember that your most reliable expert in selecting a college is YOU. Use the tools that are available to you to explore your options, but when it comes to making a final decision, trust your own heart and mind first.

Bill PrudenHead of Upper School, College CounselorRavenscroft School

Guidebooks–It is all in How You Use Them

A guidebook, is just that, a guides and their value in the college search process is less about them than it is about the applicant, for the key is in how one uses them. Are they simply a centralized source of information, something that can save one from jumping from website to website or are they a bible, the last word about the supposed personality and character of a campus and a school. I must admit that I generally loath the annual guides put out by U.S. News for I believe that the rankings as well as much of their “advice” put too much emphasis on things of no real value to the educational process. At the same time, the second half of the guide is as good and comprehensive a collection of the basic facts—size, major programs, graduation rates, standardized test requirements, etc.—as one can find. Having all that together can be a big help in streamlining the search process. Readers must recognize that each guide has its own agenda, and in the increasingly competitive marketplace, publishers seek to present schools in way that sets their book apart. However, that slant does not guarantee the best presentation of the schools. Indeed, like us, the Unigo experts, every reference book and expert reflects some biases for we are dealing in the most human of processes–college admission. Consequently, in the end, guidebooks can be value but their real value depends upon what the reader is looking for and how they use the individual guide.

Bill PrudenHead of Upper School, College CounselorRavenscroft School

Guidebooks–It is all in How You Use Them

A guidebook, is just that, a guides and their value in the college search process is less about them than it is about the applicant, for the key is in how one uses them. Are they simply a centralized source of information, something that can save one from jumping from website to website or are they a bible, the last word about the supposed personality and character of a campus and a school. I must admit that I generally loath the annual guides put out by U.S. News for I believe that the rankings as well as much of their “advice” put too much emphasis on things of no real value to the educational process. At the same time, the second half of the guide is as good and comprehensive a collection of the basic facts—size, major programs, graduation rates, standardized test requirements, etc.—as one can find. Having all that together can be a big help in streamlining the search process. Readers must recognize that each guide has its own agenda, and in the increasingly competitive marketplace, publishers seek to present schools in way that sets their book apart. However, that slant does not guarantee the best presentation of the schools. Indeed, like us, the Unigo experts, every reference book and expert reflects some biases for we are dealing in the most human of processes–college admission. Consequently, in the end, guidebooks can be value but their real value depends upon what the reader is looking for and how they use the individual guide.

CRAIG HELLERPresidentwww.CollegeEssaySolutions.com

When Choosing a School, Get All the Help You Can Get

Guidebooks, relatives, friends, and ranking are all useful in choosing the appropriate college. There is no limit on information; the more you have, the better decision you will make. With relatives or friends, however, be aware that their input is anecdotal. Everyone’s college experience is unique. If Uncle Rob claims he went four years without being invited to a party, well, that just might be on Uncle Rob.

Juliet Giglio

Guidebooks, relatives and rankings can be helpful

Yes, guidebooks can be helpful in choosing a school, because they might introduce you to a college that you’d never heard of and the same is true for a relative. Rankings can be tricky because it’s true that the higher the ranking, the more likely you’ll be familiar with a certain name college BUT it’s also likely that you’ll rule out colleges which might be just as good for you but are lower ranked. Relatives are helpful if they want to help you pay for your college!

Francine SchwartzFounder/ PresidentPathfinder Counseling LLC

Knowledge verses information

All three , have a place in the search for the college that is the right fit. However there is a difference between gathering a multitude of facts and being able to synthesize all of this information in a way that makes sense and can be applied to decision making. Start by making a list of the most important factors for you such as size, location and majors offered. Then use guidebooks, websites, current students and alumni and experts such as high school and college counselors to gather facts. Be sure to visit schools that are on your list since that is one of the very best ways to learn if a college feels right for you.

Ellen [email protected]OwnerEllen Richards Admissions Consulting

Summer reading list for college bound students: guides to help you decide

The following are college guides that students can purchase almost anywhere. It’s a great idea to start reviewing colleges before making any decisions that impact college lists: The College Handbook (College Board) The Index of Majors and Gradudate Degrees (College Board) Peterson’s Annual Guide to Undergraduate Study (Peterson’s Guide) The Best 361 Colleges (Yale Daily News Staff) New York Times Guide to Selected Colleges (New York Times) Colleges that Change Lives (Loren Pope) Barron’s Profile of American Colleges (Barron’s) Rugg’s Recommendations on the Colleges (Frederick Young)

Suzan ReznickIndependent Educational ConsultantThe College Connection

Guidebooks, relatives and rankings may have a place…..

But they are NOT the best way to get started choosing colleges! They may be useful in confirming details about a school and I did say may!. Aunt Fannie’s hairdresser’s nephew would likely not have the same experience at college ABC as you would, so why would you care if they were happy? And guidebooks, not to mention relatives may just have the WRONG, outdated information. The basis that many rankings use are just very limited and never seem to focus on what really matters- which is how engaged in learning is the student body.

Suzan ReznickIndependent Educational ConsultantThe College Connection

Guidebooks, relatives and rankings may have a place…..

But they are NOT the best way to get started choosing colleges! They may be useful in confirming details about a school and I did say may!. Aunt Fannie’s hairdresser’s nephew would likely not have the same experience at college ABC as you would, so why would you care if they were happy? And guidebooks, not to mention relatives may just have the WRONG, outdated information. The basis that many rankings use are just very limited and never seem to focus on what really matters- which is how engaged in learning is the student body.

Peter Van BuskirkPresidentThe Admission Game

College Rankings: Fact or Fiction?

Rising college costs and increased competition for admission are forcing families to consider the choice of a college more carefully than ever. In doing so, many are turning to college ranking guides to find the best colleges for their children. This would make good sense if the ranking guides were empirically driven—based on science and fact—and matched with a profile of the student’s talents, skill sets and needs. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Rankings are far from scientific—and kids are constantly changing their dreams and directions! Upon closer examination, college rankings are the ultimate tease—fiction wrapped up as science. Constantly changing methodologies, self-reported (by colleges) data and authoritative decrees about the validity associated with related weights and measures have the illusory effect of quantifying the mythical pecking order. While the outcomes generate marketable stories, rankings bear little that is truly useful to students in finding good college “fits.” Instead, they reinforce the destination orientation—a need to find or have the “best”—that is pervasive in college selection at the expense of solutions that are student-centered. Before you get out your credit card, then, or rush to printout a list of the “best” colleges, take a moment to ask yourself three questions: 1. Who is defining the “best” and what does it mean for me/my child? 2. What do the editors of ranking guides know about me/my child? 3. Where is the evidence that rankings will make a difference in our college planning outcomes? The college-going process has been turned upside down by ranking guides. For example, who is really being served when the effect of ranking guides is to shine a brighter light on a handful of institutions that already turn down 80-90% of their applicants? If ranking guides are truly useful to consumers, why do disproportionate numbers of students apply to schools where the chances of gaining admission are less than one out of four? How supportive are they to agendas of access and completion when barely half of the students entering college this fall will graduate from any college in 4-5 years? There are no shortcuts or easy substitutions for thoughtful and reflective research in the college planning process. At the end of the day, rankings are, at best, artificial metrics for quality in education that detract from sensible, student-centered decision-making. The choice of a college is one of the most important decisions in the life of a family. Avoid unhappy outcomes by establishing the student, not the destination, at the center of your deliberations.

Annie ReznikCounselor/CEOCollege Guidance Coach

Never Let Someone Else Make Up Your Mind For You

Rankings, college representatives, friends, family can all provide a perspective on a school or your search. But, you know yourself better than anyone—trust your instincts. Be careful not to think in terms of “the one,” this is college, not marriage.

Tyler BurtonPresident Burton College Tours

Be your own detective

The best way to construct a list of schools is by participating in essential campus tours.

Kim GlenchurEducational ConsultantCollegesGPS

Initial vs. in-depth investigations

These resources are good starting points for in-depth personal investigations. College rankings, for example, are easily digestible resources for identifying reputable institutions. The problem with rankings is that they can become a shallow substitute for reflecting on the types of college learning that may bring success and happiness. At an extreme, reliance on one-size-fits-all college rankings ignores each individual’s unique strengths and requirements. The real issue is whether an applicant is considering colleges that will support his or her intellectual growth and exploration.

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Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

guidebooksand ranking

Patricia AviezerPresidentInside Track To College, Inc.

It All Boils Down To You…

I always discuss with my families the importance of “being on the ground.” By that I mean, visiting the college when students are there so get a real feel for the campus and the students who attend there. Researching colleges by reading guidebooks, speaking with relatives and reviewing rankings have all become part of the landscape of the college review process. It is important to remember that even though “Uncle Joe” had the time of his life at Fun Time University, doesn’t mean your expectations of a college experience match his. So where should the college search begin….with you, of course!

Mark GathercoleUniversity AdvisorIndependent University Advising

Yes, maybe, and be careful…

The right guide books can be really helpful. Your uncle’s opinion might be helpful, but only if you filter it through your own criteria for choosing a school. Rankings? Only if you can find a ranking that uses the same criteria that is important to you, which is not likely. I don’t know many students whose criteria includes what college presidents think of the schools they are considering. The best rankings are your own, based on your own criteria and research.

Judge MasonJudge Mason Educational ConsultantJMEC

No Limits!

Read, mark and inwardly digest all guidebooks, advice from uncles and your Muse, and then work with your Independent Consultant to sort it all out.

Erin AveryCertified Educational PlannerAvery Educational Resources, LLC

A Cacophony of Voices

It is difficult in the college discernment process to do just that: process all the seemingly disparate opinions, input and voices. Relatives are a difficult source: often biased toward their own alma maters and by their own experiences, positive or negative, what relatives think and feel may be utterly outdated by the time your turn comes around. Published books may have more credence than some online resources but not all. A word about rankings: consider the attributes that factor into ranking such as number of students rejected and almni donations. Now consider whether you feel the factors upon which the rankings are based impact whether or not a particular institution is a good fit for you! As pertains to this question, if you are seeking expert advice and choose to procure the services of an educational consultant, select one that is either an IECA professional member or a Certified Educational Planner. Ask him or her with how much frequency does he or she visit college campuses? Inquire how he or she participates in continuing education to continue to grow his or her expertise. And if any person claiming to be a professional guarantees you acceptance or offers to write any part of your application or use their connections to gain you acceptance, run in the other direction.

Nancy MilneOwnerMilne Collegiate Consulting

Information Overload?

Any information is fair game in the college selection process. How much weight you put on each piece is variable. While guidebooks certainly facilitate an initial impression, depending on the author you may come away with different viewpoints. I personally like the Fiske Guide for it’s list of overlapping schools. The Insider’s Guide is equally valuable for it’s student perspective. While relatives always have opinions, they may be dated/biased not to mention pushy. Rankings are definitely not the end-all-be-all. They help sell magazines, their methodology is subject to change and often don’t even rank what’s really important to the student. I personally love the schools who participate in the National Survey on Student Engagement. These institutions get the fact that there is more to college than academics and by keeping the students active on campus, everyone is happy.

David AllenManaging DirectorGlobal College Counselors Ltd

Hmmmm

Yes, somewhat and probably not. The most important ranking for a school is your own particular one – think of a set of criteria that are important to you before you start your search, then do your own research and rank the schools yourself. It is YOU who is going to go after all, not the US News researcher! Relatives are fine, they will have their own opinion, but ask yourself if the college might have changed a wee bit since they went there? guidebooks all look nice, that’s what they’re supposed to do, but look carefully at the courses offered, course outliens and the people in the photos – do they dress/act/look like you?

Mark CorkeryHead College CounselorInternational College Admissions Network (I-CAN)

Guidebooks and Unigo are your best resources

Rankings and other statistically oriented resources are not the best exclusive places to get information on the colleges. They would just simply be the place to start the research. Just because a school is ranked high does not mean that you in particular would find that school a good fit. Relatives are helpful, to an extent. Caution here because relatives’ experiences at their alma maters would be from a few to many years ago. Campuses can change dramatically in that timespan. I like to look at colleges for how professors and administrators view the campuses other than their own to gauge the basics of the education offered. Then what they offer as a college as a whole would be the next step. The quantitative guides and ranking literature for the high school student first considering colleges is a place to start. The qualitative review (student opinions of their own campuses, for example) provide the confirming evidence that give texture and color to the quantitative analysis in most of the guidebooks and rankings literature such as US News and World Report. Most colleges look down on the rankings publications, but at the same time, if they are on the lists, it is pronounced loudly in their literature!!

Nancy MilneOwnerMilne Collegiate Consulting

Information Overload?

Any information is fair game in the college selection process. How much weight you put on each piece is variable. While guidebooks certainly facilitate an initial impression, depending on the author you may come away with different viewpoints. I personally like the Fiske Guide for it’s list of overlapping schools. The Insider’s Guide is equally valuable for it’s student perspective. While relatives always have opinions, they may be dated/biased not to mention pushy. Rankings are definitely not the end-all-be-all. They help sell magazines, their methodology is subject to change and often don’t even rank what’s really important to the student. Of course Unigo as a worthy website is a given! I personally love the schools who participate in the National Survey on Student Engagement. These institutions get the fact that there is more to college than academics and by keeping the students active on campus, everyone is happy.

Helen Cella

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

Not in choosing a school, but good for resources.

Nancy MilneOwnerMilne Collegiate Consulting

Information Overload?

Any information is fair game in the college selection process. How much weight you put on each piece is variable. While guidebooks certainly facilitate an initial impression, depending on the author you may come away with different viewpoints. I personally like the Fiske Guide for it’s list of overlapping schools. The Insider’s Guide is equally valuable for it’s student perspective. While relatives always have opinions, they may be dated/biased not to mention pushy. Rankings are definitely not the end-all-be-all. They help sell magazines, their methodology is subject to change and often don’t even rank what’s really important to the student. Independent Educational Consultants make a point of touring campuses all year long. Thus, they can often be a wonderful resource when creating “the list.” Of course Unigo as a worthy website is a given! I personally love the schools who participate in the National Survey on Student Engagement. These institutions get the fact that there is more to college than academics and by keeping the students active on campus, everyone is happy.

Tam Warner MintonConsultantCollege Adventures

Choosing a college

Guidebooks can be helpful when choosing a college, I recommend the Fiske Guide. It is, in my opinion, the best college guide out there. I love Colleges that Change Lives, as well. You can get them on Amazon from my blog at www.collegeadventures.net/blog. Are relatives useful? They can be, it is, however, important that the college fit YOU, not your relative. It is not the only reason you should go to a particular college. As far as rankings go, I am not a big fan. Two of the most intellectual colleges in the country, Reed College and Sarah Lawrence College, are not in the US News and World Report rankings because they do not require SAT/ACT scores. Data can also be “embellished” in the ranking game. Forbes also have a college ranking system, but as I said, the most important thing is that YOU like the college, YOU like the program, YOU will thrive in the environment. Don’t use rankings as a major reason to apply to colleges!

Tam Warner MintonConsultantCollege Adventures

Choosing a college

Guidebooks can be helpful when choosing a college, I recommend the Fiske Guide. It is, in my opinion, the best college guide out there. I love Colleges that Change Lives, as well. You can get them on Amazon from my blog at www.collegeadventures.net/blog. Are relatives useful? They can be, it is, however, important that the college fit YOU, not your relative. It is not the only reason you should go to a particular college. As far as rankings go, I am not a big fan. Two of the most intellectual colleges in the country, Reed College and Sarah Lawrence College, are not in the US News and World Report rankings because they do not require SAT/ACT scores. Data can also be “embellished” in the ranking game. Forbes also has a college ranking system, but as I said, the most important thing is that YOU like the college, YOU like the program, YOU will thrive in the environment. Don’t use rankings as a major reason to apply to colleges!

Laura O’Brien GatzionisFounderEducational Advisory Services

Information, opinions and magazines…

I think lots of information is always good–as long as you have the ability to sift through it. At some point, you will have to form your own opinions and make your own decisions. After all, you are the one is going to college.

Aaron Kind

The wonderful rankings…

Rankings, guidebooks, friends, and family are all useful tools in the process. However, no one factor should guide your final decision. As with life take what you want and leave the rest. Just because your family friend doesn’t like Big Campus U, doesn’t mean you won’t. I would use the guidebooks and rankings as a reference point, but don’t let misinformation cloud your judgement. If you are interested in a school – visit or speak with the representative at your local high school or college fair.

Darryl JonesSr. Associate Director of Admissions, Coordinator for Multicultural Admission/Intercollegiate Athletics LiaisonGettysburg College

Which Information Can You Trust?

Outside “help” in shaping your college search is okay in the beginning, but just your own experience is what matters when it comes to making the final solution. Consider your college choice to be a four-year “real estate purchase”: the amenities you need, the comfort you feel, the availability of programs, services, and facilities can only be determined to be right by the ultimate consumer-YOU. Your happiness is what matters, so trust your own senses, and take advice from outside sources with a grain of salt. Best of luck! Darryl

Amy FeinsownerAMF College Consulting

UGH, Rankings

Everyone hates rankings, except colleges who find themselves ranked highly, and who isn’t? There are so many categories and that it is almost impossible to find a school that isn’t at the top of one category or another. They’re worthless. Guidebooks are ok in the initial search, but only for objective information like the number of students, cost of attendance, and admissions deadlines and requirements. I find that even average test scores are sometimes inaccurate in guidebooks, so I always double check the college websites to make sure I have the latest information. As for relatives, put in the earplugs. Everyone becomes an expert who “helped” get their niece or nephew or neighbor or son’s best friend into Harvard. Not true. Keep your vital statistics and your college list private. It’s nobody’s business and all they’re going to do is make you anxious. PLUS how do they know what school will really be the best fit for you? Do your own research, get your feet onto some college campuses, and go with your gut.

Diane Coburn Bruningchoreographer/counselor in performing artsCollege Match, Inc, Performing Arts Specialist

Guide to Dance programs

My expertise is Dance and there is a very good guide which Dance Magazine puts out every two years-the new edition is now available: http://www.dancemagazine.com/thecollegeguide/intro The caveat is that the pages for each department are written by the department so that they are somewhat subjective and not totally uniform in content. However by using this, looking at each departments’ website and, importantly, reading the bios of the faculty and guest artists, one may get a very good idea of the dance education and experience to be had at each school. There is no substitute for a visit (prior to auditioning) and speaking with dancers there and professionals in the dance field.

Erica WhiteCollege & Career CounselorMiddletown High School

Numbers

There are multiple publications that provide rankings among schools. It is important to consider what factors were used to find the rankings, some publications use high school counselors views of a college in the equation, which makes part of the ranking subjective. Just because a counselor hasn’t heard about a school, does not mean that it isn’t a good school. With over 2,000 4 year schools, it is impossible to know about every one. When looking at rankings you also need to evaluate if you prioritize that same way the ranker did. For example, if the ranking made selectivity worth 25% of the formula to determine rank and you are not concerned with selectivity, this may not be the best source for you. I find that the best source for rankings is done by Forbes Magazine and examines true statistics: The rankings are based on five general categories: Post Graduate success (30%), which evaluates alumni pay and prominence, Student Satisfaction (27.5%), which includes professor evaluations and freshman to sophomore year retention rates, Debt (17.5%), which penalizes schools for high student debt loads and default rates, Four Year Graduation Rate (17.5%) and Competitive Awards (7.5%). ttp://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelnoer/2011/08/03/americas-top-colleges/

Barbara Jones

Guide books, relatives and other publications are useful in choosing a college/university.

Research from all areas help prospective students make the best choices. Little known facts that may make the “right” fit are uncovered in seeking out this type of information.

Benjamin CaldarelliPartnerPrinceton College Consulting, LLC

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

All three can be valuable sources of information. Certain guidebooks are better than others for certain things, just as some relatives may have valuable information about particular schools, and rankings, while potentially misleading, can provide lots of important information when used properly. The important thing is to have a trusted professional that will help interpret, explain and discuss all the information with you.

Benjamin CaldarelliPartnerPrinceton College Consulting, LLC

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

All three can be valuable sources of information. Certain guidebooks are better than others for certain things, just as some relatives may have valuable information about particular schools, and rankings, while potentially misleading, can provide lots of important information when used properly. The important thing is to have a trusted professional that will help interpret, explain and discuss all the information with you.

Nicholas Umphrey

Helpful college resources..

Absolutely. I typically use only one or two websites and a couple of guides when working with students. I like guidebooks because their information tends to be very objective and statistical. By presenting this information to students and parents, they are able to see how they measure up to the admissions requirements of certain schools. Relatives often mean well, but sometimes don’t realize you have about 10 other adults in your life regularly giving you unsolicited advice on college. Thus, you can feel more pressure in making your decision. On the other hand, it is easy to find the ramblings of your relatives to be just rambling, but once in a while you will find some useful information in their talks. Rankings are interesting, but I would never use them to determine your schools choice. Make sure you choose a school you will be happy at personally.

Robin WhitingGuidance CounselorGeorge P. Butler Comprehensive High School

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

I think they may be helpful in beginning your search, but visiting the campus and meeting with students and admissions representatives is probably the best way for a prospective student to narrow choices.

Karen Ekman-BaurDirector of College CounselingLeysin American School

Useful Resources for Choosing Schools

Any resources that enable a student to learn more about an institution are potentially useful, but students need to be aware of the “motivation” behind each of the resources that he/she uses. Guidebooks produced by schools provide a great deal of useful information, but the student must realize that they are marketing tools for the institutions. Rankings can be helpful if the student carefully looks at the components of the ranking to see which aspects represent qualities which are important to him/her. More important would be the quality of the program or programs the student is interested in studying at any given school. If various relatives are knowledgeable about a school, their input can also be valuable, as can the input of students or former students of the institution, but the student should carefully consider the motivations driving the opinions.

Patricia KrahnkePresident/PartnerGlobal College Search Associates, LLC

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

Here’s the problem with all this information: It’s from someone else’s point of view. Worse, in the case of rankings, it’s based on data that can be skewed to enhance the institution’s marketing (Google “Iona College Falsified Data). Now, in the case of relatives, they generally want the best for you and try to encourage you in any way they can. But when it gets specific, often they cheer you on to their alma mater. I have heard many students over the years say that their Aunt or Uncle or Mom attended this or that college and that’s why they are interested. Frankly, I think relying on Uncle Jim just makes a complicated, stressful process seem easier. Nothing wrong with that. But it’s not about them, it’s about you. They may feel they know you, but mostly, they just want you to have the same great kind of experience they did – which may not be the experience that will be meaningful to you. Guidebooks can be a little helpful, if only to give you a sense of what’s out there in total. It goes a little deeper than the marketing, which makes every institution look and sound the same: Same faculty/student ratio no matter the size of the institution; same buzz words (diversity, one-on-one attention from professors; first-year research; etc., etc.). So a guidebook can sometimes give you a little something more. The problem with the guidebooks is that they each come at their offerings from a different direction. The ones that purport to offer the real inside experience of students reflects just the experience of those students – and these books go for the most quotable quotes. Again, you have to go much deeper to find out whether an institution is worth your time to consider. Read the news about each institution to learn about their funding concerns as an institution as a whole and within the academic, healthy and safety, and academic support departments. Read the student newspaper to see what’s going on within the Student Government Association – what are the students concerned about and how is the administration responding or not responding to their concerns. Who are the faculty in the departments (even if you are undecided, you’re going to end up in some faculty member’s department.) As for rankings? Pure garbage. In my first days as an Assistant Director of Admissions at Rutgers University in New Jersey, I was responsible for collecting and calculating much of the data that was submitted to the federal government and the various rankings publications, such as U.S. News and World Report, Peterson’s, etc. It was so very clear to all of us involved in this process of data collection and analysis how easily this information could be manipulated by an institution to improve its placement on the rankings lists. We were quite sure that other institutions were manipulating this data in this way, and it’s beginning to come out that in certain cases, this is exactly what has been happening. How might that work? Well, lop off the SATs of your generally underperforming groups – athletes, first-generation/low-income, legacy, etc. – and you present much higher median and average SAT scores. (That’s why admissions counselors snicker when you ask them “What’s your average SAT.” There’s no such thing as an average SAT.) That’s just one example. There are many others. Want to increase the appearance of selectivity in the rankings (the idea that the institution is harder to get into than others)? That’s simple: Make the application easy. Remove or reduce the essay component; accept the Common App; reduce or remove the application fee; send out pre-completed application forms to “top students”; don’t require letters of recommendation; market to tons of inadmissible students, raise their hopes, then deny them. The latter is one of the tactics the Ivies use – that’s one of the ways they maintain their reputation as elite institutions. Actually, most institutions use some or all of these strategies. When I was Dean of Admissions at one of the Vermont State Colleges, this conversation was held every year, driven by a panicky president: How can we increase the numbers of applications? (In fact, this conversation happens in almost every single admissions office in the world.) The president of the college wanted the application to be as simple as possible, with no letters of recommendation, no essay, no fee, in short, nothing to slow down the application from being submitted, because the president wanted the numbers higher. This is the type of manipulative behavior that drives rankings. Here’s a story that stems directly from that situation: We received a complaint one day from an applicant. This student had received a phone call from one of the counselors congratulating that student on being admitted, and the student (a very, very smart student) challenged that counselor by saying, “How can your college be any good if you received my application online yesterday and you are already calling me to tell me I have been accepted?” Bingo. The fact is that the college had several outstanding faculty members and students that deserved to be part of a process that was more conscientious than the president of the college was capable of. These stories are endless. But the bottom line is this: Do not rely on anything other than deeper knowledge and intuition. This is the rest of your life for which you are preparing. Take it seriously. Look inward to find yourself and don’t let questionable data, your well-meaning grandfather, or a well-marketed college guide take control of the truth that is YOUR future.

William KolePresident/FounderNo Stress College Counseling

Take It With a Grain of Salt

Guidebooks can be very useful and unbiased sources of information about colleges you are interested in attending. These sources contain the latest information, and will give you a good overview of each college. Relatives and rankings should be taken with a grain of salt, as these sources are not always reliable. While relatives will tell you about their particular experiences, every person is different and may have different views. It is always best to visit the campus and form your own opinion. Students and families should be cautious of rankings, as the methodologies behind many of these rankings have flaws. Also consider that just because a school is ranked highly, does not mean it will be the best “fit” for you. The bottom line is that students should attend a school where they feel most comfortable. I often say to my students to simply listen to your heart. If your heart is telling you that this can be home for four years, this is probably a college you want to attend.

Patricia KrahnkePresident/PartnerGlobal College Search Associates, LLC

Here’s the Problem…

Here’s the problem with all this information: It’s from someone else’s point of view. Worse, in the case of rankings, it’s based on data that can be skewed to enhance the institution’s marketing (Google “Iona College Falsified Data). Now, in the case of relatives, they generally want the best for you and try to encourage you in any way they can. But when it gets specific, often they cheer you on to their alma mater. I have heard many students over the years say that their Aunt or Uncle or Mom attended this or that college and that’s why they are interested. Frankly, I think relying on Uncle Jim just makes a complicated, stressful process seem easier. Nothing wrong with that. But it’s not about them, it’s about you. They may feel they know you, but mostly, they just want you to have the same great kind of experience they did – which may not be the experience that will be meaningful to you. Guidebooks can be a little helpful, if only to give you a sense of what’s out there in total. It goes a little deeper than the marketing, which makes every institution look and sound the same: Same faculty/student ratio no matter the size of the institution; same buzz words (diversity, one-on-one attention from professors; first-year research; etc., etc.). So a guidebook can sometimes give you a little something more. The problem with the guidebooks is that they each come at their offerings from a different direction. The ones that purport to offer the real inside experience of students reflects just the experience of those students – and these books go for the most quotable quotes. Again, you have to go much deeper to find out whether an institution is worth your time to consider. Read the news about each institution to learn about their funding concerns as an institution as a whole and within the academic, healthy and safety, and academic support departments. Read the student newspaper to see what’s going on within the Student Government Association – what are the students concerned about and how is the administration responding or not responding to their concerns. Who are the faculty in the departments (even if you are undecided, you’re going to end up in some faculty member’s department.) As for rankings? Pure garbage. In my first days as an Assistant Director of Admissions at Rutgers University in New Jersey, I was responsible for collecting and calculating much of the data that was submitted to the federal government and the various rankings publications, such as U.S. News and World Report, Peterson’s, etc. It was so very clear to all of us involved in this process of data collection and analysis how easily this information could be manipulated by an institution to improve its placement on the rankings lists. We were quite sure that other institutions were manipulating this data in this way, and it’s beginning to come out that in certain cases, this is exactly what has been happening. How might that work? Well, lop off the SATs of your generally underperforming groups – athletes, first-generation/low-income, legacy, etc. – and you present much higher median and average SAT scores. (That’s why admissions counselors snicker when you ask them “What’s your average SAT.” There’s no such thing as an average SAT.) That’s just one example. There are many others. Want to increase the appearance of selectivity in the rankings (the idea that the institution is harder to get into than others)? That’s simple: Make the application easy. Remove or reduce the essay component; accept the Common App; reduce or remove the application fee; send out pre-completed application forms to “top students”; don’t require letters of recommendation; market to tons of inadmissible students, raise their hopes, then deny them. The latter is one of the tactics the Ivies use – that’s one of the ways they maintain their reputation as elite institutions. Actually, most institutions use some or all of these strategies. When I was Dean of Admissions at one of the Vermont State Colleges, this conversation was held every year, driven by a panicky president: How can we increase the numbers of applications? (In fact, this conversation happens in almost every single admissions office in the world.) The president of the college wanted the application to be as simple as possible, with no letters of recommendation, no essay, no fee, in short, nothing to slow down the application from being submitted, because the president wanted the numbers higher. This is the type of manipulative behavior that drives rankings. Here’s a story that stems directly from that situation: We received a complaint one day from an applicant. This student had received a phone call from one of the counselors congratulating that student on being admitted, and the student (a very, very smart student) challenged that counselor by saying, “How can your college be any good if you received my application online yesterday and you are already calling me to tell me I have been accepted?” Bingo. The fact is that the college had several outstanding faculty members and students that deserved to be part of a process that was more conscientious than the president of the college was capable of. These stories are endless. But the bottom line is this: Do not rely on anything other than deeper knowledge and intuition. This is the rest of your life for which you are preparing. Take it seriously. Look inward to find yourself and don’t let questionable data, your well-meaning grandfather, or a well-marketed college guide take control of the truth that is YOUR future.

Pamela Hampton-GarlandOwnerScholar Bound

Relevancy of Rankings and Guide Books

Always remember that research is important therefore using a guidebook and looking at rankings are relevant when the school you are researching a truly potential school. To choose a school merely based on rankings and guidebooks may leave you disappointed with the college experience even if you are in the most prestigious institution and your parents’ are screaming it on a mountain. If you are not happy with the place you are going to live, work, and play for 4 years can any guidebook or ranking make that alright.

Corey FischerPresidentCollegeClarity

They are useful to a point

It is fine for you to read the guidebooks and rankings and listen to relatives/friends, but you should not rule out a college as a result of any of these influences. You need to research on the website, through unigo, and other unbiased resources before making a decision. The rankings are a huge money making venture and their methodology puts importance on factors that should not be as significant such as acceptance rate, alumni giving, etc., rather than student engagement and satisfaction. Each college has happy students and you need to research the programs that are important to you. College is not a one size fits all venture.

. .

Be Cautious

Relatives are great resources to draw from in terms of learning about colleges and universities. However, be cautious not to think that your experience at a particular will be just like your relative’s. People are different and how one experiences a particular college is based upon a variety of preferences, goals, and dispositions. So, while it’s good to probe relatives about their college experience, just be sure to weigh that information, like all information, against other sources you find in researching colleges. Sincerely, Mike Chapman, Owner Chapman College Admission Consulting www.chapmancac.com

Corey FischerPresidentCollegeClarity

They are useful to a point

It is fine for you to read the guidebooks and rankings and listen to relatives/friends, but you should not rule out a college as a result of any of these influences. You need to research on the website, through unigo, and other unbiased resources before making a decision. The rankings are a huge money making venture and their methodology puts importance on factors that should not be as significant such as acceptance rate, alumni giving, etc., rather than student engagement and satisfaction. Each college has happy students and you need to research the programs that are important to you. College is not a one size fits all venture.

Patricia KrahnkePresident/PartnerGlobal College Search Associates, LLC

1 Out of 3

Short Answer: Guidebooks? Ummmmm, sorta. Relatives and Rankings? Nope. Detailed Answer: Here’s the problem with all this information: It’s from the point of view of someone other than yourself. Worse, in the case of rankings, it’s based on data that can be skewed to enhance an institution’s marketing toward their admissions goals (Google “Iona College Falsified Data). Now, in the case of relatives, they generally want the best for you and try to encourage you in any way they can. But when it gets specific, often they cheer you on to their alma mater. I have heard many students over the years say that their Aunt or Uncle or Mom attended this or that college and that’s why they are interested. Frankly, I think relying on Uncle Jim just makes a complicated, stressful process seem easier. Nothing wrong with that. But it’s not about them, it’s about you. They may feel they know you, but mostly, they just want you to have the same great kind of experience they did – which may not be the experience that will be meaningful to you. Guidebooks can be a little helpful, if only to give you a sense of what’s out there in total. It goes a little deeper than the marketing, which makes every institution look and sound the same: Same faculty/student ratio no matter the size of the institution; same buzz words (diversity, one-on-one attention from professors; first-year research; etc., etc.). So a guidebook can sometimes give you a little something more. The problem with the guidebooks is that they each come at their offerings from a different direction. The ones that purport to offer the real inside experience of students reflects just the experience of those students – and these books go for the most quotable quotes. Again, you have to go much deeper to find out whether an institution is worth your time to consider. Read the news about each institution to learn about their funding concerns as an institution as a whole and within the academic, healthy and safety, and academic support departments. Read the student newspaper to see what’s going on within the Student Government Association – what are the students concerned about and how is the administration responding or not responding to their concerns. Who are the faculty in the departments (even if you are undecided, you’re going to end up in some faculty member’s department.) As for rankings? Pure garbage. In my first days as an Assistant Director of Admissions at Rutgers University in New Jersey, I was responsible for collecting and calculating much of the data that was submitted to the federal government and the various rankings publications, such as U.S. News and World Report, Peterson’s, etc. It was so very clear to all of us involved in this process of data collection and analysis how easily this information could be manipulated by an institution to improve its placement on the rankings lists. We were quite sure that other institutions were manipulating this data in this way, and it’s beginning to come out that in certain cases, this is exactly what has been happening. How might that work? Well, lop off the SATs of your generally underperforming groups – athletes, first-generation/low-income, legacy, etc. – and you present much higher median and average SAT scores. (That’s why admissions counselors snicker when you ask them “What’s your average SAT.” There’s no such thing as an average SAT.) That’s just one example. There are many others. Want to increase the appearance of selectivity in the rankings (the idea that the institution is harder to get into than others)? That’s simple: Make the application easy. Remove or reduce the essay component; accept the Common App; reduce or remove the application fee; send out pre-completed application forms to “top students”; don’t require letters of recommendation; market to tons of inadmissible students, raise their hopes, then deny them. The latter is one of the tactics the Ivies use – that’s one of the ways they maintain their reputation as elite institutions. Actually, most institutions use some or all of these strategies. When I was Dean of Admissions at one of the Vermont State Colleges, this conversation was held every year, driven by a panicky president: How can we increase the numbers of applications? (In fact, this conversation happens in almost every single admissions office in the world.) The president of the college wanted the application to be as simple as possible, with no letters of recommendation, no essay, no fee, in short, nothing to slow down the application from being submitted, because the president wanted the numbers higher. This is the type of manipulative behavior that drives rankings. Here’s a story that stems directly from that situation: We received a complaint one day from an applicant. This student had received a phone call from one of the counselors congratulating that student on being admitted, and the student (a very, very smart student) challenged that counselor by saying, “How can your college be any good if you received my application online yesterday and you are already calling me to tell me I have been accepted?” Bingo. The fact is that the college had several outstanding faculty members and students that deserved to be part of a process that was more conscientious than the president of the college was capable of. These stories are endless. But the bottom line is this: Do not rely on anything other than deeper knowledge and intuition. This is the rest of your life for which you are preparing. Take it seriously. Look inward to find yourself and don’t let questionable data, your well-meaning grandfather, or a well-marketed college guide take control of the truth that is YOUR future.

Patricia KrahnkePresident/PartnerGlobal College Search Associates, LLC

1 Out of 3 – Kinda.

Short Answer: Guidebooks? Depends. Relatives and Rankings? Nope. Detailed Answer: Here’s the problem with all this information: It’s from the point of view of someone other than yourself. Worse, in the case of rankings, it’s based on data that can be skewed to enhance an institution’s marketing toward their admissions goals (Google “Iona College Falsified Data). Now, in the case of relatives, they generally want the best for you and try to encourage you in any way they can. But when it gets specific, often they cheer you on to their alma mater. I have heard many students over the years say that their Aunt or Uncle or Mom attended this or that college and that’s why they are interested. Frankly, I think relying on Uncle Jim just makes a complicated, stressful process seem easier. Nothing wrong with that. But it’s not about them, it’s about you. They may feel they know you, but mostly, they just want you to have the same great kind of experience they did – which may not be the experience that will be meaningful to you. Guidebooks can be a little helpful, if only to give you a sense of what’s out there in total. It goes a little deeper than the marketing, which makes every institution look and sound the same: Same faculty/student ratio no matter the size of the institution; same buzz words (diversity, one-on-one attention from professors; first-year research; etc., etc.). So a guidebook can sometimes give you a little something more. The problem with the guidebooks is that they each come at their offerings from a different direction. The ones that purport to offer the real inside experience of students reflects just the experience of those students – and these books go for the most quotable quotes. Again, you have to go much deeper to find out whether an institution is worth your time to consider. Read the news about each institution to learn about their funding concerns as an institution as a whole and within the academic, healthy and safety, and academic support departments. Read the student newspaper to see what’s going on within the Student Government Association – what are the students concerned about and how is the administration responding or not responding to their concerns. Who are the faculty in the departments (even if you are undecided, you’re going to end up in some faculty member’s department.) As for rankings? Pure garbage. In my first days as an Assistant Director of Admissions at Rutgers University in New Jersey, I was responsible for collecting and calculating much of the data that was submitted to the federal government and the various rankings publications, such as U.S. News and World Report, Peterson’s, etc. It was so very clear to all of us involved in this process of data collection and analysis how easily this information could be manipulated by an institution to improve its placement on the rankings lists. We were quite sure that other institutions were manipulating this data in this way, and it’s beginning to come out that in certain cases, this is exactly what has been happening. How might that work? Well, lop off the SATs of your generally underperforming groups – athletes, first-generation/low-income, legacy, etc. – and you present much higher median and average SAT scores. (That’s why admissions counselors snicker when you ask them “What’s your average SAT.” There’s no such thing as an average SAT.) That’s just one example. There are many others. Want to increase the appearance of selectivity in the rankings (the idea that the institution is harder to get into than others)? That’s simple: Make the application easy. Remove or reduce the essay component; accept the Common App; reduce or remove the application fee; send out pre-completed application forms to “top students”; don’t require letters of recommendation; market to tons of inadmissible students, raise their hopes, then deny them. The latter is one of the tactics the Ivies use – that’s one of the ways they maintain their reputation as elite institutions. Actually, most institutions use some or all of these strategies. When I was Dean of Admissions at one of the Vermont State Colleges, this conversation was held every year, driven by a panicky president: How can we increase the numbers of applications? (In fact, this conversation happens in almost every single admissions office in the world.) The president of the college wanted the application to be as simple as possible, with no letters of recommendation, no essay, no fee, in short, nothing to slow down the application from being submitted, because the president wanted the numbers higher. This is the type of manipulative behavior that drives rankings. Here’s a story that stems directly from that situation: We received a complaint one day from an applicant. This student had received a phone call from one of the counselors congratulating that student on being admitted, and the student (a very, very smart student) challenged that counselor by saying, “How can your college be any good if you received my application online yesterday and you are already calling me to tell me I have been accepted?” Bingo. The fact is that the college had several outstanding faculty members and students that deserved to be part of a process that was more conscientious than the president of the college was capable of. These stories are endless. But the bottom line is this: Do not rely on anything other than deeper knowledge and intuition. This is the rest of your life for which you are preparing. Take it seriously. Look inward to find yourself and don’t let questionable data, your well-meaning grandfather, or a well-marketed college guide take control of the truth that is YOUR future.

王文君 June ScortinoPresidentIVY Counselors Network

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

While information sessions and campus tours are the best way to get a detailed and personal view of a college, the down side is that you only have time to visit a limited number of schools. So how do you narrow down from the thousands of accredited schools to the select dozen or so that you considered carefully through campus tours and info sessions? Guides and college rankings! They are a great way to start you college search. Use them to filter out the schools that are absolutely not a match for you based on factors such as – cost of tuition, location, number of students, majors offered, acceptance rates/requirements or other tangible you may take into account. The most widely used guide is the College Handbook published by College Board; it offers a comprehensive description of all 3,800 accredited colleges, universities, community colleges and technical in the US. The most legitimate and trusted rankings of higher education is published annually by Newsweek Magazine. These tools are invaluable to finding the school that is best for you. Get to know and use them wisely, but remember they are just tools to filter out schools not necessarily to pick a school – that is what informational sessions and campus visits are for.

Trevor CreedenDirector of College and Career CounselingDelaware County Christian School

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

The short answer is yes, each of these things are helpful, espcially relatives that have had experience at the colleges you are looking at. However, to know if a school is a good fit for you, you have to visit. There is only so much information you can get online, by reading books or talking to people. A number of times those sources come with biases. Only if you get on campus, sit in on an info session, take a tour, eat in their dining facility, etc., are you going to get an idea of how good a fit a college is for you. You should at least eat a meal there and visit a dorm because if you are going to eat there and sleep there for four years, you must be somewhat satisfied with those two things.

Ed GarciaAssistant Professor/CounselorAustin Community College

Yes, but…

All of the above referenced resources can be useful when it comes to selecting a school. I always caution students that they must do their own research. Try not to get caught up in school rankings and what guidebooks mention about schools. I always tell students if possible take a campus visit to get a feel for the campus. In addition, remember you as a student will be spending the next 4-6 years of your life at the school that you choose so make sure you choose it for the right reasons. In my class I always mention to students that choosing a school because your mom, dad, relative, husband, wife, boyfriend, or girlfriend likes it does not make sense. Too many times students fall into the trap of choosing a school because someone else wants them to go to that school. Students, talk to your parent and let them know the reasons why you would like to attend a particular school. Again, it does not make sense to go to a great school, but then they do not offer the major that you want to pursue. Parental pressure can be great and burdensome. From my experience parents usually have their heart in the right place, but keep in mind it can be troublesome especially if a student wants to attend a different school. Students, talk to your parents and show them the “pros vs. cons” and give them the reasons you want to attend a particular school. As for parents, remember, your student will be the one who has to go to the classes and attend, not you! I understand that if parents are going to be paying the tuition than they might want more of a say. However, students can always take out student loans in their names and attend, but then they incur debt. Most parents that I have worked with usually end up coming to their senses and realize that the student after all is the one who is going to commit for the next 4-6 years. Parents, be proud you have a child that has decided to attend college! Bottom line, always use as many resources as you can. Always remember that although you can read or search the internet about a particular school you always want to get a feel and attend yourself. Go with your instincts and use your 5 senses (Touch, feel, sight, smell, and hearing). Not in that order, but you get the point! Students, help your parents understand the amount of pressure you feel and they will understand and be supportive.

Reena Gold KaminsFounderCollege, Career & Life, LLC.

Consider the source of the information.

Before the internet, guidebooks were the go-to source for information. Now, however, they are really best for finding out general information about a school such as its size, location, majors, and average class size. The data that is used in the books is often requested 6 months before the book is printed, so they’re not the best source for current data. School websites are better for most recent acceptance rates and tuition rates, for example. Rankings, in my opinion, are not useful. Some of the criteria used in the rankings, for example, the percentage of alumni who give money, do not reveal any information about the quality of the education a student will receive. Relatives can be helpful, as long as you keep two things in mind. First, if your relative attended the school more than two years ago, their information isn’t really relevent. Things change from year to year. More importantly, think about the personality and/or interests of your relative. If she is really outgoing, her opinion might not be as meaningful to you if you are super shy. Or, if she’s really interested in sports, her feedback might not be helpful if you’re looking for schools with amazing dance programs.

Kimberly ParsonsCounselorHerbert Hoover High School

Useful resources for choosing a school

I believe that guidebooks, relatives, and rankings can all be helpful when sitting down to research schools you may be interested in applying to. All can give you different bits and pieces of information, that you can decide if you want to furthur pursue looking into the college more seriously. Guidebooks will give you an overview of the school itself, the academics, how to apply, what is expected of you, the types of majors that are offered, things you can do in and around the area of the school, etc. The guidebook is a good start to see if anything is appealing to you at that particular school. Relatives can be helpful and sometimes harmful, when it comes time for you to start looking at colleges. They can give you advice, re live their college days, and give you college stories, that can grab your attention. However, beware that some relatives may try to pressure you into going to the school of THEIR choice, and this may not neccessarily be the school of your choice. They may not mean any harm by this, that school is just their alma mater, or they feel is a good fit for you. But remember, to go with your gut, and your feelings about the school. Also, school rankings can give you a better idea of where that school falls in the area of specific things. This isn’t the end all be all of choosing a school though, this should, as well as the others I have mentioned, be just pieces of the college puzzle for you.

Lauren CarterDirector of College CounselingLouisville Collegiate School

Finding the best resources…use a combination

Guidebooks can be very helpful in researching colleges and I recommend balancing an objective guide with a subjective guide. The Fiske Guide is by far the best in terms of a subjective guide and Barron’s Guide to the Colleges, etc. is a solid objective source. Friends, relatives, and even people you barely know will come out of the woodwork to offer college advice. Proceed with caution when getting any and all advice. Make sure you are utilizing people who have not just “heard” this or that but do KNOW actual, relevant information on a particular school. I am not a big fan of rankings. Make sure if you are looking at rankings that you understand how the rankings are made and if this is at all helpful information for you to have. Just because a school has a higher ranking does not make it better so be careful of placing all your trust on a numerical rank. Lastly, consult with your school counselor, the admissions officers, and friends who attend schools you considering. Each of these resources can offer you a great deal of information that is valuable and can be of help to you.

Judy ZoddaFounder and PresidentZodda College Services

What’s really important in chosing the schools you’ll apply to?

It’s always nice to hear or read what relatives and gudiebooks have to say and to look at rankings, (until you find out how the rankings are actually determined), but remember this is your search and what’s important to these other sources may not be important to you in what you’re looking for in your college experience. You need to learn about yourself first. Try taking a career and interest inventory. DOWHATYOUARE is a good one to start with. Try to also figure out if you want a large school, a small school, a city/suburban campus or one that is rural. Remember, you’re probably going to spend the rest of your life somewhere in a city or near one, so try something different for four years of college. Most colleges are in rural settings because there is so much going on there, they don’t need to rely on being in or near a city. Ask yourself what your learning style is? Do you learn best by listiening in large lecture halls filled with 300-500 other students, or do you want to be in a small classes where the professors know you by name and have interesting class discussions?.Or, are you a hands-on, experiential learner? Matching your learning style with the teaching style of a colllege is very important in determining how well you;’ll succeed. Does the college/university have a strong department in your area of interest? If you change your mind, is it difficult to transfer to another department or school within that university? Are the dorm facilities up to your expectations? There’s a lot to consider. I hope this gets you thinking!

Keith BermanPresidentOptions for College, Inc.

Be careful what you choose for rankings

The book I require in the Johns Hopkins CTY College Prep program is The Insider’s Guide to the Colleges, (the ISBN is 0312672950 if you are searching for it on an online bookstore). This is the strongest guide for given you a flavor of what your college life will be. Among free resources, the PrincetonReview.com rankings sometimes give a decent flavor of things like where undergraduate theater is, what colleges are the most liberal, etc. USNews.com uses “peer reputation,” which is a really good idea of whose students are getting accepted for graduate school. Relatives, other students, and neighbors are what I call a “red factor,” a source of only misinformation. Most rankings (like Princeton Review and US News) use the National Center for Education Statistics, a non-profit government agency, for their data, so while rankings may mean little, the statistics are real.

Chip LawCo-founder Managing Director Educational Avenues

As Bill Clinton would say “define the word useful”….

Guidebooks and rankings can be useful when you are looking for INFORMATION. Relatives MAY be useful if they are giving you college input provided they have YOUR best interests in mind. Let’s look at a guidebook: You can get really good stats on what the profile of a school’s typical student looks like-GPA, rank, SAT/ACT scores, class size, graduation rates etc. You can plug in YOUR numbers and if you fit into the middle of the school you are reviewing, it means that your performance to date meets up with the current student body. So that info may be USEFUL but it DOES’NT mean that you will be accepted there or most importantly whether the school will be the best fit for your college experience. Rankings are USEFUL in order to look at colleges and universities through the lens of those who believe status and prestige are critical to success in school and life. The ranking process is incredibly flawed and based upon criteria that can have you scratching your head. An example: the top tier schools do EVERYTHING in their POWER to INCREASE the number of applications they receive each year each in order to “BRAG” about how many applicants they REJECTED. They do this to demonstrate how truly exclusive they are by seemingly having a contest to see who admits the FEWEST number of students on a percentage basis. Relatives may be useful if they are alums of a school that may be of interest to you or if they are closely connected with the field of higher education. I would examine their input very carefully. If it seems balanced and directed to YOUR benefit then it should be USEFUL. The most important aspect of school selection is to do your homework. Look at schools based on your wants and needs. Examine what you want and then look for schools that fit your own goals. When you have some ideas for looking at the right schools for yourself, that is the time to use the guidebooks as described above. Even without a direct campus visit initially, you should also get a real picture of a school and its students by using sites like Unigo to get an unfiltered student view of each school on your list.

Dr. Bruce NeimeyerCEO/PartnerGlobal College Search Associates, LLC

A Grain of Salt.

As with any source, you need to take the advice/information provided by these sources with “a grain of salt”. Meaning, there is probably some value to these sources but you should not allow them or their information to be the single source of your final decision. Relatives can be good sources of information especially if they are knowledgeable about the college because they went there, have children attending the school or are in the community where it is located. But keep in mind that their impression of the school is completely influenced by who they are as a person. That may be a personality that is much different than your own. You can value their opinion and insight but use it as one source of information. Combine that information with other sources and most importantly, your own first hand impressions of the school after researching it on your own and then YOU make the decision if it is the right fit or not. Similarly, guidebooks can fill in the facts that you are seeking and you have decided are important factors in the school you will ultimately enroll. Most of these guidebooks will also indicate the rankings of schools on various factors. These rankings can give you a general sense but the ranking needs to be of importance to you and you need to be honest with yourself about what the ranking will do for you once you get your degree from the school. However, you do need to dig deeper about the rankings criteria to really understand if it has any relevance to you. For example, it may be important that your future academic program of study is highly ranked. But, just because a program is number 1 in their field, doesn’t mean it is a good match for you. Look more closely at factors such as the faculty and courses to know if it is a good match. Remember that the research that faculty pursue will greatly influence the examples and texts they use to teach the course content. If you look at the faculty and determine that their research is not of interest to you then I would recommend that you keep looking. Even if this were the number one program in the nation, I would recommend that you go through the list of top schools to determine not only that it has a decent ranking but that the faculty are working on issue interesting to you. In addition, I would suggest looking at the required coursework for the major to make sure they too are of interest to you. As you can see, using the information is only a beginning point for the further investigation and inquiry that you must do to really know if the school, program and faculty are the right combination that will continue to grow your academic interests.

Daniel KramerCollege AdvisorThe Wight Foundation

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

Guidebooks, opinions from relatives, and magazines or websites that rank colleges based on their criteria are all tools that can have a place while you conduct your school search. And while they all may be useful to varying degrees while RESEARCHING a school, CHOOSING a school should be based on whether the school meets the criteria that is most important to you, be that choice of major, size, location, greek life, athletics, etc. Do your research and, most importantly, visit schools. This will put you in a solid position to make an informed choice based on what you want, not on the opinions of others.

Mollie ReznickAssociate DirectorThe College Connection

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

My advice would be to use whatever resources you have available to assess your college options, but to remember to take each one with a grain of salt. Certain guidebooks can be useful for general knowledge about a school, while others are more subjective so you need to bear in mind that these are other people’s opinions which wouldn’t necessarily match yours. Relatives can be a good resource, but you need to remember that your priorities are likely different from theirs. Rankings should mostly be ignored as they are based on things that you wouldn’t likely care about as an incoming student such as: the salary of the president or faculty and what percentage of the alumni donate money; these rankings are NOT based on quality of education.

Chuck SlatePresidentCollege Advisors,LLC

GUIDEBOOKS,RELATIVES,RANKINGS….

(1). GUIDEBOOKS: In an age of websites it’s hard to recommend guidebooks, but not long ago when my kids were going through the college process, we had hours of fun travelling to schools and reading the Princeton Review Best 376 Colleges (back then it was less than 300!!) New edition here: http://www.amazon.com/Best-Colleges-College-Admissions-Guides/dp/0375428399/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1322835785&sr=1-1 It provided some useful info and enough meaningless data and opinions to make the trips seem shorter. Back then we read all the guidebooks–Fiske, Yale Insiders’ Guide, Peterson’s, etc., but the Princeton Review was just the right size for the navigator (my wife) to hold on her lap and compare two (2) colleges side by side! (2). RELATIVES: You can gain from eveyone’s insights and experiences, some more than others. Anytime you speak with anyone the easy questions are how, when, who, where. The difficult question to remember to ask and then have answered is–WHY?? (3) RANKINGS. How fitting that the US NEWS kicked off its Top 50 Colleges list with the coronation of the millenial generation (1983) and now that generation has a trillion dollars in debt. Along the way a questionable methodology such as; the mutual promotion of certain colleges pushing up each others rankings and institutions encouraging kids to apply in order to reject same students to make themselves look more “selective” went almost as unnoticed as the nations most intellectual college (St. John’s, Annapolis) refusing to play the game being sumarily dropped. There are no “best” colleges when it comes to a human being, only a good match. I don’t have much nice to say about rankings. I know some people are going to read them. If you contact us through our website (www.collegeadvisorsllc,com) we can go into more depth or perhaps suggest a couple of alternative rankings that might balance things out.

Chip LawCo-founder Managing Director Educational Avenues

As Bill Clinton would say “define the word useful”….

Guidebooks and rankings can be useful when you are looking for INFORMATION. Relatives MAY be useful if they are giving you college input provided they have YOUR best interests in mind. Let’s look at a guidebook: You can get really good stats on what the profile of a school’s typical student looks like-GPA, rank, SAT/ACT scores, class size, graduation rates etc. You can plug in YOUR numbers and if you fit into the middle of the school you are reviewing, it means that your performance to date meets up with the current student body. So that info may be USEFUL but it DOES’NT mean that you will be accepted there or most importantly whether the school will be the best fit for your college experience. Rankings are USEFUL in order to look at colleges and universities through the lens of those who believe status and prestige are critical to success in school and life. The ranking process is incredibly flawed and based upon criteria that can have you scratching your head. An example: the top tier schools do EVERYTHING in their POWER to INCREASE the number of applications they receive each year each in order to “BRAG” about how many applicants they REJECTED. They do this to demonstrate how truly exclusive they are by seemingly having a contest to see who admits the FEWEST number of students on a percentage basis. Relatives may be useful if they are alums of a school that may be of interest to you or if they are closely connected with the field of higher education. I would examine their input very carefully. If it seems balanced and directed to YOUR benefit then it should be USEFUL. The most important aspect of school selection is to do your homework. Look at schools based on your wants and needs. Examine what you want and then look for schools that fit your own goals. When you have some ideas for looking at the right schools for yourself, that is the time to use the guidebooks as described above. Even without a direct campus visit initially, you should also get a real picture of a school and its students by using sites like Unigo to get an unfiltered student view of each school on your list.

Donna DondoGuidance CounselorDOE

Who can help me choose?

Yes. Ask as many people as you can who have had an experience with colleges you are interested in. Rankings help (US News and World Report). Guidebooks will give you an overview of the college.

Woodrow DunnAcademic CounselorFreedom High School

Guidebooks and Rankings

These can be extremely helpful in making sure the university has a strong department in your proposed major. What about getting the most for your dollar? Excellent! How about employment afterward? Excellent? Do not believe everything you read, but as stated use the information as a guide.

Lora LewisEducational ConsultantLora Lewis Consulting

Do Your Research to Become Your Own Expert

There’s an abundance of information about colleges out there, as well as plenty of friends and relatives who are more than willing to give you advice about where you should apply. Choosing a college that’s right for you is a complex process, and while it’s wise to do your research and gather information from as many sources as possible, don’t let publications or people have undue influence on your choices. A college might be ranked #1 in the nation, but that doesn’t mean it’s the #1 college for you. Aunt Sadie might have had an incredible experience at University X, but University Y might be a better fit for your personality and educational goals. Do your research, ask questions, and seek opinions, but remember that your most reliable expert in selecting a college is YOU. Use the tools that are available to you to explore your options, but when it comes to making a final decision, trust your own heart and mind first.

Brittany MaschalFounder/DirectorB. Maschal Educational Consulting

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

Yes all three are useful to an extent, but not if used singularly. And don’t forget about doing your own research online and in person (visiting campus) if possible.

Judy ZoddaFounder and PresidentZodda College Services

What’s really important in chosing the schools you’ll apply to?

It’s always nice to hear or read what relatives and gudiebooks have to say and to look at rankings, (until you find out how the rankings are actually determined), but remember this is your search and what’s important to your relatives and friends may not be important to you in what you’re looking for in your college experience. Guidebooks can be helpfful, but remember they all have a certain bias. You need to learn about yourself first. Try taking a career and interest inventory. DOWHATYOUARE is a good one to start with. Try to also figure out if you want a large school, a small school, a city/suburban campus or one that is rural. Remember, you’re probably going to spend the rest of your life somewhere in a city or near one, so try something different for four years of college. Most colleges are in rural settings because there is so much going on there, they don’t need to rely on being in or near a city. Ask yourself what your learning style is? Do you learn best by listiening in large lecture halls filled with 300-500 other students, or do you want to be in a small classes where the professors know you by name and have interesting class discussions?.Or, are you a hands-on, experiential learner? Matching your learning style with the teaching style of a colllege is very important in determining how well you’ll succeed. Does the college/university have a strong department in your area of interest? If you change your mind, is it difficult to transfer to another department or school within that university? Are the dorm facilities up to your expectations? There’s a lot to consider. I hope this gets you thinking!

John SpearDirector of College GuidanceNorthwood School

Why College Counselors Don’t Like College Rankings

College Guidance professionals have long had a troubled relationship with college rankings. Whenever a parent comes to my office with a pile of the annual college rankings issues of Newsweek, US News, Forbes, etc. I know I’ve got my work cut out for me. Sure, these resources have some value, but they generally do more harm than good. A recent survey of college admissions experts from high schools and colleges agrees with me. Released by The National Association of College Admissions Counselors, “A View of the U.S. News & World Report Rankings of Undergraduate Institutions from the College Admission Counseling Perspective” describes four main concerns: First, the rankings’ title, “America’s Best Colleges,” is not an accurate representation of the information provided by the rankings. “Best for Whom?” is my usual response. College guidance is about finding a match between the student’s interests and needs and the offerings at a college or university. Second, the methodology behind the rankings is problematic. A majority of college admission counselors believe that several core elements of the U.S. News rankings are either “poor” or “not at all” predictors of college quality, including peer assessments, student selectivity, and alumni giving. A majority of college admission counselors believe that other core elements, including graduation/retention rates, faculty resources, financial resources, and graduate rate performance are “fair” or “good” indicators of college quality. Third, college admission officers believe rankings encourage counter-productive behavior among colleges, though they are less likely to believe that such behavior takes place on their campus. That’s right: improving their rank is so important that some colleges do things that undermine the education they offer to move up a few spots. Finally, most high school-based college counselors believe the rankings are not valuable: on a scale of 1 (strenuously object to rankings) to 100 (strongly support the rankings), high school counselors rated the rankings a 29. College admission officers also don’t like the rankings: they rated the rankings a 39, indicating strong negative opinions in both areas of the profession. How did this frenzy start? There are certainly many factors. College, especially private college, is insanely expensive, and families want to be sure they are spending money wisely. The magazines publish these lists to increase sales and subscriptions, not as a public service, so the tone is provocative and feeds the frenzy. School counselors, especially those at public schools, have little, if any, training in the college admissions process, and when they start their job they quickly understand that college guidance is a small part of their job, and of lower priority than “No Child Left Behind,” “Race to the Top,” Special Education, course scheduling and state testing mandates. That heavy load, combined with budget cuts, leads families to feel they aren’t getting the support they need and they go out and buy U.S. News and World Report’s “Best Colleges.” I’m lucky to do this challenging work at an independent school, because my colleagues and I know the students we advise and we get to spend lots of time working with them individually. We help create lists of possible colleges based on the student in front of us, not a list in a magazine. My advice to parents: invest your understanding of the college selection process in more reliable, individualized resources, including the advice of your college guidance staff. We look forward to talking with you.

Eric ChancySchool CounselorApex High School – 9-12

Relevance is the key

Guidebooks are informational, and can provide information regarding programming and resources at a school, but rarely assist with real-life opinions on how the education obtained is perceived in the world of work. Relatives can be very helpful, but keep in mind that their perception, their experience and their particular choices, both positive and negative, can clarify or cloud the process. Rankings are sort of like asking the movie critics about what films to watch – there are certain qualities the ranking organizations are looking for, and that rarely has anything to do with how the education is perceived in the world of work. The people who are hiring (and fiiring) folks in the workforce have the best information on schools and programs for their industries. They see daily which people are coming in with high levels of skill in an industry, so think about talking with someone who does they type of work you are interested in pursuing about good programs at schools, colleges and universities. Also consider talking with human resources folks in industries in which you have an interest.

Steven CrispOwner Crisp College Advising

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

Guidebooks can be useful in choosing a school. The give you all of the details in a compact form. But remember colleges spend thousands of dollars on these, so the pictures are going to be perfect. That being said, just remember it doesn’t look that way on campus every day. Relatives are biased so it depends on the relative. If they went there they will probably give you all the positives because they will want you to go there as well. Rankings can be a good starting point for looking for colleges, but are not good for making your final decision. Your final decision should be made using a campus visit, the schools website, current students and/or admission officers.

Chris PowersCollege Counselor and Philosophy TeacherPowers College Counseling

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

Absolutely, but you have to use them. My favorite guidebooks are Rugg’s and Fiske. I like guidebooks that either provide comparative lists by concentration or have interesting short assessments about schools. Relatives can be helpful, but it depends on your relatives. Rankings can be helpful in deciding upon a school to research further, but are not a stand alone reason to apply to a school.

Eric Beers, Ph.D.College and Career CounselorAir Academy High School

Determining “fit” by using guidebooks, relatives, and rankings…

I think that guidebooks and rankings do have their place. Looking at them is a good place to start the college search process, but certainly should not be the final determining factor in choosing the right college for you. It would be important to find out exactly what criteria the ranking guide is looking at to determine their rankings. Do they even set foot on the college campus that they are ranking? How are graduation rates, retention rates, job placement rates calculated and validated? Even with valid statistics, just because a college is ranked highly, doesn’t mean the college is a good fit for you. Campus size, facilities, selectivity, location, religious preference, and campus organizations are all important factors. The biggest factor to me is the “feeling” you have while on campus. That cannot be quantified by a guide book or ranking guide. Do you feel at home, comfortable, and ready to do the most and best learning you have done in your whole life on this campus? Some extremely highly ranked schools are so competitive that students are stabbing each other in the back to be the highest ranked student or earn the highest grade on a research process. Many other schools are much more collaborative in nature. Campus feel to me is the biggest factor. You should know within a few minutes or an hour tops whether or not this campus feels right to you.

Frank DonPartnerEast West College Counseling LLP

It’s not what they tell you about a school. It’s about how the school feels to you.

Aaargh! Guidebooks, relatives and rankings in choosing the right school for you are like asking someone to try on a suit or garment to see if it fits you. Everyone has an opinion, and there’s a saying that if you get five people in a room and ask their opinion, you might get six different opinions. The same holds true for guidebooks, relatives and rankings. One thing that rankles me is the lack of people going out and visiting colleges and finding out about their programs. In my practice, we probably visit some 100 colleges and universities each year. Guidebooks are a synopsis of schools based upon the focus, and bias, of the editors involved. And the research may be stale, based upon information of a year or two years ago. Relatives can make their suggestions, but their suggestions can be based on hearsay or ‘what it was like in my days’ [often days long-passed and with them the school’s focus and feel then rather than now]. And rankings! Please! Rankings are often like popularity contests and give little substantive information. The only rankings one might consider would be the Shanghai Academic Ranking of World Universities. But even those pale to the actual visit, investigation and personal sense of the school you are considering for application and your college years. Take guidebooks, relatives and rankings with a grain of salt and do your own due diligence in exploration and discovery of what particular schools would offer you. The right fit is not someone else’s opinion or guidance for you might be. The right fit is what feels right to you.

Eric Beers, Ph.D.College and Career CounselorAir Academy High School

Determining “fit” by using guidebooks, relatives, and rankings…

I think that guidebooks and rankings do have their place. Looking at them is a good place to start the college search process, but certainly should not be the final determining factor in choosing the right college for you. It would be important to find out exactly what criteria the ranking guide is looking at to determine their rankings. Do they even set foot on the college campus that they are ranking? How are graduation rates, retention rates, job placement rates calculated and validated? Even with valid statistics, just because a college is ranked highly, doesn’t mean the college is a good fit for you. Campus size, facilities, selectivity, location, religious preference, and campus organizations are all important factors. Relatives, especially parents, can be a great source of information about colleges. Hopefully, your parents know you well and can help you understand more about the college(s) they attended or know the most about. Many parents put a lot of pressure on their child to attend their alma mater. Parents need to understand that their child is unique (not just an extension of themselves) and need to consider everything about a school, not just did mom or dad attend here. The biggest factor to me is the “feeling” you have while on campus. That cannot be quantified by a guide book or ranking guide. Do you feel at home, comfortable, and ready to do the most and best learning you have done in your whole life on this campus? Some extremely highly ranked schools are so competitive that students are stabbing each other in the back to be the highest ranked student or earn the highest grade on a research process. Many other schools are much more collaborative in nature. Campus feel to me is the biggest factor. You should know within a few minutes or an hour tops whether or not this campus feels right to you.

Michael SzarekDirector and FounderCollege Counseling for the Rest of Us

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

Guidebooks provide data that can help you find schools that meet your criteria in terms of major, location, size and cost. Relatives can provide “eyewitness” information from people whose opinions you value. Rankings tell a small part of the tale, as well. But these are just 3 tools in a much larger arsenal – college websites, websites like Unigo, Guidance Counselors, Admissions Reps, friends and other resources will provide some information. But ultimately, choosing a college will come down to your own interaction with the school and your own thoughts and feelings. Trust your own opinion.

Eric Beers, Ph.D.College and Career CounselorAir Academy High School

Determining “fit” by using guidebooks, relatives, and rankings…

I think that guidebooks and rankings do have their place. Looking at them is a good place to start the college search process, but certainly should not be the final determining factor in choosing the right college for you. It would be important to find out exactly what criteria the ranking guide is looking at to determine their rankings. Do they even set foot on the college campus that they are ranking? How are graduation rates, retention rates, job placement rates calculated and validated? Even with valid statistics, just because a college is ranked highly, doesn’t mean the college is a good fit for you. Campus size, facilities, selectivity, location, religious preference, and campus organizations are all important factors. Relatives, especially parents, can be a great source of information about colleges. Hopefully, your parents know you well and can help you understand more about the college(s) they attended or know the most about. Many parents put a lot of pressure on their child to attend their alma mater. Parents need to understand that their child is unique (not just an extension of themselves) and need to consider everything about a school, not just did mom or dad attend here. The biggest factor to me is the “feeling” you have while on campus. That cannot be quantified by a guide book or ranking guide. Do you feel at home, comfortable, and ready to do the most and best learning you have done in your whole life on this campus? Some extremely highly ranked schools are so competitive that students are stabbing each other in the back to be the highest ranked student or earn the highest grade on a research process. Many other schools are much more collaborative in nature. Campus feel to me is the biggest factor. You should know within a few minutes or an hour tops whether or not this campus feels right to you.

Carrie Egan

Guidebooks, relatives, rankings and how you use them

The best thing any prospective student can do is the learn as much about the colleges you are considering as possible. Reading the guidebooks is certainly a start; this will give you a flavor for the nuts and bolts of the place but not for its spirit. For that you will need to visit or speak with a current student or a recent alum. Relatives mean well but frequently want to bore you with their own version of the college search, or even worse, tell you the horror stories. Relatives’ advice is best countered with a pleasant ‘Gee, Aunt Kate, thanks so much for your interest. I’ll let you know what I think after I visit/apply to/get in to College X.” Then change the subject! Rankings are over-rated. The best college for you is the best college for YOU. It’s a personal decision and a very expensive one at that. You’ll likely spend more on your college education than on your first 4 cars put together, or maybe even your first house. ! Unlike expendable things, your education lasts for life and no one can ever take it from you. This is why it pays off to do a valid search and choose wisely. What you want to find is a place that meets all of your criteria. The best place is where you can see yourself studying and learning for 4 or more years, where you can gain a great education and maybe take advantage of internship or research opportunities, where you can afford to go and not incur the national debt in doing so.

Michael PuccioPresident/Advisor/Life CoachFuture First Advisors, LLC

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

Absolutely! When you are beginning the application process, you MUST MUST MUST do your research. The more sources of information that you have, the better. Best of luck!

Kathleen HarringtonOwnerNew Jersey College Consulting

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

Throughout the college application process, you will receive information from every which corner. The entire process is a research-based process that should completed utilizing all reliable sources. The guidebooks will provide you with statistical information for which you can decide if this is a safety, target, or reach school for you. You family members may provide insight if they themselves attended or know others who have…remember each person is different and what one person likes or does not like does not necessarily mean the same will hold true for you. The college rankings are another statistical piece that should be viewed with care and consideration. Remember it is not where you go but what you do when you get there that counts the most!

Cheryl Millington

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

The more information you use to make your final selection, the better the decision you will make and the smoother your transition from high school to university will be. The important factor to always remember is to consider the source of the information and their bias. The best way to take advantage of guide books, relatives’ advice and rankings is start with your own assessment of what is and isn’t important to you. At the end of the day, it’s your degree and your experience and no one else can better make that decision than you. Guide books Guide books are useful. I especially like the fact that you can research a number of schools in one place for a relatively small investment of cost and time. I also believe that it can be faster than visiting the websites and trying to summarize the web info of that many colleges. What is also great about guide books is that usually it is easy for you to compare all colleges on the same selected factors. This is a great place to start (but not end) your research. Pay attention to the tone of the review, while it may appear to be unbiased, it probably isn’t. Use guide books to make a short list of your schools and then get further information on them from other sources. Relatives Relatives can also be an invaluable source of information especially if they attended that institution. However, they may be overly positive if their primary motivation is for you to follow in their footsteps. Or if they are sharing negative information from a third party, what is their motivation? Do they not want you to go to that school? Remember, like most people, relatives can’t really compare their experience at that university to another (unless, of course, they also attended another college). Also, don’t forget that the school may have changed since they were there so it’s best to get more information from current students or recent alumni. Rankings Similar to guide books, rankings are good to narrow your choices. But it’s important to know the methodology of the ranking; how number one versus number 100 was determined. If you had access to the raw numbers, you’ll be surprised to know that sometimes there are very small differences in scores, for example, between number 15 and 20. Also, try to determine how the information was gathered. Who supplied the information? When was the research conducted? The answers to these questions can change the results of the rankings. Some of the factors considered may not be important to you or be as heavily weighted if you were to come up with your own ranking. You may have noticed that different rankings have different results, so look for consistency. I like to divide rankings into quarters and then see if a school consistently falls in a particular quarter. Not every school participates in every ranking, so don’t assume if they are not listed, they were below the lowest university on the ranking. Therefore, use the information carefully and wisely. To summarize, phase one of your research should be to accept all information that is available to you; including guide books, relatives and rankings. Use them all to narrow your choices. Then continue your research to find the college that is best for you!

Cindy ShermanGuidance Counselor/Crisis CounselorBloomfield High School

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

The fact is that everything and anything may be useful in the admissions process. Legacy may be beneficial, especially if the relative is an active alumni. It is important to research all schools of interest, and find out what they are historically looking for. Do they take a holistic approach to evaluating the student, or are they known for GPA/ranking

Kathryn MillerOwnerMiller Educational Consulting, Inc.

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

Choosing a college is one of the most important and expensive decisions you will make as a family. Every family wants their children to be happy and successful in college, as the experience that essentially transitions them to adulthood. The good news is that there now exists an unprecedented wealth of information available in the form of websites, guidebooks and well-meaning friends. Unfortunately, that is also the bad news, as there are over 3,000 colleges and universities out there for your student to consider. Relatives and rankings can be useful, but they should not be the main source of information for finding the best college match for a student. Utilizing the resources available at your high school counseling or post graduate office is a great place to start. If your school has Naviance or a similar program, be sure to use it. Look at the guide books, but also spend time on the websites for each school that interests you as well as the great online college search and video sites. If you need more help, you might look into utilizing the services of an independent educational consultant. Attend local college fairs and be sure to meet with the college representatives that visit your high school or give local evening presentations. After you have narrowed down your list, a visit to your top choices can really give you the best feel if a school is right for you.

Lisa RansdellPresidentPinnacle Education Consulting, LLC

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

I think all sources of info are somewhat helpful, as they introduce you to schools you may not know of. However, in my opinion all guidebooks, and certainly all relatives or alumni who attended a particular school have limited perspectives, and their opinions may not reflect the points that are most significant to YOU. So listen and read, but always push beyond these sources for additional information and impressions. I have mixed feelings about rankings, as they create absurd levels of comparison that may not make much difference in the long run. Does it really matter if one school has 90% freshman retention, and another 88%? What about an average class size of 18 at one college and 22 at the next? Check out the data, but listen to the school’s interpretation of their data, and check things out for yourself on the school’s website, and during a campus visit.

Charlotte KlaarDirectorKlaar College Consulting LLC

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

All the information you can gather about a college is useful as long as it is accurate. I don’t think the rankings are helpful because they ignore the most important piece of the puzzle in choosing a college — YOU! To choose the schools that will be a good fit for you, you must get to know yourself and see if a college has people like you on campus. The guidebooks offer basic information that is provided by the colleges, therefore, some of what they say is advertising and not strictly factual. Relatives don’t know your grades, test scores, or really much about you as a student. Often the information they have on a college is out-of-date or simply someone else’s opinion about a college. Your own research and visit to a campus will give you the information you need.

Kerrie TrosethCollege Counselor

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

Yes, all information that you can get your hands on will help you in this process. Think of it this way…pretend that you are buying a car of your choice. You can spend $5000 – $150,000 on it. You can have whatever options you want as well. If you look at car guide, they will usually give you a rundown of the vehicle (facts and stats). Cars are also ranked: safest, fastest, environmentally safe, etc. If you ask your parents or relatives what to buy, you will get hundreds of opinions. Yet the only opinion you need is your own. Do your research with all the information that you can gather. Just like test driving a potential car, you need to test drive the car by visiting the college. It may look good on paper or the web, but once you set foot on campus you will know right away if you like it or not.

Kerrie TrosethCollege Counselor

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

Yes, all information that you can get your hands on will help you in this process. Think of it this way…pretend that you are buying a car of your choice. You can spend $5000 – $150,000 on it. You can have whatever options you want as well. If you look at car guide, they will usually give you a rundown of the vehicle (facts and stats). Cars are also ranked: safest, fastest, environmentally safe, etc. If you ask your parents or relatives what to buy, you will get hundreds of opinions. Yet the only opinion you need is your own. Do your research with all the information that you can gather. Just like test driving a potential car, you need to test drive the college by visiting. It may look good on paper or the web, but once you set foot on campus you will know right away if you like it or not.

Daniel KramerCollege AdvisorThe Wight Foundation

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

Guidebooks, opinions from relatives, and magazines or websites that rank colleges based on their criteria are all tools that can have a place while you conduct your school search. And while they all may be useful to varying degrees while RESEARCHING a school, CHOOSING a school should be based on whether the school meets the criteria that is most important to you, be that choice of major, size, location, greek life, athletics, etc. Do your research and, most importantly, visit schools. This will put you in a solid position to make an informed choice based on what you want, not on the opinions of others.

Edward LaMeireCEOLaMeire College Consulting (lameirecollegeconsulting.com)

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

Anything is useful, to the extent that you’ll be getting accurate information. I’d say the least reliable way to get such info is through friends who’ve heard things through the grapevine. College is such an individual experience that it’s hard to measure the value of subjective, third-party input. The best way to get to know a place is to visit, sit in on a class, and spend the evening in a res hall. Counselors are usually pretty solid, too, to the extent that they’ve had admissions experience; your average high school counselor, however, is just trying to get kids graduated. I’m not trying to be a company shill, but I’ve recommended Unigo as a good source of information for the last several years. Even though you’re getting subjective input, at least it’s from current students, and it helps to have a wide enough array of voices to balance out any rogues.

Joseph FrickCollege Guidance Counselor

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

As long as you’re thinking critically, the more information you get about a school, the better. No matter what the source, remember that information about schools ultimately comes down to three sources: actual students at that school, actual professors at that school, and the school itself. The school itself is obviously interested in self-promotion, so it’s good to get the perspective of actual students–though it’s been my experience that students with an ax to grind are more likely to seek out the comments section of online forums than students who are content. So, take everything with a grain of salt, think critically, and get as much information as you can.

Yana Geyfman

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

For the most part yes- in terms of using it as a starting point for a student who is starting a college search process however, they are so many more unique schools that relatives and guidebooks (i.e. princeton review) might not mention especially the ranking system which usually includes the same schools. I personally have used “colleges that change life” a great book, that discusses great liberal art colleges that are unique in terms of their educational structure and graduation requirements.

Patricia KrahnkePresident/PartnerGlobal College Search Associates, LLC

1 Out of 3 – Kinda.

Short Answer: Guidebooks? Depends. Relatives and Rankings? Nope. Detailed Answer: Here’s the problem with all this information: It’s from the point of view of someone other than yourself. Worse, in the case of rankings, it’s based on data that can be skewed to enhance an institution’s marketing toward their admissions goals (Google “Iona College Falsified Data). Now, in the case of relatives, they generally want the best for you and try to encourage you in any way they can. But when it gets specific, often they cheer you on to their alma mater. I have heard many students over the years say that their Aunt or Uncle or Mom attended this or that college and that’s why they are interested. Frankly, I think relying on Uncle Jim just makes a complicated, stressful process seem easier. Nothing wrong with that. But it’s not about them, it’s about you. They may feel they know you, but mostly, they just want you to have the same great kind of experience they did – which may not be the experience that will be meaningful to you. Guidebooks can be a little helpful, if only to give you a sense of what’s out there in total. It goes a little deeper than the marketing, which makes every institution look and sound the same: Same faculty/student ratio no matter the size of the institution; same buzz words (diversity, one-on-one attention from professors; first-year research; etc., etc.). So a guidebook can sometimes give you a little something more. The problem with the guidebooks is that they each come at their offerings from a different direction. The ones that purport to offer the real inside experience of students reflects just the experience of those students – and these books go for the most quotable quotes. Again, you have to go much deeper to find out whether an institution is worth your time to consider. Read the news about each institution to learn about their funding concerns as an institution as a whole and within the academic, healthy and safety, and academic support departments. Read the student newspaper to see what’s going on within the Student Government Association – what are the students concerned about and how is the administration responding or not responding to their concerns. Who are the faculty in the departments (even if you are undecided, you’re going to end up in some faculty member’s department.) As for rankings? Pure garbage. In my first days as an Assistant Director of Admissions at Rutgers University in New Jersey, I was responsible for collecting and calculating much of the data that was submitted to the federal government and the various rankings publications, such as U.S. News and World Report, Peterson’s, etc. It was so very clear to all of us involved in this process of data collection and analysis how easily this information could be manipulated by an institution to improve its placement on the rankings lists. We were quite sure that other institutions were manipulating this data in this way, and it’s beginning to come out that in certain cases, this is exactly what has been happening. How might that work? Well, lop off the SATs of your generally underperforming groups – athletes, first-generation/low-income, legacy, etc. – and you present much higher median and average SAT scores. (That’s why admissions counselors snicker when you ask them “What’s your average SAT.” There’s no such thing as an average SAT.) That’s just one example. There are many others. Want to increase the appearance of selectivity in the rankings (the idea that the institution is harder to get into than others)? That’s simple: Make the application easy. Remove or reduce the essay component; accept the Common App; reduce or remove the application fee; send out pre-completed application forms to “top students”; don’t require letters of recommendation; market to tons of inadmissible students, raise their hopes, then deny them. The latter is one of the tactics the Ivies use – that’s one of the ways they maintain their reputation as elite institutions. Actually, most institutions use some or all of these strategies. When I was Dean of Admissions at one of the Vermont State Colleges, this conversation was held every year, driven by a panicky president: How can we increase the numbers of applications? (In fact, this conversation happens in almost every single admissions office in the world.) The president of the college wanted the application to be as simple as possible, with no letters of recommendation, no essay, no fee, in short, nothing to slow down the application from being submitted, because the president wanted the numbers higher. This is the type of manipulative behavior that drives rankings. Here’s a story that stems directly from that situation: We received a complaint one day from an applicant. This student had received a phone call from one of the counselors congratulating that student on being admitted, and the student (a very, very smart student) challenged that counselor by saying, “How can your college be any good if you received my application online yesterday and you are already calling me to tell me I have been accepted?” Bingo. The fact is that the college had several outstanding faculty members and students that deserved to be part of a process that was more conscientious than the president of the college was capable of. These stories are endless. But the bottom line is this: Do not rely on anything other than deeper knowledge and intuition. This is the rest of your life for which you are preparing. Take it seriously. Look inward to find yourself and don’t let questionable data, your well-meaning grandfather, or a well-marketed college guide take control of the truth that is YOUR future.

Patricia KrahnkePresident/PartnerGlobal College Search Associates, LLC

1 Out of 3 – Kinda.

Short Answer: Guidebooks? Depends. Relatives and Rankings? Nope. Detailed Answer: Here’s the problem with all this information: It’s from the point of view of someone other than yourself. Worse, in the case of rankings, it’s based on data that can be skewed to enhance an institution’s marketing toward their admissions goals (Google “Iona College Falsified Data). Now, in the case of relatives, they generally want the best for you and try to encourage you in any way they can. But when it gets specific, often they cheer you on to their alma mater. I have heard many students over the years say that their Aunt or Uncle or Mom attended this or that college and that’s why they are interested. Frankly, I think relying on Uncle Jim just makes a complicated, stressful process seem easier. Nothing wrong with that. But it’s not about them, it’s about you. They may feel they know you, but mostly, they just want you to have the same great kind of experience they did – which may not be the experience that will be meaningful to you. Guidebooks can be a little helpful, if only to give you a sense of what’s out there in total. It goes a little deeper than the marketing, which makes every institution look and sound the same: Same faculty/student ratio no matter the size of the institution; same buzz words (diversity, one-on-one attention from professors; first-year research; etc., etc.). So a guidebook can sometimes give you a little something more. The problem with the guidebooks is that they each come at their offerings from a different direction. The ones that purport to offer the real inside experience of students reflects just the experience of those students – and these books go for the most quotable quotes. Again, you have to go much deeper to find out whether an institution is worth your time to consider. Read the news about each institution to learn about their funding concerns as an institution as a whole and within the academic, healthy and safety, and academic support departments. Read the student newspaper to see what’s going on within the Student Government Association – what are the students concerned about and how is the administration responding or not responding to their concerns. Who are the faculty in the departments (even if you are undecided, you’re going to end up in some faculty member’s department.) As for rankings? Pure garbage. In my first days as an Assistant Director of Admissions at Rutgers University in New Jersey, I was responsible for collecting and calculating much of the data that was submitted to the federal government and the various rankings publications, such as U.S. News and World Report, Peterson’s, etc. It was so very clear to all of us involved in this process of data collection and analysis how easily this information could be manipulated by an institution to improve its placement on the rankings lists. We were quite sure that other institutions were manipulating this data in this way, and it’s beginning to come out that in certain cases, this is exactly what has been happening. How might that work? Well, lop off the SATs of your generally underperforming groups – athletes, first-generation/low-income, legacy, etc. – and you present much higher median and average SAT scores. (That’s why admissions counselors snicker when you ask them “What’s your average SAT.” There’s no such thing as an average SAT.) That’s just one example. There are many others. Want to increase the appearance of selectivity in the rankings (the idea that the institution is harder to get into than others)? That’s simple: Make the application easy. Remove or reduce the essay component; accept the Common App; reduce or remove the application fee; send out pre-completed application forms to “top students”; don’t require letters of recommendation; market to tons of inadmissible students, raise their hopes, then deny them. The latter is one of the tactics the Ivies use – that’s one of the ways they maintain their reputation as elite institutions. Actually, most institutions use some or all of these strategies. When I was Dean of Admissions at one of the Vermont State Colleges, this conversation was held every year, driven by a panicky president: How can we increase the numbers of applications? (In fact, this conversation happens in almost every single admissions office in the world.) The president of the college wanted the application to be as simple as possible, with no letters of recommendation, no essay, no fee, in short, nothing to slow down the application from being submitted, because the president wanted the numbers higher. This is the type of manipulative behavior that drives rankings. Here’s a story that stems directly from that situation: We received a complaint one day from an applicant. This student had received a phone call from one of the counselors congratulating that student on being admitted, and the student (a very, very smart student) challenged that counselor by saying, “How can your college be any good if you received my application online yesterday and you are already calling me to tell me I have been accepted?” Bingo. The fact is that the college had several outstanding faculty members and students that deserved to be part of a process that was more conscientious than the president of the college was capable of. These stories are endless. But the bottom line is this: Do not rely on anything other than deeper knowledge and intuition. This is the rest of your life for which you are preparing. Take it seriously. Look inward to find yourself and don’t let questionable data, your well-meaning grandfather, or a well-marketed college guide take control of the truth that is YOUR future.

Elysa StahlPresidentAdmissions Avenue

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

All of these options are ok to look at but must be taken with a grain of salt. The most important aspect of choosing a school is finding a good fit. The rankings are often based on information not relevant to choosing a school. As far as relatives go, they often dont know the most important aspects of a school with regard to what’s best for you. Guidebooks have more general information and a good way to get a “feel” for the school but certainly not choose one.

Doris KleinPresidentChoice College Consulting

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

As you approach your junior or senior year, you may be getting college advice from friends, relatives, or others who know that you will be making decisions about college in the near future. Some of this information may be helpful, and some may not. In order to maximize the chances of getting the information that will be helpful to you, a good way to start is by defining what you want. Are you looking for a small school, or are you more comfortable in a large university? Do you want to be near home, or do you want to explore other areas? Do you know what you want to study, or do you intend to make that decision later? Is cost a factor? These are just a few of the things to consider as you contemplate the many choices open to you. A counselor can help you to determine which variables are important to you. Guidebooks can be helpful in informing you about a college, and how it compares to others in areas that you have decided are important to you. It is likely that the guidance or college advising office in your high school will have some college guidebooks. If they do not, the books can usually be found in a public library. Relatives can be helpful if they have attended a school that interests you, or have specific knowledge about one. Rankings are frequently difficult to understand, as you do not always know what was included in the scoring. For example, if cost is a major concern for you, a ranking system that does not take cost into account will not be helpful to you. As you make your decisions about colleges, it is likely that you will draw on information obtained from many different sources…. people you know, your counselor, guidebooks, college websites, and college information sessions. Your goal in choosing a school is to find one that is a good fit in terms of all the factors that you personally consider to be important to you.

Richard NaporaCollege ConsultantClarus

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

Everyone has an opinion…and relying on the opinions of others (including guidebooks/various “best of” comparisons and “expert” advice) should never become a substitute for determining what you are seeking and doing objective research in order to find the colleges that suit your individual desires. Most “best college” articles and guidebooks are heavily biased because they use a very subjective value judgement. For example, they often factor in graduation rates, or average SAT scores, or retention rates, or njmerous other categories that might make sense when considered individually…but when these categories are mixed and matched there is no accurate or meaningful way to determine the “best” college for ALL applicants. Just because a college is highly selective, or because someone’s relative loved going there, does not mean it is the the college that will meet your needs and desires.

Richard NaporaCollege ConsultantClarus

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

College guidebooks are often packed with useful information, but the information can be presented in a subjective or biased manner. If you use guidebooks as part of your research process, make sure that you keep in mind that the authors have a specific purpose in mind…and their criteria for the ideal college might not be the same as yours. Rankings can be useful, but they should be considered only in their appropriate context. For example, many “best colleges” rankings take accurate individual categorical statistical data, such as retention rates, admitted students’ average standardized test scores, student-to-faculty ratio, and average class size, and mix certain categories in an attempt to gain an accurate value judgment. Unfortunately, when these statistics are presented collectively, there is no accurate or meaningful way to determine the “best” college for all applicants. Rather than simply take any particular “best” rankings at face value, make sure that you review breakdowns of individual statistics and factor them into what you consider the most relevant to your search. Gathering information about colleges from your relatives can give you some perspective…but remember that the colleges they suggest for your consideration (based on their experiences) may not be matches for you. The most effective way to choose a school is to define the attributes you seek in an ideal campus and to then use a variety of research sources and materials to determine which campus meets your needs.

Raolat RajiSchool Counselor/ OwnerOHHS/Good Counsel College and Career Services

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

I would say all of the above are to some degree helpful. It is important to understand though that college guidebiiks, relatives, and ranking organizations may not value the same things you value. The best way to determine if a school is right for you is by visiting the school. This may not always mean going to a Open House.

Allen Regar

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

To a minimal extent, the answer could be yes. I recently had a student whose father, uncle, and grandfather attended a US Military Academy, and my student ultimately found that he wanted to continue the tradition of attending the same institution. I am sure that in his case, being a legacy was important to him. Other students, however, will run for the hills when hearing a relative suggest a college to them. That, too, is fair. As with any conversation about college, one with your relatives should be open-minded. Hear them out, but remember that ultimately it will be *you* attending a particular college, not your great uncle Harold, who is certain that you should go to his alma mater. Like relatives, guide books and rankings can provide initial information about a school, but also like relatives, it is essential for you to do far more research than what a book or a number can provide about a school. Relatives, guide books, and rankings leave out the most important part of the college search, and that is determining what college is right for *you*. Ultimately, you must visit a college, read as much as you can about the school, visit the website, speak with students and professors if possible, and only then decide if a college is right for you. With some private colleges running over $200,000 for four years, higher education has become as expensive, if not more expensive, than purchasing a house. It is in your best interest, as well as your family’s, to conduct meaningful research about the colleges that interest you, which means going well beyond the guidebooks, the rankings, and yes, even beyond the advice of great uncle Harold.

Nina ScullerDirectorCollege Prep

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

They have a purpose. These guidebooks, relatives, and rankings do provide useful information. However, they are not the end-all. It is important to go look for yourself. The guidebooks are just that – a guide. They are useful in giving financial information, general admissions requirements, and a general idea of the cost of attendance. Relatives give their own spin on the college, but it is just an opinion and should be considered as such. The rankings are useful in that it gives the reader of the rankings “some” comparison information. The rankings are most important to the colleges; students should realize they are no different from student rankings. Just because a student is not ranked highly, does not mean the student is not smart. Similarly, just because a college does not get a specific ranking does not mean it is not a good college. These things help students think about colleges, but the student should do some personal investigations: visit the school, ask lots of questions, monitor a class in a major of interest, use good judgement.

Richard NaporaCollege ConsultantClarus

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

Everyone has an opinion…and relying on the opinions of others (including guidebooks/various “best of” comparisons and “expert” advice) should never become a substitute for determining what you are seeking and doing objective research in order to find the colleges that suit your individual desires. Most “best college” articles and guidebooks are heavily biased because they use a very subjective value judgement. For example, they often factor in graduation rates, or average SAT scores, or retention rates, or numerous other categories that might make sense when considered individually…but when these categories are mixed and matched there is no accurate or meaningful way to determine the “best” college for ALL applicants. Just because a college is highly selective, or because someone’s relative loved going there, does not mean it is the the college that will meet your needs and desires.

Todd WeaverSenior AdvisorStrategies for College, Inc.

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

That depends, depends, depends. The tools mentioned above are certainly helpful in “getting started” with your college list but I would advise you to keep them at bay, as you really need to dig in and do the research on each school on your list, by yourself. You will be the one attending classes there for the next four years and you know yourself best, so do the research and read as much as you can about the college you are considering. Visiting campus is a great way to learn even more about the environment you’ll be living, studying, playing in for the next few years. Take every opportunity you can to visit campuses you are considering.

Carita Del ValleFounderAcademic Decisions

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

Yes of course as all background knowledge will increase your understanding of the subject. Should this be the only primary source when you choose a school? Probably not, but they should not be overlooked as many admission policies, financial offerings and prestige is tied to this information.

Carita Del ValleFounderAcademic Decisions

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

Yes of course as all background knowledge will increase your understanding of the subject. Should this be the only primary source when you choose a school? Probably not, but they should not be overlooked as many admission policies, financial offerings and prestige is tied to this information.

Todd WeaverSenior AdvisorStrategies for College, Inc.

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

That depends, depends, depends. The tools mentioned above are certainly helpful in “getting started” with your college list but I would advise you to keep them at bay, as you really need to dig in and do the research on each school on your list, by yourself. You will be the one attending classes there for the next four years and you know yourself best, so do the research and read as much as you can about the college you are considering. Visiting campus is a great way to learn even more about the environment you’ll be living, studying, playing in for the next few years. Take every opportunity you can to visit campuses you are considering.

Jessica BrondoFounder and CEOThe Edge in College Prep

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

This all depends. You should never choose a school solely from a guidebook, but guidebooks and rankings can help you in your initial search when you have no idea where even to begin- they can help you eliminate or choose elements you know you do or don’t like (single sex, religious affiliation, size,), and facts about grades and SAT scores can help you determine which schools might be safeties or reach schools. Once you have a larger list of schools from those, relatives and friends who went there can talk to you about their school and give you the more personal lowdown. Ultimately a visit is the best way to see if you would be a good fit for the school too. A great money saving tip here is to visit after you receive your notices- it’s a waste of money to visit a school that would reject you! Apply to all the schools you think you would like, and then go and see the ones who want you, too.

Jessica BrondoFounder and CEOThe Edge in College Prep

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

This all depends. You should never choose a school solely from a guidebook, but guidebooks and rankings can help you in your initial search when you have no idea where even to begin- they can help you eliminate or choose elements you know you do or don’t like (single sex, religious affiliation, size,), and facts about grades and SAT scores can help you determine which schools might be safeties or reach schools. Once you have a larger list of schools from those, relatives and friends who went there can talk to you about their school and give you the more personal lowdown. Ultimately a visit is the best way to see if you would be a good fit for the school too. A great money saving tip utilize the multitude of online resources that offer virtual tours and chatrooms with admissions officials to get a “real” sense of the campus without flying there.

Steven Millan

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

While college statistics sites such as collegeboard.com are extreme useful, they only provide a small glimpse of the school in question. The best way to properly choose a school is to visit for yourself the schools in which you hope to attend.

Trevor CreedenDirector of College and Career CounselingDelaware County Christian School

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

The short answer is yes, each of these things are helpful, especially relatives that have had experience at the colleges you are looking at. However, to know if a school is a good fit for you, you have to visit. There is only so much information you can get online, by reading books or talking to people. A number of times those sources come with biases. Only if you get on campus, sit in on an info session, take a tour, eat in their dining facility, etc., are you going to get an idea of how good a fit a college is for you. You should at least eat a meal there and visit a dorm because if you are going to eat there and sleep there for four years, you must be somewhat satisfied with those two things.

adam baerWriter and Editor for Top National Magazines, Websites, and Newspapers

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

Marginally. I’d try to speak with current students and recent grads as well as successful professional alumni.

John Happs

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

Absolutely. Just remember that ALL information is biased. The more that a student researches a school the better decision he/she can make. Other places to look for information: 1. Websites such as this one. 2. Visit the school, if possible. 3. Books and periodicals 4. The schools admission’s official. 5. The schools information. Brochures, website, and video 6. People that have attended. 7. Current students

Katie ParksFormer Admissions Counselor

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

The more information you have the better when it comes to choosing a school, so all of these tools are useful resources. The more you know about a school, the more likely you’ll have a complete picture that you can use to determine if that school’s right for you. However, make sure that you evaluate where your information is coming from so you can use it properly. Guidebooks (or viewbooks) are great, but they are going to present the glossiest and most appealing side of a school. They will provide important information about the programs a school offers, scholarship and tuition information, and what services are available on campus. Viewbooks also give you a great overview of what the campus is like and what values the campus highlights can give you great insight into whether you’ll fit in or not. For example, a viewbook that stresses service opportunities and civic leadership is probably going to have a campus culture that is reflective of these ideals. One that highlights the arts and culture of a school would tend to value creativity and have a more artistic campus vibe. (These are generalizations and a campus visit is the best way to figure out for sure what the atmosphere is like, but this gives you a sense of what you can expect.) And viewbooks give you great statistics about study and play on campus. But just remember that everyone on campus won’t be smiling, sometimes the quad will actually be deserted, and those pretty dorm rooms they show don’t clean themselves. Viewbooks are a great way to narrow down your school list, but shouldn’t be the only source of information you use to make your choice. Relatives are again a great resource of information – especially if they attended the school you’re looking at. After all – they went there! They’ve lived the campus life! Who better to tell you what a campus is like than someone who’s lived it? However, again I caution you to remember that these are people you are related to, people who have some investment in your future and your well-being. This can affect what they tell you about their experiences, both positively and negatively. If they loved their alma mater and had a blast there they may talk up the school for its “coolness” factor, or just pump up their school because they’d love you to be a fellow alum. Conversely, if they had a negative experience, they may try to taint your view regardless of whether they have that killer academic research program you’re dying to try out. But relatives can also work to your advantage. Your relatives usually know you best. So they can gauge if the school is a bit too much of a party school for you if you’re more of a book worm, or if everyone goes home on the weekends on the campus when you’re dying for a hopping social scene. So take what they say and use it – but don’t let it be the only reason you choose a school. Rankings. Ah rankings. The zenith for marketing departments at schools everywhere. Rankings hold value, don’t get me wrong. But, for most high school students looking for colleges, the rankings won’t really apply to them. Many ranking charts are based off a school’s graduate level programs (thus making them almost irrelevant for undergrads) and often times, school’s with bigger alumni donors receive a boost in rankings. However, not all rankings are bad. You should look at rankings for things like “Best Value” and best academic program if there’s one you’re interested in. Rankings are often a small part of a big picture, as many students are as successful after a University of Maryland Baltimore County stint as they are after Harvard, though Harvard outranks UMBC on every list (except for best value, because let’s face it Harvard’s expensive!) Sure, the Harvard name could get you farther, but you will still get a great education at countless other schools and just because you didn’t go to the highest ranked school on a list determined by people you’ve never met, doesn’t mean you won’t have a successful collegiate or professional experience. So gather all the information you can – from guidebooks, relatives, rankings, visits, websites, social media, and any other place you can – and compile all your research into an opinion on whether you could see yourself on a campus. Can you see yourself studying, socializing, working and just living at this place? This is a big decision and you want to make sure you have all the information you need to make the one that is the best for you.

Michael AlepreteAssistant ProfessorWestminster College

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

Yes…and no. They are good for getting a general idea about a place, but you really need to make a visit. You can figure out average SAT scores of the students, get an idea about the size etc. However each school has a unique campus culture that you can only learn about by visiting. Use the guidebooks to help you develop a manageable list of schools then get out there and start visiting places.

Dr. Bruce NeimeyerCEO/PartnerGlobal College Search Associates, LLC

A Grain of Salt.

As with any source, you need to take the advice/information provided by these sources with “a grain of salt”. Meaning, there is probably some value to these sources but you should not allow them or their information to be the single source of your final decision. Relatives can be good sources of information especially if they are knowledgeable about the college because they went there, have children attending the school or are in the community where it is located. But keep in mind that their impression of the school is completely influenced by who they are as a person. That may be a personality that is much different than your own. You can value their opinion and insight but use it as one source of information. Combine that information with other sources and most importantly, your own first hand impressions of the school after researching it on your own and then YOU make the decision if it is the right fit or not. Similarly, guidebooks can fill in the facts that you are seeking and you have decided are important factors in the school you will ultimately enroll. Most of these guidebooks will also indicate the rankings of schools on various factors. These rankings can give you a general sense but the ranking needs to be of importance to you and you need to be honest with yourself about what the ranking will do for you once you get your degree from the school. However, you do need to dig deeper about the rankings criteria to really understand if it has any relevance to you. For example, it may be important that your future academic program of study is highly ranked. But, just because a program is number 1 in their field, doesn’t mean it is a good match for you. Look more closely at factors such as the faculty and courses to know if it is a good match. Remember that the research that faculty pursue will greatly influence the examples and texts they use to teach the course content. If you look at the faculty and determine that their research is not of interest to you then I would recommend that you keep looking. Even if this were the number one program in the nation, I would recommend that you go through the list of top schools to determine not only that it has a decent ranking but that the faculty are working on issue interesting to you. In addition, I would suggest looking at the required coursework for the major to make sure they too are of interest to you. As you can see, using the information is only a beginning point for the further investigation and inquiry that you must do to really know if the school, program and faculty are the right combination that will continue to grow your academic interests.

Deborah SlocumSchool CounselorCollege Counseling from a Caring Perspective

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

Ideally, as a student, you will have your own personal list of criteria that constitutes the “right fit” college for you. For example, you may see yourself at a small liberal arts college, with access to ski mountains, an excellent psych department and Division III soccer. Your best friend may prefer a large state university, with lots of school spirit and active fraternities and sororities. Both options offer an excellent education but within very different environments. Choosing a college is about finding the best fit you personally – academically and personally. The trickiest part of choosing a school is assimilating the available information and then formulating your OWN opinion. Guidebooks, relatives and rankings can be helpful in the very beginning of the search for the “right fit” college. Keep an open mind when friends and relatives offer their opinion of college; however, evaluate for yourself if the information is based on first hand experience or rumors. Guidebooks and the variety of “rankings” available can give you a general sense of the college’s prestige, strength in various departments and admission profile. However, guidebooks and rankings are done for a generic audience; in addition you should carefully evaluate the criteria used for the ranking system or inclusion in a guidebook. In short, before you have had an opportunity to visit the colleges themselves and formulate your own opinion, guidebooks, relatives and rankings can provide a starting point. As you become more clear on what the right fit is for you, these sources of information become less important or helpful.

Timothy LLaw ClerkDuke University School of Law

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

Some of the best resources are going to be current students and alumni. While guidebooks and rankings can give you a general overview about the strength of programs, which will allow you to narrow down the list of hundreds of potential schools, once you’ve narrowed it down to the top 5 or 6 schools, rankings and guidebooks become less helpful. This is when you turn to alumni and current students. If you know the industry that you want to work in, e.g., marketing, start looking up people at marketing firms you’d be interested in working at who are alumni. Give them a call or drop them an email. You’ll find most alumni are more than happy to talk about their experience, good or bad. Additionally, it will likely give you insight into the types of people you’ll be working with in your program.

Aurora BonnerEducational ConsultantBonner Educational Consultants

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

The best way to choose a school is for YOU to make an informed choice. Choosing your college is a very personal decision and cannot be mathematically calculated (as nice as that might be!). Relative’s advice and college rankings simply show other people’s opinions about a college–they can not predict how you will feel about that college. Choosing a college based on someone’s opinion would be like someone telling you who you should be friends with, what you should wear, what you should be interested in. Guidebooks, relatives and rankings are all good sources of college reviews and may help bring to light a college that you were not previously considering. However, when it comes to a final decision, I don’t put much faith in them. Form your own opinions by going to the college you’re looking at: visit faculty, attend information sessions, take a guided tour, etc. You are the one who will be spending the next four years of your life there: not your parents, not your counselor and not the experts. The best way to choose a college is for YOU to make an informed decision based on your admissions profile and your academic and social needs and interests.

Sarah ContomichalosManagerEducational Advisory Services, LLC

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

Guidebooks, relatives and rankings can all be useful or not depending on how you use them. Some of the standard guidebooks I recommend are “Fiske’s Guide to Colleges” and “The Insider’s Guide to Colleges”. Both provide basic information such as the website, ACT/SAT mid-range scores of admitted students as well a summary of a particular’s strengths and special programs. Depending on how recently your relative attended a particular school, that person can offer their personal perspective. Even if they graduated many years ago, perhaps they have children or even grandchildren who currently attend some of the colleges you would like to learn more about and can put you in touch with them to hear about their experiences. Each source has a bias and so it is important to use more than one source and if at all possible to visit yourself to form your own opinion. Ultimately your opinion is the one that matters the most.

Patty Finer

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

These sources are a good place to start, however, you should not rely on these sources alone. Guidebooks such as FISKE are a good source to start the process with. Relatives have a lot of emotion attached to their decisions often and it does not mean it is right for the student.. for example the parent went to that school, or worse, a parent wants to keep a student close to home, but the right fit is 3,000 miles away and the child picks the parent’s choose school only to funk out…As for rankings, there are several things that the ranking look at the probably have no baring whatsoever on what you are to study at a school… Here is what I tell students are the 25 top reasons for mistakes in college choice * Decide that there is only one “right” college. * Only look at colleges your best friend is looking at. * Choose a college based on the quality of their athletic teams. * Rely on the rankings in news magazines. * Go to college where your girl/boy friend is going. * Choose a college because it is the last place mom or dad want you to go * Apply to colleges that you don’t really like because you think it will make your parents proud or impress your friends. * Go to the college with the best party scene. * Choose a college without investigating campus safety. * Look only at colleges within 50 miles of where you live. * Too shy to ask questions. * Don’t examine who you are and what you want from a college. * Consider the cost of the college in deciding where to apply. * Don’t visit a college or a similar type of college before applying. * Assume that all colleges are the same. * Consider only colleges that mom or dad attended. * Let the choice just happen instead of taking charge of your future. * Choose a college based on whether the student body is attractive. * Believe that the harder a college is to get into, the better it must be. * Apply only to prestigious colleges. * Rely on someone else’s opinion. * Rely on a college’s advertising. * Misjudge your ability to get admitted to a particular college. * Ignore the resources you have available to help. * Don’t adequately investigate your college choices.

Dr. Bruce NeimeyerCEO/PartnerGlobal College Search Associates, LLC

A Grain of Salt.

As with any source, you need to take the advice/information provided by these sources with “a grain of salt”. Meaning, there is probably some value to these sources but you should not allow them or their information to be the single source of your final decision. Relatives can be good sources of information especially if they are knowledgeable about the college because they went there, have children attending the school or are in the community where it is located. But keep in mind that their impression of the school is completely influenced by who they are as a person. That may be a personality that is much different than your own. You can value their opinion and insight but use it as one source of information. Combine that information with other sources and most importantly, your own first hand impressions of the school after researching it on your own and then YOU make the decision if it is the right fit or not. Similarly, guidebooks can fill in the facts that you are seeking and you have decided are important factors in the school you will ultimately enroll. Most of these guidebooks will also indicate the rankings of schools on various factors. These rankings can give you a general sense but the ranking needs to be of importance to you and you need to be honest with yourself about what the ranking will do for you once you get your degree from the school. However, you do need to dig deeper about the rankings criteria to really understand if it has any relevance to you. For example, it may be important that your future academic program of study is highly ranked. But, just because a program is number 1 in their field, doesn’t mean it is a good match for you. Look more closely at factors such as the faculty and courses to know if it is a good match. Remember that the research that faculty pursue will greatly influence the examples and texts they use to teach the course content. If you look at the faculty and determine that their research is not of interest to you then I would recommend that you keep looking. Even if this were the number one program in the nation, I would recommend that you go through the list of top schools to determine not only that it has a decent ranking but that the faculty are working on issue interesting to you. In addition, I would suggest looking at the required coursework for the major to make sure they too are of interest to you. As you can see, using the information is only a beginning point for the further investigation and inquiry that you must do to really know if the school, program and faculty are the right combination that will continue to grow your academic interests.

Sarah ContomichalosManagerEducational Advisory Services, LLC

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

Guidebooks, relatives and rankings can all be useful or not depending on how you use them. Some of the standard guidebooks I recommend are “Fiske’s Guide to Colleges” and “The Insider’s Guide to Colleges”. Both provide basic information such as the website, ACT/SAT mid-range scores of admitted students as well a summary of a particular’s strengths and special programs. Depending on how recently your relative attended a particular school, that person can offer their personal perspective. Even if they graduated many years ago, perhaps they have children or even grandchildren who currently attend some of the colleges you would like to learn more about and can put you in touch with them to hear about their experiences. Each source has a bias and so it is important to use more than one source and if at all possible to visit yourself to form your own opinion. Ultimately your opinion is the one that matters the most.

Aurora BonnerEducational ConsultantBonner Educational Consultants

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

The best way to choose a school is for YOU to make an informed choice. Choosing your college is a very personal decision and the answer to what college is best for you cannot be mathematically calculated or looked up in a book (as nice as that might be!). Relative’s advice and college rankings show other people’s opinions about a college–they can not predict how you will feel about that college. Choosing a college based on someone’s opinion would be like someone telling you who you should be friends with, what you should wear, what you should be interested in. Guidebooks, relatives and rankings are all good sources of college reviews and may help bring to light a college that you were not previously considering. However, when it comes to a final decision, I don’t put much faith in them. Form your own opinions by going to the college you’re looking at: visit faculty, attend information sessions, take a guided tour, etc. You are the one who will be spending the next four years of your life there: not your parents, not your counselor and not the experts. The best way to choose a college is for YOU to make an informed decision based on your admissions profile and your academic and social needs and interests.

Renee Boone

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

Resources are just that…resources. Guidebooks offer summaries of a college’s characteristics and features that will help you understand academic programs, facts and figures. Your uncle and the neighbor may have positive or negative experiences to relay to you, but those are their experiences, not yours. The formal rankings, such as US News and World Report and Business Week should be reviewed cautiously…does being ranked number 47, regionally, help you determine if you will feel comfortable and supported on the campus? “Best Fit” is a somewhat elusive concept, so use as many resources as is practical to form your opinions. Of course, nothing substitutes a visit that includes classroom time and, ideally, an overnight in the dorm.

Kris HintzFounderPosition U 4 College LLC

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

Yes, yes, and yes. The guidebooks I recommend are: The College Finder by Steven Antonoff (lists of schools known for excellence in specific majors), Colleges That Change Lives by Loren Pope (a way of looking at schools based on student engagement, along with 40 good examples). Rankings such as US News & World Report are certainly a place to start to see which schools belong on the radar screen overall and for specific programs such as business and engineering. Relatives and friends of the family can offer some perspective, depending on their own backgrounds and how in touch they are with college selectivity TODAY (not in the 1970’s—things have changed).

Inna BeilinaStudent

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

In choosing colleges every source is useful. But the most useful things to pay attention to are: -current students’ opinions on the concrete colleges; – EducationUSA advisors; – unigo information. Honest, real and really useful sources.

Inna BeilinaStudent

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

In choosing colleges every source is useful. But the most useful things to pay attention to are: -current students’ opinions on the concrete colleges; – EducationUSA advisors; – unigo information. Honest, real and really useful sources.

Devon O’Brien

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

As the second most costly expenditure a family will make, a wise college choice is essential. Guidebooks, relatives, friends, counselors, rankings, college visits are all part of the exploration process in creating the college list that will suit the student best. These are simply resources and none should be taken as ‘the source of information’ upon which decisions are made. Of equal importance to the external search is the internal search. The more a student knows about themselves, the better they can identify colleges where they will thrive and be able to set the foundation for their future career success.

Kris HintzFounderPosition U 4 College LLC

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

Yes, yes, and yes. The guidebooks I recommend are: The College Finder by Steven Antonoff (lists of schools known for excellence in specific majors), Colleges That Change Lives by Loren Pope (a way of looking at schools based on student engagement, along with 40 good examples). Rankings such as US News & World Report are certainly a place to start to see which schools belong on the radar screen overall and for specific programs such as business and engineering. Relatives and friends of the family can offer some perspective, depending on their own backgrounds and how in touch they are with college selectivity TODAY (not in the 1970’s—things have changed).

Kiersten MurphyExecutive Director and FounderMurphy College Consultants LLC

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

I think that your best resource in evaluating a college is by exploring its own website and literature, as a starting point. From there, you can explore guidebooks and websites such as Unigo, as well as websites such as College Navigator and U-CAN. I would encourage families to put less emphasis on college rankings such as those put out by USNWR as there are some flaws to their methodology. We should focus on what is coming out of a school – the quality of the student’s experience, their level of engagement, etc. rather than SAT scores.

Matthew Riehm

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

The answer is “Yes”. The internet and websites seemed to have hijacked the art of using books as a reference. But the “old school” tradition of reviewing books can be a useful starting point for many students starting out. To this day, I will spin around, away from my computer to my book shelf, crack open a reference book and dig in. This exercise always provides me with a solid reference point. Once delving into the book, I will gain a better understanding of what experts have said about a particular major and a particular college and how it measures up in comparison to other colleges in the nation. Remember though, they are called “guide books” for a reason. Ultimately it comes down to the individual. The individual has preferences, values, interests and a unique personality which will ultimately be the determining factor when deciding where they would like to attend. A book should give a student insights and a frame work in how to conduct their search, but do not rely solely upon a books’ opinion. Consider what matters to you! Make it Count- Matthew E. Riehm – The College Coach

Megan DorseySAT Prep & College AdvisorCollege Prep LLC

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

All information can be helpful in choosing schools; just make sure you recognize the biases and limitations of your sources. Guidebooks are widely accepted as a useful tool in discovering colleges and gaining initial impressions about schools. Guidebooks can seem impartial, but remember that student quotes or impressions from a single visit can be subjective. In a ranking-crazy environment, it is hard not to hear about “best values” “top programs” “coolest campuses”, etc. Ranking are fine, even fun, as long as you understand they can easily be manipulated by the factors they evaluate and the formula used to determine final ranking. Finally, I don’t know if you could avoid input from your relatives. It seems like everyone wants to share their college experiences and suggestions with you. You may get some good information and you may have to smile, nod, and thank your relatives for their interest while you continue to pursue your own research. As long as you consult multiple sources and recognize that the best source of information is a college visit, guidebooks, ranking, and relatives can all be good resources.

Paul WeberCollege Admissions ConsultantCollege Pathfinder

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

All of the above, plus additional sources are useful. Choosing a college is one of the most important decisions, and biggest investments, in a person’s life. All available resources should be utilized in making this decision. As a Counselor, I find it essential to cross reference and compile information from sources that are unique from each other. Guidebooks with statistical information, anecdotal evidence from relatives and friends, and rankings established from data and input from various sources should all be considered useful. Leave no stone left unturned. Utilize the web for information. Pay particular attention to each college’s website. Here you can dive deeper into a particular academic department, investigate course offerings, faculty interests, and look up contact information. Always remember who is producing the information provided. Ultimately you are deciding on a college that fits you best and nobody else. Seek all relevant information and pay particular attention to unbiased advice. Never rely strictly on one source to base your decision on.

Lin Johnson III

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

Most important thing in choosing a college is to consider whether it is the right fit for you and only you. Yes, each has its merits in helping to choose a school to a certain extent. However, they cannot tell you whether a college will be the right fit for you. My advice is to begin the process by listing and prioritizing the things that you need and want in college experience to be happy and successful. With this list in hand, you can start to use these sources to evaluate whether a college is the right fit rather than allow these sources to persuade you in a particular direction. Guidebooks provide an objective, but basic understanding of colleges and their courses, activities, and admission requirements. On the other hand, relatives offer a personal, but often biased view of colleges and their perception in society and the workplace. Rankings attempt to provide an assessment of the quality of education at and competitiveness of various colleges and universities. Absolutely, use these sources to help you in choosing the right college, but just know what you need personally to excel academically, socially, and emotionally before you grab one.

Stephenie LeePresident/Educational ConsultantLee Academia

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

Guidebooks and rankings are both useful at times, if you want to see where a college is ranked in specific majors and departments, however, this should not be used when deciding which college best suits a student. Most students choose schools based on its ranking, however, they do not necessarily enjoy their 4-year experience at a particular highly ranked college. Students need to find a college that fits their needs, goals and helps them grow. Viewbooks and guidebooks will always try to portray the best sights and parts of the college and its campus. Therefore, students should take the time to go visit the campus and speak with students to see firsthand. Sit into classes, ask if you can see what the dormitories look like, and check out the campus cafeteria. I strongly recommend joining official campus tours and also walking around on your own. Bring a camera.

Prilla OConnell

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

The more you learn about a school you’re thinking about, of course the better…But, beware! When you’re reading different sources, consider opinion, perspective and fact. The rankings these days are pretty skewed because so many kids are applying to so many schools (and sometimes even encouraged to) so percentage of acceptances vs. applications received is a little sketchy. Upshot: Read it all and if possible, visit. And, if you can’t visit, call the admissions counselor and have some conversation. Ask the counselor if he/she can refer you to alum in your region for more fact-gathering. If you’re liking what you’re hearing, put the college/s on your list.

Angelica Bailon

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

Gathering information from as many data sources as possible will help you as you discern what school is the best fit for you. You should never use one single source as the “end all and be all” when it comes to choosing a school. Using school guidebooks definitely gives you a glimpse into how the school sees themselves, but also, the message they want YOU to receive, so you need to read between the lines to understand what they really have to offer. Relatives who have attended a school have their own, subjective opinion. They are unique, just as you are unique, so your experience may end up being differently from theirs. Make sure to ask them both what was positive as well as challenging as their experience. Finally, while rankings do tell us something about the strength of a school’s reputation, their resources, and offerings, I always use rankings with the caveat that what one person is look for and what they deem important in their college choice is not what someone else may consider important. Thus, rankings are only useful if you value and put weight on the same criteria that those who creating the rankings give value and weight to when making their lists. Ultimately, you should define your college choices based on information you have at hand and triangulate that data to see how you fit into that institution based on your academic performance, interests, and future goals.

Randi HeathmanIndependent Educational ConsultantThe Equestrian College Advisor LLC

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

Everything has a beginning and your college search is no different. If you don’t have any ideas where to start from, guidebooks, relatives, and rankings CAN be a jumping off point – but don’t rely ONLY on these three things to help guide you! There are a lot of great schools out there that are either as-yet undiscovered by the guides, schools that even your closest relatives and friends have never heard of, and schools that are unranked simply because they don’t fit into a particular ranking system’s algorithm. You don’t want to miss out on a great opportunity because you narrowed your focus too early on in the search process! I recommend that my students begin their search either with a good guide book (I’m partial to a couple of them – not naming names, though!) or a thorough Internet search. (I say “thorough Internet search” because I’m not referring to typing in something like “best colleges” or “colleges with pyschology programs.” Rather, I want students to search within a region AND an area of academic or athletic interest and really take the time to pore over the results while we’re putting together their school list. Relatives are welcome to chime in – though they often have their own biases and usually aren’t afraid to share them with you! When it comes to rankings, I urge students to use the most caution, as they are VERY susceptible to outside influences and have a tendency to be very skewed. Also, it’s key to remember that rankings for the “best” schools mean that those particular institutions are the best in their fields – but that doesn’t necessarily make them the best school for YOU.

Janet Elfers

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

Of course you want to use all the resources you can as you’re searching for colleges, but here are some cautions. Guidebooks are factual, and can be great initially, but you should never choose your college based only on statistics. Colleges are communities of people and you have to meet them before you know if you have a good match. Relatives mean well, but you are an individual and what is good for your cousin isn’t necessarily good for you. If an older relative is giving you advice, remember that schools change and what he/she experienced 20 years ago might not be what you would experience today. Published rankings can really hurt your search if you put too much importance on them. If you want to use them, be sure you have studied the criteria used in the rankings and decide if those criteria have any value to you at all. Many times the criteria don’t relate to students’ needs and wishes. I suggest taking published rankings very lightly, concentrating on finding what is good for YOU rather than what others say.

Tracy JacksonCoordinatorVirginia Beach City Public Schools

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

The answer is YES! The more information and perspectives you have, the more of an informed decision you can make. You may find out information you never thought of or knew. Also, only using one source can hinder your viewpoint. Always use a global approach when selecting a school.

Ashley Pepsin

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

The college search process can be very confusing, so any resource can be helpful. Remember, however, to not lose yourself in this process. What do YOU want? What do YOU want to accomplish? Where do YOU fit? Where do YOU feel the most comfortable, but also the most challenged?

Eric DoblerPresidentDobler College Consulting

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

They can be useful if you take them in context. If your uncle wants to take you to his Alma mater to show you around and introduce you to a few people, that is something that may help you form some opinions on the school. Of course, the school should have been on your college list to begin with and you should already know if you are close to their requirements on GPA, test scores, etc. Now, if your uncle went somewhere that you have no interest in, and you have already found out that you are not a good match grade-wise, then his offer to show you around may not amount to much. The general idea here is to qualify the information you are receiving and take some time to figure out what is most important to YOU- not what’s important to your uncle, the US News or any of the top-whatever lists that are out there. When you know what you want and what’s important to you, rankings and general opinions now become supplementary information that you can choose to consider.

Leslie Emanuel

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

It is important to keep an open-mind while one is researching choosing a school. Guidebooks can be helpful in the process but keep in mind that is just one aspect of getting informed and going on the website, college visits and talking to current students are all the most vital ways of educating oneself in terms of what is the best fit college. While relatives can have the best of intentions they are often biased to their own personal experience regarding a specific college – so it is important to not let their opinion impact your own decision.

Lynda McGeeCollege CounselorDowntown Magnets High School

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

It’s always important to ask people who know the most for help. Most guidebooks are written by very knowledgeable people, and can clarify things for you, but be very careful about rankings or other information that tells you which colleges are “the best”. Choosing a college is a very personal process, and what’s best for you may not be best for your classmate. You need to know what matters to you, and use that criteria in selecting colleges to explore. Once you know that you need smaller classes with more interaction, or a booming social life, or access to big city museums or a local forest, use the guide books to direct you to schools that feature these things. If you’re not sure about how to do this kind of reflection about your needs, ask a counselor! Most of us are very experienced with helping students find their best fit.

Tira HarpazFounderCollegeBound Advice

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

There are many ways to get information about a school. Guidebooks can be useful if you’re at the beginning of your process and don’t have too many ideas about what you’re looking for. Friends and relatives who attended a school can give you useful information and perspective (but be careful of relatives who are just working off of a list of schools they have heard of, but don’t know anything specific about the school). And rankings, if not taken too literally, can be very helpful in telling you both school statistics and what academic professionals think about a school. Ultimately though, the choice belongs to you and your family and I would encourage you to visit, if possible, or, if not, do whatever you can to get firsthand information about a school, whether meeting with a representative off-campus or viewing a virtual tour online.

Mike KentFounder / DirectorCollegeMax Counseling

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

I always suggest that students gain multiple perspectives on any college they are looking at. This can include guidebooks, college web sites, third party web sites, alumni, current students, etc. Guidebooks can be useful, but look for ones which will give you not only the facts and figures, but also a perspective on the more intangibles. While a relative’s perspective might be useful, especially if they are an alum of the school and if they know your personality well, be cautious that they aren’t offering you advice simply based on stereotypes. Finally, be cautious of rankings. They are so tempting to use, BUT they are based on factors which may or may not be most important for YOU! The best choice of a school for you is based on FIT, not brand name or ranking! Mike Kent CollegeMax Counseling [email protected]

Mike KentFounder / DirectorCollegeMax Counseling

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

I always suggest that students gain multiple perspectives on any college they are looking at. This can include guidebooks, college web sites, third party web sites, alumni, current students, etc. Guidebooks can be useful, but look for ones which will give you not only the facts and figures, but also a perspective on the more intangibles. While a relative’s perspective might be useful, especially if they are an alum of the school and if they know your personality well, be cautious that they aren’t offering you advice simply based on stereotypes. Finally, be cautious of rankings. They are so tempting to use, BUT they are based on factors which may or may not be most important for YOU! The best choice of a school for you is based on FIT, not brand name or ranking! Mike Kent CollegeMax Counseling [email protected]

Samantha GreenwoodUndergraduate Admissions CounselorChatham University

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

Guidebooks, relatives and rankings are useful in choosing a school…to a point. You can get a great sense of the nuts and bolts of a college or university by reading these statistics. After all, they are published for a reason. In the end, though, choosing the right school is about finding the right “fit.” About half of all students entering college will change their major at least once, so attending a school that has the best Biology program in the nation might be great in theory, but if you switch to Creative Writing half way through your first year, it’s going to be more important that you’re comfortable on campus and in the region and feel connected to the faculty and other students.

Joe OraveczSenior Student Affairs OfficerLocated in Nebraska

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

I believe they help; but regardless, all are biased. Depending on the ranking and the company doing the ranking, some schools actually take out ads in the “magazines” or “newspapers” throughout the year – and coincidentally, they have a better ranking when the rankings are posted. Your best best is always to go to campus, as well as speak with alumni and obtain additional references. You can not simply look at one school for one particular ranking – because you, or your students (child), is looking for something in particular that they will become actively engaged with the university/college. The guidebooks only good if they have pictures…they’re a waste of money.

Joe OraveczSenior Student Affairs OfficerLocated in Nebraska

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

I believe they help; but regardless, all are biased. Depending on the ranking and the company doing the ranking, some schools actually take out ads in the “magazines” or “newspapers” throughout the year – and coincidentally, they have a better ranking when the rankings are posted. Your best best is always to go to campus, as well as speak with alumni and obtain additional references. You can not simply look at one school for one particular ranking – because you, or your students (child), is looking for something in particular that they will become actively engaged with the university/college. The guidebooks only good if they have pictures…they’re a waste of money.

Joe OraveczSenior Student Affairs OfficerLocated in Nebraska

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

I believe they help; but regardless, all are biased. Depending on the ranking and the company doing the ranking, some schools actually take out ads in the “magazines” or “newspapers” throughout the year – and coincidentally, they have a better ranking when the rankings are posted. Your best best is always to go to campus, as well as speak with alumni and obtain additional references. You can not simply look at one school for one particular ranking – because you, or your students (child), is looking for something in particular that they will become actively engaged with the university/college. The guidebooks only good if they have pictures…they’re a waste of money.

Joe OraveczSenior Student Affairs OfficerLocated in Nebraska

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

I believe they help; but regardless, all are biased. Depending on the ranking and the company doing the ranking, some schools actually take out ads in the “magazines” or “newspapers” throughout the year – and coincidentally, they have a better ranking when the rankings are posted. Your best best is always to go to campus, as well as speak with alumni and obtain additional references. You can not simply look at one school for one particular ranking – because you, or your students (child), is looking for something in particular that they will become actively engaged with the university/college. The guidebooks only good if they have pictures…they’re a waste of money.

Dr. Bruce NeimeyerCEO/PartnerGlobal College Search Associates, LLC

A Grain of Salt.

As with any source, you need to take the advice/information provided by these sources with “a grain of salt”. Meaning, there is probably some value to these sources but you should not allow them or their information to be the single source of your final decision. Relatives can be good sources of information especially if they are knowledgeable about the college because they went there, have children attending the school or are in the community where it is located. But keep in mind that their impression of the school is completely influenced by who they are as a person. That may be a personality that is much different than your own. You can value their opinion and insight but use it as one source of information. Combine that information with other sources and most importantly, your own first hand impressions of the school after researching it on your own and then YOU make the decision if it is the right fit or not. Similarly, guidebooks can fill in the facts that you are seeking and you have decided are important factors in the school you will ultimately enroll. Most of these guidebooks will also indicate the rankings of schools on various factors. These rankings can give you a general sense but the ranking needs to be of importance to you and you need to be honest with yourself about what the ranking will do for you once you get your degree from the school. However, you do need to dig deeper about the rankings criteria to really understand if it has any relevance to you. For example, it may be important that your future academic program of study is highly ranked. But, just because a program is number 1 in their field, doesn’t mean it is a good match for you. Look more closely at factors such as the faculty and courses to know if it is a good match. Remember that the research that faculty pursue will greatly influence the examples and texts they use to teach the course content. If you look at the faculty and determine that their research is not of interest to you then I would recommend that you keep looking. Even if this were the number one program in the nation, I would recommend that you go through the list of top schools to determine not only that it has a decent ranking but that the faculty are working on issue interesting to you. In addition, I would suggest looking at the required coursework for the major to make sure they too are of interest to you. As you can see, using the information is only a beginning point for the further investigation and inquiry that you must do to really know if the school, program and faculty are the right combination that will continue to grow your academic interests.

hossam

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

Not much accreditation is important

Joe OraveczSenior Student Affairs OfficerLocated in Nebraska

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

I believe they help; but regardless, all are biased. Depending on the ranking and the company doing the ranking, some schools actually take out ads in the “magazines” or “newspapers” throughout the year – and coincidentally, they have a better ranking when the rankings are posted. Your best best is always to go to campus, as well as speak with alumni and obtain additional references. You can not simply look at one school for one particular ranking – because you, or your students (child), is looking for something in particular that they will become actively engaged with the university/college. The guidebooks only good if they have pictures…they’re a waste of money.

Joe OraveczSenior Student Affairs OfficerLocated in Nebraska

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

I believe they help; but regardless, all are biased. Depending on the ranking and the company doing the ranking, some schools actually take out ads in the “magazines” or “newspapers” throughout the year – and coincidentally, they have a better ranking when the rankings are posted. Your best best is always to go to campus, as well as speak with alumni and obtain additional references. You can not simply look at one school for one particular ranking – because you, or your students (child), is looking for something in particular that they will become actively engaged with the university/college. The guidebooks only good if they have pictures…they’re a waste of money.

Joe OraveczSenior Student Affairs OfficerLocated in Nebraska

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

I believe they help; but regardless, all are biased. Depending on the ranking and the company doing the ranking, some schools actually take out ads in the “magazines” or “newspapers” throughout the year – and coincidentally, they have a better ranking when the rankings are posted. Your best best is always to go to campus, as well as speak with alumni and obtain additional references. You can not simply look at one school for one particular ranking – because you, or your students (child), is looking for something in particular that they will become actively engaged with the university/college. The guidebooks only good if they have pictures…they’re a waste of money.

Reecy ArestyCollege Admissions/Financial Aid Expert & AuthorPayless For College, Inc.

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

Students who graduated in the same field of interest are a much more vital source than a guidebook, US News or someone else’s ranking.

Kathleen GriffinOwnerAmerican College Strategies

Are guidebooks, relatives, and rankings useful in choosing a school?

They are useful as a guide to create a list of schools that you may want to look at. But, it is important to find a school that fits you. Just because Uncle Joe went to Duke does not mean that you should go there. A number one ranked school may not be number one ranked for you. Take all the information you get and synthesize it through your heart and mind.

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