US News and College Board


Like any other field, that of college admissions is big barrel of lingo. If you’re just getting into the game, you might find yourself overwhelmed by the jargon, from those acronyms (PSAT, SAT, ACT) to admissions types (early decision, early action, rolling, regular). We’re here to help. In this article, we demystify one category: college resources. What, exactly, are US News and the College Board?

US News and World Report

The US News and World Report, which celebrated its 60th birthday last year, is most famous for its college rankings. Every year, US News publishes long lists of schools, ranked in categories including location, subject area, acceptance rate, and financial aid offerings. Traditionally, the US News and World Report has published college rankings of only US schools; this year, the magazine debuted its “World’s Best Colleges and Universities” rankings. US News has also expanded to include rankings of high schools and graduate schools. The well-known “America’s Best Colleges” list is based on data, usually provided by the colleges, “for up to 15 indicators of academic excellence.” Each of these factors—which include assessment by top academics, retention rate, faculty resources, selectivity, financial resources, graduation rate, and alumni giving rate—is given a different weight. US News and World Report’s “World’s Best Colleges and Universities” list considers another set of factors, including assessment by top academics, assessment by employers, student-to-faculty ratio, citations per faculty member, and percentage of international students and faculty at the school. The US News and World Report’s college rankings systems are considered a helpful starting point for high school students beginning the college search process. But some contend that reducing college experiences to a set of numbers isn’t useful, and that US News feeds the inherent stress of the college application process.

The College Board

The College Board is a nonprofit that manages several major standardized tests, including the SAT, the PSAT/NMSQT, and the AP tests. Lots of letters. The SAT Reasoning Test, which in previous lives was called the Scholastic Aptitude Test and the Scholastic Assessment Test, has three components—critical reading, mathematics, and writing—and is required for admission to many colleges. The PSAT/NMSQT, or Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test—also produced by the College Board—is a practice version of the SAT administered to high school sophomores and juniors. And the AP tests, part of the College Board’s Advanced Placement program, are administered to high schoolers at the end of college-level courses offered at their schools. (Many colleges allow students who have received certain scores on their AP tests to place out of corresponding college courses.) In response to criticism that the SAT does not reflect what is learned in the classroom, the College Board has revamped the SAT. In 2002, the College Board began the process of incorporating a writing section into the test, which previously tested students on only critical reading and math. The College Board’s score choice policy allows students to take the SAT and accompanying subject tests multiple times, then select the scores they send to colleges. This system favors students who can afford to take the tests many times. Though the College Board does offer a fee-waiver program, available via guidance counselors, a number of colleges, including Cornell and Stanford, have rejected the score choice policy and require students to submit all their SAT scores. In recent years, the ACT test, which rivals the SAT, has gained prominence: as of 2007, all four-year colleges accept the ACT.

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