Rank your top 10 favorite movies (action, animation, comedy...). Now compare that with a few national listings. How do they compare? I'm sure you have a few similar choices. They have something ranked high that you've never heard of before reading the list. In the end, you probably liked your list better than the professionals, right?
Now do the same with your favorite music. Now pizza. Now tacos. Now colleges.
College rankings are wonderful marketing tools used by magazine or service providers to share their perspective on higher education. While these lists do provide a snapshot of what the college offers, you should not value one ranking list over the other, nor should you spend a lot of energy comparing your starting list of colleges to the list.
Each list has a different top 10. Lists will come and go (LinkedIn shut down their higher education tools including their college ranking list). Each company uses different methodology (college presidents, student responses, economic data, social data...) to create their ranking. Some institutions, like one university in South Carolina, make strategic decisions to boost their ranking. So just like, movie rankings, college ranking lists are subjective.
Use ranking lists as tools, not rules. You need your own personalized list. Start by asking if your list reflects your personal goals and interests.
The most recent list comes from the New York Times. The College Access Index ranks colleges by economic diversity (family income, the net price students pay, and at least a five-year graduation rate of seventy-five percent.
The Fiske Guide (book form only) asks open-ended questions. US News & World Report uses fifty different types of numerical rankings. Forbes (CCAP) draws from many third part sources including RateMyProfessor, PayScale, and awards like the Oscars and Grammy's.. Niche (College Prowler) uses "a comprehensive assessment of more than 1,100 U.S. colleges based on millions of statistics and student reviews."
Other national lists include Kiplinger, Washington Monthly, Princeton Review, Business Insider, Money, and the Wall Street Journal Two international ranking lists include QS World and the Times Higher Ed World University Rankings.
As you will quickly see, each organization creates their own scientific formula, or methodology, to determine which colleges and universities it considers best. When you visit my college ranking page, you will see the methodology along with some data points. The weights (or percentage) given to each category may change from year-to-year.
You need to decide which list to use - if any. And remember to enjoy the college planning process. This is supposed to be fun!
English and mathematics.
The ABCs and the 1-2-3's of education.
College-bound students are not getting off to the best start after high school because they must take basic math and English courses. While college freshmen are taking remedial courses, they falling behind on their path to graduation. This is bad.
I was ranked forty-seventh in a class of over three hundred fifty students. Even with top grades in math, my SAT math scores were low (never take your SAT after a Friday night football game). Since colleges use test scores to place freshman in math and English courses, I took two remedial math courses before starting College Algebra. Three months prior to college, I was taking an honors Trigonometry and Analysis final.
IHEPs Access to Attainment reported that fifty percent of college-bound freshman require remediation with twenty percent taking three or more remedial courses.
Meredith Kolodner (Hechinger Report) shared that seventy-five percent of California community college students are “unprepared” for college when they arrive. Seventy-five! What does this mean? Students have to complete their remedial classes before enrolling in college-level math and English courses. In Nevada, fifty-three percent of freshman entering a four-year university were required to enroll in remedial courses.
Thirty-four percent of students did not meet any of the four ACT benchmarks in 2015. The National Conference of State Legislatures posted that "forty-one percent of Hispanic students and forty-two percent of African-American students require remediation, compared to thirty-one percent of white students."
Emily Deruy of The Mercury News reported that forty percent of freshman entering a California State University campus have to take remedial math or English. Koldner reported that only twenty percent of remedial math students make it to College Algebra. While learning math and English is important, studying high school level math in college is holding students back.
Here are four ways that remedial courses affect college-bound students.  It costs money and time. The average 3-hour credit class costs $594 per credit hour. So does a college freshman want to spend $1,782 in a high-school level class?  Remedial courses do not count toward their degree plan.  These courses are designed for students who scored low a standardized placement test.  These courses are seen as more of a barrier than a passageway to a degree.
Schools and organizations are looking for solutions to remedial courses. In high school, students would benefit from free after-school tutoring. IHEP recommends that schools identify students who need remediation before graduating and offer proven remediation practices. Kolodner shared other proposed solutions including Common Core State Standards and addressing the misalignment between college readiness and high school exit standards.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR STUDENTS
If you are a student or parent, I recommend completing a learning assessment to identify ways to improve study habits at home and at school.
I also recommend connecting with a math and English tutor. You can choose from online sources or classroom teachers. Some parents pay thousands of dollars to help their children improve their baseball swing and free throw percentage. But paying a few hundred dollars to improve your sentence structure and numerical reasoning skills is worth a lifetime of benefits.
The good news is that during my third semester at college, I became a math tutor. Yes, even though I had to take remedial courses, I mastered the subject matter. Contact me if you need some additional recommendations. Together, we can do better.
Updated: August 2, 2017
This weeks guest post comes from Ross Dickie, who I've had the pleasure of knowing for a few years. He is always wanting people of all ages to understand more about themselves and make better decisions.
As CEO of Keys to Succeed and President & COO of Human eSources, he is dedicated to helping others "discover educational and career goals based on their unique combination of personality, preferences, skills and talents." Check out this report on the Do What You Are (DWYA) personality assessment, one of my favorite resources..
Like me, Ross started his career at a community college. Read what he has to share about the value of community colleges.
In case you weren’t aware, April [was] National Community College Awareness Month. And never have community colleges played such an important part in helping individuals of diverse ages and backgrounds realize their American Dream.
According to the American Association of Community Colleges, its member institutions serve 45% of all college students and 41% of all first-time freshmen. However, that’s only part of the story.
Over half of all African American college students attend a community college. Representation among Hispanic and Native American college students is even higher. And over one-third of students are the first generation in their family to attend college.
Not surprisingly, community college students represent a wide range of ages, the average student being 29 years old.
Community college students are also a hardworking bunch. Well over half of all full-time community college students are employed at least part time, and nearly 75% of all part-time students hold down some form of employment.
In short, America’s community colleges serve students who are committed to a better life for themselves and their families, and are willing to work hard to achieve it.
Perhaps most importantly, this group of students are at the vanguard of a drive to upgrade their skills and remain competitive in a globalized workforce.
We also know that these students face greater challenges to graduation than most other college students. Nearly half fail to return for their second year of education.
The reasons are many.
In addition to attending to their studies, these students all have jobs to hold down. Seventeen percent are single parents. So, for these students, life has a way of intruding on their best intentions.
Many come to community college socially and academically unprepared, yet are committed to success. As a result, first-year experience courses play a particularly important role in helping these students succeed and matriculate through their college experience.
Our collective future depends, to a large extent, on our ability to teach all students to adapt, compete and thrive in a highly competitive global economy. The role of community colleges in reaching that goal has never been more important.
Combining my youth ministry and educational consulting experience, I guide students to connect higher education with God's calling.