Fiske Guide to Colleges

The Liberal Arts Alternatives- Public Liberal Arts Colleges

The most discriminating purchasers of college services, college professors, are keen on sending their kids to liberal arts colleges. Why? Liberal arts schools are usually small, smaller than many high schools. Most are composed solely of undergraduates, meaning accessibility to professors is unmatched: professors know this.  

Consequently, liberal arts colleges encourage and deliver many undergraduate research opportunities, even compared to major ‘research universities.’ Moreover, at the liberal arts colleges, professors teach introductory courses, with many interacting frequently with their students—and have countless informal meetings, which according the late Steve Jobs, are the most fruitful and memorable.

Regardless of all this professor access, many believe that attending a liberal arts college- to learn, read, write, analyze, communicate and think clearly will land students squarely in the unemployment line. Not according to Paul D’Arnieri , dean of the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences at University of Florida, “…liberal arts major can go into education, public policy, law, intelligence, as well as business--let’s not forget that many, many business leaders have liberal arts degrees.” (Fox Business 27 January 2012) Okay, but won’t the costs of these colleges saddle students with tens of thousands of dollars of debt? Certainly the sticker price of Swarthmore, Amherst, Pomona College, or Williams is over $50,000 a year, but there are alternatives.

Beyond the brand name private liberal arts schools there are a number of public liberal arts colleges. Many are a part of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC) which consists of 27 public colleges spread among 24 states and a Canadian province. A full list can be found at Four of these public liberal arts colleges are included in Fiske’s Best Buys of 2013, which is based on “the quality of their academic offerings in relation to the cost of attendance.” (Fiske Guide, 2013)  These include the College of Charleston (SC), Evergreen State (WA), Truman State, (MO), and University of Mary Washington (VA). Two other public liberal arts colleges for those wanting to be closer to home include Sonoma State University, with a cost of attendance (COA) of just over $23,000 and Southern Oregon University (which is part of the Western University Exchange program, WUE), with a COA of $25,000.

Yet another public liberal arts college, University of Minnesota, Morris, which for some odd reason did not make the Fiske list, is truly an exceptional value. The college is located in the middle-western portion of Minnesota, fairly close to the North Dakota border. The 125-year-old campus has a 42-acre historic district set in the middle of its 130-acre campus. Equally interesting is the campus is well on its way to becoming carbon neutral, as it obtains over half its power from a municipal level wind turbine (another liberal arts school in Minnesota, Carleton, just installed its second wind turbine generator—a popular energy alternative in the land of 10,000 lakes).

Academically all students begin with a first-year seminar featuring a five-course core under the name of ‘Skills for the Liberal Arts.” Eight courses are then required spread among history, fine arts, social science, natural sciences, and ‘international perspectives.’ Over two-thirds of the classes have 19 or fewer students, and all are taught by professors. Students find the academics competitive but highly collaborative.

The best news is that Morris does not charge non-residential fees. The annual tuition, room and board for a non-resident is under $20,000. For the right type of student, Morris represents a superb undergraduate value, as do many of the public liberal arts schools.

Only 3% of students coming out of high school go on to liberal arts colleges. In all likelihood of the students who even learn that liberal arts schools exist, most dismiss this alternative as too pricey, unprofessional, and small. That’s a shame because there are a lot of choices and opportunities for those bold enough to stray off the well-worn UC or CSU admissions path. Liberate your search and survey the great public liberal arts school opportunities.  

Answering the ‘Why Us?” College Essay Question

  • The Importance of the ‘Why Us?’ Essay question
  • Improves your Candidacy and Knowledge of College
  • Takes 3-5 Hours to Write
  • Use ‘Evernote’ or another Note-taking Tool to Research

In many of the supplements to the Common Application you are likely to run into some form of the question ‘Why Us?” Here is the 2011 University of Pennsylvania rendition:

“Considering both the specific undergraduate school to which you are applying and the unique aspects of the University of Pennsylvania, what do you hope to learn from and contribute to the Penn community?”

If you answer this question well it will:

  1. Tell the admissions office that you’ve done your homework as to how you plan to exploit the university’s resources to the best of your ability.
  2. Give you a grasp of the specific college, department, and majors of interest along with the outstanding faculty members whose courses you might wish to take, or whom you might wish to have mentor you in undergraduate research projects.
  3. Expose you to special programs you may never knew existed such as dual major possibilities, or interdisciplinary studies.

Treat this question lightly or attempt to answer it without doing the necessary research and you might jeopardize your admissions chances. Furthermore, this question is asking what you know about the school in question, and what unique qualities it has that cannot be found anywhere else. If you respond by saying that you like Penn because it has a low student to faculty ratio, a solid reputation, or a location in a ‘dynamic’ urban area, you’re using broad generalities that don’t differentiate University of Pennsylvania from dozens of schools that share these same qualities. To answer it well, you need to know the University of Pennsylvania well, particularly its departments, student clubs, and extracurricular areas of interest. 

Expect to take around 3-5 hours of research and writing to gain familiarity. I’ve worked with a number of students, and none have produced a worthy essay in less time. The word limit for this essay is 500 words: squeezing everything into this limited space is not easy.

Let’s assume that you’re an applicant interested in economics which means you want to find out the ‘unique aspects’ of Penn’s offerings for potential economics majors; you also want to approach your search with a list of what it is you ‘hope to learn’ upon graduation. Honestly, it’s hard to imagine a more meaningful exercise when evaluating any school on your list. To get the process started:

  1. Use a note taking program to capture what you run into on the web. Microsoft’s One Note isn’t bad; if you don’t have Microsoft Office, then download Evernote—it’s free, it’s easy to use, and it will save a lot of time.
  2. Read the Penn write up in the Fiske Guide to Colleges. It discusses strong departments within the school, special programs that are offered, and gives a general overview of the campus and student life.
  3. Read the write up on (the annual charge for access to over 200 college write ups is $25—they’re constantly updated). It reviews the strengths and weaknesses of the Penn curriculum. It also gives insights into the insidious presence of ‘political correctness’ in various departments.
  4. I then would go to the website of the Economics department in the School of Arts and Sciences, and explore the majors offered, their requirements, internships, research opportunities, special seminars…

For the University of Pennsylvania one student ended up with over 15 notes on the PPE (Philosophy, Politics, and Economics) major. Most were from the University of Pennsylvania website which detailed the program, the honor’s thesis, the Benjamin Franklin Scholar program, study abroad, internships, and undergraduate research opportunities. He then went on to explore specific extracurricular activities.

To write anything cogent for a “Why Us?” prompt you must do the necessary homework. If not, you’re likely to sound unsure. You need to have a self-confident tone that is a bit assertive. Lastly, the more you learn about Penn’s resources and programs, the more excited you’ll become about attending; you want to capture that spark of excitement in your essay, and hopefully, in your life.  

대학 에세이, “ 지원하는가?” 답하기

  • 이 질문의 중요성
  • 가고 싶은 대학에 대한 지식을 높이기
  • 3-5시간을 들이자
  • 리서치에서 ‘EverNote’등의 메모기능을 이용하자

Common Application의 보충자료의 대부분은 여러 가지 형식이지만, 한마디로 “왜 지원하는가?(Why Us?)이다.  2011년 University of Pennsylvania의 설문은 다음과 같다.

여러분이 지원하는 단과대학과 U. Penn 독특한 특성을 고려할 , 여러분은 이곳에서 무엇을 배우고자 하며, 어떻게 대학에 공헌할 있는가?

제대로 대답하고자 한다면 다음을 고려해야 한다:

  1. 여러분이 최선을 다해 대학의 자원을 어떻게 탐구할 것인지를 공부했다는 것을 입학심사관에게 말하자.
  2. 단과대학, 학과, 전공을 따라 우수한 어떤 교수의 과목을 수강하고 싶으며, 리서치 프로젝트을 위해 어떤 지도교수와 같이 연구하고 싶은지를 말하자.
  3. 여러분이 몰랐던 특별한 프로그램 (예를 들면, 이중 전공, 학문간 연구 등)에 관심을 가지게 됨을 말하자.

이 질문을 가볍게 취급하여 리서치를 않는다면, 입학의 기회는 어렵게 된다.  더욱이 이 질문은 여러분이 대학에 대해 무엇을 아는지, 또한 잘 알려지지 않은 대학의 독특한 특질을 아는지를 묻는 것이다.  만약, 여러분이 Penn이 교수 대 학생 비율이 낮고 명성있고 다이나믹한 도시에 위치해 있으므로 좋아한다고 한다면, 수십 개의 다른 비슷한 특징을 가진 대학과 구별되지 않는 평이한 일반성을 말한 것이다.  대답을 정말 잘 하기 위해서는 U. Penn에 대해 각 학과, 학생 클럽, 특활의 범위 등 자세히 알아야 한다.

그러므로 3-5시간을 투자하여 리서치를 해야 한다.  필자가 경험한 바로는 어떤 학생도 이보다 짧은 시간에 훌륭한 에세이를 쓰지 못했다.  또한 단어수가 500으로 제한되어 있다:  모든 것을 제한된 양에 채우는 것은 쉬운 일이 아니다.

 만약 여러분이 경제학에 관심있는 응시자라고 하자.  그러면, 잠재적인 U Penn의 경제학 전공자로서 이 대학의 독특한 점을 찾아야 한다.  또한 졸업 때까지 무엇을 배우고자 하는지에 대한 리서치를 해야 한다.  솔직히 말해서 대학을 정확히 평가하는 것이 쉽지는 않다.  다음의 과정을 따르면 가능하다. 

  1. 웹싸이트에서 캡쳐하는 메모장을 사용하라.  Microsoft의 One Note도 좋다; 만약 프로그램이 없으며, Evernote를 다운로드하자.  사용하기 쉽고 공짜이고 많은 시간을 절약해준다.
  2. Fiske Guide to College에서 유펜에 대해 읽자.  이 대학에서 강한 학과, 제공되는 특별 프로그램, 캠퍼스와 학생 생활에 대한 개요를 알 수 있다.
  3. 에서 대학에 대한 write up을 읽자 (200개 대학에 대한 글이 있으며, 계속 수정되며, 연회비는 25불이다).  여기에서 유펜의 커리쿨럼의 강,약점을 알 수 있다.  또한 학과에 대한 여러 소문에 대한 정확한 이해를 할 수 있다.
  4. 필자라면, School of Arts and Sciences에 있는 경제학과의 웹싸이트에서 전공에 따른 요구조건과 인턴쉽, 리서치 기회, 특별 강좌에 대해 알아보겠다.

유펜에 대해 한 학생은 PPE(철학, 정치학, 경제학)전공에 대해 15장의 노트를 만들었다.  대부분 웹싸이트에서 찾은 것으로 프로그램 소개, honor’s thesis, Benjamin Franklin Scholar program, study abroad, 인턴쉽, 리서치 기회 등 이었다.  또한 특별 활동에 대해서도 조사하였다.

“왜 지원하는가?”에 대해 설득력있게 설명하려면, 필요한 과제를 해야 한다.  그렇지 않으면, 여러분의 설명은 설득력이 없게 들린다.  단호하게 자신감을 가져야 한다.  끝으로, 유펜의 자원과 프로그램에 대해 많이 알면 알수록, 여러분은 더 가고 싶어질 것이다; 여러분의 에세이에서 이런 흥분의 빛이 빛난다면, 여러분의 인생도 빛나게 될 것이다.

School Year Plan—Why the Type of School Year Plan might be important to you

“The Sizing up Survey” in the Fiske Guide to Colleges asks a number of preference questions to help students figure out good college matches: location, setting, size, cost, athletics, extracurricular, public vs. private, campus culture, academics, and ‘other factors.’ Unfortunately, in certain areas, especially ‘academics’, many students not only don’t have any answers, they don’t even have a clue what they’re looking for, nor do they have much time to contemplate what an ideal learning experience might be. One area to get a grasp of ‘academics,’ beyond whether the school has general education courses, a core curriculum, or distribution requirements, is to know how colleges divvy up their school year, and how these various divisions might jive with learning styles.

Knowing a College Well: An Exercise at Bucknell University

The summer is an ideal time to ‘test drive’ a college. Even though the bulk of your undergraduate years will be spent inside the classroom and library walls (at least they better be), knowing the campus and the community where you’ll be spending at least the next four years, possibly longer, is important. A good exercise to help you explore a school you’re serious about is to pretend you’re already there.

To begin, let’s choose a college. If you’re thinking of engineering, or chemistry, and have a penchant for liberal arts programs as well, Bucknell University in Pennsylvania might be of interest. We’ll want to gather as much information as possible by touring its website,, reviewing its course catalog,, researching its core requirements, and looking at its admissions rates, which can be readily found on the College Navigator site. 

The next step is to imagine you’re in Bucknell, nestled in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, a town rated 15th in the 100 best, small towns in America. You are now living in one of the five college-owned apartment buildings and you’re finishing up a meal at the award-winning Bostwick Cafeteria, which offers “local produce and lots of healthy and vegetarian options.” (Fiske Guide to Colleges 2010, page 83). You might take a stroll among the 450 secluded, hilly acres overlooking the Susquehanna River, walking by one of the 100 buildings, the recently constructed, $8-million, Breakiron Engineering building. The place has the feel of a country club, which isn’t too surprising as it’s the sixth most expensive university in the country.

Now it’s time to choose your courses and consider which of the 50 majors and 60 minors are of most interest. If it’s chemistry, there is a lot to consider: a chemistry major with a minor in biology, or possibly a combined chemistry major with a liberal arts degree, a five-year program. There are a lot of options to consider.  The university has writing requirements (all students are required to successfully complete three writing courses) and lots of undergraduate research opportunities; Bucknell will supply a stipend of $2,500 for the most promising ones.

Exploring the academic environment in greater depth, we discover Bucknell is comprised of two undergraduate colleges: Engineering (650 students), and Arts and Sciences (2,900 students). Additionally, Bucknell has no core curriculum, though the College of Arts and Sciences offers a “Common Learning Agenda” that consists of 6 courses of questionable efficacy. The student/teacher ratio is 11:1, not bad (and not too surprising in light of the generally small class sizes: 93% of the classes have fewer than 50 students.). Furthermore, the quality of the professors is high. According to the ISI On-line College Guide,, the professors like to teach, over 60% are tenured, and virtually all have terminal degrees (PhD). The faculty does teach all the classes.  The leading departments are engineering, computer science, economics, and chemistry. The acclaimed professors include Tristan Riley in sociology, Eric Tilman in chemistry, and Nancy White in Economics. You can do a fairly thorough examination of a portion of the faculty at ‘Rate My’,

Finally, the acid test of this exercise is to produce a concise list of the pros and cons of the school, preferably on one sheet of paper.

What have you actually accomplished with this exercise? Undoubtedly, it will make you an expert on each college you review. Furthermore, if you encounter the question about ‘Why Bucknell?” on the application, you won’t have any difficulty pulling together your facts. Should you interview at the school or with an alumni, you’ll be thoroughly prepared. In fact, examining any school at this level gives you the knowledge that few applicants might have. The admissions office will certainly be impressed by your knowledge, and awareness of the college equates with a high interest level. The school will know you’re serious, that you care, and that you’ll probably be a dedicated member of their college community. It’s a good way to gain acceptance.  

대학을 알자: Bucknell University

여름은 대학을 시험 운전처럼 알아보기 좋은 시간이다.  물론 여러분이 대학 진학 후, 강의실과 도서관에서 시간을 보내야 하지만 (좋은 일이다), 여러분이 4년 혹은 더 길게 보내야 될 캠퍼스와 그 동네를 알아보는 일은 중요하다.  대학을 탐험할 때는 마치 이미 그 대학에 있는 것처럼 생각하는 것이다.

먼저, 대학을 선택하자.  만약 공학, 화학, 그리고 인문학의 애호가라면, Bucknell University in Pennsylvania 가 흥미를 끌 것이다.  다음, 대학의 웹싸이트 (, 과목 카탈로그 ( ),와 College Navigator 싸이트에서 알 수 있는  중요 요구조건들, 합격률 등 가능한 많은 정보를 수집하도록 한다.

다음 단계로 여러분이 미 전국 최고의 100위 소도시들 중 15위에 드는 Lewisburg, Pennsylvania의 이 대학 안에 있다고 가정하자.  그러면, 여러분은 5개의 대학 아파트 빌딩 중의 한 곳에 살 것이며, “근교 생산물의 건강식과 많은 야채를 제공”(Fiske guide to Colleges 2010, page 83) 하는 품질상을 받은 Bostwick Cafeteria 에서 식사를 할 것이다.  여러분은 이 대학내의 100개 건물 중의 하나인, 최근 800만 달러를 들여 건축된 Breakiron Engineering 건물을 걸으면서, Susquehanna River를 내려다 보는 450 에이커의 한적한 언덕길을 산책하고 있을 것이다.  이곳은 마치 컨트리 클럽을 생각나게하는 전국에서 6번째로 비싼 대학인 것이 놀라운 사실이 아니다.

이제 50개의 전공과 60개의 부전공 중에서 교과목을 선택하자.  화학을 택한다면, 여러 가지를 고려할 수 있다: 화학전공+생물학 부전공, 혹은 5년 과정의 화학전공+인문학 등 여러 선택이 있다.  또한 대학은 작문을 요구하며(모든 학생이 3과목의 작문을 마쳐야 한다), 여러 리서치 기회가 있으며 좋은 연구에는 $2,500을 제공한다.

이 대학의 학문적 깊이를 따져보면, Bucknell 은 2개의 학부 대학이 있다: Engineering (650명), 인문학(2,900).  그리고 인문대학에서는 6개의 교과목 중심의 “common Learning Agenda”를 제공하며, 핵심 커리큘럼은 없다.  학생/교사 비율은 11:1로 나쁘지 않다(93%의 학급이 50명 미만의 소규모 수업이다).  더욱이, 교수의 질이 높다.  ISI On-line College Guide( )에 따르면, 교수들이 가르치고 싶어하는 곳으로 60%이상이 종신직이며, 전교수가 최고학벌(Ph.D.)이다.  모든 과목을 실제 교수가 가르친다.  우수 학과는 공학, 컴퓨터학, 경제학과 화학이다.  명성높은 교수는 사회학의 Tristan Riley, 화학의 Eric Tilmn, 경제학의 Nancy white 이다.  ‘Rate My’ ( )에서 자세한 조사를 할 수 있다.

무엇보다 이 시험운전의 가치는 한 장 이상의 찬반론을 제가할 수 있다는 점이다.

이 시험으로 무엇을 얻을 수 있는가?  여러분은 각 대학의 전문가가 될 것이다.  만약 여러분이 ‘왜 Bucknell?’인가 질문을 받는다면, 거리낌없이 말 할 수 있을 것이다.  만약 이 대학 선배와 면접을 하게 된다해도, 자신있게 답할 수 있을 것이다.  이 정도라면 어떤 응시자도 알지 못하는 정보를 지니는 것이다.  입학심사관은 여러분의 지식과 대학 관심도를 높이 평가할 것이다.  대학은 여러분이 이 대학을 진지하게 생각하고 신경쓴다는 점에서 이 대학을 위한 헌신된 학생으로 생각할 것이다.  그런 점에서 입학을 얻어 낼 수도 있다.


Retention Rates: A Critical Measure of a College Program

If there were but one factor I could review to determine the effectiveness of a college or university’s program it would certainly not be the US News and World Report Rankings, or the 25 and 75 percentile SAT scores of the incoming class, or even the number of Rhode scholars, or Fulbright scholars it has graduated over the last 10 years. Instead, I’d rather see the school’s retention rate: the number of freshmen students who return for their sophomore year at the same school. Experience tells us that freshman year in college is a massive adjustment. Those schools who can guide their students successfully through freshman year are gems, because a lot of students fail to successfully make the transition in college.

The national average retention rate for all two and four-year colleges is 66%: a third of the freshman class elects not to continue its studies, or transfers to another college. At the low end of freshman retention rate are public community colleges with 54%. At the high range are state and private universities with PhD programs, at 74% and 81%.  

A good place to gain a sense of a college’s retention rate is at College Navigator, a site well worth frequenting, When you go to the site, type in the name of the college you want to review, say Grinnell College (in Iowa), and then click on ‘Retention and graduation rates.’ In this particular case, you’ll find that Grinnell retains 93% of its freshman. That’s considered a high retention rate, which isn’t much of a surprise, as Grinnell is a highly competitive college; it admits 34% of its applicants. Grinnell’s retention rate isn’t quite up to the Ivy levels where: Brown has 97%; Dartmouth 98%; Cornell 96%; Columbia 99%; Yale 99%; Harvard 97%, Princeton 98%; and University of Pennsylvania 98%. As an aside, when you look at these retention rates, it’s not surprising to realize that transferring in to any of them is almost impossible—few students depart prior to graduation, so there just aren’t many openings to fill.

Examining retention rates is important when evaluating a school that’s unfamiliar. One example that I recently came across was New College, a small, public honors university in Florida. The write up in the 2010 Fiske Guide to Colleges noted New College (NCF) was much smaller than that of a ‘typical liberal arts college,’ and rated it a ‘best buy.’ Additionally, the article noted that NCF has produced 25 Fulbright Scholars since 2001, with a rigorous academic curriculum, and with 90% of the classes composed of 25 or fewer students. It sounded absolutely tantalizing. Yet, when you pull up New College’s retention information you find, it’s 82%, not horrible, but not particularly good, especially for a school this size composed of highly skilled students; worse, however, you’ll also discover that the ‘transfer out rate’ is 33% of the class, and each class has, on average, only 170 students. For a school this small to lose almost 20% of its class after the first year is troubling. If one is considering attending, one would want to know what’s going on and why is this rate so high? Realize that the University of Florida, Gainesville, a university with almost 35,000 undergraduates, has a 95% retention rate, and only a 6% transfer out rate.  

Are retention rates the Rosetta Stone in deciphering the successful schools from the average? Of course not, I duly acknowledge retention is but one statistic that indicates schools that take students to the next level. It’s not surprising that the most illustrious schools, the ones with the five-star reputations, have extremely high retention rates. Even if they were doing a mediocre job, the type of students they enlist would probably succeed just about anywhere. A lot has to do, not only with the quality of the institution, but with the quality of the student body it contains. I certainly, however, don’t discount successfully high retention rates; keeping 900 in a class of 1000 engaged and on track is a challenge.

Retention Rates

재학률: 대학 프로그램의 중요한 판단기준

만약 필자에게 대학이나 그 대학의 프로그램의 효율성에 대한 기준이 되는 요소를 물어온다면, 그 기준은 US News and World Report 의 등급이나, 신입생의 SAT 평균치나, 지난 10년간의 Rhode 장학생이나 Fulbright장학생의 숫자가 아니다.  필자는 대학의 재학률 (신입생이 다음해에 같은 대학에 등록하는 률)을 들 것이다.  경험적으로 신입생의 첫 해는 적응기이다.  만약에 대학이 신입생들을 성공적으로 안내한다면 이러한 대학들은 주옥 같은 대학들이다.  왜냐 하면, 많은 학생들이 대학에서 성공적으로 해내지 못하기 때문이다.

2년제와 4년제 대학의 전국적 재학률은 66%이다: 이는 신입생의 1/3이 대학공부를 계속하지 않거나, 다른 대학으로 전학을 간다는 의미이다.  Community college의 재학률은 54%에 불과하다.  높은 재학률을 보이는 곳은 주립과 사립대학의 PhD 프로그램으로 각기 74%와 81%이다.

대학의 재학률을 알아보기 적당한 곳으로는  College Navigator 싸이트이다. (  그 싸이트에서 알고 싶은 대학을 넣으면 된다.  예를 들면, Grinnell College (in Iowa)에 대해 알고 싶으면, 그 싸이트에서 ‘retention and graduation rates’를 치면 된다.  이 대학은 재학률이 93%로 높은 재학률을 보이는데, 아이비 리그 대학은 아니지만, 경쟁률이 높은 대학으로서 놀라운 사실이 아니다.  아이비 리그대학들은 다음과 같다: Brown, 97%; Dartmouth, 98%; Cornell, 96%; Columbia, 99%; Yale, 99%; Harvard, 97%; Princeton, 98%; U. Penn, 98%.  이러한 재학률을 볼 때, 이 대학들로의 전학을 거의 불가능하다-졸업전에 대학을 떠나는 학생이 드물기 때문에 자리가 거의 없다.

재학률은 잘 알려져 있지 않는 대학을 평가할 때도 중요하다.  필자는 우연히 플로리다에 있는 작은 규모의 New College를 알게 되었다.  2010 Fiske Guide to Colleges 에 New College (NCF)는 전형적인 인문대학들보다도 작으나, ‘best buy’에 들어 있다.  또한 이 대학은 2001년 이래로 25명의 Fulbright 장학생을 배출하였으며, 우수한 커리큘럼과 함께 학급수 25명 이하이다.  감질나게 하는 곳이다.  그러나 재학률을 보면 85%로서 나쁘지는 않지만, 작은 수의 우수한 학생들인 학교로서는 특별히 좋지도 않다. 한편, 전학률을 보면 33%이며, 한 학년의 평균수가 170명이다.  이 작은 학교에서 1학년 후에 거의 20%의 학생을 잃는 것이다.  만약 여러분이 이 대학에 지망하려 한다면, 이 대학의 재학률이 왜 낮은지를 알아 보아야 한다.  반면, 학생수가 35,000명인 University of Florida, Gainesville는 95%의 재학률에 6%만이 전학을 간다.

그렇다면 재학률이 평균이상의 성공적인 대학을 표시하는 로제타 스톤인가?  물론 아니다.  필자는 재학률이 단지 학생들이 다음해에 등록하는 통계라는 것을 인정하지만, 대부분의 5성의 명문들이 높은 재학률을 보이는 것은 놀라운 것이 아니다.  이 대학들은  평범하게 일을 한다 할  지라도, 이 대학에 다니는 학생들은 아마도 뛰어나게 공부할 것이다.  그러므로 대학의 질도 중요하고, 그 대학에 다니는 학생들의 수준도 중요하다.  그러나 대학 재학률을 경시해서는 안 된다; 1000명의 학생 중에서 900명을 진학시키는 일은 도전적인 일임에 분명하다.


The Common Data Set, a Useful Tool

  • Its Origins
  • How to find it
  • How to use it

Do you want to find out how many students transferred to Cornell University last year? Or, how many students received financial aid (institutional and government grants) at Pomona College, and how much each actually got? Or, do you want to find out the real student to faculty ratio at Dartmouth? If you do there are two places to go to answer many of these questions accurately and efficiently: College Navigator is one (and it has been profiled by me often. If you haven’t had a chance, you really need to go to its website and take a look at some of the schools you have under consideration. ( This is one example of our tax dollars well-spent; it’s truly a veritable goldmine of valuable college information.

The other tool of equal utility is the Common Data Set (CDS), and it is in today’s spotlight. The CDS is a collaboration among the vast universe of colleges and universities, the College Board, Peterson’s (an eminent educational publisher), and US News and World Report to standardize, improve, and make transparent information about higher education. In essence, the CDS standardizes, into a convenient 32 page report (approximately), a huge amount of data. Each college (most colleges-a word about this shortly) makes available its information on:

  • Average financial aid award
  • Break down of loans versus grants in average financial aid packages (very valuable when you’re attempting to figure out how much grant support your application may garner)
  • % of financial need met for typical student
  • Amount of merit money (if any) for affluent students who don’t qualify for need-based aid
  • Academic profile of freshman class—including GPA and SAT/ACT scores
  • Criteria for admission
  • Undergraduate class sizes
  • Accurate faculty/student ratio
  • Cost of attending
  • Retention rate and 4-year graduation rate

The quality and quantity of information you can obtain from a school’s CDS far outstrips anything you’d find in a standard college guide, such as Fiske or Princeton Review. Better still, getting a copy of the Common Data Set is as easy as logging on your computer and Googling up: Common Data Set <Name of School>.  In many cases, the CDS, as with Pomona College, will come up as a PDF file that you can easily search. Better still, once you’ve accessed information on Pomona College, you can then turn to another CDS for, say Stanford University, and the format is identical.

When I was doing research for a student wishing to submit a transfer application to Cornell University, RPI, and Northwestern, I was able to go to section D of the CDS for each of the schools and immediately learn whether the school accepts transfers for the fall, how many transfer applicants each had, what portion were admitted, and what number actually enrolled. It also clearly explained all the items required for transfer students to apply for admission. Before the CDS became available, this type of research would require, in most cases, me to call each individual institution and pray I might find someone in admissions who actually could supply me with this information.

There are schools which, for whatever reason, don’t make their CDS available. Two I’m aware of are Washington University in St; Louis, and USC. Fortunately, Amherst College, Northwestern, Penn State, Yale, Centre College, NYU, UC Berkeley, to name but a few, do.  Brown’s CDS even includes specific numbers on its wait list in section C2: 1,500 applicants were offered a place on Brown’s waiting list, 500 accepted, and 82 made it off it. Where else can you find such information? If you don’t review the CDS for each of the colleges on your short list for the financial grant information alone, you’re doing yourself a great disservice.

유용한 도구인 CDS (Common Data Set)

  • 출처
  • 찾는 방법
  • 사용법

혹시 작년에 Cornell 대학으로 전학한 학생수가 궁금하지 않는지?  아니면, Pomona 대학에서 장학금 혜택을 받은 학생수와 실제 얼마씩 받았는지 알고 싶은지?  또한, Dartmouth 대학의 교수 대 학생 비율이 궁금하지 않는지?  그렇다면, 정답을 효과적으로 찾을 수 있는 곳이 두 군데 있다.  먼저, College Navigator는 필자가 자주 인용하는 곳이다.  아직 접할 기회가 없었다면, 꼭 여러분이 가고자 하는 대학을 찾아보길 바란다 (  세금을 제대로 쓰고 있는 정부싸이트이며, 대학에 대한 값진 보고이다. 

유용한 다른 한 곳은 Common Data Set (CDS) 이며, 오늘 집중 거론하고자 한다.  이곳은 여러 대학들과, College Board, Peterson 출판사, US News and World Report를 결집하여, 표준화된 명확한 정보를 알려주고 있다.  핵심적으로 CDS에서는 표준화된 엄청난 자료의 32쪽의 보고서이다. 각 대학들은 아래의 유용한 정보내용을 담고 있다:

  • 평균 재정보조
  • 그랜트와 론을 분리함(그랜트에 대한 매우 유용한 정보임)
  • 평균적으로 학생들이 필요로 하는 재정보조률
  • 필요기준이 아닌 학생들을 위한 장학금
  • 신입생 학업 프로파일 정보-GPA, SAT/ACT 성적
  • 입학 기준
  • 학부 클라스 크기
  • 교수 대 학생 비율
  • 대학 등록의 값
  • 보유률과 4년 졸업률

CDS에서 얻을 수 잇는 정보의 량과 질은 일반 대학 가이드인 Fiske, Princeton Review를 훨씬 능가한다.  또한 이곳에서 정보를 얻는 일은 여러분의 컴퓨터에서 구글로 가서 로그인만하면 된다: Common Data Set <Name of School>.  예를 들면 Pomona 대학처럼 CDS에서는 PDF파일로 자료가 나타난다.  Pomona 대학을 조사한 후, 바로 Stanford University 로 가면 된다.

필자가 Cornell University, RPI, Northwesstern으로 전학가고자 하는 학생을 상담할 때, CDS의 D section에서 이번 가을학기의 전학생의 수, 전학 가능한 학교, 등록한 전학생의 수 등을 알아낼 수 있었다.  CDS 가 가능하지 않았을 때는 필자는 개개의 대학에 전화로 문의하면서, 답을 줄 수 있는 담당자와 연결이 되길 기도해야만 했었다.

한편, 아직 CDS에서 정보를 얻을 수 없는 대학들도 있다.  Washington University in St. Louis와 USC 이다.   Amherst College, Northwestern, Penn State, Yale, Centre College, NUY, UC Berkeley 등은 가능하다.  Brown 대학은 CDS 의 C2 section에서 대기자 정보를 포함시키고 있다: 1500명이 대기자순에 있었으며, 500명이 입학허가 되었으며, 82명은 포기했다.  어디에서 이런 자세한 정보를 얻을 수 있겠는가?  여러분의 대학 리스트에 있는 대학들을 CDS에서 찾아보지 않는다면, 본인에게 해야 할 일을 하지 않는 것과 같다.


The Advantages of the Small College with the Resources of a Giant University

  • Enrolling in a school that is part of a Consortium
  • The Small community-feel of certain Big Universities
  • Don't be deceived by the size of the school
Sometimes when I recommend a small, liberal arts school to students, say a school like Pomona College, they're puzzled. Why in the world would they want to pay $45-50,000 a year for a school with 1,500 students (smaller than most high schools) and, in all likelihood, with limited resources? On the surface, such an objection makes sense. However, it doesn't account for the consortium of colleges to which Pomona belongs. This consortium opens a huge network of educational opportunities for all Pomona students, while maintaining Pomona's personal and intimate touch. Pomona is part of the Claremont College Consortium. There are a total of 5 undergraduate campuses: Claremont McKenna, which specializes in business and economics; Harvey Mudd, engineering; Pitzer, behavior sciences; Scripps, foreign language; and two graduate schools. None of these colleges is much bigger than a mid-sized dorm at UCLA, yet each has its own faculty, administration, admissions office, and curriculum. They also share a number of services and facilities among themselves: art studios, a biological field station, a 2,500-seat concert hall, interscholastic athletic teams, and the Claremont library that houses over 1.9 million volumes. Students at any of the member Claremont College Consortium can cross register for over 2,500 different courses given by its members. While the average class size at Pomona College is 14 students, a Pomona student has access to almost unlimited educational resources-and I haven't even touched on Pomona's exchange programs with Swarthmore and Colby (on the East Coast), or the Study Abroad Program, or the 3-2 engineering program with Cal Tech. The Claremont Consortium is by no means a rarity. A number of smaller schools band together to offer cross registration of courses, share study abroad programs, or their facilities. One of the best listings of consortia can be found on page 771 of "Fiske Guide to Colleges, 2009." It lists some of the "largest and oldest" of these programs:
  • The Associated Colleges of the Midwest ( ): 14 institutions including Carleton, Macalester, University of Chicago, Colorado College, and Grinnell (Iowa)
  • The Associated Colleges of the South ( 16 institutions including  Davidson, University of Richmond, and Washington and Lee
  • Five College Consortium ( : including Smith College, Amherst College and three others; allows any undergraduate at the member schools to cross register
  • Great Lakes Colleges Association ( joins together 12 liberal arts schools including DePauw, Kenyon (Ohio), and Kalamazoo, to offer study abroad programs.The listing above is by no means comprehensive. There are consortiums among Swarthmore, Haverford, Bryn Mawr, and the University of Pennsylvania; the Colleges of Worcester Consortium (including Tufts, Holy Cross, and others); The Associated Colleges of the Twin Cities...the list goes on.
On the flip side of small schools magnifying resources through joining a consortium, are big universities that gain the feel of a small school through special honors programs, residential colleges, and special programs. Honors programs in schools such as UCLA ( ), University of Michigan, or University of Wisconsin, emphasize small class size, select faculty, and "community atmosphere in a large university." Other schools build a sense of community through a residential college program, initiated by Oxbridge, and incorporated by Yale, Harvard, and Pennsylvania universities (among many). Then there are special programs, with very limited enrollment and very low student/faculty ratios. One example is Cornell University's College of Human Ecology and its Interior Design program. It has about 100 students and 14 faculty members, with access to a university of over 13,000 undergraduates. The moral to take from this is to not be deceived by the size of a school. In many cases, a small school can access the resources of a giant, while a giant school might very well have programs that make it feel like an intimate community. Uncovering these features requires research, questioning and, better still, a visit, if at all possible. There are no rules for what a school's size means, only potential opportunities that beckon investigation. Ralph Becker Founder, Ivy College Prep LLC -------------------------------------- 대학의 자원을 접할 있는 작은 대학의 장점
  • Consortium 속하는 대학 연구
  • 대학 중에서 작은 이웃처럼 느끼기
  • 학교의 크기에 신경 쓰지 말라
필자가 학생들에게 Pomona college처럼 규모가 작은 인문과학대학을 추천하면,  그들은 고개를 갸우뚱한다.  학비 45-50,000불을 내고 학생수는 1,500 명(일반 공립고보다 작은 숫자)이고, 자원이 풍부하지 않는 학교를 다닐 것인가?  겉으로는 이러한 반대의견이 맞다.  그러나, 이는 Pomona 대학이 속해있는 consortium대학들을 고려하지 않은 탓이다.  이러한 consortium에서는 속한 대학의 학생들에게 엄청난 교육의 기회를 제공한다.  또한 Pomona의 가족적인 친밀한 관계도 유지할 수 있다. Pomona는 Claremont College Consortium에 속한다.  총 5개교가 참여하고 있다: Claremont McKenna는 경영과 경제를 전문으로 한다; Harvey Mudd는 공학전문; Pitzer는 행동과학전문; Scripps는 외국어 전문; 그리고 2개교의 대학원이 있다.  5개교 각각은 UCLA의 기숙사보다 크지 않지만, 자체 교수진과, 행정부, 입학사정실과 교과과정을 갖고 있다.  반면, 많은 서비스와 시설은 공유한다: art studios, 생물학 현장, 2500좌석의 음악당, 운동부, 190만권의 장서를 가진 Claremont 도서실.  이 대학들의 학생들은 2,500의 개설과목들을 어느 대학에서나 등록할 수 있다.  Pomona의 수업당 학생수는 평균 14명이며, 이 학생들은 거의 무한의 교육자원을 얻을 수 있다.  필자가 경험하지는 않았지만, 이대학은 East Coast에 있는 Swarthmore, Colby대학과 교환프로그램이 있으며, 해외유학 프로그램과 Cal Tech에서의 공학프로그램도 있다. Claremont Consortium만 특이한 것이 아니다.  많은 작은 대학들이 수강신청, 해외유학 프로그램과 시설을 공유하여 신청하도록 한다.  아래의 자료는 오래되고 유명한 프로그램들이다(Fiske Guide to Colleges, 2009, p. 771참고).
  • The Associated Colleges of the Midwest ( ): 14 institutions including Carleton, Macalester, University of Chicago, Colorado College, and Grinnell (Iowa)
  • The Associated Colleges of the South ( 16 institutions including  Davidson, University of Richmond, and Washington and Lee
  • Five College Consortium ( : including Smith College, Amherst College and three others; allows any undergraduate at the member schools to cross register
  • Great Lakes Colleges Association ( joins together 12 liberal arts schools including DePauw, Kenyon (Ohio), and Kalamazoo, to offer study abroad programs.
위 자료만이 전부가 아니다.  그 외에도 Swarthmore, Haverford, Bryn Mawr, and the University of Pennsylvania; the Colleges of Worcester Consortium (including Tufts, Holy Cross, and others); The Associated Colleges of the Twin Cities등 이상의 리스트가 있다. 작은 대학들이 consortium으로 자원을 극대화하는 반면, 큰 대학들은 honors programs를 제공하며 작은 대학의 환경을 만들어준다.  UCLA, University of Michigan, University of Wisconsin의 honors programs은 소규모수업, 탁월한 교수진과 가족 같은 분위기를 내세운다.  Oxbridge대학은 residential college program을 만들어 가족 같은 분위기를 조성하며, Yale, Harvard, Pennsylvania 대학들도 시도하고 있다.  또한 적은 학생수에 교수비율의 특별 프로그램을 시행하는 대학도 있다.  Cornell대학의 College of Human Ecology와  Interior Design program은 13,000명의 재학생 중에서 100명의 학생과 14명의 교수진을 갖고 있다. 여기에서 배울 점은 대학의 크기에 좌우되지 말라는 점이다.  작은 대학들은 무한의 자원에 접할 수 있는 프로그램이 있으며, 큰 대학들은 친밀한 분위기를 가질 수 있는 프로그램을 갖고 있다.  이러한 자세한 특성들은 자료연구, 질문, 방문 등 여러 가지 방법으로 가능하다.  그러므로 학교의 크기가 의미하는 바보다는 심층조사로 잠재적 기회를 포착해야 한다.

The Value of Self-evaluation in the Admissions Process

  • Learn what you want from College
  • Start Early
Many students become overwhelmed when it comes time to create a list of prospective colleges. Most have never done anything like this before: How do you get started? What criteria do you need? Among the 2,400 potential schools, which are the best matches?  The best starting point, ironically, is not with the colleges but with the student. Students need to ask themselves some questions: What type of educational methods work best for them? What kind of academic atmosphere best fits their learning style? What college environment do they prefer? Where do they want to live for four years? What kind of social environment is preferred? This list isn't exhaustive, but it's a good place to start. Granted, some of these terms might seem too vague, so let me go through each. All students learn differently. Some students want to apply what they learn in school to the real world. Consequently, a school like Kalamazoo (in Michigan) which integrates internships with classes, might be worth consideration. Other students might prefer theoretical models; for them the research universities might be a better place to attend (UC Berkeley or Yale). Some students enjoy attacking one subject at a time, in depth, instead of taking five courses per semester. A school like Colorado College, with its block program which allows a student to concentrate on one subject for a month and a half, might be a good selection. The permutations are endless. Academic atmosphere can greatly affect many students. Some students aren't comfortable in big lecture halls listening to a professor with 500 other students. They might absolutely fade in a big state university like the University of Colorado, Boulder. Other students thrive in close relationships with a professor guiding them through the complexities of biochemistry at a small school such as Grinnell or Carleton. Other students might need the motivation of a teacher to get them engaged in a subject. Schools such as Allegheny College in Pennsylvania are perfect for this type of student. The key to the process is to ask what your strengths and weaknesses are and honestly answer. Chances are you'll find schools that address what you want. College environment is defined by shared interests. For example, if you don't care for football, then going to USC or Notre Dame might prove to be a bad decision. Some students are keen on liberal politics and social causes: Bard College or UC Berkeley might then be good choices. Other schools are more academically focused: places where students willingly will spend Saturday night in the campus library without any feeling of deprivation. Reed College is such a place. Location can account for a lot. Geographically, where do you want to live? Next, do you prefer a rural, suburban, or an urban environment? Some students want to study on a pretty campus. Pepperdine and Furman (South Carolina) are two of the most beautiful campuses. Learn what's important to you. Consider a school's social environment. Greek Life (fraternities and sororities) can strongly influence it. A lot of schools in the South and East have large portions of their student body in fraternities. You best know which, if this is an issue. Separately, some students prefer living in residential colleges where it's easy to meet a range of students. University of Pennsylvania's house system, might be a perfect answer. Two sources are recommended in the self-evaluation process: How to Get into the Top Colleges by Richard Montauk, Prentice Hall, 2006 has an extensive list of questions (pages 32-38) to spur on even the most timid students; and, Fiske Guide to Colleges 2009 by Edward Fiske, Sourcebooks, Inc. 2008 has detailed descriptions covering academics, social life and quality of life. Both will help make a seeming overwhelming process manageable, maybe even enjoyable. Ralph Becker Founder, Ivy College Prep LLC -------------------------------------- 스스로 어떤 대학을 원하는지 아는 것이 중요하다.
  • 여러분은 어떤 대학을 원하는가
  • 일찍 시작하라
많은 학생들이 대학 지원 리스트를 만들 때 압박감을 받는다.  대부분 이런 일을 해본 적이 없었기 때문이다:  어떻게 시작해야 하나?  어떤 기준을 가져야 하나?  2400개나 되는 대학 중에서 어느 대학이 자신과 가장 잘 맞는가?  가장 좋은 출발점은 대학이 아니라 학생중심에서 시작되어야 한다. 학생들은 스스로 몇 가지 질문을 해보아야 한다: 어떤 교육방법이 본인에게 가장 잘 맞는가?  어떤 학업 분위기가 본인의 학습형태와 맞는가?  어떤 대학 환경을 선호하는가?  어느 곳에서 대학 4년을 보내고 싶은가?  어떤 사회환경을 더 선호하는가?  이 정도가 전부는 아니지만, 우선적으로 시작해야 하는 질문들이다.  어떤 질문들은 너무 막연하지만, 자세히 살펴보도록 하자. 먼저, 모든 학생들은 배우는 방법이 다르다.  어떤 학생들은 학교에서 배운 것을 실생활에서 적용하기를 원한다.  결과적으로 Kalamazoo in Michigan 같은 학교는 수업과 인턴쉽을 통합하고 있어 고려할 만하다.  어떤 학생들은 학구적인 모델을 더 선호한다: 이런 학생들에게는 UC Berkeley, Yale 이 맞다.  어떤 학생들은 한학기에 5과목을 수강하는 것보다는 한 주제를 깊이있게 자세히 공부하는 것을 즐긴다.  Colorado College 같은 대학에서는 한 과목을 한달 반동안 집중할 수 있으므로 그 학생들에게는 좋은 선택이 될 수 있다.  다양성은 끝이 없다. 공부분위기는 학생들에게 영향력이 크다.  어떤 학생들은 한 교수가 500명에게 강의하는 대강당 수업이 편하지 않을 수 있다.  이런 학생들은 University of Colorado, Boulder 같은 큰 주립대학에서는 적응이 안된다.  어떤 학생들은 Grinnell, Carleton 같은 작은 대학에서 biochemistry 의 복합성에 대하여 교수와 친밀감속에서 공부하는 것이 더 공부가 잘 될 수 있다.  어떤 학생들은 교수가 주는 동기유발을 필요로 할 수 있다.  이런 학생들은 Allegheny College in Pennsylvania 가 잘 맞다.  어떤 대학을 선호하는지는 여러분의 강점과 약점을 잘 고려하여 솔직한 답을 찾아야  한다.  정말 여러분이 원하는 대학을 찾을 때 기회는 온다. 대학의 환경은 서로 흥미를 공유하는 것으로 정의할 수 있다.  예를 들면, 여러분이 미식축구에 관심이 없다면, USC, Notre Dame 대학 선택은 좋은 결정이 아닐 수 있다.  어떤 학생은 정치와 사회 이슈에 관심이 많다: Bard College, UC Berkeley가 좋은 선택이 될 수 있다.  어떤 대학은 학문에 초점이 맞추어진다:  토요일 밤에도 도서관이 꽉차는 대학이 잘 맞다.  Reed College가 이런 곳이다. 위치도 중요하다.  지리적으로 어떤 곳에 살고 싶은가?  또한, 대도시, 도시주변, 혹은 전원지역을 선호하는가?  어떤 학생은 아름다운 캠퍼스에서 공부하고 싶어한다.  Pepperdine, Furman in South Carolina가 가장 아름다운 곳들이다.  어떤 점이 여러분에게 중요한지 알아야 한다. 대학의 사회환경을 고려하자.  이런 점에서는 서구적인 남녀사교단체가 강하게 영향력을 미칠 수 있다.  남부와 동부에서는 많은 대학들이 fraternity 단체의 영향이 크다.  이것이 여러분에게 중요하다면, 잘 알 것이다.  어떤 학생은 많은 학생을 만날 수 있는 대학내의 주거환경을 선호한다.  이런 학생에게는 University of Pennsylvania 의 환경이 정답이 된다. 2권의 참고도서가 자기평가에 도움이 된다.  How to Get into the Top Colleges의 여러 질문들이 어디에서 시작할 지 걱정하는 학생들에게 많은 질문을 주면서 해결점을 줄 수 있다.  또한 Fiske Guide to Colleges 2009도 큰 도움이 된다.  2008년판은 학문적, 사회적, 대학생활의 질에 대한 자세한 설명이 있다.  이 2권이 해결하기 어려운 문제에 도움을 주며 즐거운 과정으로 이끌어 갈 것이다.

Researching Colleges

The importance of researching colleges and how to do it.
  • Strategies essential in conducting research
  • Resources useful for the task
One part of the admissions process that is often a bit neglected, is doing the research on potential college fits. Many students, and their parents, pull together a preliminary list of colleges based mainly upon college ratings, rankings, reputations, and opinions; that's human nature. But there is more to the research process than graduating near the top of your class and immediately applying to Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and then UCLA and UC Berkeley as your "safety schools". Today every applicant to a selective US college is facing stiff competition; most knowledgeable students and their families recognize this reality. Whether you believe it or not, even if you're the next Albert Einstein or Marie Curie, it's not a bad idea to research colleges of interest.  Furthermore, while you're going through the research process, it is critical to prepare a list of "reach" colleges-colleges that will be a challenge to gain entry, "target" colleges-colleges where you stand a good chance of acceptance, and "safety" colleges-colleges that will admit you, with very good assurance.  This coming admissions season will be the most competitive ever. The demographics confirm it. So, looking at a range of schools, and really getting to know your short list of the most promising and appealing is not just a good idea, but an essential strategy for dealing with what's ahead. Beyond these strategic necessities, there are some other reasons why research is now more important than ever before. Even if you're lucky enough to gain acceptance into your college picks, tuitions, fees, books, and room and board are becoming substantial expenses. Even if expenses are reduced through grants, or 'in state' status, the time a student invests to gain an education is not trivial: nowadays, in many institutions, taking 5-6 years to finish school is becoming less and less unusual. So, not knowing what you're getting into before you get there is plain foolish. To create a preliminary list of colleges upon which to research, some key questions need to be answered: location/setting-which regions of the country are of interest--; campus life-what school size is appealing, is it possible to live on-campus?; academic resources and requirements-does the student prefer a specialized program of study, e.g. pre-med, engineering, fine arts, or liberal arts?; extracurricular activities-study abroad programs, job internships through alumni networks, theater or intramural sports...Answering these types of questions is a good start. One standard college guide, Fiske Guide to Colleges 2008, has a "Sizing up the Survey," which you can use to guide you through this step. Assuming your preferences have led you to produce a preliminary list of schools, and remember, this is only a preliminary list, you can always make whatever changes you wish, now you are ready to get started. The first step is to grab a reliable, current guide, and read through, completely, a description of the university in question. The guide I mentioned above, The Fiske Guide, is a good source for a number of the leading selective schools. In addition, a very useful website, "College Navigator,"  mentioned previously in this column, will also give you a lot of the basic information you need to determine how well a school matches up with a student's needs. Here you'll find general information (including the school's mission statement), estimated expenses (that are pretty accurate, as this site is the government agency that gathers the FAFSA information), financial aid, enrollment, admissions, retention (what percentage of students actually graduate in 4, 5, or 6 years), programs and majors (and the number of students taking each major), and campus security. With this information, you a have a good foundation, but you still need to get more information to gain a better grasp of the school. Go to the school's website and take a general tour.  Let's assume that Dartmouth College is on your list. Then you'll want to go to Dartmouth's general information site,  Here you'll find all the basic information, but there is a lot more that might give you a better feel of the campus and the students. There is a virtual tour, both video and still images, and blogs by current students, to gain an even better insight into the daily life of a student. If you have a specific interest in a department within Dartmouth, you can also go to its news site and sign up for a newsletter: .  There's even a site for Dartmouth experts, with biographies, one of whom, David Kang, is a noted expert on North Korea.  One other area to examine, if you're looking at a specific department, such as Physics or French, is the list of majors and their courses. This will give you a good idea of the course selection and major requirements. If you have specific information you're attempting to glean from a site, and it's not readily found, you can always enlist Google University: (, which allows a student to a search over whichever university website she wishes, using the Google Search engine. Sometimes, because the breadth of information available on colleges can seem virtually limitless, it’s not a bad idea to pull together a checklist with the specific information you want to find out about various schools, before you begin an extensive search. This will also allow you to customize your search to specific interests, and make the process that much more focused. Let’s assume you’re interested in MIT, and have a strong interest in studying physics. You can actually take a MIT Physics class on their website. MIT is part of OpenCourseWare, a group of universities that supplies complete courses, videos of lectures, booklists, tests, syllabi, all free, on-line. If you mention, on your application, should you decide to apply, that you have already worked through their 1999 class on Classical Physics, it tells the admissions office that you have done your homework and are more prepared to take advantage of the full scope of activities that MIT has to offer. By the way, the link to the physics class is: Your aim is to arrive at a list of 7-8 colleges (with the state university systems counting as one) containing reaches, targets, and safeties. Your research will lead you to schools, regardless of selectivity, that you like a lot.  I have had students that were so taken with one of  their “safety” schools, that it became difficult for them to choose where to go, when they were accepted to all of their schools. More importantly, don’t think this is a useless exercise. Researching your future is an invaluable skill that will come into play throughout your life (e.g. graduate schools, job searches).  So, do it well and look beyond the famous colleges: there are over 2,000 four-year schools awaiting your investigation. You might just fine some gems if you venture off the beaten track. Ralph Becker Founder, Ivy College Prep LLC -----------------------------------