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Articles / Applying to College / What are some of the aspects of a quality college?

What are some of the aspects of a quality college?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Feb. 3, 2002

What are some of the aspects of a quality college? With thousands of colleges, it gets kind of confusing. They all look so good in their brochures!

There are many quality colleges and universities in America. The problem for high schoolers is not to find one, but rather to select one from among so many worthy candidates.

My personal list of college quality points begins with faculty quality and access. The relative prestige of an institution will do an undergraduate little good if the senior faculty is not available in full force. If freshmen are not taught by senior, tenured professors, then I feel something is lacking.

The emphasis on research today has led to a significant number of senior professors migrating to the graduate level in universities. Relatively inexperienced Teaching Assistants (TAs) are too often given responsibility for instructing full-priced undergraduate courses. Accordingly, you should ask the TA situation at the schools on your candidate list before investing a lot of time and consideration in them.

Physical resources are also important. Remember, you'll be spending the better part of four years of your life at your undergraduate institution. Find out how new the equipment is in the area that you're interested in--lab equipment, computer clusters, and related hardware.

What about the library? Is it substantial enough to support serious research, or will you have to use interlibrary loans all the time? How about housing? Are the living accommodations acceptable? Don't use a viewbook to judge a school's physical plant. Go there, and investigate the facilities that don't have their pictures published.

In addition to the quality of the faculty and the resources, the quality of the students should be examined also. What is the profile of the undergraduates who attend the schools on your list of candidates? A quality student body should have a high graduation rate. Some of the very best schools graduate 90-some percent of their freshmen in four years. There should also be a strong percentage of freshmen who ranked in the top tenth of their high school classes. Forty-to-50 percent is a good benchmark. And, of course, there's always the average SAT score for incoming freshmen (if you consider that to be a reliable index). Scores averaging in a range starting with 1050-to-1100 indicate a competitive student body.

These are just a few quality criteria. There are many colleges who meet or exceed these three. Your job is to find the one that is right for you.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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