College employs rankings to attract prospective students

Many proud students, parents, faculty and staff at the College can quickly list the institution’s numerous accolades. How these statistics are ascertained, in addition to their significance in the admissions process, is often harder to determine.

Most recently, the College was ranked seventh on The Princeton Review’s list of “Happiest Students,” contained in the corporation’s 2008 edition of “Best 366 Colleges.” The College was also ranked 20th in the “Most Beautiful Campus” category.

Recognition has also come from Barron’s Profiles of American Colleges, which ranked the College among the 75 “most competitive” institutions nationwide. U.S. News & World Report recognized the College as “the top public master’s college in the northern region of the country for the 16th consecutive year,” according to an Aug. 21 press release issued by the College.

Laura Braswell, senior editor of The Princeton Review’s “Best 366 Colleges,” described The Princeton Review’s systematic process for evaluating what it deems the nation’s best institutions of higher learning. Braswell said The Princeton Review contacted 120,000 students nationwide for its annual evaluation.

Working with college administrators, The Princeton Review e-mailed surveys to these students asking them to evaluate their colleges based on certain criteria. Each of the 80 survey questions corresponds to different categories of evaluation, including “Academics,” “Fire Safety” and “Selectivity,” among others.

Braswell indicated that the College’s seventh “Happiest Students” rank falls under the “Quality of Life” category. She said this rank is determined by a wide range of questions specific to the campus, dorms and food.

With the incentive of a randomly selected $5,000 scholarship, students also evaluate the previous year’s description of their respective institutions.

Braswell said The Princeton Review receives “81 percent approval of the old descriptions as accurate.”

Grecia Montero, director of recruitment at the College, was quick to tout the rankings awarded by The Princeton Review. “Students and their families are looking for quality,” Montero said, “and the quality of life on campus is ideal. Students are truly happy.”

Montero explained that for recruitment purposes, the College only stands to gain from The Princeton Review’s rankings. She said the office of Admissions will emphasize the new accolades. “We have to sell the College,” she said.

According to Robert J. Morse, director of data research at U.S. News & World Report, the evaluation methods utilized in their annual newsstand book, “America’s Best Colleges,” differ from those of The Princeton Review.

Morse said first, schools are divided into “similar categories,” including “National Universities,” “Liberal Arts Colleges” and “Business Programs,” among others. The next step is to “collect data from schools with a peer survey.” A system of “weighted indicators” is used to compare the schools within their respective categories. They are then ranked accordingly.

When asked about the influence of college ranking corporations like U.S. News & World Report, Morse said that “studies done nationwide show that they don’t play a pivotal rule in school choice.”

“Rankings shouldn’t be the sole reason to choose a school,” he said. “They’re meant to help inform students and parents.”

Braswell expressed a similar sentiment. “We like to think students use (the rankings) quite a bit,” she said. She added that The Princeton Review encourages students to consider other information when selecting a potential college.

Recently enrolled freshmen, however, seem to think otherwise.

Melnay Narvaez, freshman buiness major, said she was unaware of the latest rankings awarded to the College, and said they did not influence her decision in attending.

Amanda Berg, freshman communication studies major, said from her experience, students don’t consider college ranking data unless they’re already interested in the particular school. She also agreed that students on campus are happy.

“When you’re walking around campus, everyone is really friendly and everyone holds doors open for each other,” she said.

One freshman was aware of the statistics when applying to the College. Chris Hallberg, freshman interactive multimedia major, said, “I wasn’t directly influenced by the rankings, but I agree (with the influence of rankings).”

Hallberg stressed the importance of happiness among students. He explained that his parents were especially pleased with the seventh “Happiest Students” rank. He said, “Parents are always telling you to do what makes you happy.”