Thursday, July 30, 2009

Making the Best College Choice for Your Life

As another school year begins, juniors and seniors become increasingly focused on college. With today’s costs, more and more students and families are looking to insure that their money is well-spent. They want to feel that those tuition dollars help lead to a satisfying experience as well as to the ability to be employed following graduation.

To insure this, it is more critical than ever that students make a good match for themselves, both academically and financially. Failure to take either of these into account could involve additional expense and lead to unfullfillment and frustration.

In the early ‘70s, a NY Times reporter, Loren Pope, began writing about colleges and the disastrous choices and high dropout rates he was seeing. His research led him to publish “Colleges That Change Lives”, a book about 40 colleges across the country that do an outstanding job of educating students and preparing them for future success.

This perspective on what constitutes a “good” college turns the concept of “rankings”, as fostered by other national publications, upside-down. Over the past half dozen years, a group of the colleges described in his book have been traveling the country presenting information sessions and fairs at events call “The Colleges that Change Lives Fair”. Though these colleges are presenting themselves as excellent options and opportunities, their over-arching theme and message of what makes for a quality college education is universal.

This concept has been borne out in research studies through the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) and the Center for Inquiry Study in the Liberal Arts, and has been heralded by the Educational Conservancy. All of these groups point to the fact that it is the engagement between students and faculty that is at the crux of an effective and worthwhile college education. It is not name, ranking, size, or any other “popular” factor that makes for an outstanding college education and success in life; it is instead the quality of the teaching-learning experience.

The “College That Change Lives Fair” is one of the best opportunities for students and parents to get a good picture of what educational quality can look and feel like. I encourage all students, whether they are considering one of these specific colleges or not, to attend this fair and get a fresh perspective on what makes for a great college experience.

No comments: