StudentsReview ™ :: 2005 NYD OFFICIAL Rankings FAQ

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StudentsReview OFFICIAL Rankings
New Years Day 2005

2005 NYD FAQ

Q1.  Where do the rankings come from?
All StudentsReview Rankings are derived completely from student surveys.  We have absolutely no personal input or investment in the outcome of the rankings, and do not adjust them to make any school look good.  They are completely and totally generated from the student surveys.  We set the metrics for what constitutes a “best education”, or a “Top Creative School”, and allowed the student opinion to speak for itself. 

(Note: except the on-demand Reputation Rankings — no student data exists)

Q2.  What is the point of your rankings and how are they different?
Rankings need to have an explicity purpose that is insightful to its readers.  It is not merely enough to say the “Top 50” , but rather to describe what constitutes a Top 50 university, why the constitution should be that way, and then what schools match.  It is only when the purpose is clearly described that the rankings have a meaning beyond mere promotion.

Our rankings attempt to provide insight into the “education” at different schools, and to reflect how that changes given different types of student.

Q3.  How is StudentsReview different?
StudentsReview is built for individuals.  Applying to college is a confusing and poorly informed process, and rankings only tell you what most people think, but do not provide insight about what you might think.  Individualized comments reveal the reasons that someone might like or dislike their school, helping you to learn if those reasons or opinions are relevant to you.

Q4.  What about the “UnOfficial”, special purpose rankings? The unofficial rankings are those that are either not generated from student surveys, or generated with insufficient data to make reliable conclusions.  The purpose of including them is help provide an informative list for students interested specifically in those schools.  They provide a “starting point” for those interested in schools that primarily women's colleges, christian colleges, or solely on reputation size.

Q5.  Why are the dynamic and official rankings different?
The Dynamic Rankings are intended to provide a starting point for students to find schools that a customized on 1 or 2 factors for them personally.  Many users use it, and the dynamic rankings need to be done in real-time.  For that reason, they are done with as little computation as possible — meaning that very important calculations such as distribution matching and normalization are left out — to provide a fast approximation. 
The Official rankings however are a large cross-sectional analyses that perform normalizations, free variable binding, apple-apple distribution matching, and overall require an enormous amount of computation across a number of variables — it really is not feasible in a realtime ranking system like the dynamic ranking. 
Because there is such a complex mathematical difference between the two, there are bound to be some significant differences. 
To read in depth about how the OFFICIAL rankings are performed, please go to Rankings Explained.

Q6.  Schools can't be compared!!!  Its like comparing apples and oranges!
It is true that schools are inherently non-comparable.  Averaging student opinion and other simple means of comparison simply do not work because schools and their students differ in so many dimensions.  It is however, possible to model the relationships between ALL of the students, and normalize to analyze all schools on an equal playing field.  Please go to “Apples to Apples” in Rankings Explained to read more about how we accomplished this.

Q7.  School X is ranked lower than another school but has high scores?
It has to do with a number of factors — primarily the amount of data, the error, and the missing data.  With low numbers of surveys, the scores are more easily affected and have a greater chance of being incorrect — so we measure that error and place all schools at the bottom of their possible error range. 

Q8.  What about “Historically Black” Colleges?
Unfortunately we simply do not have enough data to make any conclusions about their relative rankings yet.

Q9.  Which Statistical Package do you use to analyze your data?
We use a version of the R (The R Project) statistical analysis package that we've specially customized to integrate with our systems.

Q10.  What about the error?
There are three primary sources of error in the rankings, and they are: insufficient surveys, accumulated normalized difference, bias difference/not a representative sampling.

Q11.  Are the surveys aged?  What if someone surveyed 5 years ago?
Yes, the surveys are aged over time and contribute less to the scores are they become older; but we have found that universities (in general) do not change all that quickly, so a 5 year old survey is still reasonably valid (about 60%) today.

Q12.  How long did it take to create the rankings?
It took us over a month to analyze the data, with many overnight sessions.  Analysis started in late November.  Much of the time was spend discovering trends within the data, co-dependencies, and just constructing a sound model from which to analyze.  Some companies may merely take the averages of surveys, or combine the surveys in a blanket manner for convenience, which is a trap we did not want to fall in.  The data cannot be combined in that manner, and any analysis like this will create highly misleading results.

Q13.  Studentsreview only seems to have really positive or really negative opinion!  how can that be used to create rankings!?
Not true - the comments may seem to be highly bipolar, but a large portion of the “middle” surveys simply lack a comment, making it seem like there are only positive and negative opinions.  But even if the opinions were strictly positive or negative, then our process of distributional matching, would match the distributions of the students at different schools, so the schools would become comparable, regardless of whether the opinion itself is positive or negative.

Q14.  Can I get more information?
Yes, absolutely.  StudentsReview maintains an open policy, because we believe that for data or analyses to be useful, it must be trusted. 
To read more, please go to Rankings Explained.


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