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New Years Day, 2005

* Top 50 'Schools to be Aspired to' *

The SR Reputation Independent Top 50 schools reveal the schools to be aspired to — independent of their reputation.  The rankings are generated directly and only from student survey data.  But what constitutes a “school to be aspired to”?  In our opinion, it is a high educational quality, an ambitious student body, active innovation, challenge, and overall service.  These are the schools whos added value is apparent, independent of the reputation of the school.

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About this College Ranking

StudentsReview's Criteria for the top 50 'schools to be aspired to' is:

25% - Educational Quality
20% - Innovation
20% - Student Body (reflected by ACT & SAT)
10% - Academic Success is based upon 'understanding'
10% - Would Return (Overall Experience)
5% - Mind Use/Challenge
5% - University Funding Use
5% - Social

The rationale behind the rankings & weightings is as follows:

Educational Quality 
Educational Quality accumulates many factors — the effectiveness of the coursework, professors' effort levels, opportunities outside the classroom, how will the information “sticks”, the organization of the courses, how confident the students feel with the material after the courses.

Innovation is the conversion of educational knowledge into new opportunities, and new ways of doing things.  Pure education can become outdated, but teaching a student how and encouraging their creativity and innovation will provide them with returns for the rest of their lives.

Student Body (reflected by ACT & SAT) 
In “schools to be aspired to”, as much of the learning takes place from the fellow students as it does from the faculty.  Student Body captures this, at least partially, through ACT & SAT scores, where the students were ambitious enough to insure that a standardized test score were as high as possible, to attend an institution with other ambitous students.

Academic Success is based upon 'understanding'  This is fundamentally important.  In a world obsessed with grades, it is imperative that any educational institution insure that the grades it gives, the metrics, and evaluations are clear and appropriate to the student's mastery. 
Many schools stake their reputation on grades, and their abilities to make qualified, educated, and ambitious people either fail out, or do poorly — because then it artificially seems as though the education is difficult. 

This does an enormous disservice to students and their families, who invest and save their entire lives to help increase the opportunities of their children, where the institution then takes their money on that promise, then diminishes those opportunities to build their own reputation.  To either the successful or naive observer, it may seem that grades are a direct reflection of a student's own performance, but they are not.  Curving policies, “fairness” assertions, and forced fail-out rates enforce something entirely different.  The sad part is that because of the number of years this occurs over for the student, and peoples' abilities to “self-blame”, that the failure on the part of the institution to understand the purpose of its own education, and to act in its students' interests is totally overlooked.

Students attend college for an education, and an increase in opportunities.  This measures how well those opportunities and success follow from the student's own efforts and understanding.

Would Return (Overall Experience) 
All things stated, would the students choose to return?  This blanket captures things that all of our ratings did not, or could not capture.  Is there some unknown factor affecting why students would not return?

Mind Use/Challenge 
To force students to grow, to achieve potentials beyond what they originally considered, the coursework must be CHALLENGING.

University Funding Use 
While many schools may argue this, University Funding, from the prospective of the students is meant to be used for 2 things: Improving immediate conditions on campus for the CURRENT CUSTOMER BASE, and in increasing reputation so that the VALUE of the physical degree is grows over time.  A growing reputation means that doors will continue to open throughout your life due to the “Name” on your degree.

In highly challenging institutions, it becomes more important than ever to have an active social life — not only as a support network (very important), but because the social life helps facilitate a highly valuable network with other ambitious, intelligent people.  Just as much as the reputation opens doors, so does your network of friends and colleagues.

We did not stratify by research institutions because we felt that while research institutions may present different opportunities than liberal arts, the education provided to undergraduates is not necessarily better, worse, or even that different, and many prospective students consider them all nearly equally when choosing where to apply.

Note: There is no separation by department/major to show relative strengths at this time.

Filtering and Analysis
To find out how the data analysis was performed for the 2005 New Years Day OFFICIAL Rankings, including filtering, invalidity, weighting, distribution matching, and inherent biases, please go to 2005 NYD Rankings Explained. 


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