Finding Great Colleges, Part II


In my last post, I mentioned educational practices that can enrich students’ college years and boost their chances for  success.

So how do you find schools that do a bang-up job of embracing these practices? One of my readers suggested yesterday that I share a resource that will make your job easier.

It was a great idea which is why I’m sharing it right now. So here’s what I suggest that you do:

Head to a section of USA Today’s website that’s devoted to scoring colleges and universities. On the site, you’ll find quasi report cards of individual schools that are generated through annual surveys of freshmen and seniors at hundreds of colleges and universities.

The National Survey of Student Engagement, which I wrote about in my last post, distributes these questionnaires. In the surveys, the NSSE asks students how well their colleges have performed in these five areas:

  • Level of academic challenge.
  • Active and collaborative learning.
  • Student-faculty interaction.
  • Enriching educational experiences.
  • Supportive campus environment.

The USA Today site allows you to see scores of individual schools as well as how they did compared to the national averages in their institutional category. For instance, research universities are compared to other research institutions. Unfortunately, not all schools participate in the NSSE surveys and those that do aren’t required to release their own results. It’s strictly voluntary.

Looking at the USA Today scores will provide you with a great head start in evaluating schools that do participate. I’d also suggest that colleges that get involved with the NSSE have demonstrated a willingness to improve the way that they educate their students.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution and a college blogger for

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