How To Compare Undergraduate Rankings

Undergraduate rankings are typically subjective. While the United States doesn't offer an official list of college and university rankings, families and students can find plenty of data to either help or confuse them as they endeavor to choose a school of higher learning. Depending upon the particular rankings list you choose, the criteria for ranking colleges and universities can differ greatly. In most cases, however, at least some or all of the following criteria is addressed.

  1. Student Enrollment -- One of the most common ranking factors focuses on student enrollment. In many cases, enrollment numbers are broken down into several areas, including total student enrollment, undergraduate enrollment, and postgraduate enrollment. The data that is given usually lists the population numbers as well as a ranking of low, average, above average, and high when compared with other universities.
  2. Racial Mix -- While the subject of race may be addressed under student enrollment, in many cases, a breakdown of race is given and compared to other universities. While race may be divided into Caucasian, African American, Asian, American Indian, and others, in many cases, the dividing line is simply drawn between English speaking and non-English speaking students.
  3. Part-Time vs Full-Time -- A ratio of part-time versus full-time students is also commonly used in undergraduate rankings. Percentages are usually given, and general rankings of low, average, above average, and high may be used as well.
  4. Tuition Costs -- Undergraduate rankings of tuition costs will vary from year to year simply because at any given time universities may raise their tuition. However, approximate tuition costs are often given detailing both in-state and out-of-state fees, as well as international student tuition costs.
  5. Graduation Rate -- In most cases, undergraduate rankings will include the graduation rate for the compared schools. This rate is typically broken down between undergraduate and postgraduate rankings, but it may also focus on specialized programs, such as business, engineering, etc.
  6. Student/Faculty Ratio -- This figure will often give the number of students per faculty member per classroom, and it may also give a percentage of faculty members
  7. Class Size -- Class size is typically compared to other universities and colleges. Class size numbers are typically given for an average school year. Of course, these numbers are averages, and they will differ from class to class on an annual basis.
  8. College Housing -- This ranking typically indicates the average amount of students who live on and off campus, and it may offer a percentage or estimate of on and off campus housing that is available as well.
  9. Financial Aid -- Financial aid rankings may be broken down in several ways. Rankings often list the average amount of money students receive, a percentage of the students who do receive money, and the amount of scholarship money given in specific areas, such as athletics or academics.
  10. Geographic Diversity -- Undergraduate rankings can also be found based on the geographic diversity of the student body. Many rankings list the top schools in each area of the country, and they may also break those rankings down by ethnicity as well.
  11. Other Rankings -- Of course there are other rankings that are often considered, but readers should keep in mind that these are purely much so, that they are generally given a grade, such as A, B+, C-, etc. These rankings may include topics such as athletics, Greek life, campus dining, off-campus dining, nightlife, transportation, local atmosphere, safety, security, and even the drug scene.


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