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Campus Visits Outrank ‘Best College’ Lists

posted on August 22, 2008

Logic might say it’s impossible to have more than one “best college in the nation.” But ask organizers of the seemingly endless array of college rankings, and they are likely to have another opinion.

While defining the “best” will always be subjective, Beth Triplett, Ed.D., vice president for enrollment management at Clarke College, says there is one concrete piece of the college admissions process that remains most important – visiting campus.

“Going on a campus visit is the only true way to know if a college is right for you,” said Triplett. “Rankings can provide you with some good comparative data, but College has to feel right – you have to be able to see yourself there. Reading that a school has a good student:faculty ratio is nice, but if you don’t feel comfortable in the environment, it really doesn’t matter.”

College rankings also tend to vary because each uses a different set of data to compare institutions. For example, Clarke College was recently named number 90 on the national 2008 Forbes Best Colleges list (the second highest among Iowa schools) and was named a “Best in the Midwest” College by the Princeton Review. U.S. News and World Report on the other hand, lists Clarke in the third tier of National Liberal Arts Colleges in its most recent rankings released today, among other highly regarded schools in the Midwest.

“Institutional data is used and weighted differently in each ranking,” said Triplett. “For students and families, this means it is important to look at the specific methodology behind a ranking to see if it takes into account factors important to them.”

The bottom line, she says, is that rankings only provide a snapshot of an institution. “Are college guides a good resource for students as they begin the process of searching out colleges? Sure,” said Triplett. “But there will never be a substitute for the feeling a student gets when they walk through the halls of campus – for most students, that’s when they decide what school is ‘best’ in their own personal ranking.” 

For more information, contact the Clarke College Marketing and Communication Office at (563)588-6318.

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