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  • FAQs: The Best 378 Colleges

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    How did you choose the schools in The Best 378 Colleges: 2014 Edition?
    How many ranking lists are in the book, and how did you compile them?
    Why don't you have one list that ranks all the schools in the book?
    How many students were surveyed for your ranking lists?
    How is the survey conducted?
    When was the survey conducted?
    What was the survey format?
    My college is not on any of the ranking lists. Why?
    How can I complete a survey about my school?
    The profiles of colleges in this book, and on your site have "ratings." What's the difference between the "rankings" and the "ratings"?
    What's new in this edition of the book?
    Where can I buy the book?

    How did you choose the schools in The Best 378 Colleges: 2014 Edition?
    We selected these colleges primarily based on our high opinion of their academics. We monitor colleges continuously and annually collect data on more than 2,000 schools. Each year we also visit scores of schools, and meet with or talk to hundreds of college administrators. We pay close attention to feedback we get about colleges from students, parents, educators and our own staff at Princeton Review locations across the country. We also value the opinions of our college counselors and advisors, particularly our 35-member National College Counselor Advisory Board, whom we thank in the book (you'll find their names and affiliations on pages 827–828).

    There are two key criteria that have influenced our selection of schools for this book since the first edition in 1992. 1) We work to have a wide representation of outstanding colleges in the book. These include public and private institutions from all parts of the country (we also have four schools in the book from outside the U.S.: two are in Canada and two in Ireland). There are small and large, traditional and nontraditional, highly selective and open-admission schools, plus some that are very expensive and others that are great bargains. You'll also find schools with religious affiliations, historically black colleges and universities, men's colleges, women's colleges and some schools acclaimed for their unique focus on science, engineering, technology or other specialized fields. 2) Any college we consider adding to the guide must agree to allow us to conduct independent surveys of its students. What students say about their schools and their campus life is very important to us and to prospective applicants and their parents—especially those who are unable to visit the campuses. We share the opinions we gather from surveyed students in our narrative profiles about the schools. Our student surveys (more than 126,000 of them!) are also the exclusive basis for our college rankings.

    How many ranking lists are in the book, and how did you compile them?
    The Best 378 Colleges has 62 ranking lists, each one identifying the top 20 colleges (of the 378 schools in the book—not of all colleges in the nation) in a specific category. The categories cover a range of topics that applicants might want to know or ask about a campus visit. We report rankings about academics, administrative services, financial aid, campus amenities, the student body's political leanings, race/class interaction, LGBT community acceptance, social life and much more. All 62 ranking lists are based solely on what students told us about their own colleges on our 80-question student survey. See The Princeton Review's College Rankings for information on what each ranking list is based on.

    Why don't you have one list that ranks all the schools in the book?
    We don't believe that any one school is the best overall. While academics are important—and some other college rankings focus only on academics—we believe lists that purport to rank schools academically aren't useful and are actually counterproductive. Every school under the #1 spot on such lists is perceived to be "lesser" academically than the one above it. The fact is, no one school is, in all subjects, for all majors, for all students, the academically best in the nation. It's not which school is best academically (there's no such thing) but which school is best for you that's important.

    We believe all 378 schools in the book are academically outstanding. But we don't think academics should be the exclusive reason for choosing a school—and in most cases, it isn't. Among other crucial factors (such as location, cost and size), the campus culture is very important. The schools featured in The Best 378 Colleges—our picks of the cream-of-the-crop colleges and universities—comprise only the top 15 percent of all four-year colleges in the nation. These are all very different schools with different and wonderful things to offer.

    How many students were surveyed for your ranking lists?
    The ranking lists in The Best 378 Colleges are based on our surveys of more than 126,000 students. That's an average of 333 students per school, though that number varies depending on the size of the student body. Over the years, we've surveyed anywhere from 26 men at Deep Springs College (100 percent of the student body) to over 1,000 collegians at such schools as Hofstra University, University of Mississippi and the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

    How is the survey conducted?
    All of the surveys upon which the rankings in this edition of the book are based were completed online. For detailed information, see Surveying Colleges: How We Do It.

    When was the survey conducted?
    We receive surveys online from students at the schools in this book (and from other institutions) all year, so a sizable number of the surveys came to us in the 2012–2013 academic year. In addition, we formally resurvey each school in the book a minimum of every three years, so some surveys upon which this edition's rankings are based are from the 2012–13 school year, some from the 2011–2012 school year, and some from the 2010–2011 school year. We conduct these surveys more often than once every three years if the colleges request that we do so (and we can accommodate that request) or if we deem it necessary for one reason or another. And of course, surveys we receive from students outside of their schools' normal survey cycles are always factored into the subsequent year's ranking calculations, so our pool of student survey data is continuously refreshed.

    What was the survey format?
    The survey has more than 80 questions across four categories. We ask students to tell us about themselves, their school's academics/administration, campus life and their fellow students' attitudes and opinions. For the multiple-choice questions, survey respondents indicate their answers on a five-point grid. The headers for the grids vary, depending on the type of question asked. They may range from "Excellent" to "Awful" or from "Extremely" to "Not at All." In some cases the range is in percentages, from "0–20%" to "81–100%." Each college is given a score based on its students' answers to each survey question. This enables us to compare student opinions from college to college—apples to apples, as it were—and on that basis, we tally the rankings. We also have several open-ended "comments" areas on the survey inviting students to tell us in their own words what they think of their schools, and we choose the most representative comments for inclusion in the narrative profiles.

    My college is not on any of the ranking lists. Why?
    That could be because the college isn't among the 378 in the book. Our ranking lists are based only on our surveys of students at the schools in the book. Or it could be that the school is in the book, but there wasn't a high enough consensus of opinion among the students we surveyed in response to any of the survey questions for the school to make a list. However, on average, only about 15 percent of the colleges in the book aren't on any of its 62 ranking lists.

    How can I complete a survey about my school?
    It's easy, and it takes only 10 to 15 minutes. Just click here. You may submit a survey about your school once every academic year if you like, and we encourage you to do so (but our site will accept only one survey from you per year: it's not possible to "stuff the ballot box").

    The profiles of colleges in this book and on your site have "ratings." What's the difference between the ratings and the rankings?
    That's a good question because people sometimes confuse ratings for rankings. Our 62 rankings are lists of the top 20 schools in the book in rank order, 1 to 20, on various topics. They are based entirely on our surveys of students at the 378 schools in the book who complete our 80-question survey. The survey asks them questions ranging from how good their profs are as teachers to how they rate their college city/town. Only schools in The Best 378 Colleges can appear on our 62 ranking lists. See The Princeton Review's College Rankings for more info on them.

    Our ratings are numerical scores on a scale of 60 to 99 that we give to every school in the book in eight categories: Academics, Admissions Selectivity, Financial Aid, Quality of Life, Professors Interesting, Professors Accessible, Fire Safety and Green, our newest rating. The ratings show how each school measures up on a fixed scale. We tally the ratings primarily based on institutional data that we get from schools: some ratings factor in data from our student surveys. All schools in our books The Best 378 Colleges and The Best Value Colleges and the schools we designate on our site as "regional bests"—Best in the Northeast, Best in the South, Best in the Midwest, or Best in the West—receive our eight ratings. Schools from which we have not received sufficient data to compile a rating for a particular category receive a rating of 60* (sixty with an asterisk) for that category. See  The Princeton Review's College Ratings for more info.

    What's new in this edition of the book?
    We added five colleges to this edition: Le Moyne College (Syracuse, NY), Marquette University (Milwaukee, WI), Stephens College (Columbia, MO), Trinity College, Dublin IRE, and the University of Texas at Dallas.

    We added a new ranking list category, "Best Science Lab Facilities." It reports the 20 colleges in the book at which students expressed the highest overall satisfaction with their science facilities on our student survey. Kudos to our #1 school on this new list: California Institute of Technology (Pasadena).

    All of the data in the book is, of course, updated—we reach out directly to our contacts at the colleges to collect that info and we update the statistics in each of our school profiles every year. We also give every college the opportunity to review, fact-check and report to us any incorrect information in its profile before our book goes to press. Our 62 "top 20" ranking lists are also, of course, newly compiled as are our Honor Roll lists of schools that received our highest possible score (99) in our rating tallies for Financial Aid, Fire Safety and Green. Our tallies of our eight rating scores for all 378 schools are also annually redone.

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