Many of you are probably familiar with Loren Pope’s book, Colleges That Change Lives, in which he identified 40 schools that he believed offer unique college experiences and which have strong track records for producing graduates who go on to become successful scholars and scientists. Last night these 40 colleges drew a crowd of several hundred students and parents at the Colleges That Change Lives (CTCL) information session and college fair in New York City. Whether or not one of these schools is potentially the right fit for your son or daughter (go to the website to check out the list of these 40 colleges: http://www.CTCL.org), the approach has merit for all students beginning the college search process. The CTCL colleges travel across the country each year as a group to reach out to students and families and to share their philosophies on admission and on picking the right college match:
- Don’t let yourself be seduced by rankings such as those in U.S. News & World Report, which are based upon entering student statistics. These rankings say nothing about what goes on during the four years in college!
- Identify schools where serious and thoughtful scholarly work is performed. Pope picked his 40 schools by finding out where PhD students did their undergraduate studies. These colleges out pace many of the more selective schools in terms of the number of future PhDs they turn out each year.
- Look for colleges that are student centered and focused on undergraduate education.
- Find schools that produce creative and critical thinkers, encourage cooperative rather than competitive learning, and where students are engaged in intellectual pursuits both in and outside the classroom.
- Bottom line: Look at outcomes, rather than inputs. What do students accomplish while they are in school and what paths do they follow after graduation?
The principle message of the CTCL schools is that students are more likely to have meaningful and worthwhile college experiences if they jettison the criteria of name recognition, prestige and ranking, and focus on understanding their particular needs and how these will be met by the mission and identity of the college community they choose. Young people owe it to themselves to take ownership of the process. That means knowing themselves well and having the confidence about what they have to offer. Your son or daughter is more than just test scores, a GPA and his or her class rank. Fortunately most colleges are more interested in learning about who the student is as a person. They share your objective of helping your child find the right fit and have the best possible college experience!