AISG College Counseling

AISG employs a full-time college counselor to facilitate the application process. The college counselor is there not only for the students, but also for the parents, offering a tailor-made, individualized college plan aimed at connecting students to pathways and college programs they are passionate about pursuing.

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Our College Counselor

AISG's current college counselor is Dr. Justin Walker, whose high-level profile and extensive expertise ensure AISG's outreach and reputation in the college circuit.

The U.S. News & World Report Best College* rankings. This article will break down the methodology* and challenge the use of such a document for anything other than entertainment. By the time you are done here, I want you to be able to understand what the rankings are and why some schools are there and others are not.

Everyone knows about this annual report. It’s bathed in controversy yet revered by families as the archetype of the ideal school list. But have you stopped to ask some questions, like, “Is media why we think these schools are ‘good’?” and “What do the rankings actually measure?”

There are essentially 4 categories of schools: National universities, Liberal Arts Colleges, Regional universities, and Regional colleges. With that in mind, schools aren't compared against each other in cross categories, meaning right away there is no “best” college; it’s like comparing baseball to basketball with skateboarding and cricket tossed in. If a school isn’t on one list, it doesn’t mean anything about its worth. 

AISG College Counselor gives a presentation to parents and students

How does it work?

The highest weighted category is Graduation and Retention Rate, which is important, sure, but accounting for 22% of the variance widely skews results. Now, what schools can afford to pay for students to attend, removing financial hardship as a factor in staying in school? Rich, private schools. So, with money as a factor, the scales are tilted heavily toward a select group of institutions, who now rack in the points in the most significant category. 

The next, and nearly as significantly weighted category (at 20%) is Undergraduate Academic Reputation. This is for real. One-fifth of these ratings rely on what OTHER people think of schools! If I am a senior, why do I think my life at a school in California is likely to be enhanced when a president from a school in New York fills out a survey (who may never have even been there)? About one in three people who are given the survey return it, so this is hardly a comprehensive look at the schools out there. 

Also accounting for 20% of the rating is Faculty Resources. On the surface, this sounds important, but let’s look closer. 8% of this comes from class size. Smaller class sizes get better marks. And while this could be an indicator of a “better” education, there is no metric, no guarantee of a better product. It has nothing to do with the quality of instruction, just the number. And, again, who can afford smaller class sizes? Rich, private schools. Another 7% comes from faculty salary. Yep, how much a teacher is paid is automatically an indicator of the quality of education. Don’t even try to argue that the best professors make the most. That is not true. Most professors are recruited and retained for their publication and research reputation as well as their work with graduate students. In fact, some of them even view undergraduate teaching as an inconvenience. So (cue broken record), who can pay the most for faculty? By now you know...

AISG College Counselor talks with parent and student

Let’s get moving. 10% is attributed to Financial Resources per Student. If there was one piece of this I can get behind, it’d be this. Wouldn’t it be great to see schools spending more of their wealth on what students can access and benefit from? Well, yes, except that again, this hugely favors wealthy schools, and the public schools must answer to the government, and therefore must allocate funding differently. Consider another 3% of the rank comes from Alumni Giving and you know how this is going to go. Again, score one for the private schools. 

Take another 8% for Graduation Rate Performance, which measures grad rates against predicted grad rates. If you couple this with the first category, nearly one-third of the rankings are on graduation, and we have already seen how that benefits the richest schools. 

A further 7% comes from Student Selectivity, which essentially means the class rank, standing, and SAT scores of the incoming students. If you think having the wealthiest, most entitled white students is what makes the “best” college (as SAT scores are significantly correlated with wealth and race*), well, you need not look further. For 5% of the rank weight, we take Social Mobility (Pell Grant grad rates) into account, which is great, but since it affects absolutely none of the students I have ever worked with in an international school, why would you all want this to be part of what determines the “best” college you can attend? 

The last 5% of variance comes from Graduate Indebtedness. It almost seems hardly worth the words. Who is going to be able to provide the most institutional grants, interest-free loans, and scholarships? Federally funded public schools or rich private ones? Again, if you are a full-pay student, funded by your parents, why would you even care about this?

Moving Ahead

So, there are the glorious rankings. Why do you think no public school ranks higher than 20th on the list (UCLA)? Is it the product they provide or the money they have? Is this what has led us to think private schools are somewhat better than public schools? Is this ridiculous, nearly pointless methodology worth all of the hype? Sit on this information for a while, since I know it will be hard to swallow, and next time we will look at the problems this causes and how we can find other criteria in choosing the best-fit school for our high school graduates.

At AISG, this valuable counseling insight is one of the many reasons why AISG is The Premier International School in Guangzhou. To learn more, check out our College Counseling website.

*Referenced links:

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Let this information sink in for a while, since I know it will be hard to swallow, and in January we will look at the problems this causes and how we can find other criteria in choosing the best-fit school for our high school graduates.

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