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A Fit Over Rankings: Why College Engagement Matters More Than Selectivity [downloadable] [video]

learning 447The college admissions process can often be a top source of stress and anxiety for students. While many schools, counselors, and parents encourage students to focus on finding the “right fit” college, this advice can be difficult to follow without a better understanding of what “fit” means and what matters most — both for learning and engagement in college — and for life outcomes beyond college.

This  white paper by Challenge Success reviews and synthesizes key research in order to address many of the important questions and concerns we hear from students, parents, and schools about the college admissions process:

What do college rankings really measure?
Are students who attend more selective colleges better off later in life?
What is “fit” and why does it matter?

What the Research Shows

Rankings are problematic. Many students and families rely on college rankings published by well-known organizations to define quality. The higher the ranking, the logic goes, the better the college must be and vice versa. We find that many of the metrics used in these rankings are weighted arbitrarily and are not accurate indicators of a college’s quality or positive outcomes for students.

College selectivity is not a reliable predictor of student learning, job satisfaction, or well-being. We explore the research on whether attending a selective college predicts important life outcomes and find no significant relationship between a school’s selectivity and student learning, future job satisfaction, or well-being. We find a modest relationship between financial benefits and attending more selective colleges, and that these benefits apply more to first-generation and other underserved students. We also find that individual student characteristics (such as background, major, ambition) may make more of a difference in terms of post-college outcomes than the institutions themselves.

Engagement in college is more important than where you attend. Colleges that provide ample opportunities for students to deeply engage in learning and campus community may offer the key to positive outcomes after college. For instance, students who participate in internships that allow them to apply what they learn in the classroom to real life settings, students who have mentors in college who encourage them to pursue personal goals, and students who engage in multi-semester projects are more likely to thrive after college.

Download the white paper, A “Fit” Over Rankings: Why College Engagement Matters More Than Selectivity.  Interested in a quick overview? Check out this 90-second video explanation of the Challenge Success white paper on college admissions and find out why what you do in college may matter more than where you go!

Challenge Success is a non-profit organization affiliated with the Stanford University Graduate School of Education. We partner with schools, families, and communities to embrace a broad definition of success and to implement research-based strategies that promote student well-being and engagement with learning.
Source: Challenge Success | A “Fit” Over Rankings: Why College Engagement Matters More Than Selectivity, http://www.challengesuccess.org/resources/research/white-papers | Copyright 2019 Challenge Success

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