What You Need to Know About the DIY College Rankings College Profile

Woman at computer reading What You Need to Know About the DIY College Rankings College ProfileIn each of my newsletters, I include a brief profile of a 50-50 college. For those new to my website, a 50-50 school is a college that accepts at least 49% of students and has at least a 49% graduation rate. I use the four-year rate for private schools and the five-year rate for public. You can download a complete list here.

I have also created profiles for over 350 of them so far and am gradually getting them all listed. You can find individual profiles here. With all of the college search websites available, it wouldn’t be unreasonable for you to wonder why I bother, or more importantly, why you should bother to look at them.

Basically, the profiles are designed to be a quick way to introduce colleges to families who have never heard of them. They are not meant to be comprehensive in any way. However, I use them to highlight certain information about the schools that I believe are important to families in targeting affordable colleges. I also try to include non-financial information that provides a selection of interesting programs offered by the college.

What I’m going to do here is go over the different elements of the college profile and why they’re included. I’m using Lawrence University as an example.

The first section of the college profile has the name, type, location, and size. The name is linked to the college’s home page. I include type because if it is a public college, families should not expect generous financial aid if they’re out-of-state.

Section 1 College Profile

I show the number of all students and those that are just undergraduates to give an indication of size as well as campus culture. If nothing else, more graduate students means students are more likely to have teaching assistants for their classes. I also list the years that the school has been on the 50-50 list.

The next section really isn’t necessary for those who already know this is a 50-50 school and why I care about graduation rates. But not all visitors will so I have a link to all 50-50 schools and the school’s profile on the College Navigator website. I list the numbers that qualify it as a 50-50 school and link to an explanation on the importance of graduation rates.

Section 2 College Profile

The Finances section of the college profile is the first look at affordability. I list the total cost because too many colleges will publish only tuition costs which makes their aid look more generous. The average net price is an indicator of the institution’s financial aid generosity. For private colleges, anything over $30,000 probably means an expensive choice even with financial aid.

Section 3 College Profile

I display the percentage of freshman receiving non-federal loans also as a warning sign. If more than 10% of the freshman class are taking out non-federal loans, families should pay close attention to the amounts. I include a link to the Net Price Calculator since it should be one of the first stops you make when visiting a college website. And I provide some basic background information in the link to 5 Things to Know About Paying for College Before You Apply.

The Test Score section should give families some idea of the potential for merit aid. Students are much more likely to receive merit money if their academic qualifications put them in the top quarter of the freshman class.

Test Section of College Profile

The Common Data Set section links to the common data set on the college website if available. If the data set isn’t available, I look up the information on CollegeData.com and Bigfuture. I generally find that when colleges don’t make their common data set available, they aren’t doing a very good job of meeting student financial need.

common data set section of college profile

The first two elements of this section, class rank and GPA, will give you some idea of the possibility of merit aid. The next element, Percent of Freshman Need Met, shows whether or not the school is a good candidate for those with financial need. Among private schools, anything less than 85% should not be considered a need-friendly school. The next two items are for those looking for merit aid. Be sure to compare the average non-need award to the total expenses.

The next section includes a link to the class schedule if it is publicly available. The class schedule is a much better way to get some idea of how big your classes will be than the student to faculty ratio. However, not all public class schedules include class size which I note as well.

Class scheduel section of college profile

Generally, when I come across colleges that don’t allow public access to class schedules, they are high-profile schools that probably don’t want to advertise the fact that students will be in large classes.  For most students, large classes are a reality. What you should look at is the upper-division classes for the majors you’re interested in. Large upper-division classes are something to worry about.

The athletic section is for students interested in playing their sport at the college level. However, the conference link can be useful for anyone trying to create a college list. Conferences generally consist of similarly situated schools so if there is something you like about this school, it might be worth looking at other conference members.

athletic section of college profile

The last section is” Reasons to consider” the school. This is just a list of programs, opportunities, and research centers at the school that I thought were interesting. If the school is a single-sex school, I’ll note it here.

Reasons section of athletic profile

You can also see a list of profiles available by state under the Resources menu. I have more information on how to research colleges in “Creating College Lists: How to Create a College List When You Don’t Know Where to Start.” If you have any questions about the information contained in the profiles, please let me know.

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