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New Rankings List the Best Colleges in 5 Categories

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Believe it or not, there are things happening in the world of education other than COVID-19. It may not seem like it, since K-12 schools and colleges and universities are all focused on back-to-school plans and policies for Fall 2020. If you have been wondering what’s been happening with that, consider diving into the (currently) 507-page, 10,100-post thread School in the Fall and Coronavirus on the College Confidential discussion forum. There are few stones left unturned there.


If you’re currently searching for information about other education-related areas outside of areas affected by the pandemic, you may be interested in one or more of the five new ranking sets recently released by Optimal, an online resource that states, “We use data to empower people to make better decisions about careers and education.” Data-driven rankings are more objective than those that use subjective criteria such as reputation, which can be difficult to quantify.

The Five Ranking Categories Are:

– Best Colleges for Earning Potential

– Best Online Community College Rankings

– Best Online Colleges and Degrees

– Most Affordable Online Colleges and Degrees

– Best Technology Bootcamps

I wrote about colleges and earning potential in a previous article. Today I want to do a brief review of these five rankings so you know that their information is available as a research resource. First, some background:

Optimal publishes college rankings, reviews and datasets aimed at helping prospective students determine the outcome of specific college, degree and career tracks, based on detailed research data. This can help students avoid unnecessary debt, produce accurate cost-benefit analyses among colleges and degree programs, and find the best approach for their needs. As you can see from the list above, their rankings cover four-year colleges, online colleges, technology “bootcamps” and graduate programs.

I think this information is important, in light of the unprecedented circumstances students have faced since mid-March this year. Due to these events, some students might now be considering community or online schools instead of traditional four-year colleges. They may also want to know what major at which specific school offers the best salary immediately after graduation.

The vocational route is becoming more pertinent for those who either can’t afford or don’t care to pursue the four-year undergraduate degree option. This is where the so-called tech bootcamps come in. As Optimal notes, they can deliver a more recession-proof career path in a shorter time frame. The long-term economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic are impossible to predict at this point. However, some economists and medical experts feel that this “new normal” is going to be with us for some time.

Thus, having some objective tools available, such as these data-driven rankings, can be a significant help for high schoolers, college students and other adults looking to select a career path (or change paths) or overcome job losses due to an economic downturn.

Check the Top 3 Schools in Each Category

Here, then, is a quick look at the five 2020 rankings with some qualifying text from Optimal. Each ranking set provides helpful search functions and methodology rationale. I’ve noted the top-three ranked schools in each category.

Best Colleges for Earning Potential

Based on over 100,000 college degree programs and the starting salary data of over 5 million graduates, our rankings represent the most comprehensive collection of data-driven college rankings available to date. Covering over 70 majors at the bachelor’s and master’s levels, as well as the 20 most popular online degree programs, our rankings help prospective students answer the question, “What can I expect to make if I graduate from a particular school with a particular major?”

Here are the top-three ranked schools for the majors of Business and Computer Science:

Business:

1. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor: $76,900 salary

2. Carnegie Mellon University: $76,800 salary

3. University of California-Berkeley: $76,600 salary

Computer Science:

1. Brown University: $141,100 salary

2. Carnegie Mellon University: $138,900 salary

3. Harvard University: $128,900 salary

Best Online Community Colleges

These are the country’s best online community colleges for 2020, ranked by retention rate, number of online associate degrees offered, and online enrollment percentage. Retention rate was weighted most heavily so that these rankings highlight the schools that serve students best. Learn more about our ranked schools or search for a list of the best online community colleges in your state. All 2019-2020 tuition numbers were manually collected and verified.

1. Foothill College (Los Altos Hills, Calif.), $3,555 annual tuition

2. Sussex County Community College (Newton, N.J.), $5,200 annual tuition

3. Bismarck State (Bismarck, N.D.), $5,499 annual tuition

Best Online Colleges and Degrees

These 2019-2020 best online colleges are the first rankings of their kind to use alumni salary data and manually researched tuition rates to provide a list of the schools offering the best value to students. We researched 1,943 schools and have published over 250 program rankings, all using subject- and level-specific data. These schools offer fully online degrees for as low as $7,000 per year, and their alumni have a median mid-career salary of $80,000-$121,000.

Undergraduate:

1. George Washington University: $18,450 tuition, $103,000 average mid-career salary

2. University of Virginia: $13,260 tuition, $104,000 average mid-career salary

3. UMass-Lowell: $33,004 tuition, $100,000 average mid-career salary

Graduate School:

1. George Washington University: $17,640 tuition, $121,000 average mid-career salary

2. University of Virginia: $8,115 tuition, $113,000 average mid-career salary

3. UMass-Lowell: $21,975 tuition, $117,000 average mid-career salary

Most Affordable Online Colleges

Each year, we publish our Most Affordable Online College Rankings, which represent the most affordable online degrees in the country across a variety of popular subjects. Every degree is from an accredited school, and annual tuitions start below $4,000.

1. Tennessee State University: $4,200 undergrad tuition, $3,842 grad school tuition

2. California Coast University: $4,725 undergrad tuition, $4,485 grad school tuition

3. Georgia Southwestern State University: $5,970 undergrad tuition, $3,855 grad school tuition

Best Coding Bootcamp Rankings

To help you find the perfect bootcamp, SwitchUp has published rankings based on over 15,000 verified student reviews. Check out the full list, or view our rankings of the best data science, cyber security, web design, and online bootcamps.

Name Rating Reviews

1. Le Wagon: 4.99/5 rating, 1,654 reviews

2. App Academy 4.7/5 rating, 913 reviews

3. Ironhack 4.9/5 rating, 926 reviews

Speaking of online colleges, I wonder if we should include Harvard University and the California State System schools (and some other famous names) on that list this year. They have already announced that their 2020-2021 academic years will be fully online. I’m joking about listing them here, of course, but these august institutions of higher learning, by focusing their academic prowess exclusively on online instruction this year, will no doubt add luster to the appeal of less well-known online degree programs, such as those at Elmhurst College, University of Bridgeport and Golden Gate University.

This year has been one of the most challenging in numerous ways. If you have been challenged on an academic or career level, then take a look at one or more of these five rankings. The potential to meet your needs lies within.

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By: Dave Berry
Title: New Rankings List the Best Colleges in 5 Categories
Sourced From: insights.collegeconfidential.com/what-are-the-best-colleges
Published Date: Thu, 09 Jul 2020 14:38:12 +0000

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Former Georgetown AO Demystifies Elite Admissions in New Book

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No matter how much research you’ve done, you’ve probably encountered unanswered questions about the elite college admissions process, which is often shrouded in mystery. One former college admissions officer aims to demystify that with her new book, Hacking Elite College Admissions: 50 Surprising Insights on the College Application Process.


Gaelle Pierre-Louis read thousands of applications during her time at Georgetown University’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions, and decided to take some of the insights she gleaned there and put them into book form. Her new release also features tips and strategies from people who have worked in the admission offices of schools ranging from Harvard to Johns Hopkins and beyond.

College Confidential sat down with Pierre-Louis to ask some questions about how students can best position themselves for success during college admissions season.

Here’s How Admission Officers Read Your Rec Letters

College Confidential: In the book, you note that admission officers not only read every line of students’ recommendation letters, “but they also read between the lines.” Can you explain to applicants what that means, and what types of things admission officers like to see in rec letters?

Gaelle Pierre-Louis: We read between the lines for two reasons: To tell if the person actually knows you and to evaluate what that person actually thinks about your candidacy. I highly recommend meeting with guidance counselors and sending them your resume and a brief paragraph with your accomplishments. Make it easier for your recommenders so that they can, in turn, make your life easier as well.

We review thousands of recommendation letters from teachers and guidance counselors every year. When you read so many letters, you will inevitably be able to identify trends over time. Not only that, but we are able to see the letters and compare them with what others from your school are getting. Some guidance counselors will have seven kids applying to a certain college, but six of the letters will say the same generic information and then the seventh one will include certain phrases like “this student is one of the best within my 23 years of college counseling” or “this student will receive my highest recommendation.” There will be key words that differentiate that recommendation letter from others. It is important to put your best foot forward when meeting with your guidance counselor so that they can write a great letter on your behalf.

When evaluating your recommendation letters from your teachers, we want to see one from a rigorous course in which you performed well. You do not necessarily have to get an “A” in that class to get a great letter. For example, if the teacher says you might have struggled in your first exam, but you took opportunities to stay after class and you did extra homework to eventually get a “B,” that tells us a lot about your grit and tenacity, which are skills that we want you to have in order to survive college. We want to know how you will do in the classroom based on the rigorous courses you took in high school.

Low Stats? Here’s What Might Move the Needle

CC: The book describes the holistic admissions process that Georgetown and other schools use. Can you share a tip on how students can offset lower-than-average stats by highlighting other aspects of their applications?

GPL: Yes, schools tend to be truly holistic when evaluating your application. To be honest, for students who have below-average stats, usually an essay or recommendation letter is not going to move the needle on their application. From my experience, it is the depth of their extracurricular activities, timeline of the application (meaning early or regular decision) and their interview that weighs more in those cases.

Check How Your Extracurriculars Are Viewed

CC: When it comes to extracurricular activities (ECs), are admission officers drawn to unusual or interesting ones? Or is it more important to show a several-year commitment to the same ECs, no matter how common they are?

GPL: It truly does depend on the institutional priorities set by the university for that application cycle. One year, we might need more students on our debate team and another year, we might be seeking students who play percussion instruments for the orchestra. If it is something we need and you are involved in it and someone can vouch for you, it matters!

Make the Essay About You

CC: Are there any essay topics that you would advise students to never, ever write about?

GPL: I feel as if most essay topics that students think are original, we have seen them so many times. So there is not anything that I would advise students not to write about. This year, due to COVID-19, I do believe that students might choose to write about COVID- 19 and how it has affected the student, which is great, but it will not help you stand out since everyone will be doing the same thing. I would write about it in a supplementary essay and not the personal one, but it truly depends on the situation.

The most important thing with essays is that it concerns you. You would be surprised how many students talk about other people in their college essays. That does not help us understand who you are as an applicant. As far as topics, you could truly write about anything. We have probably seen the topic before, but it is more about the perspective you bring with the topic.

Share Your Thoughts

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Check out our forum to contribute to the conversation!

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By: Torrey Kim
Title: Former Georgetown AO Demystifies Elite Admissions in New Book
Sourced From: insights.collegeconfidential.com/elite-college-admissions-tips
Published Date: Wed, 12 Aug 2020 16:06:10 +0000

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Tackling The Common Application Essay

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Rising high school seniors, we haven’t forgotten about you! The COVID-19 pandemic has overwhelmed the realm of higher education. It seems as though all we have been hearing and reading about the past five months or so is how the coronavirus has affected, is affecting, and will affect almost every aspect of our lives. Many of us have sought ways to escape the onslaught of bad news.


If you are about to begin your senior year of high school, whether in person or online, and you plan to go to college, your focus may have been more on the college process instead of the COVID process. Colleges and universities across America have been fully sidetracked, trying to make sense out of how to continue providing higher education to their student bodies, while wrestling with an increasing burden of safety precautions, virus testing plans, unexpected expenses, teacher and student protests, and virus outbreaks among staff. That’s just a short list of their pandemic-related woes.

However, the college process cycle continues, and this year’s high school seniors will be applying to colleges and universities just as they have every year, even during world wars, depressions and other major national concerns. So I won’t be writing about the novel coronavirus today, but rather, about one important aspect of your college application process: the Common Application essay.

In addition to your academic record and recommendations, the essay can push a borderline applicant into the “Admit” column if executed properly. So it’s time to start thinking about this, if you haven’t already started.

You will most likely be using the Common Application for at least some (if not all) of your target schools. Chances are, even if you don’t end up using the Common App (unlikely), you will still need to write an essay on a general topic such as those that the Common App requires.

Get to Know the Common App Prompts

Here are the 2020-2021 Common Application essay prompts. They are the same as last year’s:

1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, please share your story.

2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

4. Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma — anything of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.

5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?

7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

Check These Resources for Guidance

To help you get started thinking about how and what to write, I’ve listed a dozen of my College Confidential articles about writing application essays. You don’t have to read all of them, just find several that appeal to you, then read and learn. (Note that some of the articles reference older Common Application prompts, but my advice also applies to the current prompts.)

1. Great Common Application Essays

“There are myriad topics in your world … right under your nose. Use them!”

2. Using Humor in Your College Essay

“Titles can lend heft to an essay if they are carefully thought out …”

3. More about Essays

“Those are just three examples of great college application essays.”

4. Thoughts on Application Essays

“Keeping all this in mind, construct a list of “little known habits, hobbies and other weird stuff ” about yourself. Then, work to shape an aspect (or aspects) of that list into a winning statement.”

5. More On Essays

“You should be able to see the advantage of using not only picturesque imagery but also one of my favorite essay elements: humor.”

6. More Essay Insights

“Do you have some kind of challenge in your life that you have worked to overcome, like Cheryl? If so, give some thought to writing about it in your college applications.”

7. Adventures in Essayland

“As always, remember: Don’t write what you think they want to hear; write what you want to say!”

8. The Application Essay: Think About It

“Essay ideas are everywhere; we just don’t see them.”

9. Essays with A Smile

“Even the brightest students many times have difficulty conjuring decent topics and gathering their compositional forces to put together a winning set of sentences and paragraphs. So, what’s a frustrated essayist to do then?”

10. Application Essays

“The lesson here for essay writers is to look around your everyday lives carefully. Scenes like those immortalized here in “Banana Girl” happen all the time.”

11. Applying You to Your Application Essays

“What you can see in these entries is the contrast between writers who write what they want to say (the winners) and those who write what the contest judges want to hear (the losers).”

Make Sure Your Voice Shows

What you’ll see in the samples I posted in the above articles can show you the natural style incorporated by the writers. Their essays flow smoothly and don’t have an “academic” feel about them. When you read them, you can almost hear the writers speaking. In other words, their “voice” is natural and not at all affected by formality or overblown usage. They don’t use big words just for the sake of impressive vocabulary. Big words don’t impress admissions committees. A natural voice, convincingly presented, does.

The best essays help you to stand out in a crowd and reveal who you are and how you think. Sure, you can write a good essay about anything, but an essay often has the most impact if it highlights something that is unique or unusual about you.

Finally, try to have some fun with this. I know that “fun” probably isn’t the first word that comes to mind when you think about your college essays, but you may find that once you get into it, you’ll actually enjoy expressing yourself!

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By: Dave Berry
Title: Tackling The Common Application Essay
Sourced From: insights.collegeconfidential.com/how-to-write-common-app-essay
Published Date: Thu, 13 Aug 2020 12:24:38 +0000

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