Finding the Best Colleges

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What are the best colleges in America?

Not so fast with your answer. The best colleges aren’t always the ones that enjoy the biggest, shiniest name brands and monopolize the rankings.

So how do you find the colleges and universities that do a fantastic — if unheralded — job of educating students?

You’re going to have to dig a little deeper because what you need to know won’t be found in a college’s marketing material.

Luckily, the National Survey of Student Engagement has made the task easier. The NSSE, which is based at the University of Indiana Center for Postsecondary Research, is dedicated to uncovering the college practices that will increase a student’s chances of college success.

In its research, NSSE has uncovered 10 academic practices that significantly improve students’ success in college — regardless of their academic abilities or backgrounds.

Here are the practices that truly matter:

  • Freshman seminars.
  • Common intellectual experiences.
  • Learning communities.
  • Writing-intensive courses.
  • Collaborative assignments and projects.
  • Undergraduate research.
  • Diversity/global learning.
  • Service learning/community-based learning.
  • Internships.
  • Capstone courses and projects.

You can learn more about each of these practices, which contribute to college success, by reading a summary that the Association of American Colleges and Universities has posted on its website.

Further Reading:

America’s Best Schools: A College Rankings Duel

Blaming College Students for Not Graduating in Six Years

Attending College Close to Home

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution and she also blogs about college for

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