Challenging the traditional “best college” rankings trend as a simplistic approach to evaluating colleges, Colleges of Distinction (CoD) releases its 2018 guidebook this week. Rather than looking at rankings to find the “best college,” the guide spotlights schools that deliver the richest classroom experiences.

The 2018 Colleges of Distinction Guidebook features school evaluations based on what research suggests is crucial to collegiate success and student satisfaction-the student experience. While other services churn out rankings based on publicly available information and statistics like acceptance rates and reputation, CoD says they conduct extensive research and campus interviews to answer, “Where are the best places to learn, grow and succeed?”

“While others focus on prestige, we focus on what matters to students: getting the richest college experience possible,” says Tyson Schritter, CoD’s chief operating officer. “We enable students to find the right schools for themselves, not the mythical best schools.”

The 500-page 2018 Colleges of Distinction Guidebook, available on Amazon, features profiles of almost 400 universities and colleges that use methods such as community-based learning or writing-intensive courses centered on long-term student satisfaction and success. CoD staff members conduct campus visits and in-depth interviews with college executives, program directors, faculty, students and others about how they deliver world-class student experiences.

“Colleges aren’t commodities–they’re as diverse as the needs of today’s students,” Schritter says. “No single ranking can account for what’s most important to each individual student applying to college in a given year.”

CoD’s methodology is supported by research from the Pew Charitable Trust, the Association of American Colleges & Universities, the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education and others. The methodology is anchored in practices tied to high student success and engagement, sustained employment in an unstable job market, and lifelong learning for students from different socioeconomic and educational backgrounds, says CoD.

“The Colleges of Distinction college guide presents institutions of higher learning that have distinguished themselves in several areas that are more important to student success and satisfaction than the well-publicized rankings,” says Deborah Blanchard, Christian Brothers University’s vice president of communications and marketing.

CoD also looks for schools that have a proven record in the following four key areas:

– Engaged Students: GPAs and standardized test scores are important, but COD looks for students who are engaged inside and outside the classroom. Students compete in sports, volunteer, conduct independent research and study abroad. They are not just thinkers; they are doers.

Great Teaching: These schools have professors who know students by name, are committed to seeing them succeed and are experts in their fields. Students learn in environments that encourage reading, writing, research and interaction. That way, students learn to analyze problems, think creatively, work in teams and communicate effectively.

Vibrant Communities: A rich living-and-learning environments on and off campus is a key area for COD. Colleges offer a variety of residential options, clubs and organizations to satisfy every interest. They have cultural and social opportunities and avenues for leadership, character and spiritual development. They provide ways for students to be involved in the surrounding community.

– Successful Outcomes: The schools have a record of graduating satisfied, productive alumni who make their mark in business, medicine, law, education, public service and other fields. In terms of the return on investment, these schools are outstanding values.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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