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Top 10 LACs

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Replies to: Top 10 LACs

  • GhosttGhostt 1648 replies19 threads Senior Member
    For me, the first 10 LACs that come to mind when discussing quality of education are:

    Amherst, Barnard, Bowdoin, Carleton, Middlebury, Pomona, Reed, Swarthmore, Wesleyan, Williams

    Harvey Mudd is more specialized, but it too belongs in this company if you're interested in science or engineering (in fact, if you're interested in getting a four-year degree in engineering, most of the schools above won't be of much use to you).

    There are many other schools I would consider just as attractive as the ones above, though: Vassar, Oberlin, Macalester, Claremont McKenna, Smith, Bryn Mawr, Haverford, Davidson, Grinnell, etc. Habitually overlooked schools like Agnes Scott and Morehouse should also be mentioned in these conversations.

    American kids are fortunate to have so many great options; choosing between them often comes down to subjective factors like fit because of how consistently strong they are academically.
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  • johnwesleyjohnwesley - 4473 replies137 threads Senior Member
    Well, I think we can argue about "academic quality" _ad infinitum_ and the most we'd be able to come up with are a few heuristic, surrogate markers for something we all wish we could put our finger on: how much do people actually learn in college? It's because we don't have the answers to that question that we rely so heavily on polls and ratings.

    Selectivity is an enticing method of separating the wheat from the chaff, but, what does it really reflect? Popularity? A college can be academically rigorous and not terribly popular. Chicago, Reed -- even Swarthmore -- are each examples of colleges that went through dry spells, in terms of popularity, largely because of their rumored grade-deflation.

    SAT median scores? Again, it says less than you think. Just because a college has a high median SAT/ACT median doesn't guarantee that its students learn from each other between classes. That, is the ostensible advantage of attending an elite college. Otherwise, all you're doing is having your high school grades, board scores and teacher recommendations certified and ratified by a prestigious degree.

    Furthermore, there really is no trick to charging $50,000 a year in tuition and drawing enough upper and upper-middle class students to fill out a class of high-achieving students.

    The real trick is in going a little deeper into your school's applicant pool in order to admit middle-class kids from city schools, rural schools and schools with only one college counselor for a thousand students, kids who will ultimately go back to their communities and run for Board of Ed, become members of the Chamber of Commerce and raise money for the United Fund. Those are legitimate markers as well and not always reflected in magazine statistics.
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  • shavree287shavree287 29 replies2 threads Junior Member
    edited May 2015
    If anyone thinks that Amherst, Williams, or Swat are leagues above a lower top 10 like CMC, please disregard that notion of academic elitism. The top 10s shuffle around all the time based on varying data (see here for 2001 rankings: http://www2.davidson.edu/news/news_archives/archives01/01.10usnews-rankreport.html). I once had my D looked down upon for choosing Carleton over Swat, and another incoming Carl I know who was chastised for choosing it over Bowdoin because Bowdoin is ranked (I know this is obviously a HUGE difference) 2 ranks higher. Perhaps if the student who talked trash about Carleton should ask to see the 2001 rankings in which - guess what - the schools were tied at 5th.
    edited May 2015
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  • couplemoreweekscouplemoreweeks 324 replies12 threads Member
    In no particular order:

    Amherst, Pomona, Williams, swathmore, Harvey mudd, Claremont McKenna, bowdoin, haverford, Wellesley, middlebury, Wesleyan
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  • LordSwagLordSwag 117 replies9 threads Junior Member
    Amherst, Williams, Swathmore, Pomona, Bowdoin, Haverford, Middlebury, Davidson, McKenna, Wellesley
    In no order
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  • lr4550lr4550 952 replies9 threads Member
    Carleton absolutely, hands down, should be on any top ten elite LAC list that one could possibly conceive.
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  • marvin100marvin100 8568 replies1249 threads Senior Member
    1. Williams
    1. Amherst
    3. Swarthmore
    4. Pomona
    4. Middlebury
    6. Bowdoin
    7. Harvey Mudd
    8. Haverford
    8. Wellesley
    8. Reed
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  • fallenchemistfallenchemist Honorary Super Mod 24269 replies860 threads Inactive User
    While I realize this thread topic doesn't particularly have an "expiration date", in the future please start a new thread rather than revive an old one. However, since there has already been several responses, I will leave it open.
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  • tk21769tk21769 10710 replies27 threads Senior Member

    Reed (seems to be the most rigorous LAC with the best curriculum & testing system)
    Carleton, Swarthmore (a little cut above the others in rigor)
    Amherst, Claremont McKenna, Haverford, Pomona (strong consortium LACs)
    Bowdoin, Wellesley, Williams (the most selective of the rest, but otherwise mostly indistinguishable in any very important way from about 30 other LACs)

    Harvey Mudd is as strong as any of the above, but it's really a science & engineering college, not a comprehensive "liberal arts" college.
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  • HiToWaMomHiToWaMom 1486 replies19 threads Senior Member
    Yes, I definitely include Reed. The college that has been punished by US News. I applaude their stance against the ranking system.
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  • Qwerty568Qwerty568 1203 replies9 threads Senior Member
    I know USNews can be painfully innaccurate, but I am SHOCKED to see Reed placed 77th for liberal arts colleges- not even close to the other colleges mentioned on this thread. Any guess as to the reasoning? I suppose they have a higher acceptance rate than many other tippy-top LACs, but I didn't think this was a huge factor in US news ranking, no?
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  • 2019Parent2019Parent 82 replies1 threads Junior Member
    edited May 2015
    @qwerty568. It is a combination of the high acceptance rate and the very low graduation rate.
    edited May 2015
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  • Coffeelover123Coffeelover123 20 replies1 threads New Member
    edited May 2015
    @2019Parent After seeing your reply to Qwerty I looked up the graduation rate, because I wouldn't think it would be that bad, considering they are thought of so highly here...a 59 percent four year graduation rate and 74 percent overall graduation rate...wow. That's more a testament to their rigor, I would think, for this school. Getting to the finish line is so difficult that many kids just don't make it.
    edited May 2015
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  • Qwerty568Qwerty568 1203 replies9 threads Senior Member
    @2019Parent If @Coffeelover123 's numbers are indeed correct, then Reed's low rankings would definitely make sense. Is is really just a function of rigor/their capstone project? Because that rate seems quite low for a top LAC.
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  • 2019Parent2019Parent 82 replies1 threads Junior Member
    @Coffeelover123 I doubt it is as simple as that. Even the Naval Academy has very good graduation rates as does MIT and Holy Cross.

    I doubt Reed is any more rigorous than similar schools, despite the Buzz.
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  • lalalemmalalalemma 797 replies51 threads Member
    edited May 2015
    @Qwerty568 @2019Parent actually it has very little to do with the stats. Reed stopped reporting data to the US News surveys because they believe US News' ranking system is flawed (other schools have done this as well). Rather than omitting it from rankings, they use old data and give it a low ranking. Seems like some kind of weird revenge thing to me.

    More info: http://www.reed.edu/apply/college-rankings.html
    edited May 2015
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  • CosmologicalCosmological 779 replies60 threads Member
    edited May 2015
    Reed's 4 year graduation rate is between 70 and 80 percent at this point. Also, with the huge increase in applications this year from 3950 to 5300, the admissions rate should have dropped from 39% to about 29-30%. I really don't think those are the distinguishing factors, though, but Reed could not care about USNWR because it fails to capture the unique experience that students have there.

    I think that a student can get an equally rigorous education at most schools through effort, but I think at Reed, the bar is set very high (Junior quals, Senior thesis, HUM 110, very small classes) for everyone, so everyone has to perform at some high level or they risk not graduating in time. At a lot of schools, a student might be able to find easy classes to fill up their schedule, but almost every intro course at Reed is basically a full on academic course in that field.

    Keep in mind I have yet to take classes yet, as I am in the class of 2019, and I might have a bias toward Reed, but from all the research I have done (talking to students, internet research, course lists), this seems to be the case.
    edited May 2015
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  • LACexpert2LACexpert2 39 replies3 threads Junior Member
    The best liberal arts schools have been very different in past yrs. Here's my input regarding the most recent USNWR ranks:

    Williams - almost always #1
    Amherst - almost always #2, although alternates with Swat and Williams often
    Swarthmore - like the other top 3, alternates
    Wellesley - mostly #4, although has fallen to #7 (2014) and #8 (1980s)
    Bowdoin - now we're getting into the more variable territory; has recently been ranked in top 5, but prior to 2013 was #6, #7, and briefly in the 90s didn't cut the top 10
    Pomona - nearly a consistent #5 rank, sometimes up to #4 and down to #7 as in 2007 and 2008
    Middlebury - usually top 5, until 2015, put from 2006 and before it was all over the place in the top schools, going to as low as #11
    Carleton - in the 80s ranked high at #3 (taking Amherst out of the top 3 in 1988) and #4, then in 1989 dropped from the top 10, to reemerge in 1997 where it's been high as #4 and as low as #9 in 1999 and 1997
    Claremont McKenna - a recent school to cut the top 10, emerging in 2012, but prior to this was as low as not in the top 20s to as high as 11 in 2011 before finally making top 10
    Haverford - made a huge leap in 1991 from #21 to #8 and has steadily been a top 10 school, with a high of 5 a few years in the early 2000s
    Davidson - recently fell to #11, but has alternated throughout the years as a lower top 10/high top 20 school
    Vassar - made top 10 in 2013, and that's really been its only time in the top 10, usually ranking in the high top 20


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  • LACexpert2LACexpert2 39 replies3 threads Junior Member
    Also note that Reed is still academically regarded in a way that is good, it is. One student I am aware of applied to really top schools including Stanford and WashU, and highly considered Reed notwithstanding its lower stat applicant pool and USNWR rank. The academics at Reed are known to be HARDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD YE!
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  • marvin100marvin100 8568 replies1249 threads Senior Member
    @Qwerty568 @2019Parent actually it has very little to do with the stats. Reed stopped reporting data to the US News surveys because they believe US News' ranking system is flawed (other schools have done this as well). Rather than omitting it from rankings, they use old data and give it a low ranking. Seems like some kind of weird revenge thing to me.

    This, and yeah, it's weird, but it's also what Reed wants: a certain rakish charm, an anti-establishment cachet, and an ability to say "we're the best and the rankings can't dispute that because we're not playing by their rules." And in the immortal words of Lisa Simpson, who doesn't love "a good-looking rebel who plays by his own rules"?
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