A Methodology Change: We Will Have More Expansive Data for Prestigious Scholarships

All college ranking “systems” receive criticism based on the criteria they use, and our own efforts to evaluate honors colleges and programs have received a fair share of that criticism.

One component of our rating system is a measure of each university’s attainment of prestigious awards, such as Rhodes, Marshall, Truman, and Goldwater scholarships.  The criticism of this metric is based on the indisputable fact that not all of these awards are won by honors students.  But our view is that probably most of them are won by students who have either been in a core honors program at some point or who have at least been involved in departmental honors.  In addition, we believe that prospective honors students need to know what their prospects might be for winning one of these awards for themselves.  (We also will continue to have a second major ranking section that excludes the metric for prestigious scholarships and emphasizes only honors-specific factors.)

With that said, we agree that we have been too narrow in the scholarships we measure, and we have come to believe, based on our updated analysis, that in the first edition of our book the honors programs at a few institutions, most notably at the University of Maryland, Illinois, UCLA, and Rutgers were underrated, in part because of the scholarships we emphasized at that time. Accordingly, after months of research, we will expand the awards we use in calculations for the next edition of our book.  Awards in bold will be new additions.

Rhodes, Marshall, Gates Cambridge, Churchill, Truman, Udall, Goldwater, Fulbright*,
National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Grants, Boren, and Gilman. 

*Fulbright Student awards will now be counted for the three most recent years, as will Boren awards.  Fulbrights will not be adjusted for the size of the institution as was the case in the first edition.  Gilman scholars will be counted on a percentage basis.

The fact is that we have come to realize that only a very few public universities–or private universities, for that matter–excel in the attainment of all the awards listed above.  To maintain that the awards most familiar to the public, such as Rhodes, Marshall, and Truman scholarships, should trump lesser known awards would be to discount the strong impact of undergraduate awards (Goldwater, Udall, Boren, Gilman) and their important relation, in some cases, to undergraduate research.   Expanding the awards will also broaden the field of competition for our expanded list of programs, now 75 versus only 50 covered in the first edition.