Saturday, April 28, 2007

Finding Colleges with Strength in a Certain Major

There is probably not one source of information that will give you an answer to the quality of a particular major at a given school or a list of the colleges that are "best" at that major, but there are a number of tools you can use to get some clarity on the issue:

1) At the Reed College web site there is a list of colleges that send the most students on to PhD programs in each field: http://web.reed.edu/ir/phd.html. Using this measure, the top schools in history are Yale, Grace, Reed Swarthmore,Wesleyan, Carleton, Oberlin, Grinnell, Pomona and Chicago.

2) There are a number of subjective lists, such as Rugg's Recommendations, the Gourman Report (take this one with a grain of salt), etc.

3) Popularity of a major is not necessarily a measure of quality but there probably is a strong correlation. You can go to the IPEDS web site to get this information: http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/ (as well as a number of cool tools like the Executive Peer Tool: http://nces.ed.gov/ipedspas/ExPT/index.asp that lets you compare colleges across a number of measures).

You can also buy MCP Search (mcpdatabases.com) which is a tool I use pretty often to sort and select IPEDS data. It will give you data like what is the percentage of students in a school in a given major.

For instance, you can see the colleges where over 2% of the student body major in history include Yale (4.0), Holy Cross (2.3), VMI (3.85), Trinity (CT) (2.61), U. South (3.71), Columbia (3.09) Princeton (2.35), Colgate (2.66) Williams (2.94), Davidson (3.12), Washington and Lee (2.69), Hampden-Sydney (3.41) Haverfor (3.71), Centre College (2.78) Whitman College (2.0) Bryn Mawr (2.0) Earlham (2.01) Agnes Scott (2.55) Wabash (2.21).

I terms of raw numbers, the colleges with the greatest # of history majors are UCLA, Bringham Young, U. Texas, Yale, Wisconsin, Virginia, U. Penn, Florida, Washington, Michigan and Ohio State.

None of these are really difinitive, but together they do help find schools with strong programs.

These programs and lists are probably more useful for more obscure majors. For instance, you can find that the colleges with the most marine biology majors are UNC Wilmington and Coastal Carolina and those with the high percentage of marine bio majors are Eckerd College, the Florida Institute of Technology and LIU Southamton, information that may be hard to know off the top of your head.

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