Michelle Kretzshmar was used to doing things on her own, especially as it came to home schooling her son. She also has a background in data analysis. So when it came time to start the college planning process, she got down to work, searched out the necessary information, and dug into the data. Her efforts helped her son find a school that fit him academically, fit their family financially (average merit aid of $15,000), and also allowed him to play baseball. But she didn’t stop there. With all her newfound knowledge, Michelle realized most other parents couldn’t do the analysis she had done on her own, so a website was born: DIY College Rankings.
Data In All Shapes and Sizes
DIY College Rankings has all types of data and lists. Here’s a sampling of some: college endowment per student, colleges with no application fees, colleges that provide the most financial aid, colleges with highest percentage of freshmen that receive financial aid, average net tuition price for parents in highest income bracket, and more and more. The website highlights data that should be looked at when comparing schools which many parents and students may overlook, such as graduation rates, percent of financial need meet and percent of merit scholarships awarded. It turns out colleges share a special set of data, called the common data set which contains pieces of information that are very “telling” about a school. Just google any school you are interested in along with “common data set 2013” and you’ll find the most recent information. Although the information is publically available on a single school basis, most college search sites do not include important information from this source to use for comparing schools. If you’re interested to see a list with information from the common data set, I suggest downloading DIY College Rankings College Search Spreadsheet. It costs $42, which I think is a bargain to have all this information at your fingertips. The spreadsheet comes pre filled with valuable information for every four-year institution with 500 students or more. You can use this spreadsheet to sort and search for schools based on the included information and then add pieces of unique information for schools you and your student are most interested.
Importance of Graduation Rates
Harping back to her own college thesis work on high school graduation rates, Michelle realized that graduation rates were rarely talked about when families started searching for and comparing colleges. So she began listing colleges by their average 4 year graduation rates* and created her own list called The 50/50 – colleges where acceptance rates are 50% or higher AND 4 year graduation rates are 50% or higher. Here’s a list where a student has a good chance of getting in and a good chance of graduating. The DIY College Rankings website is a plethora of information, but it can sometimes be overwhelming. Start early and go slow. Knowledge is power and will help you and your student find a college that fits you well academically and financially.
*When looking at graduation rates on college websites, most rates reflect the average 6 year graduation rate, not 4 year. Understand more about “Why YOU Should Care about College Graduation Rates” .