Before you send in that college acceptance letter…

Washington Monthly College Guide 2009

Hint: California rocks your socks.

Spring is here, RedCrossers, and for those of you who are starting college next year, that means you will soon start to find out where you have been accepted and where you might be spending those four illustrious years of your lives which are so dreaded by high school students, so enjoyed by college students, and so fondly remembered by our moms and dads (think hiked-up tube socks and disco — yikes). We all wish you the best of luck — we know that your Red Cross service will help — but before you rush to send off that acceptance letter to Big Important University, you might want to make sure you know about the Washington Monthly college guide.

“What’s the point of reading another guide,” you might ask, “when everyone already knows what the best schools are?” Well, to borrow from a famous politician, that depends on what the definition of “best” is. You see, for Red Cross volunteers like you, “best” probably has something to do with service, and that’s not necessarily true for everyone.

Which schools made it to the top ten? Click through to the next page for the results…

In 2009, the top ten US universities on the Washington Monthly list were: [1]

  1. University of California, Berkeley
  2. University of California, San Diego
  3. University of California, Los Angeles
  4. Stanford University
  5. Texas A&M University
  6. South Carolina State University
  7. Pennsylvania State University, University Park
  8. College of William and Mary
  9. University of Texas, Austin
  10. University of California, Davis

Confused? Yea, we were, too. Why is this list so much different than the others? How did they come up with it? Why is it so important for Red Cross volunteers?  And gosh darn it, California already has great weather and the happiest cows. Why do they also get to have 50% of the top ten schools in the country?

In fact, of all of the schools on the 2009 Washington Monthly list, just one is in the top ten on the much more traditional and widely-known U.S. News and World Report: Stanford. [2] The reason behind this apparent discrepancy is that the Washington Monthly list is based on just three things: social mobility, research, and service. Here’s a quote:

And that’s what the Washington Monthly College Rankings aim to provide: a measure of not just what colleges can do for you, but what colleges are doing for the country. To compile the list, we gathered reams of publicly available data and settled on three criteria: social mobility, research, and service. In our eyes, America’s best colleges are those that work hardest to help economically disadvantaged students earn the credentials that the job market demands. They’re the institutions that contribute new scientific discoveries and highly trained PhDs. They’re the colleges that emphasize the obligations students have to serve their communities and the nation at large. [emphasis added] [3]

In other words, if your top priorities as a student are either to move up in the world, to become an expert in your field, or to engage in service and give back to your country, then this might be the list for you. We’re going to take a wild guess and bet that if you’re reading this article, you’re probably interested in all three of these goals. Yea, we’re psychic.

So what should you do? If you applied early decision, then it’s already too late for you to change your mind. That’s cool. Just make sure you join the Red Cross club at your new college in the fall, or start a new club if there isn’t one already. If you are about to get your acceptance results, then you could check out where your colleges sit on the overall list, and think about how that might affect your decision. And if you haven’t applied to college yet, then that’s even better — maybe the Washington Monthly list will give you some new ideas about where you might want to spend the next four years of your fantastic life.

People go to college for different reasons, and every student has a different list of things he or she wants to accomplish by the time that tassel gets switched to other side and “real life” begins. We hope, however, that for RedCrossers like you, there is a common thread. We hope that your time in the Red Cross has shown you how helpful and rewarding service can be, and we hope that you will choose to continue giving back and helping your communities, both over the next four years and over your entire lives. Now go out there and make us proud.

What you can do next

Learn: We encourage you to read the full Washington Monthly report, which also includes a ranking of the country’s top liberal arts colleges. You can find the report here.

Choose: Consider the service opportunities and focus of the colleges on your list. And when you make a decision, please make sure you join the Red Cross club at your new college, or start a new club once you get there.

Connect: Over the next year, we will be rolling out a new online tool which will make it easy for you to stay connected to the Red Cross when you head off to college in another state, or when you graduate from college and get a job. Stay tuned for further details by joining the Red Cross YouthWire.

Disclosure: The author went to MIT, which is typically ranked highly on the Washington Monthly list.

[1] Source: http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/college_guide/rankings/national_university_rank.php – accessed on 9 March 2010
[2] Source: http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/national-universities-rankings – accessed on 9 March 2010
[3] Source: http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/college_guide/feature/introduction_a_different_kind_1.php – accessed on 9 March 2010

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