Annu Subramanian: The metrics that matter when applying to college

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Annu Subramanian

It’s a nerve-wracking time to be a high school senior.

Across the country, seniors are waiting anxiously to hear back from their dream colleges. And for many, that school is GW.

I remember what it was like four years ago, checking the mail daily to see if the envelope I received from my dream college was large and full of promise, or sealed in a small package, an envelope tiny enough to just hold the single leaf offering regrets.

Around the time four years ago, I received a barrage of advice from college students and graduates alike. But I was never told how to choose a school based on the metrics that signal growth in a university.

I chose to go to GW based on the metrics I thought had the most value: I optimized GW’s District location, the perceived quality of my department and the fact that the cherry blossoms were in full, gorgeous bloom when I came to tour campus.

I failed, however, to consider my degree’s long-term value. Because when you’re looking at prospective schools, it’s not enough to think about how it will benefit you today, but how it will serve you after you graduate.

Whether you’re a high school senior, considering switching your major or looking to transfer from GW entirely, there are a few helpful indicators of university growth to look out for.

Student-faculty ratio is crucial.

There are always exceptions, but the best learning happens in small classes with involved discussions. It’s also a factor in national rankings, eyed by people who know what matters most in a diploma.

Student-faculty ratio, and on top of that, the number of professor hires to a certain department or school, speaks volumes about a university’s goals for the future. You don’t have to mine through the academic strategic plan to know some of GW’s own academic priorities. Just look at the number of professors hired to make the best of the upcoming Science and Engineering Hall.

In addition, look into how much of that faculty is full-time. At GW, adjunct professors are very influential. Whether or not you’re fortunate enough to take classes from a part-time professor and NASA scientist or someone who works at the New York Times, the University’s D.C. location is primed to welcome the best possible adjunct faculty. But if research matters to you, consider that adjuncts are not expected to take on a research load or advise students.

Ask yourself what metrics you care about when it comes to professors. Find out how diverse the faculty is, their political views, prior experience, race or gender. Look to see if they are widely recognized for your specific interests.

Endowment and fundraising determine a university’s growth. Look at a school’s current endowment, and projected endowment through capital campaigns. Any school that seeks to stay competitive and evolve will be push forward with fundraising in a big way. New hires mean a school like GW is moving in a positive direction, which could mean a higher ranking and stronger reputation down the road.

Choosing a school is tough, and going with what feels right for you might be the best metric of all. I attribute my happiness at GW as much to my major as my luck with my freshman year roommate assignment and involvement in student organizations. But still, there’s no substitute for a school that’s on the rise.

So take a look and see how your dream school adds up. You might be surprised by the answers you find.

Annu Subramanian, a senior majoring in journalism, is a Hatchet senior columnist.

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