The "Today" show's Natalie Morales talks with Robert Franek of the Princeton Review about his book, "The Best 361 Colleges: The Smart Student's Guide to Colleges."
Natalie: 2 million high school seniors are gearing up this fall to apply to nearly 3,500 US colleges. So, which are the strongest academically that're toughest to get into, and yah, of course top party schools. We all need to know that, right? Well the Princeton Review ranks The Best 361 Colleges ,The Smart Students Guide to Colleges. Robert Franek is the lead author. Rob, good morning, good to see you again.
Robert: Well. Thanks for having me back.
Natalie: Look at the size of this thing. (It's a tone.)I need this one when I was outside with Maria Sharapova as a booster. Oh, (I'm) telling you. I mean this is a lot of information here. And...
Robert: It's a lot of information, you're right. We've reached up to so many students-110,000-students to put best 361 colleges this year.
Natalie: So this is a survey of just the students then with their feedback on their campuses?
Robert: Exactly. We think we know a lot about schools at Princeton Review, but we went directly to whom we considered power experts.
Natalie: To the source? How does, how does this differ to US News and World Reports Rankings, and Newsweek along with Kaplan's rankings?
Robert: Yah, it is just that. It's a qualitative survey of the students' experience both academically, as well as outside the classroom.
Natalie: All right. So let's take a look at some of the strongest (Sure, let's go.) schools academically talking first here. And usually of course we expect the Harvards, Princetons, Yales, which they're up there as well, but this year, kind of a little bit of surprise is, Reed College in Portland, Oregon (Yeah!) score highest marks.
Robert: Yeah! No. 1. Ur... Best overall...
Natalie: Why is it? You surprised?
Robert: Actually not surprised. I mean, ur, Reed college is a great school. It's got great regional reputation, and growing national reputations, only 1,300 students, but a wonderful liberal arts, ur, liberal arts school, we went directly to students, they told us that their professors were great, both inside as well as outside the classroom.
Natalie: Tiny school!
Robert: Tiny school. Yeah! But survey...
Natalie: About ten students per class?
Robert: Yeah! Well. It's averaged uh ten to one, student to faculty ratio. (That's fantastic!) So certainly small and they pride themselves on that relationships with the professors.
Natalie: All right! Ivy Leagues did very well in other categories as well, like toughest schools to get into and top in that list, MIT was first, followed then by Yale, Princeton, ur, and Harvard, second, third, fourth respectively. So any surprises there with them?
Natalie: pri... There are some unusual suspects on that list. We reach directly out to school administrators through our website Princetonreview.com , and finding out information on schools specifically, where they're looking from the SAT, ACT, GPA coming into a high school, so that's how we come up with our list.
Natalie: Students' happiest with their financial aid packages, Princeton University. So what are they doing differently? Obviously, it's generally a very expensive private school. (Very true. Very true.)What are they doing now?
Robert: Yeah, one of the most aggressive policies that Princeton has put into place over the last couple of years is matching students aid packages, so that they need to, ur, be allowed to get that aid package for every students. They're matching any aid that the student needs, once they have been admited to the university.
Natalie: The overall happiest students, (yes,) Stanford University.
Robert: Stanford is a terri..., terrific place to go to school. Certainly a super competitive school, but when we think about quality of life,(Beautiful campus.) oh, it's a beautiful campus, great food, great dorms, great library, overall quality of life. And great and happy students.
Natalie: All right! Now speaking of beautiful campuses, Pepperdine scored top, Malibu. How can you go wrong. Right?
Robert: How can you go wrong? It's perfect. It's perfect. And again, (How I would like to go to school there.) Boater-by students. Of course, right on the beach, it's a lovely campus, you know, certainly a wonderful school academically, but thinking about quality of life and overall beauty of (take a look at that.) campus it certainly came to the top of the list.