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Using Rankings to Find Colleges with Strong Support Services

When it comes to choosing a college, there are many factors to consider. From academic programs to campus culture, each student has their own unique set of criteria for finding the perfect fit. One important aspect that often gets overlooked is the availability of strong support services. These services can make a significant difference in a student’s college experience, providing the necessary resources and assistance to help them succeed academically, emotionally, and socially.

The Importance of Support Services

Support services play a crucial role in ensuring that students have the tools they need to thrive in college. Whether it’s academic tutoring, mental health counseling, or career guidance, these services can make a significant impact on a student’s overall well-being and success. Research has shown that students who have access to strong support services are more likely to persist in their studies, graduate on time, and have a positive college experience.

One study conducted by the National Survey of Student Engagement found that students who utilized support services were more engaged in their coursework and reported higher levels of satisfaction with their college experience. Another study published in the Journal of College Student Development found that students who received academic support services had higher GPAs and were more likely to graduate within four years.

Understanding College Rankings

College rankings have become a popular tool for students and parents to evaluate the quality of different institutions. These rankings are typically based on a variety of factors, including academic reputation, faculty resources, and student outcomes. While rankings can provide some valuable insights into a college’s overall performance, they often fail to capture the availability and quality of support services.

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Many college rankings focus primarily on academic factors, such as graduation rates and faculty-to-student ratios. While these are important considerations, they do not provide a comprehensive picture of the support services available on campus. As a result, students may overlook colleges that have strong support systems in place but are not highly ranked overall.

Using Rankings to Identify Colleges with Strong Support Services

While rankings may not directly measure the quality of support services, they can still be a useful starting point for identifying colleges that prioritize student support. By looking at specific indicators within the rankings, students can gain insight into the resources and services available at different institutions.

1. Student Satisfaction

One indicator to consider is student satisfaction. Many college rankings include a measure of student satisfaction based on surveys or other feedback mechanisms. This can provide valuable information about the overall student experience, including the availability and effectiveness of support services.

For example, the Princeton Review’s annual college rankings include a category for “Happiest Students.” This ranking is based on student surveys that assess various aspects of campus life, including support services. Colleges that consistently rank highly in this category may have a strong focus on student well-being and support.

2. Retention and Graduation Rates

Retention and graduation rates are another important factor to consider when evaluating support services. Colleges with high retention and graduation rates often have effective support systems in place to help students navigate the challenges of college life.

When reviewing college rankings, look for indicators such as “first-year retention rate” and “four-year graduation rate.” These metrics can provide insight into how well colleges are supporting their students and helping them stay on track to graduate.

3. Resources for Underrepresented Students

Support services for underrepresented students, such as first-generation college students, students of color, and students with disabilities, are crucial for promoting equity and inclusion on campus. While not all college rankings include specific indicators for these services, some do provide information on resources available for underrepresented students.

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For example, the U.S. News & World Report’s rankings include a category for “Best Colleges for Veterans.” This ranking assesses the resources and support available to military veterans on campus. Colleges that prioritize support for veterans may also have strong support services for other underrepresented student populations.

4. Academic Support Services

Academic support services, such as tutoring centers, writing labs, and study groups, can greatly enhance a student’s academic success. While rankings may not directly measure the quality of these services, they can provide some insight into the overall academic support available at different colleges.

Look for indicators such as “faculty resources” or “student-faculty ratio” in college rankings. These metrics can give you an idea of the level of individualized attention and support that students receive from faculty members.

5. Career Services

Strong career services can greatly benefit students as they transition from college to the workforce. These services may include resume writing assistance, job search resources, and networking opportunities. While not all college rankings include specific indicators for career services, some do provide information on the availability and effectiveness of these resources.

For example, the Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education College Rankings include a category for “Outcomes.” This ranking assesses factors such as graduate employment rates and alumni salaries, which can provide insight into the effectiveness of a college’s career services.

Looking Beyond Rankings

While rankings can be a helpful starting point for identifying colleges with strong support services, it’s important to remember that they are just one piece of the puzzle. It’s essential to conduct further research and visit campuses to get a firsthand look at the support services available.

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When visiting colleges, consider asking the following questions:

  • What support services are available for students?
  • How accessible are these services?
  • What is the student-to-staff ratio for support services?
  • Are there any specific programs or initiatives in place to support underrepresented students?
  • What resources are available for career development and job placement?

By asking these questions and conducting thorough research, students can make informed decisions about which colleges offer the support services that align with their needs and goals.


Choosing a college is a significant decision that can greatly impact a student’s future. While rankings can provide some valuable insights, they should not be the sole determining factor. When it comes to finding colleges with strong support services, it’s important to look beyond the rankings and consider a variety of factors, including student satisfaction, retention and graduation rates, resources for underrepresented students, academic support services, and career services.

By conducting thorough research and visiting campuses, students can gain a better understanding of the support services available and make an informed decision that will set them up for success in college and beyond.

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