College search: finding your best school
Before you choose: Review retention and graduation ratesIf you were not accepted to a highly selective school, you may find a diamond among the less selective or non-selective schools by examining the institution's retention and graduation rates. In general, the higher these numbers are the better. They're often an indication the institution has programs in place to keep students in college and on the path to graduation. The numbers don't guarantee you'll stay at that schools, but, Tom Weede, vice president of enrollment management at Butler University in Indianapolis, says, "If the school has really low retention and graduation rates, a reasonable question to ask is, 'What's going on there?'"
If the school meets all your other criteria but falls short on one or both of these numbers, ask the admissions office to explain why, advises Carol DelPropost, assistant vice president of admission and financial aid at Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio.
Recap: The problems
School selectivity issues
-- An ACT survey shows 72 percent of students in "highly selective" schools -- those with the majority of freshmen in the top 10 percent of their high school class -- graduated within four years, as compared with 49 percent at "selective" schools; 31 percent at "traditional" schools and only 30 percent at "open enrollment" schools.
Solution: What to consider before you choose »