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Evaluating the Academics of a College

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

To select an appropriate college, applicants need to understand the qualifications of professors and how the school handles its coursework. Learn how to evaluate the academics of a college. Explore academic options and quality of faculty, majors, and classes to assess whether a college is suitable. Updated: 10/01/2021

College Academics

Clarence is preparing to go to college. He's very excited, but he's not exactly sure what college to choose. He's found several colleges that are in his budget, and he knows that he wants a 'good' college, but what exactly does that mean? What makes a college good?

When most people describe a college as good, they are usually describing the academics of the college, which is the course of study at the college. Academics are basically the scholastic part of college, as opposed to the social aspect of it.

The quality of academics varies from college to college. But how can Clarence know how to spot a college that has good academics and one that has not-so-good academics? Let's look at two ways to evaluate the academics of a college: academic options and academic quality.

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  • 0:02 College Academics
  • 0:54 Academic Options
  • 2:53 Academic Quality
  • 5:39 Lesson Summary
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Academic Options

Clarence is trying to figure out which colleges have good academics and which ones don't. He knows that academics have to do with the course of study at the college, but what exactly does that mean? Looking at the academic options of a college involves examining how varied the academic opportunities are at a college. Usually, academics happen in the classroom or lab, and some schools offer lots of variety, while others don't.

Essentially, to judge academic options, Clarence needs to see which colleges offer the most chances for him to learn. He can evaluate the academic options of a college by looking at three things:

1. Number of majors

A school with many majors offered has a wide variety of academic options. For example, Clarence isn't sure what his major will be. At different times, he's thought about majoring in theatre, psychology, chemistry and political science. He still isn't sure which of those will be his major or if another subject altogether will become his major. At a school with many majors, Clarence has many options.

2. Breadth of classes

This is closely linked to the number of majors, but here, Clarence is looking at how many different classes are available to him. For example, if he decides to become a chemistry major, he might still want to take a class in theatre or a class in political science. But if his school doesn't offer theatre or political science classes, he can't take them!

3. Hands-on research

The third major thing to look at when evaluating the academic options of a college is to see what opportunities exist for research. Will Clarence only be taking chemistry classes, or will he get the chance to do some research, too? A school with many academic options will include hands-on research opportunities for their students.

Academic Quality

So, Clarence is trying to figure out what 'good' academics are. And while academic options are a good place for him to start, they are far from the last word in deciding whether a school has good academics. In fact, some would say that the academic options are less important than academic quality.

Academic quality has to do with how well students will learn at a school, and it has a lot to do with the faculty at the school. When comparing schools, Clarence should ask three questions about the faculty.

1. What is the experience level of most faculty?

If possible, Clarence should evaluate this not just for the college as a whole but for his major department, if he knows it. Often, the more experienced a professor is, the more knowledgeable he or she is. A more experienced faculty at a college, then, can signal superior academics.

2. What is the research reputation of the faculty?

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