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What is a "Good School"?

By Beracah Yankama
Director, StudentsReview
Out on a dinner with some colleagues, the subject of a young woman came up and her school of choice, and someone mentioned, "She should be proud, Wellesley is a good school." Immediately perplexed, I asked why he was so sure that Wellesley was a good school. Avoiding the question, he shot back, "Well, what makes you think MIT is such a good school?". You see, this person is a male from MIT, and apart from MIT-Wellesley coregistration, it is impossible for him to know personally about the quality of education or preparedness of Wellesley.

In your school search, you'll hear similar statements all the time. People who could not possibly have any personal experience with a school will adamantly assert that a school is 'good'. They may not have a well formed idea of why they think so, but they will passionately defend the validity of their belief.

When people state that when a school is "good", they are usually not making a statement about the educational quality, but are making a different statement - in the same vein as one might make about a company. Sony makes good products. Adidas is a good company. People do not have experience with all of the products of Sony or Adidas, but instead are making a statement about their brands. "Sony is a good brand". While not a statement about education, that statement may still be important. Companies and schools invest in their brand because it builds familiarity, recognition, and trust. It is the brand that makes people comfortable enough to use the products, attend the school, or hire the graduate. The brand mitigates the fear and risk of the unknown. And schools that continually invest in their brand are increasing the value of the student's diploma, even after graduation.

But the brand may only present opportunities initially, when starting a career or changing jobs—it is the quality of education that helps you to make the most of those opportunities and build credibility of your own.

StudentsReview takes the position that for a school to be good, both components (the reputation/brand AND the educational quality) must be fulfilled. The brand opens doors for you that otherwise might not be available, and educational quality teaches you how to step through them.

For prospective students, the branding is plainly visible. It is up to you however, to do the due diligence and investigate the educational quality behind the brand for the institutions you might wish to attend.

UPDATE: The Wellesley defender guy married the Wellesley girl, so yeah, um, it pays to defend a school when the girl you like goes there. Lesson learned.

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