The Best Universities in the US in 2014

As times are progressing, more and more people are beginning to understand the need of a good college education, which means that competition to secure a place at a top-ranking institution is at record-high levels. Not to worry though, as there are dozens of institutions that are great for a college education, and you would do great in any of the 100 top ranking colleges in the United States. But, there are few universities that truly stand out and make a mark every year on national level due to quality of education, bright career prospects and awesome personal grooming. Here is a list of the top-ranking institutions in the US.

1: Princeton University
Princeton-University-Engineering-UniversitiesPrinceton has finally beaten Harvard and is now #1 in the US. The campus, situated in the small town of Princeton, New Jersey, is gorgeous and historical, having been built in the 1700s. It is a private institution, which means that tuition is pretty high compared to state universities that exist nearby. However, Princeton was the first university that started and implemented a ‘no loan’ policy, which meant that all those students that got admission at Princeton but couldn’t afford the tuition were given grants instead of loans in order to fulfill their tuition commitments. Princeton maintains such a policy to this day, and in combination with exceptional academics and excellent learning environment, Princeton is the best institution to study at in the year 2013.

large_Harvard_University_building2: Harvard University
Having the honor of calling itself the oldest university in the world (it was built in the 1600s), Harvard University is truly the most prestigious name in the academic world, largely due to the fact that a lot of research is being conducted at the institute by its very own professors and scientists. Harvard welcomes individuals from all over the world, and has the highest merit compared to other Ivy League institutions. Being a private university, Harvard is expensive. However, it is also the most endowment-giving university in the world, with the lowest acceptance rate. These factors ensure Harvard attracts the brightest minds in the country, and it does.

3: Yale University
1280px-Yale_University-'s_Beinecke_Rare_Book_and_Manuscript_Library-1384341390Yale has a totally different model compared to other Ivy Leagues, in that it is neither too old nor too large. Situated in the small town of New Haven, Connecticut, Yale has a pretty small college life (compared to Harvard and Princeton), but it does not compromise on the research facilities that it provides to its students and professors. Yale also follows the residential college system, and is divided up into 12 residential colleges. All the student body is accommodated in these residential colleges, which ensure an environment of learning and socializing in a family-like manner.

4: Stanford University
Stanford-university-Perfection

The greatest thing about Stanford is not the fact that it is located in California, but the fact that it treats its student body like adults. Many Ivy Leagues make the mistake of undermining their skilled pool of students by not involving them in the research being conducted by university professors’ on-campus. Not Stanford, though. Stanford runs a program which is a mixture of academics and research, whereas students not only get to learn orally from their instructors but also get to apply their knowledge practically by either helping a professor in a research project or starting up independent research projects on their own.

5: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
MIT_Kresge_AuditoriumMore famously known as simply MIT, the institute is famous for its engineering and mathematical courses. However, the university also offers many other courses in various fields such as humanities, social sciences, law, management and architecture, to name a few. It has a seriously low acceptance rate, and it is considered practically impossible to get into an engineering program at MIT.

6: University of Pennsylvania
university-of-pennsylvania-penn-upenn-private-ivy-league-researchWharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, which deals with all the business majors, is perhaps the most famous and prestigious business school in the entire world. A private institution founded by Benjamin Franklin, UPenn has amazing financial aid packages that aim to minimize or totally eradicate tuition burden on the students. The University offers courses in a variety of fields, and is divided up into four different schools accordingly: Nursing, Wharton, Sciences, and Engineering and Applied Sciences.

commoncorewebban_001

Common Core State Standards Initiative

The Common Core State Standards Initiative is an education program enacted in the United States that details what each student should know in mathematics and English language arts at the end of each grade. It has been enacted for grades K-12. It was developed by the Council of Chief State School Officers the National Governors Association. The goal is to create consistent education standards in the United States in addition to preparing to enter courses at a university level or get a job after high school.

The Common Core State Standards Initiative started to become developed in 2009 by a group of educators. Included in this team were David Coleman and William McCallum from the University of Arizona, as well as Phil Daro, Jason Zimba, and Susan Pimentel. After it was announced, 45 states became part of the initiative with the states of Texas, Alaska, Nebraska, and Virginia opting out of the Common Core Standards. Minnesota has not adopted the Mathematics standards, but has been using the English Language Arts standards.

Common Core State Standards Initiative

The goal of the English Language Arts Standards is to ensure that each student is career and college ready at the end of high school. It uses common components of the standards of the English language, such as speaking, writing, reading, language, listening, and media and technology. As the students progress through the grades, the complexity of each component increases and builds on each other.

The Mathematics Standard was created to increase children’s understanding and coherence of math. This was in response to the criticism that American students often know very little math. Four domains that are taught in grades kindergarten to fifth grade are geometry, measurement and data, number and operations in base 10, and operations and algebraic thinking. In Kindergarten, cardinality and counting are taught.

Assessment of the Common Core Standards varies by state. Some states are choosing to use the PARCC RttT Assessment Consortium while others have not formally adopted an assessment, and instead are choosing to have state testing agencies come up with an assessment. Both of these methods are choosing computer-standardized tests to assess the students.

While there has been some support for the Common Core State Standards Initiative, there have also been some criticisms. Some critics have said the Common Core Standards have had little to no effect on academic achievement within the states. Other people have criticized the federal government’s need to develop a standardized curriculum.

Supporters of the curriculum have stated that the methods taught in the Common Core are clearly superior to the past curriculum taught in the states, and that the methods set important milestones for educational achievement.

Kentucky, the first state to implement the new program, showed an increase in high school graduation rate and an increase in overall test scores. While the increases are minimal, some suggest that it will be a long road to improve the nation’s school system with the Common Core Standards.

learning online

Taking College Courses Online

1319195813-earn-your-college-degree-by-online-educationTaking online courses for college credits is becoming a popular and easy way for many adults to continue their education. Most universities and colleges offer online courses for enrolled students now, and this makes it much easier for students who don’t live close to the university or students who work inconvenient hours to take classes. In addition to the availability of online courses, the variety of online courses is widening every year.

Online courses are similar to traditional classes in that they have similar elements. For example, many online classes feature lectures. There are assignments that the student turns in electronically. Like any class, there are exams. While certain classes are available at certain times, it is not a requirement to be present during these times and the lecture can be viewed later at your convenience.

Some online courses are available to enrolled students of a college or university. Some are available to students of a college that is primarily online, and others are available for free to anyone who would like to learn. There are some colleges and universities who offer only online classes. Ellis University, American InterContinental University-Online, Walden University, Taft University System, Northcentral University, Remington College, and Aspen University are some examples of this.

studenttyping_alam_2427337bThere are some websites online who offer free courses for anyone who would like to learn. Some websites give you access to free courses from accredited universities such as MIT, Yale, and Harvard while others offer their own material. Other websites, such as Udemy, offer a wide variety of courses to students for a one-time fee.

Just like any other method of learning, taking college classes online can have its pros and cons. One benefit of taking courses online is that it generally saves money. Typically, tuition at these universities is cheaper than traditional brick and mortar schools. In addition, students also save on parking, gas, and housing. Another benefit is the flexibility. This is a huge benefit for parents or people who work odd hours. When you take an online class, you are able to take the class when your schedule permits. Telecommuting is another benefit for many people who cannot relocate to take college classes and find it very easy to just learn from a computer. In addition, online courses generally offer flexible pacing for students. This makes taking online courses easy for people who like to go at their own pace.

There are cons to taking online courses. For example, online coursework can have limited contact with the instructor. With these classes, it is not possible ask a question in class or visit a professor during office hours. Some people find that they do not like the limited social interaction of online classes. Many students find that they benefit from the social classroom setting where they get to interact with other students. Another con is the self-discipline that it requires. Some students could find this aspect challenging, because the responsibility to take and complete and online course is entirely up to the student. Since taking online courses requires a computer and an internet connection, this might be a limitation to some who are not tech savvy or who do not have a reliable computer.

online college classes

There are also concerns about the quality of online classes. However, studies have shown that students who take online classes consistently learn and perform better than students who only take traditional college classes. The results are even better if the student mixes the two types of classes. Even though these studies regarding online classes are available, the public opinion of online classes remains relatively neutral.

Just like any other college course, what you take from the class depends on what you make of it. Some are critical of the amount of students who sign up for college classes but do not finish the work. However, for students who are willing to put forth the time and effort, taking college classes online can be a convenient way to earn a degree.

Adult and Vocational Education

women-in-vocational-school
The cost of college tuition has been skyrocketing in the last few years. With most young adults attending college still opting for a traditional university experience studying the liberal arts and earning degrees in areas such as English, Philosophy, History and Music; they are graduating burdened with debt and a lack of available jobs offering salaries high enough for them to pay back their loans.

This has left an entire generation of Americans questioning the worth of higher education and without the necessary practical skills that are needed in today’s workforce. Good jobs are still plentiful in America but with the increasing complexity of modern technology, even so-called blue collar jobs require prior training.

How Vocational Training Can Adapt to the Changing Times

Vocational Education is training for a particular skill; be it the skills of a technician, the learning of a trade or even studying for a specific job in areas such as nursing and engineering. As the need for workers possessing a specialized skill set has increased in the 21st century, a vocational education offers an attractive alternative to a purely academic degree, and at a fraction of the cost.

The wide variety of fields a vocational education can prepare you for is truly staggering, ranging from agriculture to information technology and from medicine to energy conservation. For example, if you have an interest in working outdoors perhaps a career in the agricultural sciences would be a good fit for you. There are a plethora of programs at community colleges and private institutions across the United States that offer courses in horticulture and food science that can prepare you for jobs in crop consultancy, as a field representative for produce brokers and buyers, and as a food processor. Greenfield Community College in Massachusetts offers an associate’s degree in food science geared toward food science engineering and with a little modification, nutrition.

If computers and networking fascinates you, there are literally thousands of vocational programs that focus on the skills required to land an intriguing job in the ever-expanding realm of information technology. Pima Community College in Tuscon, Arizona offers courses in health information technology that prepare students for rewarding careers as a coder or a medical records and insurance technician. In addition, Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, North Carolina has a range of courses and certifications in information technology including, associate’s degrees, industry certifications and diplomas for a specific specialization.

According to the US Department of Labor Statistics, information security analysts are projected to be one of the fastest growing occupations through 2022 along with a host of other jobs that can be acquired through vocational education such as occupational and physical therapy assistants, electricians, personal care and home health aides, nurse practitioners, and dental hygienists. Far from being limited to the traditional attachment to trade schools and jobs such as carpentry and plumbing, vocational programs have grown beyond manual labor to include a host of opportunities for the modern workforce.

Versatility of Adult Education

adult-education-class-1920The complexities of today’s job marketplace have increased dramatically. Very few people now work for the same company or in the same career for the majority of their working life, adding a level of insecurity and unpredictability not seen in at least 50 years. The rapidly changing landscape of employment options has caused many working adults to return to school in order to learn new skills and make themselves more marketable to prospective employers or to change careers altogether. The number of adults forced into this situation, especially since the financial crisis of 2008 has been unprecedented. A large amount chose to look at the diverse possibilities open to them through vocational and adult education.

Adults tend to be the most practical segment of learners in society, meaning that they are usually motivated to learn new skills for the most pragmatic of reasons like obtaining a higher salary or to just seek new employment opportunities. Therefore, adult education classes tend to be conducted differently from classes for their 18 – 22 year old counterparts.

In general, adult education courses are structured around the schedules of the students with most classes being offered in the evenings and online. Adults even have the option of studying on the weekends.
Adult education brings a more varied approach to classroom learning and can usually involve in-depth discussion regarding topics relevant to the skills the adults are studying. For example, a class for aspiring nurse practitioners may involve debates on the proper way to practice medicine within the framework of the law surrounding the practice. With the highly differing life experiences adult students can bring to the table, this often makes for an informed and lively classroom dialogue.

As such, the societal stigma that many adults still sense upon announcing that they are returning to school will soon be a thing of the past. If current employment trends continue, the majority of young adults currently in their 30’s can look forward to continued education and changing of careers throughout their working lives.

GED Testing – Good Enough Diploma or An Opportunity To Be Seized?

ged-testing-poster

For younger learners that may have struggled in high school due to conditions at home or families that immigrated to the United States before a member could earn an equivalent high school diploma, the General Education Development Test, or more commonly known as the GED, offers a path to showcase competency in the subjects taught in high school that is vital nowadays for anyone entering the workforce. Successful completion of the GED allows one to confidently apply for job vacancies and even to enter community college vocational education programs that prepare students for the real world.

Although much maligned in popular culture, even often referred to as the “Good Enough Diploma,” the GED test is anything but good enough, covering an array of subjects like history, geography, economics, government, the sciences, mathematics and even the language arts like poetry and literature. Passing GED test-takers have demonstrated proficiency in writing well-organized sentences and a high-aptitude for the skills necessary in the present day world of employment.

Although not traditionally thought of as a path towards achieving the American Dream, vocational education, adult education and the GED Test provide an avenue to employability and career success that’s becoming increasingly difficult to find in today’s modern world. The 21st century is likely to see even more drastic changes to how education is viewed and delivered but these will remain potent sources of learning for a progressively diversified and specialized working-age population.