Document Type

Closed Project

Publication Date

Winter 2014


Timothy Anderson

Course Title

Research Methods

Course Number

ETM 565/665


College choice -- United States, Universities and colleges -- United States, Universities and colleges -- Ratings and rankings, College choice -- Decision making -- Analysis


The need to find the correct Undergraduate University is one of the most pressing questions for students graduating from High School and parents alike. What factors or attributes should be considered when selecting the university? As part of a Research Methods class project, I will attempt to use existing university data, and data mine the results and come up with a quantifiable manner, in which students and parents can make an educated choice, when selecting their respective university.

We will use for comparative purposes, the results obtained by US News and World Report of annual top 10 universities [1]. The report’s results are evaluated and debated by parents, students, and the media. Some experts in the field do not agree with its modeling or results, and it has become a perennial debate among experts in the field. Whether we like it or not, the report is used frequently by parents and students alike to make decisions on which institutions to attend. Schools know this fact, and they vie very strongly to finish at the top of the list.

As a parent of a sophomore in High School, I am interested in conducting as much research as possible; in order to survey the landscape, and make sure my child has the best opportunity to be accepted into her university of choice. At the same time, I want to make sure we get the best value from our education investment.

In this school project I will use data obtained from University of Southern California, from an Introduction to Statistical Learning class where the instructor was teaching R.

The objective of this paper is to dissect and analyze the available data, in order to make a better decision, when selecting a university. Then compare the results vs. the annual Top 10 list from US News and World Report [1]. From the nineteen factors available, we have chosen to pursue the factors with a correlation greater than 0.25. We arbitrarily choose the 0.25 value to make the analysis and results less detailed, but potentially more impacting to the eventual student or parent. Because it will allow the reader to follow the approach logically, minimizing the need for a deep mathematical background.

Our approach will analyze the most influential factors, the variables with the highest correlation value, in order to better select the University of our choosing. Correlation analysis is a measure of the linear relationships between variables [2][3]. This approach was be empirical in nature using existing college data, composed of 777 private and public universities in the United States, in which nineteen criteria were recorded for each institution.


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