An Interview with Fred Rugg of Rugg’s Recommendations: Part 1

Fred Rugg of Rugg's Recommendations By: Susanna Cerasuolo, M.Ed.
Fred Rugg is a nationally known expert on colleges, and his book, Rugg’s Recommendations On the Colleges, is one of the best college guidebooks available. Rugg’s Recs, currently in its 29th edition, lists which colleges have strong departments in each major. Counselors across the country consider Ruggs Recs an invaluable resource and the book is found in over 80% of America’s high schools and libraries.
In Part 1 of our exposé, we give a brief background of how Fred Rugg began his seminal work. Here below is a summary, at Rugg’s request, of an interview he gave 5 years ago to Jason Katz. Next week in Part 2 we will share Rugg’s answers to 5 fun questions from CollegeMapper.
Meet Fred Rugg!
Alma Mater: Brown University, A.B. Applied Math, 1967
(If he knew then what he knows now, Rugg says he would have gone to Eckerd College in Florida.)
Previous occupation: Public school Guidance Director / College Counselor
Current occupation: Author and speaker
Rugg began work on his first edition in the 1970’s when a student asked for a list of good undergraduate drama programs.  When another student needed the same list the next day, Rugg decided that maybe lists like these could help lots of students in their college search, and the idea for the book was born.
Rugg loved spending his evenings researching these lists, and by 1980 he and his wife of 45 years typed up the first edition. Demand for the work was so great that in 1986 Rugg devoted himself full-time to the annual publication.
While he did attend an Ivy League school, Rugg encourages students to attend colleges where they will fit in and feel comfortable, noting that he would have preferred a small liberal arts college with fewer rich kids.
To that end, Rugg encourages students to VISIT their target colleges, preferably during the school year, but if that’s not possible, at least during the summer.  And he notes that students should be sure to visit colleges that are feasible and within range, to see the places they might actually attend.  For students who cannot visit, Rugg encourages them to research the college as much as possible and to try to contact faculty, students and admissions personnel at the target college, to discover if the school is a good fit.
Rugg also stresses to the students he meets the importance of reading as much as possible, and of having a balanced college life. He believes it’s important not to study all the time, and to that end, Rugg feels that students should join some campus activities to keep things balanced.
The book, Ruggs Recommendations on the Colleges, features almost 1,100 colleges, and Rugg has visited half of them, some more than once. He has also visited approximately 400 that are not in the book.
For each edition of his book, in addition to talking with hundreds of counselors, parents, and students, Rugg and his team evaluate college departments based on the numbers. The team of 3 starts with the departments with very high graduation rates in a major, like 10-12% of the student body. After that, they look for departments that are very student-oriented, not departments where the faculty is completely immersed in research and publication. The Rugg’s team evaluates departments based on size, quality of courses offered, department events, learning opportunities beyond the classroom, number and quality of internships, and diversity within the department, among other factors. After this careful analysis, and after considering the feedback from counselors, students and parents, the team at Rugg’s updates and compiles each annual edition. This year’s 30th edition is due out in November.
While he is considered a college expert, Rugg feels that the college admission field is so vast and evolving that there could never really be an “expert.”  Most importantly, Rugg believes that students need to form their own opinion of each college and decide which school is best for them—they need to become their own expert.
To read the interview with Fred Rugg on which this post was based, see Jason Katz Author on reviewing universities”.
To buy Rugg’s Recommendations, visit
Next week, check back when CollegeMapper asks Fred Rugg these 5 questions:
1) How do you choose which majors to include in your book?
2) What do you personally enjoy when you visit a college?
3) Which newer majors do you think are up and comers?
4) What are 5 “hidden gem” colleges in your opinion, lesser-known schools that offer a great education and something else special that sets them apart?
5) What would you tell a student who is trying to decide between two schools?


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