Welcome to Part 2 of our interview with Fred Rugg, author of Rugg’s Recommendations on the Colleges. The book, now in its 29th edition, is an excellent college guidebook that helps students, parents, and counselors get accurate college rankings and ratings. Check out Part 1 of our interview for more background on Fred Rugg.
By: Susanna de Chenonceau, M.Ed.
1) How do you choose which majors to include in your book?
At this point in time, counselors around the country annually write or call me suggesting majors to research and to include in a future edition. The counselors are usually reacting to requests from their students for lists of colleges not presently in my book. My 30th edition of Rugg’s Recommendations on the Colleges will be out in November and counselors asked me to research and present a new major, Game Design, which will be a new major in my new edition.
2) What do you personally enjoy when you visit a college?
I still enjoy all aspects of the college visit, but I particularly love to sit in the student unions/cafeterias and talk with students. And, then, if I see a student sitting alone, I join that student. It is great to sit with an alone student because they can be so verbal and usually seem to be so willing to tell you “the college scoop.”
I remember a few years ago walking the Claremont College campuses in Southern California. It was near the end of a semester with Reading Period/ Final Exams happening. Not all students were talkative, except for the Pitzer College students. The Pitzer students were just so laid back, so open, so talkative, and helpful. They could not have been more friendly and forthcoming.
3) Which newer majors do you think are up and comers?
Three new majors come to mind:
Colleges are coming up with a variety of bachelor programs in “New Media.” MIT has a new major called “Comparative Media Studies.” Under the “New Media Umbrella” you will find traditional journalism along with offerings in digital media and design. I suspect next month these college students will be studying the direction of Cable Station CNN. This station, CNN, has lost its ratings and is now hiring a new leader to chart their new direction. A second up and comer is the “Bachelor in Public Health.” This major is being driven by our current National Health Care Debate. A third up and coming major is the “Homeland Security Major.” Many of the colleges and universities around Washington, DC have started this major or a related program. The number of programs has reached 75, with courses related to infrastructure, criminal justice, emergency and disaster planning, and weapons of mass destruction.
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?
My first “hidden gem” is Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts. It is a “white collar” school in a “blue collar” town, and everybody is there and everybody fits. It is almost rural, but less than an hour from Boston, and Providence, the capital of Rhode Island. Formerly a college for females only, it went coed in 1988, and I felt coeducation there went rather well.
My second “hidden gem” is also a fairly small college. Denison College is about an hour from Columbus, Ohio. My last trip there I ended up in a large student lounge, and I was astounded by looking at each table and the mixture of white and black students. I had just visited another university and all the whites sat together, as did all the black students. Caring professors, ten to one ratio, and great financial support for undergraduate research set Denison apart from its competitors.
My third college is ninety minutes above Chicago, Beloit College in Wisconsin. Every student I passed there smiled at me and said hello. It was quiet at Beloit, probably 40 minutes away from Madison, Wisconsin. Everybody seemed comfortable there; students from all over the country. For many students that visit Beloit from all over the USA, Beloit makes their dream or magic college list. That is, be careful if you visit Beloit first. Many students, because of the warmth and friendliness of the students and faculty at Beloit, really don’t care to visit another college after they have visited Beloit. It is their school.
Number 4 is the most academic of these five schools and a popular regional school in the state of Washington. Whitman College is pretty hard to beat. A little off the beaten path in Walla Walla, Washington, it is the only school in the country that I have never heard a negative comment about. I have met many graduates of this school, but I cannot find one who believes it is not the best school in America. Lots of financial aid, amazing school pride, loyalty, and happiness abound at this school where kids work really hard.
My fifth hidden gem is in San Diego, Point Loma Nazarene College. Academics, faith, and community are the cornerstones of a campus that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. It is a well- respected little school with spectacular views and a beautiful campus.
5) What would you tell a student who is trying to decide between two schools?
Out of the blue one day, I got a phone call from an Ohio high school senior. This young man had bought and used my book. I listened to him as he was deciding, he said, between Middlebury (VT) and Notre Dame (IN). Tell me how your campus visits went, I asked him. Middlebury, he said, was way off in the country, but the students were friendly and the isolation didn’t bother him. He counted a lot of smiles at Middlebury. He emailed a few professors there, and they got right back to him in detail. The professors in his intended major were available and helpful.
Then he talked about his Notre Dame visit. He was in a trance there. He said lots of students were in groups and walked right by him. He rather liked a school, he said, with an individualistic feel. Notre Dame did not feel that way to him. At the Golden Dome, they all seemed to be talking about sports. He was done with organized sports. He liked to run cross-country. Also, professors there at Notre Dame were slow to respond to his emails.
This young man kind of beat me to it. He quickly told me about the visits, the emails, the group vs. individual stuff, counting smiles, rural vs. non-rural. That day I played Carl Rogers and listened a lot. But I would have told him to answer to all the above factors if he had not been so talkative and perceptive. Sometimes you just listen.
To buy Rugg’s Recommendations, visit http://www.ruggsrecommendations.com/ where you can purchase the guide as an e-book!