Early in your College Search, you will define attributes you want to consider when comparing Colleges. Some of those attributes are basic, non-subjective information, which I call stats (school size, % of students living on campus, student diversity, graduation/retention rates, etc.) One of the best Data Mining Resources to determine those stats for each of your potential colleges is the Common Data Set.

The College Solution - Book Image

I learned about the Common Data Set by reading The College Solution

As I referenced numerous websites gleaming information about a particular College, I kept wondering where they were getting their data and noticed that each website differed in which information they shared. Then I read a GREAT book titled The College Solution by Lynn O’Shaughnessy.

That’s where I learned about the Common Data Set (CDS), which is created in collaboration between Schools of Higher Education and publishers. Schools annually update the information in a standardized format regarding their incoming Freshman class as well as their total student body for the benefit of the likes of US News & World Report and College Board. Nearly any data (admission acceptance rates, for example) I found on individual Colleges came from this source, which is made user-friendly because the format of the data is the same for all schools.

The easiest way to access the Common Data Set is to type <College Name> and Common Data Set in your internet search engine. Make sure you are looking at information for the most current year. Unfortunately, not all Colleges make their CDS readily available to the public; if you can’t find the CDS on the internet, contact the school and request a copy.

Otherwise, you will have to use websites like College Data and US News Colleges, which does not share all of the information found in the Common Data Set and possibly charges a fee to access all the data. The US News Colleges website provides basic information for each College, but requires you to pay $29.95 in order to access “Expanded Profiles”, which include information readily available in the Common Data Set. The other option? Go to multiple websites to mine this data, but be warned that some websites update their stats for the new year more quickly than others – you could end up comparing information from multiple school years.


The Common Data Set provides more complete stats

Why do you want the detail found in the Common Data Set? Would it be helpful to know that more men than women apply to a particular College but more women are accepted? A website that lists the overall acceptance rate, or even the acceptance rate by gender, will not help you determine this information, the CDS will!

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