Professors and students at the Pyramids in Cairo, Egypt.

University Communications

Why FIT Works (and Rankings Don’t)

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A global liberal arts education is a deeply personal experience, one that encourages introspection and openmindedness in equal measure. It requires a willingness to engage with your chosen subject matter, but also with diverse cultures and communities and the varied worldviews of your classmates. It’s not about getting into a selective school and expecting it to guarantee a top-paid job; it’s about building up an understanding of the world in a way that allows you to develop transferable skills, exercise critical thinking, make meaningful life and career choices, and have impact on the world. In short, it’s about learning how to make a difference.

Historically, college rankings have been a way in which prospective students have assessed a university’s reputation. However, a recent study by the Stanford University Graduate School of Education found that rankings fall short of explaining which students are successful after graduation. The main takeaway from the report is that college selectivity does not correlate with student learning, job satisfaction or wellbeing. It calls instead for “a fit over rankings,” arguing that college engagement is the real indicator of post-graduation wellbeing.

To find out what does correlate with post-college success, we must look at other factors. A Gallup-Purdue Index Report published in 2014 argued that meaningful experiences, both curricular and co-curricular, have a marked impact. The report highlights six such experiences, all of which are hallmarks of an AUP education:

  • taking a course with an inspiring professor;
  • being taught by an engaged faculty that cares about students personally;
  • finding a mentor who personally encourages you to pursue your ambitions;
  • working on a capstone project that helps you place your studies in a wider interdisciplinary context;
  • doing an internship, especially one that is closely linked to your classroom learning; and
  • being involved in extracurricular activities that emphasize character building and leadership skills.

AUP is a great example of the importance of this report’s findings; its unique offering of a global liberal arts education with an emphasis on transformative experiences leads to consistently high levels of student satisfaction. Both AUP’s Global Liberal Arts Core Curriculum and its Global Professional Skills Program – two pillars standing on either side of the major – emphasize the importance of exploring diverse perspectives and experiences while in college. The University’s small class sizes allow faculty to get to know every student personally. Over 50% of AUP students carry out an internship during their time at the University, and our Cultural Program study trips provide yet another way to engage with career-oriented experiential learning.

All of these opportunities help students build the confidence they need to make meaningful decisions about their futures – all the more so if they also feel included in the community and motivated to take advantage of what’s on offer. AUP uses the term global explorer to refer to the kind of student that is best placed to take on this challenge. Relentlessly curious and eager to learn, global explorers are driven by a desire to engage directly with the international community. They exhibit a higher level of tolerance and openness to difference than the average college-going recruit and a passionate desire to build bridges between diverse communities. They are well equipped to thrive on AUP’s international campus.

Deciding on this important aspect of the AUP story was a pivotal step in ensuring the University caters to the needs and aspirations of its students. Today, we assign a FIT score to every applicant, helping us recruit adventurous, self-reliant students who thrive in our unique international environment and strive to enter a global workplace. It creates a vibrant, engaged university community that celebrates difference and fosters an atmosphere of mutual support. By telling AUP’s story authentically, the University naturally draws FIT students to apply. We are proud to be a self-selecting institution; every year over 75% of entering students say we were their first choice.

If your personal goals and values align well with a university’s mission, you will be more motivated to engage with the university community, take on an internship or extracurricular activities, and, ultimately, succeed in securing a career you find meaningful.

If you’d like to know more about our FIT score, about how it aligns with our mission, and about what our students think of the AUP experience, you can read President Celeste M. Schenck’s comments on the subject.