The Quad’s Year in Review — 2018

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We don’t like to brag, but this was an awesome year for TheBestSchools.org and The Quad. The Best Schools joined the ranks of respectability by earning membership into both the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) and the American Council on Education (ACE). This means that you can expect the same great college rankings and advice, but with a whole new air of respectability. Excuse me while I puff on this pipe, stroke my beard, and look dignified.

Just kidding. I don’t have a beard.

And we won’t let the new qualifications go to our heads. At the end of the day, we know it’s about giving the people what they want. This year, we did our best to fulfill this mission through The Quad, a friendly neighborhood hangout where we just happen to discuss topics like online college, education policy, and campus lifestyle all the time.

This actually marks a noteworthy anniversary for us. It was exactly one year ago when we transformed TBS Magazine into The Quad. Since then, it has been a seriously kickass 2018. I don’t want to bore you with a whole lot of math, but we were averaging about 1000 readers a day last December. And we treasured each and every one of you.

With the end of 2018 fast approaching, more than 12,000 of you are coming to our site every day. That’s like a 1400% increase in traffic. We saw almost two million visitors this year to go along with the roughly 10 million of you who dropped by TheBestSchools.org in search of educational opportunity.

Thanks to each and every one of you who came for a visit this year. We’re thrilled that in this saturated web of ranking lists and self-proclaimed experts, you’ve chosen to make us a part of your reading, research, and . . . ahem . . . bathroom breaks (c’mon, we see the mobile vs. PC breakdown. We know at least a few of you are taking a fiver right now!)

Anyway, we’re not trying to get personal. We’re just grateful that we’re a part of your lives, wherever those parts of your life happen. After all, that’s what online education is all about. We go where you go.

But before we go forward, we’d like to indulge that ever popular year-end tradition of reflection. Where have we been? What have we achieved? What will the history books say about 2018? (Insert world-weary and sarcastic response here.)

We’re not sure that time will judge this year kindly, or the general era surrounding it. But as we look forward to 2019, I think it’s incumbent upon all of us to remember what was best this year; what made us smile; what made us think; what made us like, share, and link.

As in years past, we’ve done our best to provide a distinctive, occasionally irreverent look at education, college, and careers in the United States. We’d like to think we offer just a little more personality than your average college ranker. Or at the very least, we can guarantee you that our research and writing are done by living, breathing, actual humans and not by Russian-made spybots. If 2018 revealed nothing else, there’s some value in this.

But 2018 didn’t reveal nothing else. Sorry that was confusing. What I mean to say is, 2018 revealed a whole lot of other stuff too. And we covered a bunch of it.

So before we get to the cork-popping, ball-dropping, and resolution copping, let’s take a quick look back:

The Best in Online College

We had a lot to say about online college this year. It’s kind of our thing, and that’s not just because we hate leaving the house in the winter. It’s also because online college continues grow in credibility, reputation and variety. We dedicated the better part of this year to exploring the new strategies, evolving technologies, and of course, the very best degrees and schools on the online college landscape:

Those of you just beginning your online college journey this year spent a lot of time on our top ranking lists. These were a few of your favorites:

And just in time for the New Year, we’re excited to announce the release of 2019’s Best Online Colleges! These 50 schools are the cream of the crop in online education.

Too Legit

As long as you’re digging into our rankings, you should know that our advice now comes with a stamp of approval from not one but two highly-respected higher education councils.

TheBestSchools.org is proud to be an organizational member of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC). Founded in 1937, NACAC is dedicated to serving students as they make choices about pursuing postsecondary education. NACAC is committed to maintaining high standards that foster ethical and social responsibility among those involved in the transition process.

And just this fall, we joined the ranks of the American Council on Education (ACE), the major coordinating body for the nation’s colleges and universities. ACE mobilizes the higher education community to shape effective public policy and foster innovative, high-quality practice. ACE represents nearly 1,700 college and university presidents and the executives at related associations, and is the only major higher education association to represent all types of U.S. accredited, degree-granting institutions: two-year and four-year, public and private.

We don’t like to take ourselves too seriously over here at The Quad, but we do take very seriously our role as a responsible and trustworthy advisor to you as you make critical decisions about your education. The choices you make about college, grad school, and career are kind of a big deal. We are proud to represent these important agencies and their central mission.

We are also honored to include Patrick O’Connor — past president of NACAC — on our advisory board. Patrick O’Connor is a college admissions expert and associate dean of college counseling at Cranbrook Kingswood School in metropolitan Detroit. Patrick also teaches Counseling in the College Selection Process as both a graduate class and a professional development program. In 2017–18, he served as the inaugural School Counselor Ambassador Fellow with the U.S. Department of Education, keeping the Department informed of current trends and issues of interest to school counselors.

And in 2018, Patrick also shared some extremely valuable, expert-level advice with our readers on preparing, paying, and apply for the college of your choice:

We’ll work every day of 2019 to ensure that our online college rankings, support resources, and student advice live up to the high standards established by both NACAC and ACE.

Study Buddies!

This year, you really took advantage of our study resources. We’re thrilled you feel comfortable studying with us. That compatibility isn’t easy to come by. I once had a roommate who used to clip his nails every time I opened a book to study. Man, that was distracting. Anyway, we’re glad you like studying with us. From our Study Starters, to our Writing Lab, to our ultra-popular Logical Fallacies discussion, you’ve proven an inquisitive audience. We thank you for massaging your brain here.

Whether you were banging out a class project, cramming for exams, or cheating at Quizzo, our Study Starters were a pretty big hit. These were your favorites in 2018:

We also opened a few new rooms in The Quad over the course of 2018, including these big resource collections. Look for continuing expansion and improvement of our facilities in 2019:

Military Salute

While we’re lapping up the warmth of home and family, our brave service members are on base, on duty, or overseas. Here at TBS and The Quad, we consider it the least of our duties as Americans to provide all the support and resources we can to the courageous women and men who defend our nation. In 2018, we developed our most extensive set of materials yet for active duty military personnel, reserves, veterans, national guard, and others who have earned a GI Bill™ and the opportunity to seek an education.

Visit our Military Education HQ to check out a ton of other great resources for military service members and veterans.

In 2019, we’ll continue our efforts to serve those who serve our nation through GI Bill™ policy updates, testimonies from military leaders, and more on the educational benefits available to the children and families of military service members.

Health and Wellness

I’m not being disingenuous when I say we really care about you. I mean, if you aren’t healthy, we have no readers. So take care of yourself! Wellness should be a major priority, whether you’re a high school student navigating the notoriously stressful college application process, a grad student carrying the academic weight of the world on your shoulders, or a working professional planning to go back to school. With that in mind, we developed some important new resources on mental health, physical wellbeing, and navigating education while managing disabilities. We also improved some of our older resources to address the evolving conversation around challenging on-campus issues like sexual assault, hazing, and suicide:

Visit our Disability Guides for other valuable resources for students with disabilities and health challenges, as well as their family members, educators, advocates.

Or check out Student Health in Focus for a ton of important resources on health issues impacting students of every age and experience.

In the New Year, we’ll work hard to bring you up to speed on emergent student health issues with a bigger focus on opinions from experts.

Looking out for Non-Traditional Learners

2018 saw continued expansion of the adult learner population. Adult or non-traditional learners are among the fastest growing demographics in the education sector. We did our best to shine a spotlight on the hard-working women and men who are going back to school to develop new skills, earn additional credentials, or advance careers. These were a few of this year’s highlights from the wide world of non-traditional learning:

Since so many of you are working professionals, parents and adults balancing school with other responsibilities, we’ll tell you something that maybe you don’t get to hear as often as traditional students. We’re proud of you. And to show you how proud we are, this year, we’ll have more features and resources, especially for working parents.

We’ve Got Issues!

This was an election year and these days, there’s so much at stake with every vote. That’s why we made sure to cover policy issues with far-reaching implications. From the regulatory rollbacks under the Betsy DeVos-helmed Department of Education to said agency’s general shrinkage; from the connection between shifting immigration policies and educational opportunities in America to the best degrees you can earn if you wish to have a direct say in policy matters, we covered it all. Well, no, we didn’t cover it all. But we covered a bunch of stuff that we think was really important this year. Take a look back.

In the year ahead, we’ll continue to keep tabs on our public servants, on leaders in education and on the policies and regulations that impact all of us. And more importantly, we’ll hold ourselves accountable by taking further steps to embrace diversity and achieve inclusivity. This will include continuing expansion of our support resources for students with children, individuals with disabilities, undocumented students, refugees, members of the LGBTQ community, inmates and ex-convicts, and a host of other marginalized groups for whom meaningful education support resources can make a difference.

Making the List

You love lists. You know how we know? Because you’re a human person on the interweb. People just freaking love listicles. Anyway, it wouldn’t be a year-end review without a few lists. Here are a few of our best from the last year:

As long as we’re on the subject of lists, these were some of your favorite college lists this year:

And once again, with the new year upon us, it’s time to check out Best Online Colleges. If nothing else, it’s a good reminder to start writing 2019 on stuff. You know you’re going to screw it up the first couple times. We all do it!

And before you plunge into a vacation of fuzzy blankets and marshmallow-stuffed cocoa mugs that you have to hold with both hands, we’ll leave you only with happy thoughts of the vacation ahead:

Well, that’s it for us. 2018 is in the books. We’re exhausted and we need a vacation. So do you.

May your holiday season be happy, healthy, filled with family, strewn with wrapping paper, misty-coated by fondly shared memories for the departed, sprinkled with confectionary indulgence, blessed with indoor heating, flecked with flurries, overflowing with generosity, spirited by cheer, cheered by spirits, and delighted with the promise of a fresh calendar, untouched as a blanket of twinkling virgin snow.

Happy New Year and raise a glass to Auld Lang Syne!

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