How important are college rankings when choosing a college?

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How important are college rankings when choosing a college?

Reecy ArestyCollege Admissions/Financial Aid Expert & AuthorPayless For College, Inc.

How important are college rankings when choosing a college?

It’s the fit of the program that a college has to offer rather than how US news rates a school. The perfect school for you could have a low rating – so what!

Zahir RobbCollege CounselorThe Right Fit College

How important are college rankings when choosing a college?

College rankings can give you some ideas, but don’t put too much weight into them. Instead select criteria that you are looking for and weigh these against the universities. Use the ranking system as a starting off point to get an idea as to who may have a good engineering program or a well recognized theatre program, but don’t exclude a university just because it is ranked low.

John Happs

How important are college rankings when choosing a college?

That becomes a personal question. What kind of rankings are you talking about? Food, or entertainment, or professors, etc. Rankings may give you a place to start, but they have bias just as other forms of media. Use them as a place to start. Not as the only decision maker in the process.

Dr. Bruce NeimeyerCEO/PartnerGlobal College Search Associates, LLC

How important are college rankings when choosing a college?

Rankings can be a useful guide to making a decision about whether a school is doing well in a general academic area compared with its peer institutions however, it is only one of many criteria a family should use to understand if this school and its academic program are an appropriate match. Students may use these numbers to help narrow the field but my suggestion has always been to choose from the top as well as some below because the next step would be to dig deeper into the program to understand if the faculty are interested and working on issues in the field that are of interest to the student. The program might be number one in according to a ranking agency but the faculty might be focused on topics that are of no interest to the student. In this case, the student might be well suited for a career in the field but because the faculty will use text books and examples related to their area of interest, all of that might be a deadly bore to the student and as a result may lead them to move away from a career in this area. So, making sure this is a good academic match on a deeper level is critical to the students long term career aspirations.

Dr. Bruce NeimeyerCEO/PartnerGlobal College Search Associates, LLC

How important are college rankings when choosing a college?

Rankings can be a useful guide to making a decision about whether a school is doing well in a general academic area compared with its peer institutions however, it is only one of many criteria a family should use to understand if this school and its academic program are an appropriate match. Students may use these numbers to help narrow the field but my suggestion has always been to choose from the top as well as some below because the next step would be to dig deeper into the program to understand if the faculty are interested and working on issues in the field that are of interest to the student. The program might be number one in according to a ranking agency but the faculty might be focused on topics that are of no interest to the student. In this case, the student might be well suited for a career in the field but because the faculty will use text books and examples related to their area of interest, all of that might be a deadly bore to the student and as a result may lead them to move away from a career in this area. So, making sure this is a good academic match on a deeper level is critical to the students long term career aspirations.

Tim Haley

College Rankings

College rankings are unimportant. They are like college football and basketball rankings. They mean nothing and are based on completely subjective criteria. What is the difference between number 1 and number 20? Take 2 students from the same college, how do you rank a school when one student had a great experience and the other had a lukewarm one.

James LundgrenPartnerCollege Planning Solutions

Who ranked my college, and why?

As important as considering rankings are who did them and why. Probably the most well-known college ranking program is the US News and World Report’s Annual College Ranking edition. It is their best selling issue year after year, yet not well-respected in academia. So, consider the source with these purported “expert” college rankings. Is it a popularity contest, a ranking by cost, or perhaps something as pertinent as how well they graduate and place their students in employment? The best possible “ranker” is you! Use your geographic parameters (states), your campus size preference (3,000 or 30,000), whether you are open to the possibility of a private college being as affordable and perhaps more effective than a public one in preparing you for your career, and the most important factor is how well you will “fit”. Finding a good “fit” is accomplished by using all of your search criteria and finding colleges which satisfy all of your needs. Some very good college search tools may be found at College Board and Barron’s Guide to American Colleges is in its 29th year of serving college prospects.

Trevor CreedenDirector of College and Career CounselingDelaware County Christian School

How important are college rankings when choosing a college?

I am going to say to take rankings with a grain of salt. It also depends on the colleges you are applying to. A lot of these rankings have to do with national and regional reputation, percentages, how many professors do research, how long the school as been around, etc. There are so many good colleges out there that have professors with great experience and are experts in their field. Colleges like to see their name in the rankings but it will never define them as a school. You have to see the school for yourself. It also depends on the major you may want to pursue because certain colleges have better programs in certain majors but that may not show up in any rankings.

Trevor CreedenDirector of College and Career CounselingDelaware County Christian School

How important are college rankings when choosing a college?

I am going to say to take rankings with a grain of salt. It also depends on the colleges you are applying to. A lot of these rankings have to do with national and regional reputation, percentages, how many professors do research, how long the school as been around, etc. There are so many good colleges out there that have professors with great experience and are experts in their field. Colleges like to see their name in the rankings but it will never define them as a school. You have to see the school for yourself. It also depends on the major you may want to pursue because certain colleges have better programs in certain majors but that may not show up in any rankings.

James LundgrenPartnerCollege Planning Solutions

Who ranked my college, and why?

As important as considering rankings are who did them and why. Probably the most well-known college ranking program is the US News and World Report’s Annual College Ranking edition. It is their best selling issue year after year, yet not well-respected in academia. So, consider the source with these purported “expert” college rankings. Is it a popularity contest, a ranking by cost, or perhaps something as pertinent as how well they graduate and place their students in employment? The best possible “ranker” is you! Use your geographic parameters (states), your campus size preference (3,000 or 30,000), whether you are open to the possibility of a private college being as affordable and perhaps more effective than a public one in preparing you for your career, and the most important factor is how well you will “fit”. Finding a good “fit” is accomplished by using all of your search criteria and finding colleges which satisfy all of your needs. Some very good college search tools may be found at College Board and Barron’s Guide to American Colleges is in its 29th year of serving college prospects.

Mollie ReznickAssociate DirectorThe College Connection

How important are college rankings when choosing a college?

College rankings should be taken with a LARGE grain of salt. These rankings are based on things that you likely wouldn’t care about as an incoming freshman: for instance what the president’s annual salary is and what percentage of alumni are donors. These rankings do not in any way assess the *quality* of the education you would receive or how happy and successful you would be at any given school.

Patricia KrahnkePresident/PartnerGlobal College Search Associates, LLC

Rankings, Schmankings.

It’s all smoke and mirrors. You gotta dig deeper to get to what’s real. In my first days as an Assistant Director of Admissions at Rutgers University in New Jersey, I was responsible for collecting and calculating much of the data that was submitted to the federal government (via IPEDS) and the various rankings publications, such as U.S. News and World Report, Peterson’s, etc. It was so very clear to all of us involved in this process of data collection and analysis how easily this information could be manipulated by an institution to improve its placement on the rankings lists. We were quite sure that other institutions were manipulating this data in this way, and it’s beginning to come out that in certain cases, this is exactly what has been happening. (Google “Iona College Data Falsified.”) How might that work? Here ya go: As an institution, in the data you submit to the rankings publications (and the federal government, via IPEDS) do you want your SAT scores to appear higher? Lop off the SAT scores of your typically underperforming groups – athletes, first-generation/low-income, legacy, etc. – and you present much higher median and average SAT scores. (That’s why admissions counselors snicker when you ask them “What’s your average SAT.” There’s no such thing as an average SAT. You want to be taken seriously by an admissions professional? Don’t ask that question. Want to increase the appearance of selectivity in the rankings (the idea that the institution is harder to get into than others)? That’s simple: Make the application easy. Remove or reduce the essay component; accept the Common App; reduce or remove the application fee; send out pre-completed application forms to “top students” (don’t be flattered if you receive one of these); don’t require letters of recommendation; market to tons of inadmissible students, raise their hopes, then deny them. The latter is one of the tactics the Ivies use – that’s one of the ways they maintain their reputation as elite institutions. Actually, most institutions use some or all of these strategies. When I was Dean of Admissions at one of the Vermont State Colleges, this conversation was held every year, driven by a panicky president: How can we increase the numbers of applications? (In fact, this conversation happens in almost every single admissions office in the world.) The president of the college wanted the application to be as simple as possible, with no letters of recommendation, no essay, no fee, in short, nothing to slow down the application from being submitted and reviewed, because the president wanted the numbers higher. This is the type of manipulative behavior that drives rankings. Here’s a story that stems directly from that situation: We received a complaint one day from an applicant. This student had received a phone call from one of the counselors congratulating that student on being admitted, and the student (a very, very smart student) challenged that counselor by saying, “How can your college be any good if you received my application online yesterday and you are already calling me to tell me I have been accepted?” Bingo. The fact is that the college had several outstanding faculty members and students that deserved to be part of a process that was more conscientious than the president of the college was capable of. Those are just a couple of examples. There are many others. Why this type of anxiety and manipulation? The institution’s trustees and Board of Governors and alumni want their institution to be as high in the rankings as possible because the foundation can leverage that information to attract donations from alumni and corporations and because their Office of Admissions can use it in their marketing publications to set them apart from other institutions. It’s a funny thing that happens: If an institution ranks high on a list, they suddenly think rankings are a great idea (while saying privately that they know it’s all bunk.) If they rank low on a list, they agree that the rankings are nonsense. This is why so many colleges and universities have stopped submitting their information to the rankings publications, and why you see U.S. News and World Report fumbling around in the news trying to push their agenda and changing their research methodology. They are being challenged as to the validity of their data and the use of their data. U.S News (and other similar publications) makes a ton of money off of prospective students and their families, just like you. It’s a corporation. They are manipulating you to create anxiety and make money based on your fear of not being at the “best” college. They are in silent collusion with colleges and universities that buy into the rankings) because they rank high enough to be able to leverage that power), cheering you on when they overhear you at high school events bragging about the highly ranked institution to which you are applying. It’s a competition based on nothing meaningful. So how do you get real, unadulterated data? The federal government via IPEDS – the College Navigator tool. But, oops! Even they don’t have it (again, Google Iona College Data Falsified.) Although they do try hard. To be honest, it’s only a handful of people in that office. How do I know? I’ve met them. Great people trying hard to be a great watchdog over institutions both massive and small whose inner workings and conversations they can’t see and hear. So if you ask me, a family that talks about rankings in their college search is not doing their search right. Do your own homework, beginning with getting to the heart of needs and wants and hopes and dreams and realities. There are great colleges, faculty, and outcomes everywhere. You’re not going to find that information in a rankings guide. Like I said, you gotta dig deeper to get to what’s real.

王文君 June ScortinoPresidentIVY Counselors Network

How important are college rankings when choosing a college?

I personally do not believe college rankings and I suggest you to guide yourself by asking the right questions that are important to you.

. .

Rankings Are Interesting, But Not Important

I’ll be the first to admit that I always look at US News’ college rankings each year. That said, when choosing a college, these rankings really aren’t that important. For instance, does it really matter if you attend Notre Dame over Northwestern? From a rankings standpoint, no, of course not. When you apply to graduate school or go to get that first job, what’s going to make more of a difference than whether you attend ND or NU is how you did in college, how networked you are, your experience, and how you interview. People make a much bigger fuss about the rankings than there should be. Now, this isn’t to say that if you have a degree from Princeton, Harvard, or Yale, that your resume isn’t going to get some initial extra attention. That said, however, in most cases, the ranking of the school that you attend really shouldn’t impact your decision on where to attend a college. I’m a firm believer that college is the what you make of it. When you go to XYZ community college and then to State U. to earn a bachelor’s degree, or, attend Harvard for undergard., you can still get into Yale Law School if you get excellent grades in college and crush the LSAT. Sincerely, Mike Chapman, Owner Chapman College Admission Consulting www.chapmancac.com

Patricia KrahnkePresident/PartnerGlobal College Search Associates, LLC

How important are college rankings when choosing a college?

Short Answer: It’s all smoke and mirrors. You gotta dig deeper to get to what’s real. Detailed Answer: In my first days as an Assistant Director of Admissions at Rutgers University in New Jersey, I was responsible for collecting and calculating much of the data that was submitted to the federal government (via IPEDS) and the various rankings publications, such as U.S. News and World Report, Peterson’s, etc. It was so very clear to all of us involved in this process of data collection and analysis how easily this information could be manipulated by an institution to improve its placement on the rankings lists. We were quite sure that other institutions were manipulating this data in this way, and it’s beginning to come out that in certain cases, this is exactly what has been happening. (Google “Iona College Data Falsified.”) How might that work? Here ya go: As an institution, in the data you submit to the rankings publications (and the federal government, via IPEDS) do you want your SAT scores to appear higher? Lop off the SAT scores of your typically underperforming groups – athletes, first-generation/low-income, legacy, etc. – and you present much higher median and average SAT scores. (That’s why admissions counselors snicker when you ask them “What’s your average SAT.” There’s no such thing as an average SAT. You want to be taken seriously by an admissions professional? Don’t ask that question. Want to increase the appearance of selectivity in the rankings (the idea that the institution is harder to get into than others)? That’s simple: Make the application easy. Remove or reduce the essay component; accept the Common App; reduce or remove the application fee; send out pre-completed application forms to “top students” (don’t be flattered if you receive one of these); don’t require letters of recommendation; market to tons of inadmissible students, raise their hopes, then deny them. The latter is one of the tactics the Ivies use – that’s one of the ways they maintain their reputation as elite institutions. Actually, most institutions use some or all of these strategies. When I was Dean of Admissions at one of the Vermont State Colleges, this conversation was held every year, driven by a panicky president: How can we increase the numbers of applications? (In fact, this conversation happens in almost every single admissions office in the world.) The president of the college wanted the application to be as simple as possible, with no letters of recommendation, no essay, no fee, in short, nothing to slow down the application from being submitted and reviewed, because the president wanted the numbers higher. This is the type of manipulative behavior that drives rankings. Here’s a story that stems directly from that situation: We received a complaint one day from an applicant. This student had received a phone call from one of the counselors congratulating that student on being admitted, and the student (a very, very smart student) challenged that counselor by saying, “How can your college be any good if you received my application online yesterday and you are already calling me to tell me I have been accepted?” Bingo. The fact is that the college had several outstanding faculty members and students that deserved to be part of a process that was more conscientious than the president of the college was capable of. Those are just a couple of examples. There are many others. Why this type of anxiety and manipulation? The institution’s trustees and Board of Governors and alumni want their institution to be as high in the rankings as possible because the foundation can leverage that information to attract donations from alumni and corporations and because their Office of Admissions can use it in their marketing publications to set them apart from other institutions. It’s a funny thing that happens: If an institution ranks high on a list, they suddenly think rankings are a great idea (while saying privately that they know it’s all bunk.) If they rank low on a list, they agree that the rankings are nonsense. This is why so many colleges and universities have stopped submitting their information to the rankings publications, and why you see U.S. News and World Report fumbling around in the news trying to push their agenda and changing their research methodology. They are being challenged as to the validity of their data and the use of their data. U.S News (and other similar publications) makes a ton of money off of prospective students and their families, just like you. It’s a corporation. They are manipulating you to create anxiety and make money based on your fear of not being at the “best” college. They are in silent collusion with colleges and universities that buy into the rankings) because they rank high enough to be able to leverage that power), cheering you on when they overhear you at high school events bragging about the highly ranked institution to which you are applying. It’s a competition based on nothing meaningful. So how do you get real, unadulterated data? The federal government via IPEDS – the College Navigator tool. But, oops! Even they don’t have it (again, Google Iona College Data Falsified.) Although they do try hard. To be honest, it’s only a handful of people in that office. How do I know? I’ve met them. Great people trying hard to be a great watchdog over institutions both massive and small whose inner workings and conversations they can’t see and hear. So if you ask me, a family that talks about rankings in their college search is not doing their search right. Do your own homework, beginning with getting to the heart of needs and wants and hopes and dreams and realities. There are great colleges, faculty, and outcomes everywhere. You’re not going to find that information in a rankings guide. Like I said, you gotta dig deeper to get to what’s real.

Chip LawCo-founder Managing Director Educational Avenues

Hype, hype and more hype!

College rankings are informative: they tell you what schools have maintained their rank or even more importantly, did they move (or God forbid relinquish a spot or two); they tell you the percentage of those that got accepted out of all those seeking admission (the less accepted, the higher the ranking in theory; and among other things they tell you that for the creme de la creme schools the SAT or ACT scores of their incoming class averages in the 99th percentile. None of this hype should matter to you when you seek to find the best place to spend the next four years building skills you need to be successful in college and life. If you look at the way much of the public views the rankings, their charm comes from bestowing on those that are accepted into their hallowed halls, a patina of prestige, pride and elitism ostensibly earned by the student’s overall excellence in achievement to date. (I won’t even begin the discussion of these student’s parents take on this subject.) While I’m being a bit cynical in my description, the reality of ranking envy can cause you look at schools for the wrong reasons. Develop your list of likely choices for college FIRST. Choose them on the basis of fit, affordability, having your possible major, offering a social environment that works for you, has the right size student body and location that is desirable to you. THEN look at the rankings: maybe some of your choices will be at the top: whoopee! The important thing is that you did your homework and picked your schools based on THE most important criteria for you.

Kathryn Lento

Getting to the Bottom of Rankings

College rankings can be useful, but they are only one data point and not the most important one at that. They can also be misleading because the underlying factors they base the rankings on may not be important to you. It is important to always look at what went into the rankings before you allow them to influence your decision. You also have to take a broader view of the numbers. Is a college that ranks 25 in a different class than one that ranks 30? Better to identify the bottom ranking number you are willing to accept and go about finding the best fit college in terms of academic opportunities and campus fit. You might to decide to attend a school that is ranked a little lower because it offers you more research, internship or scholarship opportunities…the chance to leave your fingerprints on something.

Geoff BroomeAssistant Director of AdmissionsWidener University

damn rankings and the rankers who rank them.

There are so many rankings out there it is baffling. What’s even more is that no two rankings share the same methodology. Colleges can post whatever rankings they choose to show you. But, someone please tell me the difference between the number 1 school and the 20th school other than their name and location. For that matter, someone tell me the difference between #20 and #50. Across the country there are great schools that don’t get ranked. There are several factors. Maybe they didn’t get enough applications, or they didn’t reject enough students. Maybe of the students that were admitted, only a certain percent actually decided to attend that college. These are determining factors in several rankings. Does this really measure the worth of a school? Absolutely not. There are countless successful people in this world that did not attend a “ranked” college or university. Don’t buy the hype.

Geoff BroomeAssistant Director of AdmissionsWidener University

damn rankings and the rankers who rank them.

There are so many rankings out there it is baffling. What’s even more is that no two rankings share the same methodology. Colleges can post whatever rankings they choose to show you. But, someone please tell me the difference between the number 1 school and the 20th school other than their name and location. For that matter, someone tell me the difference between #20 and #50. Across the country there are great schools that don’t get ranked. There are several factors. Maybe they didn’t get enough applications, or they didn’t reject enough students. Maybe of the students that were admitted, only a certain percent actually decided to attend that college. These are determining factors in several rankings. Does this really measure the worth of a school? Absolutely not. There are countless successful people in this world that did not attend a “ranked” college or university. Don’t buy the hype.

Sarah ContomichalosManagerEducational Advisory Services, LLC

How important are college rankings when choosing a college?

Which rankings? There are so many available that if the ranking you are consulting is not very specific they may not be very useful.

Joan DeSalvatoreOwner/DirectorCollege Bound Advising Today

How important are college rankings when choosing a college?

College rankings should be a very small factor in your choice of college. There are more and more types of rankings available right now. You can select a school that has been deemed: the best value, the best dorms, the happiest students, the biggest party school, or even the best cafeteria food. Of course you can also look at the rankings that claim to tell you which is the “best” school. As unbiased as those ranking try and appear to be, they are not necessarily going to reflect your values or interests Further, there is always some way for the school to slant the information. One thing that the recent rankings are likely to be able to determine is, which colleges are going to be the most popular. Since most people do pay attention to those listings, the rankings are likely to provide a larger amount of applications for those at the top of the lists. My best advice is to take a look at the factors used to compile the lists and consider which of those is most important to you. Once you have found the colleges that seem to best match your own criteria, visit them. When you do, take along a list of questions that you will want answered during your time on campus. By asking the same questions at each, you will have your own device for “ranking” the colleges that you are considering.

Pamela Hampton-GarlandOwnerScholar Bound

How important are college rankings when choosing a college?

Not very, choosing a college is like choosing an outfit, does it fit you and enhance your positives, if not the brand may impress others but make you feel out of your comfort zone.

Joan DeSalvatoreOwner/DirectorCollege Bound Advising Today

How important are college rankings when choosing a college?

College rankings should be a very small factor in your choice of college. There are more and more types of rankings available right now. You can select a school that has been deemed: the best value, the best dorms, the happiest students, the biggest party school, or even the best cafeteria food. Of course you can also look at the rankings that claim to tell you which is the “best” school. As unbiased as those ranking try and appear to be, they are not necessarily going to reflect your values or interests Further, there is always some way for the school to slant the information. One thing that the recent rankings are likely to be able to determine is, which colleges are going to be the most popular. Since most people do pay attention to those listings, the rankings are likely to provide a larger amount of applications for those at the top of the lists. My best advice is to take a look at the factors used to compile the lists and consider which of those is most important to you. Once you have found the colleges that seem to best match your own criteria, visit them. When you do, take along a list of questions that you will want answered during your time on campus. By asking the same questions at each, you will have your own device for “ranking” the colleges that you are considering.

Tony TsoHeadmasterTerasmanna Oikademy

How important are college rankings when choosing a college?

Think about it. If you were to go about ranking 10 latest movies and publish your report for your friends’ benefit, how much weight should your friends give to your ranking? How about 2,500 movies? You see the challenge of ranking and interpreting its significance? But you have to start somewhere. So a ranking guide is a good starting place to identify the pool of candidates for your consideration. I would say a top 25 to 50 in any one category would be a good base line. Forget about the #1, #2 and so on ranking status. They are absolutely meaningless. The No. 1 selling automobile in America only means that there are more of them on the road than the next one, and why would any sensible car buyer care? We all have our own criteria by which to evaluate such a decision.

Todd WeaverSenior AdvisorStrategies for College, Inc.

How important are college rankings when choosing a college?

As American’s, we love “lists” and the college ranking system is no exception. However, what is right for one student may not be right at all for another. Using the standard lists to determine a college to apply to is not the best approach. I would advise keeping the influence of a “list” to a minimum and really focus more on what type of school you are looking for and where you’ll find a great match for your academic goals and personality.

Eric Beers, Ph.D.College and Career CounselorAir Academy High School

How important are college rankings when choosing a college?

College rankings are just a quick snapshot of a few statistics about that particular college. What a ranking cannot tell you is whether or not that college is the right fit for you. It doesn’t matter how highly ranked a school is if that school does not feel “at home” to you, you won’t do your best learning. I have had a number of students go visit (extremely) highly ranked colleges and they have just hated the experience. Many students are used to collaboration instead of competitiveness; and at many of the highly ranked schools, things are very cut-throat and competitive.

Angela ConleyCollege Admission ExpertVentureForth

How important are college rankings when choosing a college?

In my opinion rankings are only relevant within the context of your aims. If you are not interested in which is the best school for parties or celebrities, that factoid won’t be compelling. I advise clients that rankings are a good way to review campuses generally, but a better way is to visit sites, such as the Education Trust which clarify pertinent concerns such as diversity, graduation and retention rates and most importantly, the approximate student debt at graduation. Rankings are fine place to begin, but the most relevant concern is what do you seek in a place to dwell or matriculate for four years? If your concerns are not addressed, the rankings only reveal popular campuses, possibly with renown faculty. Those issues may in no way reflect your desire for a mentor, life-long friends and opportunities for concentrated study in your area of passionate interest.

Timothy LLaw ClerkDuke University School of Law

How important are college rankings when choosing a college?

This is a particularly loaded question, but here’s the skinny: It depends. First it depends on what kinds of programs you’re looking at and what kind of career path you have. If you’re considering advanced degrees and continuing education in the same field, rankings will often matter quite a bit. E.g., if you want to be professor of philosophy, then you need to get into a top philosophy Phd program. In order to get into Phd program, it will help if you went to undergrad at an institution known for its top philosophy program and faculty. This is not so much because you’ll end up a better philosophy student so much as the networking opportunities you’ll have with other movers and shakers in the field. If you’re looking to work in field that’s not “specialized” (read: not a hard science) then your degree and the relative ranking of the school will likely matter much less. If you’re considering a graduate school right now and are looking at an MBA, JD, Phd, MD, DO, or the like, rankings matter a lot! While I haven’t give you specifics, that’s in large part because it depends on where you are currently and what type of work you want to do. Don’t get me wrong, if you graduate from an Ivy League caliber school, you’ll probably be in a better position that someone who graduates from and unranked and unknown school. But that doesn’t mean the latter won’t be as or more successful than the Ivy League grad, it just means he or she may have to work a bit harder.

Danny EllisonCareer CoachELI 360

How important are college rankings when choosing a college?

College rankings are controversial to begin with. Even presidents and chancellors of some of the most prestigious universities may tell you that it is difficult to rank a college. We live in a generation where sports rules, and ranking sports teams is commonplace. You simply rank the winning team more highly than the loosing team (with certain BCS exceptions of course 🙂 But ranking a college is a much more difficult process. Sure, look at the rankings of the universities you want to attend, but,more importantly, look at how the university will “fit” you as a student. Look at academics, social activities, religious affiliations, etc. This is far more important than rankings, for what it’s worth.

Patty Finer

How important are college rankings when choosing a college?

Ranking should not be a factor in the selection of a school… the FIT should be!

Katie ParksFormer Admissions Counselor

How important are college rankings when choosing a college?

College rankings can’t be ignored, but they should not weigh heavily in your decision. Beyond the upper-eschelon of rankings (we’re talking your Ivy leagues, or top-10 ranked schools), the schools start to run together. This is especially true of academic -only lists. Many lists also only take in to account graduate programs and the research and scholarly production of an institution. Often these lists leave out the “teaching” ability of colleges, which can be a huge factor in whether a student finds success or not in college. Some rankings done by US News and World Report offer “Best Values,” which are probably the best lists to review if you are going to consider rankings in your decision. Also, many rankings miss the “fit” of an institution that can only be determined by an individual student’s experience with that campus. So if and when you look at rankings, make sure you evaluate the criteria the ranking list is based off of, who the list is being put out by, and whether the schools highly ranked are even available to you based on cost and admissions requirements.

Chuck SlatePresidentCollege Advisors,LLC

How important are college rankings when choosing a college?

Rankings might be important, but the REAL question is “Whose Rankings?” 1. POPULARITY/PRESTIGE: Since the beginning of the birth of the millenial generation, US News has been promoting a highly popular ranking of the “Best 100 Colleges/Best 100 Universities”. Some very good institutions no longer participate because of the assumptions and methodologies. 2. PRICE: Since parents are custodians of the college monies other rankings such as Kiplingers and Forbes, et al became popular as list publishers gave a half-hearted attempt to account for factors like price or net cost. 3. POLITICS: Other Books or “Best Lists” have appeared in the last decade or more like ISI’s “Choosing the RIGHT College” (Pun Intended), etc. The inherent problem is that a school NOT on their list might actually produce the type of learning environment which is more conducive to their desired outcome than the schools on the list. My experience is that in the last 2 decades the word conservative has all but lost any meaning. Some of these rankings make for interesting reading and nothing else. 4. PERFORMANCE: In the last few years a new type of list or ranking has surfaced based on actual choices that peer groups make. The leading site is called MyChances.NET It ranks schools on head-to-head choices that were reported by students and uses an ELO POINT algorithm. This takes the list creation out of a publisher’s hands and tries to show what might happen if two schools–who BOTH accepted the same student–went head to head. Ultimately each family has to decide what is important in a school and develop a preliminary list which meets the four critical dimensions of that family. More on this later. Also check out my postings on HIGHLY SELECTIVE COLLEGES.

Chuck SlatePresidentCollege Advisors,LLC

How important are college rankings when choosing a college?

Rankings might be important, but the REAL question is “Whose Rankings?” 1. POPULARITY/PRESTIGE: Since the beginning of the birth of the millenial generation, US News has been promoting a highly popular ranking of the “Best 100 Colleges/Best 100 Universities”. Some very good institutions no longer participate because of the assumptions and methodologies. 2. PRICE: Since parents are custodians of the college monies other rankings such as Kiplingers and Forbes, et al became popular as list publishers gave a half-hearted attempt to account for factors like price or net cost. 3. POLITICS: Other Books or “Best Lists” have appeared in the last decade or more like ISI’s “Choosing the RIGHT College” (Pun Intended), etc. The inherent problem is that a school NOT on their list might actually produce the type of learning environment which is more conducive to their desired outcome than the schools on the list. My experience is that in the last 2 decades the word conservative has all but lost any meaning. Some of these rankings make for interesting reading and nothing else. 4. PERFORMANCE: In the last few years a new type of list or ranking has surfaced based on actual choices that peer groups make. The leading site is called MyChances.NET It ranks schools on head-to-head choices that were reported by students and uses an ELO POINT algorhythm. This takes the list creation out of a publisher’s hands and tries to show what might happen if two schools–who BOTH accepted the same student–went head to head. Ultimately each family has to decide what is important in a school and develop a preliminary list which meets the four critical dimensions of that family. More on this later. Also check out my postings on HIGHLY SELECTIVE COLLEGES.

Karen Ekman-BaurDirector of College CounselingLeysin American School

How important are college rankings when choosing a college?

College rankings are interesting to look at, but more important than the overall rankings would be the reputation(s) of the department(s) in which you might choose to major. Some schools which are not at the top of the overall rankings have outstanding programs in certain areas. Quite negative rankings could raise “red flags” about specific institutions. In those cases, you would want to research those schools thoroughly to alleviate any concerns you might have. If you do feel compelled to consider rankings, the criteria on which the rankings are based might be more relevant to you – things like “Freshman Retention Rate”, “Graduation Rate”, and so on. You can also get an idea of the SAT/ACT range of most of the schools on the ranking list to determine whether a college/university would be a realistic choice for you based on your own scores. There may be other ranking criteria that are of interest to you personally. A number of institutions, some of them with excellent reputations, have stood up against the ranking systems, feeling that they inordinately sway student and parent opinion without providing a full picture of the schools involved. Keep this in mind as you use the ranking systems as part of your college research plan, and be sure to use a number of other research resources in reaching your decisions. Many students (parents) get so hung up on the rankings that they aren’t open to investigating really great schools that didn’t make it to the top of the ranking list – institutions where the student could get a wonderful education. That’s quite a shame and is a great disservice to you – the student. You’ve probably heard it many times before, but remember that what you’re looking for will be the best “fit” for you, and that’s something so individual that it can’t possibly be part of a ranking system.

Cheryl Millington

How important are college rankings when choosing a college?

Rankings are great to help you narrow your choices. But it’s important to know the methodology of the ranking; how number one versus number 100 was determined. If you had access to the raw numbers, you’ll be surprised to know that sometimes there are very small differences in scores, for example, between number 15 and 20. Also, try to determine how the information was gathered. Who supplied the information? When was the research conducted? The answers to these questions can change the results of the rankings. Some of the factors considered may not be important to you or be as heavily weighted if you were to come up with your own ranking. You may have noticed that different rankings have different results, so look for consistency. I like to divide rankings into quarters and then see if a school consistently falls in a particular quarter. Not every school participates in every ranking, so don’t assume if they are not listed, they were below the lowest university on the ranking. Therefore, use the information carefully and wisely.

Willard DixDirector of ProgrammingChicago Scholars

Garbage In, Garbage Out

Since choosing a college is such a highly individualized decision, college rankings mean absolutely nothing to individuals. There is no “absolute value” of colleges just as there is no “absolute value” of human beings; the question can only be phrased as “what is the best college for you?” Although it’s tempting to say that top-ranked schools are “best,” that’s taking everything out of context. It’s possible to say that College A has 32 Nobel Prize winners and College B has 2, but does that really tell you anything? And will you benefit from their wisdom, seeing as how they probably do very little teaching? If the top 10 colleges are mostly in rural or suburban areas and you’re a city kid, are they top ten for you? Probably not. You’re much better off ignoring the rankings and going with your own idiosyncratic requirements.

Hamilton GreggEducational ConsultantPrivate Practice

How important are college rankings when choosing a college?

Maybe as a starting point they might be helpful. But bear in mind that rankings have nothing to do with you as a student. Besides, there are lots of companies that provide ranking – US News, Forbes, Business Week, Shanghai International to name just a few. They are all different and use completely different criteria in calculating rankings. Think for a moment about the number of colleges and universities in the US. The top 10% makes around 350 schools. All of them different, all with unique qualities, communities and programs. That is an enormous selection. Below the top 50% they get much easier to get into than say, the top 10. Research a wide variety of schools. You can cut down the number as you choose size (Mega, Large, Medium or Small), location (Region or State), Setting (Urban, Suburban or rural) and program (Liberal Arts, Business only, Engineering etc…). Use other tools to find out about the kind of school you are looking. Schools are much more than a data point on a ranking chart. They are living vibrant communities filled with eager, and occasionally not so eager, students working, researching, studying for the next phase of their lives. It is also important to know that a lot of great schools choose not to participate in any form of ranking. They don’t believe that ranking can do their school justice or more importantly, that ranking skews the perception of their school. Do your research and you will find some great gems. Check out Colleges That Change Lives or www,ctcl.com or The Fiske Guide. But more importantly, look at a schools website and see what great things are happening on their campuses.

Michael SzarekDirector and FounderCollege Counseling for the Rest of Us

How important are college rankings when choosing a college?

They can play a role in your initial search to identify colleges that have a strength in one of your areas of interest. But, once you’ve identified your top choices, go with your own eyes, your own research and your own conclusions.

Joyce Vining MorganFounder and college counselorEducational Transitions

How important are college rankings when choosing a college?

Rankings sell magazines – I’m not sure they are of much more use than that. The data is not always reliable, and attempts to quantify the college experience are iffy at best. Since the rankings began, colleges have tried to game the system – the most recent egregious examples are chronicled in this February 1 New York Times article: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/01/education/gaming-the-college-rankings.html?_r=1&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha23 That said, in Asian countires where “face” and prestige are highly significant, rankings are important for future employment; those rankings are not necessarily our magazine rankings but may be on a list internal to the country. One wonderful rumor, not entirely false, is that there are those in China who believe that the US News and World Report rankings are offical US government rankings … because of the name of the magazine and because some governments like the UK do official rankings; makes sense if you live that far away, I guess.

Andrew DworakSr CounselorSt. Ignatius High School

Best Fit vs. Best Rank…

The question of wanting what is best goes without saying.  College choice is hard to distill into a chart of numerical listings.  I have used a number of resources.  Each offers a kernel of truth and reality.  Each is incomplete. Every one of the 4000 or so colleges has a series of characteristics that make up the college experience. I honestly believe a college is as good as its teachers and the courses chosen. Each student needs to sample broadly and choose his or her best “fit”. A visit goes a long way in finding the ideal or best college.

Betsy MorganFounderCollege Matters LLC

Colleges don’t change much year to year. Why do the rankings?…

After all, who would buy the magazines or guidebooks if there weren’t a new number one?  While some of the data used to derive the rankings are objective, subjective aspects such as perceived reputation are often used.  And statistics can be manipulated or misinterpreted.  Part of the problem is that the schools themselves provide much of the information going into the rankings. While many try to be absolutely accurate, some occasionally enhance their scores through creative data reporting. Should you ignore the rankings altogether?  Not necessarily.  But take them for what they are: a very small piece of the puzzle.

Christine GrebDean of Enrollment ManagementPhiladelphia University

What is your #1?…

Selecting a school based solely on rankings leaves out an important element — FIT.  Rankings and rating scales use a common set of criteria and specific methodology to determine “the best.”  But what if the criteria used isn’t important to you?  Make a list of the things that matter and utilize a variety of sources – family, college guide books/websites, current students and faculty to determine if schools meet your needs.  And most important – VISIT!  Touring campus, sitting in on classes, meeting faculty and students, and even trying the food all can help you determine if it gets your #1 ranking.

Christopher KaiserAssociate DeanSeton Hall University

Rankings and the College Admission Process: How important are they?…

Throughout my 16 years of working in Higher Education, 10 of which was in an Admission office, this question has always haunted the many families with whom I worked.  When searching for a college that would provide the “right fit” for a student, there are many questions that are more salient than “what rank is the college”.  Although college rankings might be able to provide answers to some of these question, each and every student is different and should approach the College Admission process in kind. Within the US it is reported that there are over 3000 institutions of high education. And believe it or not, there is a school that is “right” for you. As a student, the best advice is to look within and ask yourself the right questions and decide for you and those family members around you which School is right for you. Students cringe at this next statement and parents rejoice when I mention it at recruitment events – “Believe it or not, your parents know you a lot better than you think, they only raised you since birth, and it may be advantageous to get their opinion.” You must visit all the Schools you are applying and determine the right fit. Enjoy the process.

Eric DelehoyFounder, College CounselorDelehoy College Counseling

Students should concentrate on individual fit, not the criteria of others…

I tell my students not to trust college rankings. Rankings speak little to the individual needs of each student and they place false value on an institution based on criteria determined by others. Instead, I encourage students to look at colleges that fit—basically finding a list of colleges that meet their academic and social needs equally. There is some useful data used to determine rankings, such as retention and graduation rates, and alumni giving rates, but one doesn’t need to buy US News & World Report to find that information.

Hector MartinezDirector of College GuidanceThe Webb Schools

Ranking colleges makes as much sense as ranking people by their looks!…

Ultimately, what makes for a great college for one individual can be totally different for another. A while back one major magazine ranked Cal Tech as the #1 school in America. While Cal Tech is a great college, it’s hardly the best college for everyone. In fact, I would argue that Cal Tech would be a nightmare place to attend if you didn’t like math or science. I’ve never been a fan of rankings, they put good colleges into groups that don’t always make sense and it is virtually impossible to stick a numerical ranking to places that are appreciated in such diverse ways. What one student prefers may or may not be what another student values. Instead of paying attention to rankings when choosing a college families should pay attention to “fit” and look for colleges that are the right match for each student.

Joan KovenFounder & DirectorAcademic Access

Proceed with caution when using college rankings to determine best fit…

There is no denying we are a society obsessed with college rankings. The U.S. News and World Report are the most recognized and popular of all the college rankings. U.S. News is constantly under scrutiny for their flawed methodology. The rankings can be useful as a quick guide for a wealth of statistics that compare SAT scores, class size, acceptance rates and many other statistics side-by-side for a quick overview to begin a college search. Proceed with extreme caution if you are using these rankings to determine best match and fit. Get on campuses and ask yourself, how do I feel, can I live here, can I eat here, and does it seem like a good match for me. That will be the most authentic ranking out there.

William Chichester

How important are college rankings when choosing a college?

Depends on what you want to get out of college –Graduate School or Full-Time Employment. I’m recruit college students for a living for my firm. My firm only goes to the top 30 schools in the country for it’s full-time/internship programs. My company is not alone. Therefore, if getting employment matters to you, make sure you’re going to a top tiered program. Ask the college’s career center who are the employers that are recruiting at that school. You can find this usually on the career center’s website.

Helen H. ChoiOwnerAdmissions Mavens

Not as important as YOU

How important are college rankings? It depends on who you are. If you are a magazine like US News and make huge profits off of those rankings, rankings are very important. If you are a college, rankings are important to you if your ranking is high or is improving. If you are a college and your ranking is on the low-ish side — well then — they probably aren’t very important to you. If you are a high school student, rankings should not be of great concern to you. Sure — you probably have a few peers who are crowing about how they are going to apply to Stanford because its ranking is higher than that of USC, but really — are you that shallow? You — being the highly intelligent, strong, motivated, and deep thinking individual that you are — are probably looking at what YOU want out of colleges FIRST and THEN look at colleges that have those characteristics, right? Right! Besides, rankings are so variable. One ranking’s number 5 might be another’s number 35. There are so many rankings out there now (US News, World University Rankings/Thompson Reuters, Forbes, Washington Monthly, Parade), you will probably be able to find a ranking to justify your college choice!

lola bunny

How important are college rankings when choosing a college?

not

Bill PrudenHead of Upper School, College CounselorRavenscroft School

Rankings–A Marketing Tool, Not An Educational One

Rankings are a great way to sell books and magazines, but as an educator for almost 30 years, I believe deeply that the most important aspects of an education, college or otherwise, cannot be quantified, and efforts to do so only trivialize their real value. One can generally determine if a school is good or bad—and even then programs can vary widely–but to try and declare, as our society so often demands we do, which is number one or to try and rank order schools that have distinctive institutional personalities is pure folly. Students should seek to go to the best school for them, the place that offers what they need, that is responsive to who they are and who they want to be. The numbers are about marketing, the education is about teaching and learning. Rankings may impress those on the outside, but have little impact on what goes on inside the campus gates. Yes, one can put a school name on a bumper sticker for all to see—until the time comes when it eventually peels off and fade. Meanwhile the fruits of a quality education reside in the heart and mind of the recipient–forever.

William Chichester

Rankings Are Important – Employment Prospects!

Depends on what you want to get out of college –Graduate School or Full-Time Employment. I recruit college students for a living for my firm. My firm only goes to the top 30 schools in the country for it’s full-time/internship programs. My company is not alone. Therefore, if getting employment matters to you, make sure you’re going to a top tiered program. Ask the college’s career center who are the employers that are recruiting at that school. You can find this usually on the career center’s website.

王文君 June ScortinoPresidentIVY Counselors Network

College Rankings for Chinese families

How to Take Advantage of Counseling? For Chinese parents and grandparents, sending their child to the US for boarding schools is a majordecision made in hopes of improving opportunities for their children to compete in the future forUS college admissions. The reality is that few Chinese parents are knowledgeable about US collegeadmissions or how attending a US boarding school will actually improve future admissions probabilities. Parents of Chinese international boarding school students often miss out on opportunities to takeadvantage of services that may be available at their boarding to improve the odds of gaining admissionsat a US college. Instead, they often engage in actions that do not help with college admissions andsometimes even harm their student’s chances. For example, parents of Chinese students seldom attend school functions or hold face to face meetingswith school counselors due to language and geographical barriers and as a result are unaware whethertheir school offers additional counseling services For Chinese international students. Some US boarding schools do not actually provide additional college admissions counseling to Chinesestudents. Instead, these schools hire independent contractors or part time counselors to work with theirsenior students for college admissions. Very few Chinese students actually have a college plan and many wait until they are seniors to developa plan. As senior year in high school approaches, Chinese parents often bring their children back tochina for SAT prep and TOEFL exam prep as their first step in preparing for college admissions. Notuntil scores form these exams are released will college planning start as families use these exam scoresas the starting point for college exploration. After receiving their exam scores, many Chinese familieshire Chinese agencies to place their child into colleges and universities in the US. Unfortunately,Chinese agencies seldom coordinate with the boarding schools and college counselor’s office. Instead,these agencies actually work for colleges interested in recruiting international students, often on acommission basis. This creates severe conflicts of interest that can lead to student placement at lesssuitable colleges for the student. Ivy Counselors network has counseled many Chinese students at US boarding schools over the past 8years and advises Chinese families against hiring placement agencies. Instead, IVY recommends thatfamilies start by first looking at resources that may be available at their boarding school. US guidancecounselors working for boarding schools are experienced with US college admissions and can helpstudents find colleges that are suitable based on the student’s admissions profile. Although schoolcounselors generally limit their services to college admissions, these counselors tend to be objectivesince they do not earn a commission for placing students at any particular college. College selection should not be the first step in college planning, however, warns IVY. Students need Itis a fact that the majority of those students did not know how and what to do when it comes to collegeadmissions. The relationship between the student and college counselor in US boarding schools is verymuch limited to school selections. In the end, a lot of Chinese students did not even consider that theschools recommended by their college counselor at their boarding schools. Although we don’t have statistics to show what percentage of Chinese students actually successfully competed for highlyselective colleges, we do know that many of them did not do well on the SAT and TOEFL exams whichare critical components as international students for college admissions. It is not common to seeChinese students boarding school transcripts showed challenges and with predictable grades. In otherwords, the Chinese students may be a straight A student as ninth grade students but fall to B students intenth grade and then C students in 11th grade. The recommendation letters for Chinese students as partof admissions requirement are also somehow questionable. When talking to Chinese students aboutwho is the right teachers to write their recommendation letters and how much the teacher actually tellabout the students, a few students can produce quick answers and most of them have to think andrethink and could not tell why and also have any idea what the teacher would say about them on therecommendation letter. As to the college visits, a lot of the boarding students never had opportunity tovisit a college before the college admissions season. Some of them managed to tour the campus and wedid not see the students actually have learned additional knowledge about the school. Some boardingschools may organize group trips to visit colleges. That certainly helps students make it a lot moreconvenient for the parents. However, after the visit the student should be able to talk and share theirexperiences and perspectives about each school that they visited. The college selection process may notbe the same for all Chinese students especially they’re never exposed to the outside world as much asUS students. That put a tremendous limitation to the Chinese students when it comes to majorselections and career choice. If the students have a lack of imagination and very little knowledge aboutdifferent professions in the US, it is very hard for them to do something completely new and intangible.The evidence shows very little difference when it comes to the major selections between the Chineseboarding students and the Chinese international students from china. That demonstrated they have ashared the same common issue that is the career counseling very much unavailable to the Chinesestudents. No matter where they come from. College admission counseling is a personalized service that boarding schools should deliver to allstudents whether they’re international, domestic, or Chinese students. It is challenging for a lot ofcollege counselors at US boarding schools to work with international students because of the culturaldifferences and communication barriers. Most counselors also may not able to work with Chineseparents and communicate with them effectively. Sometimes the frustration is resided on both sides. Butif the trend continues, some of the boarding schools may have to face ultimate challenge of the Chineseparents that is what you can do better for my child.

Deb Kalikow PluckFounder & DirectorNew Path to College

Colleges can be accessed, but not ranked

The college ranking industry is clouded with controversy, fueled by mysterious formulas, and whose purposes and motivations are questioned. The rankings are loved, despised, believed, shunned, quoted and ignored. It is a murky territory because the lines between the educational and commercial values to our society are unclear. Who can best access colleges during the college search process? You, the college-seeker! Your perceptions formulated through self-reflection, based on your educational needs and goals, will always serve you best as your compass as you navigate the college process.

Scott WhiteDirector of GuidanceMontclair High School

How important are college rankings when choosing a college?

Useless. Its about the best college for you, not the best college. My children are at Rutgers and Swarthmore. Both love their colleges and both would have gotten into almost any college they applied to. But they would have been miserable at their sibling’s college.

Elizabeth ZuckerCollege Admissions ConsultantNACAC

Rankings are only a rough guide….

It’s the match not the name.  Rankings are mostly about the name.  As Malcolm Gladwell has recently written, ranking results are pretty arbitrary and differ according to the weight given to any one category.  Cost may matter to some; alumni loyalty to others.  Rankings provide a rough guide for the level at which to pitch a search.  But the true definition of a good school is one that meets the needs, interests, and personality of the student, one that helps a kid identify what he or she wants to be or do and supports the effort of getting there.

George MillsVice President for EnrollmentUniversity of Puget Sound

College rankings miss what is most important …

Your college should fit you perfectly. The people should inspire you, the location should match your interests, and the college should offer programs and activities that are important to you. Rankings favor measurable factors, such as the size of an endowment and alumni giving,  while excluding many things that ultimately will determine your college success and happiness—the availability of a major, the campus culture, the surrounding area, and the character of the people who study and work there.  If you allow rankings to distort your choice, you could risk missing qualities that are important to your happiness and success.

Jeannie BorinFounder & PresidentCollege Connections

College rankings are one of many factors to consider …

College students should use rankings as one factor while researching colleges if those rankings include essential variables such as; quality of faculty, retention rate, academic programs and career placement. Too often, rankings are viewed without  consideration of  other vital factors for a successful college experience. “Reputation” of a college can be a misleading marketing tactic. Rankings frequently do not include immeasurable aspects such as; cost, financial aid, course offerings, campus life and geographic location. Rankings can be considered but should not be the sole basis on deciding where to attend. If possible, a campus visit is best.

Jill MadenbergIndependent Educational ConsultantPrivate Practice

Rank is only one of many factors to consider when choosing a college…

It can be tempting to look at a list like U.S. News and World Report and decide whether or not to consider a school based merely on its rank.  However, a school’s rank may not be the best indicator of how easy it is to be accepted there.  And no single number can reflect the fit between a student and the college or university.  When choosing a college, consider many variables (including its ranking).  The college process should be an opportunity for self exploration and growth.

Marjorie GoodeFounderStart Early: College & Career Planning Service

Rankings can be a consideration in a search, not a dominating factor…

Many students miss “hidden gems” because too much emphasis is placed on rankings, rather than other criteria that can determine the academic quality of an institution. A college education is a major investment and students hope that the outcome will prepare them for a productive and profitable career. Some studies point out that rankings can be flawed due to its subjective evaluation, the decision of some institutions not to participate, and the impression that some colleges are annually “recycled,” due to their popularity, rather than merit. I prefer to use a college’s accreditation as a reputable distinction of academic excellence. They be can be accredited in many ways, but most notably with regional and professional recognition.

Nitin SawhneyDirector of Tutoring ServicesMarks Education

Not very helpful, unless you can break down the data behind the rankings…

College rankings from publications such as U.S. News and World Report are popular among students and parents because they appear to tell you, in a simple snapshot, if one college is better than another.  But “better” means different things to each of us.  While smaller class sizes may be the most important factor to one student, another may want to attend an institution with a higher percent of faculty with PhDs.  If, as is likely, your priorities are different from those of the ranking publication, the ranking itself may be unhelpful and potentially misleading. To understand if rankings are helpful, it is important to see how they are calculated. Each system of rankings, including those of the U.S. News, assigns colleges scores on a variety of factors, from selectivity to alumni giving to the size of the endowment. It then assigns a relative weighting (level of importance) to each of these factors. The sum of the relative weightings times each score gives each college its rank. As you can probably see, these weightings may mean little to you. Do you care more about the quality of the faculty or more about the total endowment of the university? Is it more important to you to have a small student to teacher ratio, or to attend a college which is very selective? Because each of us is different, the overall ranking of a school has little to do with how you or I might rank it. Thus, a ranking looked at without perspective is meaningless. You may be better off if you can delve into the data behind the rankings to find how colleges rank on the metrics that really matter to you.

Carol StackPrincipalHardwick Day Inc.

Rankings — the least valuable tool you can use…

I know they are seductive – appearing to make choosing a college as easy as using Consumer Reports to find the “best” dishwasher.  In the case of a dishwasher, it’s easy to isolate features – noise, reliability, price –  to test and rate performance.  College is complicated – a 24/7 experience – in which you will grow intellectually, emotionally, socially and maybe even spiritually.  No ratings list covers all these variables.  My preference: create your own list of important factors, use College Navigator to collect facts, and assess colleges’ performance against what’s important to you.  More work?  Yes.  More effective?  A double yes.

Frank LeanaAuthorPathfinder: An Action Plan – Making the Most of High School

Trust your own instincts and observations beyond any ranking…

A ranking is just one assessment of a college based upon set criteria.  Most rankings do not consult students on campuses, who are best qualified to comment on quality of life and teaching.  Instead, they are largely based on statistics, such as median SAT or ACT scores, providing only a limited impression of a college. However, rankings seem to be taken quite seriously by many parents and in the professional world because they provide easy handles to grab onto. For me, it’s all about the match not the rankings. 

Gael CasnerFounderCollegeFindEdu.com

Look beyond college rankings to find a good match…

Every year various companies post their annual college rankings.  Families clamor to these sources, imagining that the order of each college gives insight into its educational value.  The lower the number, the better the college, right? What rankings do not address is this: what do you need to be happy and successful at college? What environment will inspire you to take advantage of opportunities in and out of the classroom? Smart students will consider factors like teacher/student engagement, active learning experiences, and student culture. It’s important to find an academic and social setting that fits your unique style.

James MontoyaVice President of Higher EducationThe College Board

National rankings may not capture what’s really important to you…

The college search process should begin with what’s important to you. Develop your own set of criteria and use that as a basis to evaluate the relevance of the many college rankings that are out there today. College rankings are not inherently a bad thing, but they are limited in scope and are all too often driven by prestige, selectivity and resources rather than high quality teaching and learning. Again, know what’s important to you.

Lynda McGeeCollege CounselorDowntown Magnets High School

College rankings are meant to be a guide, not a bible…

As more and more college put ads in magazines and on the internet, it can be confusing.Their viewbooks make them all sound so wonderful. Rankings can help you sort out which programs are considered the most selective and prestigious. However, are they always the right choice? And how do they choose who makes the top of the list? Many factors go into college rankings, including alumni donations and how other institutions preceive them. Take that into account when you start to think that school #1 must be much better than school #20. What the rankings can do is introduce you to great schools you may be unfamiliar with. So check out those rankings, but remember that you will find an excellent education up and down the list.

Peter BrassDirector of Student Services & University AdvisorSt. John’s Ravenscourt School

Rankings offer little to ensure the best college “fit”…

Ranking can be somewhat helpful in narrowing down a lengthy list of prospective colleges for active consideration by a student. Otherwise, they serve little useful purpose. Rankings are only as good as the criteria and data used to produce them and seldom are the criteria used actually very meaningful to the individual applicant. This is because the broadly based criteria necessary to the ranking process (acceptance rates, retention statistics, long term graduation rates, etc.) can’t speak to the best “fit” between the individual applicant and that “right” college. Choosing the right “fit’ is a very individualized process; it is a quest by the student for self-awareness and the utilization of that awareness in aligning individual talents, interests and personality with the best colleges for that person.

Alison AlmasianDirector of AdmissionsSt. Lawrence University

College rankings can be helpful if used appropriately…

College rankings use data provided by colleges and can provide prospective students and their families with useful information.  Students must understand how formulas determine rankings and whether the guide books’ ratings use criteria important to the student.  For example, does the formula focus on data about incoming students or does it emphasize the outcomes of graduates? Choosing a college is about finding a good fit between the student and the institution. Rankings can be one tool that students use early in the search process, but personal visits and interactions are the best way to find the “match.”

Bill RobertsDirector of Instructional Systems DesignInnovative Academic Solutions

College Rankings Can Be Useful In Many Ways…

University rankings are a myriad of data that some consider as useful as Morse code in our ever changing world. Just as you evaluate which smart phone you’d like to make an investment in for your daily use – you need to evaluate a college you plan to attend. The rankings of a college will assist you in choosing a school that meets your needs in teacher preparation or in your engineering degree. Use them as an evaluation tool as you do the Net with your choice of Phones. What will you get for your hard earned money you’re about to pay to your future alma mater.

Jane ShropshireFounderShropshire Educational Consulting LLC

Rankings cannot indicate the right fit for an individual…

College rankings create some order out of the chaos of a confusing landscape of options.  Yet they cannot indicate the right fit for an individual.  Few read the fine print describing a ranking’s methodology; many assume mistakenly that if a publication says a college is #1 nationally, it must be #1 for all students.  Be a wise consumer. Take time to understand the weight given each category considered for a ranking; consider the importance of each for your student. Focus on what’s right for your student and interpret rankings knowledgeably. They’re one ingredient among many in a well-directed college search.

Jim McCorkellCEOAdmission Possible

Rankings only get you so far. It’s about fit!…

At Admission Possible where we are college coaches to students from low-income backgrounds, we don’t spend much time pouring over traditional rankings.  Rankings can help you identify unfamiliar schools to research. However, they cannot capture the most important factor – YOU – and your personal fit with a college. You have to look beyond the rankings list to find the campus that will support your academic and social connection needs.  And don’t get sticker shock, especially when looking at ‘ranked’ colleges.  Just because a school appears expensive, doesn’t mean it is.  Scholarships and aid are more plentiful than you might think!   

Lee BiererPresidentCollege Admissions Strategies

Ranking on the rankings…

I am not a big believer in the college rankings. I think there are so many other more important factors that help determine the best college fit for a student. I tell students that performance is king. If they are worried about the prestige of their undergraduate college because they are considering graduate school admissions, they are better off being at the top of their class at a somewhat less selective school than running with the middle or the bottom of the pack at a more prestigious school.

Mary HillCo-Director of College CounselingSt. Paul Academy & Summit School

Deconstruct the rankings data, empower students to set priorities…

Rankings give students a shortcut instead of empowering them to think for themselves and choose colleges based on their own priorities. It’s natural to want a quick answer about “best colleges,” especially to make sense of the excess of public opinions and information on colleges. But rarely do students and parents understand the weight given to each data point in a ranking like the US News list. It would be a great service to deconstruct the rankings so students and parents could prioritize the data to create a custom ‘ranking’ that matches their search criteria.

Mitchell LiptonDean of Admissions & Records RegistrarCooper Union

Never use rankings as a stand alone guide…

Use them with caution. The ranking of a college must be viewed in greater context with information gathered from a variety of sources, i.e. school counselor, parent, college students, alumni, and faculty, etc. Web sites and guide books should also be utilized as part of a college search strategy. Students must ask themselves, “Does this college meet my academic and social needs?” If the answer is no, that should raise a big red flag. Don’t place too much weight on a college’s ranking. What if the list only ranks the top 25 in a given area? Would number 26 be that different? Spending four years at college is a big investment of time and energy. Make sure to keep an open mind. You deserve it.

Rafael FigueroaDirector, College GuidanceAlbuquerque Academy

Use with caution!…

Rankings are a good source of information. I would never buy an appliance without checking consumer ratings. Appliances get put through rigorous testing before they are rated by consumer magazines, but that isn’t true of colleges. Most college rankings get information directly from the colleges. In US News and World Report the data is plugged into a formula that is completely made up. It has nothing to do with what YOU will find important in a college. So use the DATA that is published for your own comparison of things like graduation and retention rates. But IGNORE the numerical rankings.

Whitney BruceIndependent College CounselorAccpeted.com

Rankings provide context for considering unfamiliar colleges…

When discussing college options with families, I sometimes use rankings as a conversation starter for colleges which might be unfamiliar to the student or parent.   If a college ranked #33 on one list is well known to a particular student,  then my suggestion of the college ranked #29 or #36 has a little bit more context and legitimacy.  I don’t encourage families to place weight in specific numeric rankings, but to use rankings as an opportunity for research and discovery of other college options. 

Jon BoeckenstedtAssociate Vice President for Enrollment Policy & PlanningDePaul University

They can help start, but don’t rely on numbers to make your decision…

College rankings are often a good place to start a search, but usually horrible for making final choices. The biggest problem is that most tend to consider just “hard” information like admission rates, average SAT scores, and graduation rates, but don’t consider equally important factors like students’ political views, tendency to join fraternities or sororities, or the academic focus of the university (for instance, business, liberal arts, or engineering). These can all affect the student experience. For that reason, I like Princeton Review’s 373 Best Colleges: It starts with a good group of schools, but adds important descriptions about campus climates. Of course, you should read this book with the same amount of skepticism you’d use with any ranking system: Don’t take anything at face value, and always research broadly

Katelyn KlapperFounderCollege Options

Quantifiable rankings can be useful, but they aren’t everything…

Like any resource, rankings provide one way to assess good fit, but pay attention to what measurements are being used. Are they quantifiable factors or are they opinions? Factors like student retention and graduations rates, number of faculty with terminal degrees in their field, and dollars raised per student are all verifiable. Student, faculty, and “peer administrator” opinions are often uninformed or one-sided.  Statistics from career services only represent those who fill out graduation surveys and rarely represent the entire graduating class–so user beware. Rankings can be an interesting place to start a search, but they shouldn’t end it.

Marilyn MorrisonFounderMorrison Educational Consulting

Smart ways to make college rankings work for you!…

Whether it’s the Sierra Club’s “Cool Schools” survey of the greenest college campuses, Reform Judaism Magazine’s chart of the top 60 schools Jewish students choose, or Trojan’s annual report card of sexual health at America’s colleges, rankings can be a useful piece in your research.  Rankings can point you to colleges that might be good matches for you, but be sure to focus on the factors that are the most important to you, and always compare multiple sources of information.  Pay attention to the methodology used in compiling the rankings, and who has sponsored or contributed to the lists.

Megan DorseySAT Prep & College AdvisorCollege Prep LLC

Rankings can do more harm than good…

Most families use rankings to determine how “good” schools are.  So colleges and universities are under pressure to elevate their numbers, focusing on statistics, not students.  Selecting a college is—or should be—a personalized process accounting for a student’s unique interests, talents, and personality. College rankings do contain useful data such as graduation rates and average scores, but a complex set of statistics cannot capture the human elements that draw a student to his or her “best-fit” college.  To use rankings effectively as part of the college selection process, families should educate themselves about the factors evaluated and the ranking formulas used.

Patricia YoungIndependent CounselorCollege Advising Services

Trust, but verify!…

College rankings are everywhere in the press, websites, and in book form.  It’s hard to avoid them, but you need to do some digging on your own. Ranking systems use a different set of variable criteria to set themselves apart from other published rankings.  What criteria was used?  Research how the rankings were arrived at for the annual hit-parade of schools.  You may be surprised to learn that the information may or may not be totally accurate or have relevancy for you. Read the rankings, but that is just the beginning of the research that you must do to find the best match for you.  

Bob TillmanDirector of College Placement Creighton Preparatory School

College Rankings offer limited information…

If someone is consulting college rankings it is important to know what the rankings are based on. For instance US News and World Report rankings provide a person with a list of schools that have a strong academic reputation, have good graduation and retention rates, are selective in admission of students, and have good salaries for their faculty and smaller lasses. Those rankings do not tell you about student satisfaction with teaching, the campus living environment, percentage of students admitted to graduate school, or friendliness of students. Some important factors to consider that often are overlooked by students and might not be included in the rankings are the core course requirements at different schools, quality of the teachers encountered in the first two years of college, ability in enroll as a freshman in my desired major, guarantee of on-campus housing beyond freshman or sophomore year, the presence of an Honor Code on the campus, and the extent of study-abroad options. The rankings can provide a prospective student with some limited information, but there is so much other information a student needs to learn to determine if a school is a good fit for them.

Robin GroelleFounderCollegeCounselling.com

Rankings are only helpful if they are tailored to you…

There are many resources to help students find the right colleges for them.  Starting out by visiting a few campuses in different settings will help to clarify what feels right.  Giving thought to your learning style, social character, intellectual interests and talents are other criteria that will pave the way toward finding the right college fit.  Finding college rankings for these criteria can be very helpful.  Two of my favorites are The College Finder by Steven Antonoff and The Rugg’s Recommendations by Frederick Rugg.  The US News rankings are of little help, however the articles and commentary are!

Scott HamiltonFounderFuture Stars College Counseling Center

Students need to understand the factors influencing a college’s rank…

One of the major components in US News and World Report’s annual ranking is peer ratings, in which college administrators are asked to rate other colleges. Do high schools poll students for their opinions when determining class rank? Of course not, because this would be based on personal perspective and incomplete information. Understandably, an institution’s effectiveness cannot be expressed through empirical data alone. But this only serves to underscore the necessity for prospective students to ask questions of a college that will lead them to discovering the best match based on individual needs and desired outcomes.

Stacey KostellDirector of Undergraduate AdmissionsUniversity of Illinois

Rankings don’t provide holistic reviews of universities…

Rankings can be helpful tools for evaluating colleges at a very quick glance, but can be a misleading measure if you look no further. Rankings also offer a general idea of a university’s reputation. However, talking with professionals can provide more meaningful insight into how highly regarded a degree from a certain university is after graduation. What rankings don’t measure is student life activity, such as amount and involvement in organizations and events. Nor can they share how well the school fits a particular student. The best way to determine if you picture yourself on a campus is to visit.

Steve ThomasDirector of AdmissionsColby College

You can use college rankings, but don’t get lazy!…

College rankings are not vital in choosing the college you decide to attend.  They usually comprise an interesting list of very good schools, but choosing between them should be an exercise each student undertakes regardless of rank.  Be aware of each list’s methodology for compiling the list and keep in mind that college rankings should not be used to shorten the exercise of finding the right fit for each student.  There is no one school that is #1 for everyone.  Dig deeper.  Always.

Steven GraffSr. Higher Education ProfessionalThe College Board

Rankings are generally unimportant to your choice of colleges…

The simplistic and subjective nature of college rankings make them only peripherally helpful and generally unimportant to choosing a college. Because of the wide variety of colleges and universities, as well as the differences between students, any ordering of institutions cannot address the many important elements critical to a good fit for you – e.g. your academic interests, the campus culture, student body compatibility, etc. If you must consult rankings, pay attention to things like attention to teaching and the qualities of the institution’s graduates, rather than those that focus on the students they admit.

Susie WattsCollege ConsultantCollege Direction

Look for the Fit, Not at the Rank…

I suggest students put rankings at the bottom of their list and concentrate on schools that are a good fit for them. Rankings just add to the hype surrounding college admissions and the information you get is not always relevant to choosing a college. I don’t look at rankings except to check the four-year graduation rates at different schools. Far more important than rankings, students should do some self-reflection and write down a list of qualities they consider important in a college experience. The schools they choose should have as many of these qualities as possible.

Tam Warner MintonConsultantCollege Adventures

College Rankings

How important are they? Not very. Some of the best colleges in America are not even ranked because they do not require SAT or ACT. Some colleges and universities “embellish” their numbers a bit, or they count administrative employees in their teacher/student ratio, or they do not report scores from students who clear the waitlist, athletic recruits, and legacy students. Why? Because those scores are usually weaker. I guarantee you there are colleges you have never heard of that are absolutely awesome. Take a look at rankings, but don’t take them as gospel. My opinion on rankings: http://collegeadventures.net/blog/2010/08/23/terrible-rankings/

Benjamin CaldarelliPartnerPrinceton College Consulting, LLC

How important are college rankings when choosing a college?

Rankings themselves are much less important than what the rankings are based on. Looking beyond or inside the rankings can be very useful when choosing a college.

Helen Cella

How important are college rankings when choosing a college?

It’s important when applying to graduate school

Annie ReznikCounselor/CEOCollege Guidance Coach

Focus on Your Rankings, Not Someone Else’s

The other day I asked a student, “What is the best college in the country?” Predictably, she responded, “Harvard.” We opened the Princeton Review’s “The Best 376 Colleges,” and learned that for the “Professors Interesting” rating, Harvard earned a lowly 71. The student and I both knew that “interesting, engaging professors” was high on her list of desired characteristics in a future academic home. For her, Harvard University is not the most highly ranked college, despite earning a top ranking from various publications. Identify your 5 most important characteristics and rank colleges for yourself. Don’t rely on rankings that may not include factors of importance to you.

Tam Warner MintonConsultantCollege Adventures

College Rankings

How important are they? Not very. Some of the best colleges in America are not even ranked because they do not require SAT or ACT. Some colleges and universities “embellish” their numbers a bit, or they count administrative employees in their teacher/student ratio, or they do not report scores from students who clear the waitlist, athletic recruits, and legacy students. Why? Because those scores are usually weaker. I guarantee you there are colleges you have never heard of that are absolutely awesome. Take a look at rankings, but don’t take them as gospel.

Nicholas Umphrey

How important are college rankings when choosing a college?

I find them interesting and informative, but there is a degree of subjectivity to any ranking. Why? Because the rankings change each year when colleges have limited change. I believe that any college choice should be because you as an individual like it. If you are going because of its rank, then I don’t think it is the right reason.

Laura O’Brien GatzionisFounderEducational Advisory Services

Hmm…

Think of college rankings as yet another tool in your college application toolbox. They are useful but not all-encompassing. Most college counselors would like to ignore them all together but we understand that they are ubiquitous. Look at the rankings and then set them aside and start to research colleges for yourself.

Suzan ReznickIndependent Educational ConsultantThe College Connection

College rankings should not be a factor in choosing colleges.

Colleges sadly are not ranked on how successful the education is at a school. They are often ranked on relatively unimportant factors such as: alumni giving, faculty salary, SAT scores of incoming freshman,and what presidents of competing schools think. None of these factors would in any way impact your college experience! The best comparison that I can offer is one that I read many years ago in a newspaper article. The author stated that using college rankings to judge schools is the same as a restaurant reviewer making his judgments based on the silverware on the tables!

Suzan ReznickIndependent Educational ConsultantThe College Connection

College rankings should not be a factor in choosing colleges.

Colleges sadly are not ranked on how successful the education is at a school. They are often ranked on relatively unimportant factors such as: alumni giving, faculty salary, SAT scores of incoming freshman,and what presidents of competing schools think. None of these factors would in any way impact your college experience! The best comparison that I can offer is one that I read many years ago in a newspaper article. The author stated that using college rankings to judge schools is the same as a restaurant reviewer making his judgments based on the silverware on the tables!

Nancy MilneOwnerMilne Collegiate Consulting

College Rankings

Thanks to the infamous Newsweek, Forbes, etc. magazine rankings, print media isn’t obsolete yet! The methodology of these reports remains suspect and thus should be taken with a grain of salt. A much better gauge of a college can be determined by comparing the Common Data Set, available on every school’s website. What is the freshman retention rate, what percentage of students graduate in 4 years, how engaged are the students (see National Survey on Student Engagement), what is the average loan debt of graduates. These are more useful points of discussion than what one college president thinks of another college or yield rate comparisons. Try not to be swayed by all the marketing bling and focus on what really matters: the quality of the education for the price.

Steven CrispOwner Crisp College Advising

How important are college rankings when choosing a college?

As a student looking for a college that is the best fit for you the rankings should not play a major roll. The rankings give the colleges something to shoot for because unfortunately students do pay attention to them. But, keep in mind that just because a college is ranked in the top ten does not mean that it is the right college for you. There are plenty of gems that are not ranked that could be perfect for you. However, if you can’t seem to let the rankings go then use them as a way to start your list of colleges that you are interested in. Just be sure to look outside of the rankings for that perfect fit for you.

Ellen [email protected]OwnerEllen Richards Admissions Consulting

Similar schools have vastly different rates of success with similar students.

Investigate your college of choice before you decide. Before you send off your May 1 post marked letter to the college of your choice, know this: schools have vastly different rates of success with students. For example, among the Ivies, Harvard actually graduates the most students. What does it mean for students? The highest overall retention rates rank over 95% while some dip as low as under 10%. Many factors contribute to an individual’s decision to remain in college, including: economic, personal, academic, social and environmental. In fact, retention rates of groups that fall within the range of the overall retention rates shows the success rates of specifics group of students – for example Native Americans. Therefore, not only should one examine the overall retention rates, but the groups within the schema. The manner in which a student interacts with an institution and the degree to which she feels accepted causes her to develop a set of attitudes about herself & herself in relation to the college. The more validation a student feels, the more likely she will remain in college. Therefore, the more a college validates, supports and believes in student success, the more likely students will stay. It’s time to look beyond view books and the facade and examine the inner working of an institution.

Tyler BurtonPresident Burton College Tours

Rankings are not a valuable research tool.

There is a trend among college presidents not to participate in the college rankings surveys. Reed College has never participated. Reed is a top academic institution and produces many graduate school scholars. The rankings use criteria that often do not pertain to the quality of an academic institution. The most important part of college selection is identifying the elements of a good fit. If a school is not a good fit then a student will not optimize their college experience. Fit not rankings.

Erin AveryCertified Educational PlannerAvery Educational Resources, LLC

Rank and File

Rankings are comprised of a combination of criterion and each ranking system, whether it be US News and World Report or others, relies on a different set of criterion. Look closely at how each ranking system uses the data it gathers to set one institution above another. 

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