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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s all smoke and mirrors. You gotta dig deeper to get to what’s real.
I personally do not believe college rankings and I suggest you to guide yourself by asking the right questions that are important to you.
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.
Short Answer: It’s all smoke and mirrors. You gotta dig deeper to get to what’s real.
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.
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.
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.
Which rankings? There are so many available that if the ranking you are consulting is not very specific they may not be very useful.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Ranking should not be a factor in the selection of a school… the FIT should be!
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.
Rankings might be important, but the REAL question is “Whose Rankings?”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
How important are college rankings? It depends on who you are.
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.
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.
How to Take Advantage of Counseling?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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/
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.
It’s important when applying to graduate school
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Investigate your college of choice before you decide.
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.
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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