How important are college rankings when choosing a college?

College Search

Our counselors answered:

How important are college rankings when choosing a college?

Scott White
Director of Guidance Montclair 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.

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.

Deb Kalikow Pluck
Founder & Director New 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.

Erin Avery
Certified Educational Planner Avery 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. 

Laura O'Brien Gatzionis
Founder Educational Advisory Services


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 Reznick
Independent Educational Consultant The 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 Milne
Owner Milne 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.

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.

Helen Cella

How important are college rankings when choosing a college?

It's important when applying to graduate school

Annie Reznik
Counselor/CEO College 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.