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.