Your college search should be about finding the college that’s right for you. Don’t be influenced by the rankings game, which an increasing number of even the most “prestigious” colleges are declining to play. Conduct a thoughtful and diligent search to discover the schools that are the best matches for your interests, needs and goals. You’ll find that there are many incredible colleges out there that you’ve never even heard of, and one of them could be just the school you’re looking for.
I think it’s more important to focus on the reputation of the major department at a particular college than the entire school. Many universities are huge institutions and their ranking and reputation is based on many things that may not be important to you at all. Focus on figuring out what you want to study and then ask people that you admire in that field about best departments to earn a degree from. Much of your success will come from the connections that you make in college.
Rank and reputation mean nothing if the school in question does not have what you need. Most folks are compelled by profile, but I strongly encourage students to consider fit and match. Does the highly ranked school “fit” your goals for our college career with regard to your potential majors? How does the schools’ location match the access you require for internships and opportunities to gain experience and profile for yourself? Are the academic offerings sufficiently compelling enough to stimulate intellectual growth, but not so oversubscribed that you don’t have access?
How a school is ranked (e.g., by US News and World Report), does not answer the question whether this school is a good match for you. To evaluate a college, compare it to the criteria you have established as being important (e.g, for academics, social life/extra-curricular activities, and cost/financial aid).
It should not be important at all. “A good school is a school that meets your needs.” Assessing yourself and realizing what exactly you want from a college is the most important thing when evaluating a college. Everyone’s needs are different so what is good for one person may not be good for someone else. Looking for the school that meets your needs is important. A good “match” or “fit” is the goal.
Rankings can vary greatly from publication to publication and ranking criteria. If you are going to consider ranking don’t worry too much about what is 1 or 5, but instead look for those schools that constantly show up on more than one list. This will demonstrate a school’s all around success and its ability to perform across many different ranking categories. Reputation is important when it comes to grad school and employment, but not as much as you might think. Look for how professors are connected in the field and this will help you make the right decision.
It depends on who you are and what you’re looking for. Absolute rankings (i.e., saying a school is #2 or #5), don’t really make a lot of sense because there are too many variables and people are looking for different things in a school. However, a student can definitely have a preference for a school that is highly regarded, either because they think it will give them greater professional opportunities, better academic options, smarter peers or better-known professors. I would recommend taking a look at the various rankings, but I would never recommend making ranking or reputation the sole or even the most important determining factor in your college search.
Importance of college rankings when choosing a college
Ranking and reputation while not entirely unimportant are far less important than the opportunities that exist for YOU at a particular institution.
Rankings help sell magazines. They can serve as a point of comparison, but nothing is as valuable as seeing for yourself. While a college may have a certain reputation, it may do you no good if it doesn’t offer what you are interested in. There are a LOT of great institutions out there, many unheard of but still the alma mater of famous and influential people. Please make sure you don’t sacrifice prestige for fit, it’s too expensive a mistake to make.
Rankings and the reputations they help create 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. Keep the focus on what you are looking for and then ask whether the school can provide that.
They shouldn’t be the most important. Your opinion & satisfaction are what count, not what someone else thought. However, you need to be aware of certain points for & against any college you’re considering. The school’s rank is only in relation to how your needs will be satisfied. Don’t believe everything you read. You need to talk to present & past students to hear it from the horse’s mouth!
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