How important is ranking and reputation in evaluating a college?

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Our counselors answered:

How important is ranking and reputation in evaluating a college?

Bill Pruden
Head of Upper School, College Counselor Ravenscroft School

How important is ranking and reputation in evaluating a college?

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.

Scott Herrmann-Keeling
College Counselor

How important is ranking and reputation in evaluating a college?

Ranking and reputation while not entirely unimportant are far less important than the opportunities that exist for YOU at a particular institution. When you go to find your first job, employers will care to some extent where you went to school. But they will care far more about what you did there. If you go to an Ivy League school, get a mediocre GPA and are unable to take advantage of opportunities because you either choose not to go for them or are constantly beaten out for jobs, spots in organizations, etc. by people who have more drive or talent than you, you will emerge with a thin resume and no real story to tell. If, on the other hand, you go to a school which doesn't have as high a "ranking" but where you are among the most talented and driven students on campus, you will have access to a wide range of opportunities that will allow you to take control of your college experience and write whatever story you wish to.

Nancy Milne
Owner Milne Collegiate Consulting

How important is ranking and reputation in evaluating a college?

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.

Angela Conley
College Admission Expert VentureForth

How important is ranking and reputation in evaluating a 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? Yes, reputation matters, but attending because you were admitted without the preparation or possibility of graduating well to secure access to the masters or post-graduate work relevant in this economy, could well be cutting off your nose to spite your face. I encourage students to find an environment that challenges intellectually and supports psychosocially. Attend the best school you can, but getting through is as important as gaining admission.

Rana Slosberg
Owner Slosberg College Solutions LLC

How important is ranking and reputation in evaluating a college?

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/extr-curricular activities, and cost/financial aid).

Tira Harpaz
Founder CollegeBound Advice

How important is ranking and reputation in evaluating a college?

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.

Reecy Aresty
College Admissions/Financial Aid Expert & Author Payless For College, Inc.

How important is ranking and reputation in evaluating a college?

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!

Zahir Robb
College Counselor The Right Fit College

How important is ranking and reputation in evaluating a college?

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.

Lora Lewis
Educational Consultant Lora Lewis Consulting

How important is ranking and reputation in evaluating a college?

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.

Ellen erichards@ellened.com
Owner Ellen Richards Admissions Consulting

How important is ranking and reputation in evaluating a college?

Importance of college rankings when choosing a college 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.