There are two words you need to get used to hearing as you begin your college search: “best fit.”
Be prepared for college admissions professionals to drill into your head that finding the “best fit” involves you and your family assessing your desires and finding the school that best prepares you for success. Most importantly, “best fit” does not look the same for every student. And, it most likely does not include college rankings.
College rankings are not all that they’re cracked up to be. In fact, most undergraduate rankings are based on criteria that won’t directly affect you or your experience while in college. (Trust us – even the Ivy Leagues agree) Different factors, like size of endowment and alumni donation rates are often weighed heavily. In fact, many types of health and graduate schools are still based on popularity on surveys of other college administrators rather than on hard statistics.
But, don’t take it from us! Let’s examine U.S. News and World Report.
Examining U.S. News & World Report
By reading the methodology of law school rankings, for example, you’ll see that a quarter of their ranking (25%) is based “on the results of peer assessment surveys sent to deans, other administrators and/or faculty”.
Or, when reading the methodology of pharmacy school rankings, it states that “all the health rankings are based solely” (100%) on peer assessment surveys.
The biggest issue with rankings? That factors you should consider, like average class size, ease of access to faculty or job/grad school placement rates may not be weighted heavily or considered AT ALL.
The issue with college rankings is so evident that Adam Ruins Everything dedicated part of his episode “Adam Ruins College” to ruining college rankings:
The bottom line
So, what is important? Who is believable; who isn’t?
What rankings will not tell you is which college makes you feel most at home, where you will be most socially engaged or where you will excel academically. THAT is what matters.
Just remember, while you may go to Kelly Blue Book for a car or Consumer Reports for a vacuum, college rankings are not where you should go to pick a school. College is not a vacuum, after all.
College is what you make of it, not what it makes of you. What will make you a successful person isn’t the school you choose attended, but the challenges and opportunities you choose to take.
Adam Ruins Everything. “Why College Rankings Are A Crock.” YouTube. YouTube, 16 August 2017. Web. 11 April 2018. Hines, Kenneth & Morse, Robert. “Methodology: 2019 Best Law Schools Rankings.” U.S. News & World Report. 19 March 2018. https://www.usnews.com/education/best-graduate-schools/articles/law-schools-methodology?int=9d0608
Hines, Kenneth & Morse, Robert. “Methodology: Best Health School Rankings.” U.S. News & World Report. 19 March 2018. https://www.usnews.com/education/best-graduate-schools/articles/health-schools-methodology
Yale. “Beyond the College Rankings.” A Few Thoughts From Jeffrey Brenzel, Dean of Admissions, 2005-2013. Yale. https://admissions.yale.edu/beyond-college-rankings