Should Rankings Matter in College Selection?

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“How important are college rankings when choosing a college?” – Jamie R., Madison, WI
Expert Answers
Andrew Dworak
Senior Counselor
St. Ignatius High School
Best Fit vs. Best Rank
The question of wanting what is best goes without saying.  College choice is hard to distill into a chart of numerical listings.  I have used a number of resources.  Each offers a kernel of truth and reality.  Each is incomplete.  Every one of the 4000 or so colleges has a series of characteristics that make up the college experience.  I honestly believe a college is as good as its teachers and the courses chosen.  Each student needs to sample broadly and choose his or her best “fit”.  A visit goes a long way in finding the ideal or best college.
Joan Koven

Founder & Director
Academic Access
Proceed with caution when using college rankings to determine best fit
There is no denying we are a society obsessed with college rankings. The U.S. News and World Report are the most recognized and popular of all the college rankings. U.S. News is constantly under scrutiny for their flawed methodology. The rankings can be useful as a quick guide for a wealth of statistics that compare SAT scores, class size, acceptance rates and many other statistics side-by-side for a quick overview to begin a college search. Proceed with extreme caution if you are using these rankings to determine best match and fit. Get on campuses and ask yourself, how do I feel, can I live here, can I eat here, and does it seem like a good match for me. That will be the most authentic ranking out there.
Lee Bierer

College Admissions Strategies
Ranking on the rankings
I am not a big believer in the college rankings. I think there are so many other more important factors that help determine the best college fit for a student. I tell students that performance is king. If they are worried about the prestige of their undergraduate college because they are considering graduate school admissions, they are better off being at the top of their class at a somewhat less selective school than running with the middle or the bottom of the pack at a more prestigious school.
Marcia Hunt

Director of College Counseling
Pine Crest School
A Terrible Reason to Choose a School
Almost the worst reason for picking a college is its ranking – it’s right up there with choosing a college because your boyfriend goes there.  If you need a list to get you started on your college search, use something more qualitative than what is essentially an annual laundry list.  A great resource is The College Finder by Steven Antonoff, PhD, which has more than 600 lists – from colleges with the lowest tuition, to those with the most politically aware students, to those with the best chemistry programs.  This is a great way to develop your college list.
Scott Hamilton

Title: Founder
Future Stars College Counseling Center
Students need to understand the factors influencing a college’s rank
One of the major components in US News and World Report’s annual ranking is peer ratings, in which college administrators are asked to rate other colleges. Do high schools poll students for their opinions when determining class rank? Of course not, because this would be based on personal perspective and incomplete information. Understandably, an institution’s effectiveness cannot be expressed through empirical data alone. But this only serves to underscore the necessity for prospective students to ask questions of a college that will lead them to discovering the best match based on individual needs and desired outcomes.
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