How Important are College Rankings?

Hate em or love em, it is impossible to deny that college ranking systems have caused some strong feelings in academia. While some schools ignore ranking systems and may even refuse to participate in them, others love to flaunt their rankings, both overall and in specific programs. The question of how to pick a college in the face of countless ranks and stats can be daunting but don’t despair it isn’t as complicated as it looks.


When trying to determine how much weight to give to ranks and statistics, be aware of how they work. Most systems rank schools on several criteria: peer assessment, student retention, faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources, graduation performance, and alumni giving. Based on a combination of a school’s essay score in these categories, the university or college is ranked appropriately.


As a result, these rankings can be quite useful for a number of purposes. For example, if you want to work in a field in which the school you went to is given high importance by potential employers, such as law or business, use these rankings to pick out highly ranked colleges. A well-recognized school on your resume may give you a leg up on the competition when it comes time to get a job or apply to graduate degree programs. For other fields, such as the liberal arts, social programs, and others, national rankings may be pointless and it makes far more sense to choose the school that is right for you regardless of rank.


Also be aware that these factors have historically favored private schools, as public schools place higher emphasis and importance on diversity and in-state admission. As a result, public schools student-selectivity ratings are often lower than private schools. Many private schools also have well-developed fundraising programs, which can boost their alumni-giving rankings.


It is, therefore, important to remember that otherwise excellent public schools may seem low in national or international rankings systems.


Remember that every student is different, and rankings systems serve only as a guide and, even then, only to some people, in the quest to pick the right university or college. Also note that higher-ranked schools are often more competitive and, therefore, more difficult to achieve top-level grades at. In the end, however, you should choose the college that is right for you overall, not just the one with the highest ranking.