Every day we talk with students and parents about studying abroad in the US. Near the top of their mind are the Ivy Leagues, Stanford and Johns Hopkins. Why? In most cases, it’s because they have come across the college rankings list from US News and World Report. It’s assumed that because these schools are ranked among the top 10 universities in the US, they must be the best options. But did you know that there are more than 2,500 four-year degree-granting colleges and universities in the US alone? Not everyone can get into Harvard (the admit rate for Harvard’s Class of 2023 was less than 5% this year), and even if you are one of the lucky ones to be admitted, it may not actually be the best choice for you personally.
University rankings do not take into consideration the student experience, which should be most important. University ranking also doesn’t guarantee to you any special outcome after graduation. Here’s why college rankings forums, such as US News and World Report, should not be a driving factor in your college search:
- There’s no measure of quality of education – what students learn, the opportunities for research and internships, etc.
- There’s no measure of outcomes after graduation, no measure of student loan debt, no measure of campus safety.
- There’s no input from students. Resources such as Niche use public data and get millions of reviews from students, and can be more genuine. Perhaps you want to understand the school’s weekend social scene (is it a suitcase campus?), the faculty’s dedication to teaching undergraduate students,
- They are inconsistent. This WAPO article highlights specific ways that USNWR changes the ranking methodology each year, and why this is a problem. Yes, the article is from 2013, but ranking metrics still continue to change each year.
- Rankings influence “elite-ness.” The “best” college for an upper class white male student could very well prove to be challenging for a minority female student who requires full need in order to enroll.
Students who choose a university based on the rankings could set themselves up for disappointment when they arrive on campus. Let’s say you were admitted to Dartmouth College, but your idea of a great campus and community life is in the middle of a big city. When you show up at Dartmouth for orientation, you soon realize the brightest light comes from the moon. Choosing to apply to a college based on ranking is like buying a Rolls Royce and driving it through the Nairobi National Park. It’s not an ideal experience.
Don’t assume that the difficulty of getting into the school equates to the quality of education you’ll receive.
At AHEC, we will help you apply to the highly ranked schools, but we’ll also help you understand that those are not the only options out there. Think about what is most important to you, without consideration of ranking. If you enroll at one school and its ranking drops 10 spots while you’re there, will you transfer to another school? No. You will be just as successful – if not more successful – by considering so many of the other 2,500 schools in the USA but considering the overall student experience, and what is important to you.
Tell us – why do you think rankings are important?
By Laura Nye