College Rankings Nationally: Does It Matter?

college rankings nationally

In an age where college admissions have never been more competitive, institutions are relying increasingly on ranking. The national college rankings system has stoked a competitive fervor in families everywhere. It has sparked a self-generating and self-destructive cycle. The COVID-19 crisis has only increased our reliance on rankings. Students and families participating in this spring’s admissions cycle are unable to visit campuses. This has led many to let national college rankings shape their decision-making process. It will likely be no different for the class of rising seniors. Now, more than ever, it is imperative that we revisit the value that we put on national college rankings. Should students and families entrust their futures in the metric of college ranking?

The short answer is no. This doesn’t mean that schools with a high ranking can’t be a good fit. However, it is important that other qualifications govern the decision-making of the college admissions process. 

How are colleges ranked?

Various publications and news outlets conduct national college rankings every year. The problem with these is that they assign varying levels of weight to different criteria. Some of these criteria include broad categories like outcomes, faculty resources, expert opinion, financial resources, and student excellence. Many of these categories are qualitative rather than quantitative. It ends up being somewhat arbitrary. Instead of relying on these lists, I encourage you to figure what matters to you. Then, you can evaluate a school based on your own criteria.

Create your own criteria

As you develop your own criteria to evaluate colleges, it could be useful to ask yourself these questions.

1. Have you decided on a pre-professional track?

Firstly, finding the right school for you depends on what you are hoping to get out of college. If you are fairly set on a pre-professional track, it is important to consider what resources that school has. What are the post-graduation employment statistics in that field? If that professional track requires graduate training, what are the advising and professional resources available at that university? What are the acceptance statistics for graduate students in your track of choice? 

2. What is your financial standing and what are your financial goals?

A high national college ranking does not always mean it will be the best fit in the long run. Debt can be professionally debilitating. A less expensive school of lower national ranking might allow you more economic freedom and professional success in the future. Do your research and apply to schools that offer financial aid or scholarship opportunities. Call the financial offices and get information on post-graduation income statistics. This allows you to make a more informed decision. In addition, travel costs and housing are also important financial metrics. Not only that, but you should also consider work-study opportunities. Furthermore, think about the job landscape in the city of the school of your choosing. 

Will a school support your academic curiosity?

I am always shocked when students don’t know any information about the school’s faculty. It is an important factor to consider before deciding on such a large financial investment. For example, if you are fascinated by economics, which Professors can provide you unique insight into the field? If you want to be an English major, have you reviewed the course catalog? Faculty and course research can help you better gauge whether or not a school might be an optimal environment for intellectual growth. 

All of this is to say that you shouldn’t let national college rankings guide your decision. In the end, what matters most is fit. How does this college fit you, your interests, and your goals? Take the time to consider and formulate what matters to you. Then, you can create your own metrics to help you in what is oftentimes a fraught decision-making process. You know you best and there is no wrong choice! 

What else should you consider?

Here are some more articles on the Gooroo blog to help you make this important decision.

The Benefits of a College Education

Student Loan Debt: How Do I Afford College?

Should the Cost of College Affect Your Decision to Go?

About the Author

A. T.

A. T.

A.T. is an experienced tutor at Gooroo, a tutoring membership that matches students to tutors perfect for them based on their unique learning needs. Gooroo offers math, English, ESL, Spanish tutoring, and more.