College rankings: everyone loves them, college counselors hate them. They don’t really tell you much, if anything. And they REALLY don’t tell you if a college is right FOR YOU.
This past year, US News & World Report, which publishes the most popular of the colleges rankings, changed up their methodology, giving more weight to data points that hadn’t been considered before, and reducing or eliminating some factors that had been considered in the past. Madness ensued! Some colleges were shocked when they tumbled out of the top 50 (and even top 10!), and some skyrocketed out of obscurity and into a more visible position.
Our friends at Moore College Data gave us this fabulous visual of the movement in the rankings; colleges with blue numbers went up in the rankings, and colleges with yellow/orange numbers went down. Many of the ones whose rankings decreased are among our favorites! Gonzaga, Fordham, Elon, Loyola Chicago! They’re all fabulous and we’ve had students attend all of them (plus – they’re all generous with merit scholarships!). Are they suddenly not worthy of our consideration anymore?
What Do College Rankings Actually Tell Us?
What does the sudden (and sometimes stark) movement in the rankings tell us? Is it possible that some colleges are suddenly 39 spots “better” than they were a year ago? Or that some colleges unexpectedly deserve less praise? Nope. It just tells us that scrambling the methodology changes the results. Any social scientist or statistician will tell you that the way you ask the question will have an impact on the answer!
US News described the changes in their methodology here. Which factors are taken into consideration, and which are not? And most importantly, what factors are important TO YOU and TO YOUR CHILD, as you work together to build a balanced college list? These are the questions that should drive every student’s college search process.
The message from my previous webinar about college rankings (longer than the above short explainer) remains true: College rankings don’t tell you if a college is right for YOU. Do your homework, do your research, and think about what kind of educational environment will make YOU happy and successful. THAT’S where you should apply!
If you’re overwhelmed at thinking about how to get started with your high school student, we’re here to help. Our College Admission Clinic is FREE; you can sign up to learn more about how you can guide your child through their college search and application process here. If you feel like your child would benefit from one-on-one guidance and someone to be accountable to (other than you), that’s what we do. Get in touch; we’re happy to help!