Are College Rankings Useful?

If you want to make the most informed choice as you compare colleges and universities, you may be asking yourself the question “Are college rankings useful?”. Many prospective students who are researching various schools are hesitant to trust college rankings because they feel as if the data may be biased or irrelevant. While not single ranking will work for every student, the best colleges will be forthcoming with various pieces of admissions and enrollment information so that future students are able to assess the quality of a school on their own. Read on, and learn more about how college rankings can be useful.

Knowing How Much Weight to Place on a College Rank

There is value in a college ranking, but just how much value can be placed on this data? This is a common question asked by students graduating high school and their parents who want to make the most informed admissions decision. Third-party ranking entities will collect data from colleges, compile the data together, and then assign rankings to each school based on the data provided. While the data can be very useful, you should not place much weight on the actual rank of the college. It has been found that the actual rankings of schools is not accurate because the methodology behind ranking is flawed. With this being said, the data that these third-parties use can be very helpful in making the right decision.

What Type of Data Can Be Used to Make the Best Admissions Decision?

There is a reason why two-thirds of students strongly agree that using college rankings is important in deciding where to apply for school. Sorting out the good colleges from the sub-par colleges is the first step in making an admissions decision. You can use the detailed data that has been collected by these third-parties to your advantage so that you do not have to contact each institution separately. So the number of each school on a rankings list may be flawed, but the data that is used to come to these conclusions is very useful on its own.

You may be wondering just what type of data is used to rank each school that tops a list. Many different pieces of rankings data will be used together to assess the reputation of a school. Some of the data that you can trust when you are making your decision include: tuition, total enrollment, acceptance rate, freshmen retention rate, graduation rate, student-to-teacher ratio, SAT scores of student body and class size. While these are obviously not all of the factors that you will use in deciding where to attend school, many of these factors can help guide your decision.

Many critics are saying that rankings are influenced by hype and nothing else. While some of the rankings of schools may be biased, the data that is used to actually evaluate each school can help wise students make wise choices. Higher education experts believe that students should listen to the criticisms and also let the data speak so that they can do their own research. Consider the trends in admissions, the statistics and other details that could be important. As you can see, the answer to the question “Are college rankings useful?” is yes, but not in the traditional way.


For more information on earning your degree, please see The 20 Most Affordable Colleges with High Four-year Graduation Rates.