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Why You Shouldn’t Trust U.S. News’ “Best Colleges” Rankings

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The ubiquitous U.S. News college rankings attempt to answer an inherently subjective question: “Which college should I go to?” with specific numbers. While a somewhat respectable goal, the resulting list is not objective. The college selection process should not be the difference between success and failure.

To create the annual list, US News collects a large amount of data about colleges and uses it to calculate weighted scores. Different data categories (or “ranking factors”) are weighted differently. (For the record, we determine how much and why US News weights each element.) These weighted scores are sorted into a ranked list for comparison.you can read A detailed breakdown of how the US News website ranks If you’re curious, all a prospective student (and parent) needs to know is which are the three most important factors for US News rankings. Graduation and retention rates account for 22% of the total score, while faculty academic reputation and faculty resources each earn 20%. Evaluating these three factors above all others, such as financial resources per student (10%) and alumni debt (5%), reveals all there is to know about the limitations of this ranking system. Here’s why:

Rankings tell us nothing about student experience

Ultimately, the point of going to college is graduating with a degree, so it makes sense that the graduation rate would have a big impact on the rankings. But the graduation rate alone doesn’t decide everything. This is especially true when graduation rates take precedence over other factors that reflect the quality of student life. (US News Ranking Factors Consider class size and student-to-faculty ratios, but as part of your faculty resources. Interestingly, the funding factor per student does not include such subcategories.)

Being so focused on graduation rates should be the biggest lesson for prospective students. Academically rigorous schools with high graduation and retention rates may be the best places to study for four years. They cannot be distinguished. If you want to know the school environment and lifestyle, you have to do your own research.

Prestigious private schools are always on the top

The remaining two of the big three factors — faculty resources and undergraduates academic reputation—Also, it’s hard to rely entirely on rankings because they inherently favor expensive private schools. The more funding a school has, the more resources available to faculty. So the richest schools get the highest scores.But faculty reputation factors, which are determined entirely by peer surveys, are similarly unreliable. US News explains on their website:

In a peer-review survey, US News asks each school’s principal, president, and dean of admissions to rate the quality of their educational programs at schools in the same ranking category, including their own. Those unfamiliar with a particular school are asked to check the box labeled “I don’t know.”

In other words, 20% of school scores come down to self-reported data from high-level managers (including yourself). It’s not hard to see how this could change in practice: the prestigious (and expensive) private schools already have the best known and best reputations. These schools also have strong incentives to maintain their reputation, so they are highly regarded themselves.

Credited to US News, they admit their rankings aren’t everything in college decision-making. B.Given how powerful they are in the world of higher education, it’s easy to argue that they are. is For youUS News’ rankings may be flawed, but they can be a useful tool once you understand their biases. Try to base your decisions on the factors that are important to you, whether US News considers them or not.

Why You Shouldn’t Trust U.S. News’ “Best Colleges” Rankings

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