U.S. News College Rankings Aren’t the Only Way to Judge Schools

Evaluating College Rankings

eviewing U.S. News college rankings has practically become a ritual for college-bound students. But few are surprised about which colleges reach the top of the U.S. News rankings, because they are pretty much the same year after year.

Critics say that U.S. News rankings should be ignored, because they are flawed. For instance, the rankings are largely based on school reputations and what different schools think of each other. This is because schools in a specific category, such as national universities, rate their peers on a one-to-five scale. Does this sound like a valuable metric to you?

What’s more, a number of schools have been caught falsifying or manipulating numbers to improve their rankings, according to CBS News. Some schools that have been caught red-handed include Clemson University, Emory University, and Baylor University.

Another common complaint is that U.S. News rankings do not measure academic quality. Fortunately, Christian Science Monitor reports that there are several alternative rankings cropping up:

  • Washington Monthly– Washington Monthly’s annual college guide ranks schools based on how well they are serving the nation through research production, social mobility, and public service.
  • Alumni Factor– Alumni Factor’s rankings are based on surveys of alumni from more than 450 colleges and universities. The rankings score institutions based on numerous attributes, including intellectual development, the average net worth of graduates, and overall happiness.
  • Parchment– Parchment’s rankings are based on more than 120,000 student enrollment decisions. Using a formula similar to the one used to rank chess masters, Parchment attempts to decipher the meanings of their choices.

When looking at rankings, the best approach is to compare as much information as possible about different schools but only pay attention to factors that are important to you. After all, just because a school has a high ranking does not mean it is necessarily the right school for you.