U.S. News and World Report has released their 30th annual U.S. college rankings — view them here.
The annual college rankings have a huge impact on higher education in the United States — both good and bad. On the one hand, the rankings encourage colleges to constantly strive for improvement. On the other hand, colleges often allocate resources in ways designed to help improve rankings, even when those decisions may not actually benefit students.
More importantly, these rankings can have both positive and negative impacts on students’ college decisions. Here are two tips to help you use these rankings to your advantage:
Use the rankings as a research starting point.
When deciding where to go to college, research is important. This decision determines where you will be living and studying for the next four years, so it’s important to know as much as possible about the schools you might attend. The rankings lists consolidate a lot of useful information, providing a great starting point for your research. For example, the rankings include tuition, retention rates (the percentage of freshman who go on to become sophomores), class size, acceptance rates, graduation rates, application deadlines and fees, testing requirements, faculty information, and more.
Don’t let rankings determine where you’ll go.
Although there can be benefits to graduating from a highly ranked college or university, rankings should not be the most important factor in your college decision. Since you’ll be living there for four years, your success in college will depend in no small part on whether you feel comfortable and accepted at your chosen college. No matter how highly ranked a college may be, you will not be successful if you are miserable there! Several factors should take precedence over college ranking, including the size of the campus, class sizes, faculty ratios, the atmosphere of the campus, the various support programs offered, and the programs of study that are available.