I have been working in admissions long enough to remember when US News first came out with their college rankings. This issue, an annual best seller, has, for better or worse, become a reality in the college selection process. A quick Google search will provide you with a plethora of articles and commentary about the validity and value of these rankings. Our own professional organization, the National Association for College Admissions Counseling, recently made recommendations to US News intended to improve the ranking system. US News has elected not to make changes based on these recommendations, which bring to light that the ranking system does not take into account student fit and opportunity – elements that lead to success for both a student and a college when a good match is made.
So is there value in these rankings? I recommend that students and families use rankings appropriately – as but one, very generalized source of information about a college or university. Understand what constitutes any ranking system, particularly the factors that go into the ranking and the weight of what is counted. A mistake that some students and parents can make is to arbitrarily limit their search based on a ranking – looking only at top 50 universities, for example. As I scan the list of national and regional universities, I know of satisfied students and successful alumni who have come from a wide spectrum of schools. Rankings have little to do with the fit and satisfaction that impacts a student’s ability to develop skills and amass experiences important for that first job or graduate school.
I welcome your thoughts and experiences about rankings. At UVM, we have paid attention to these measures, recognizing they are part of the landscape of the college selection process. If you’d like, you can even learn more about national acclaim for UVM. Beyond the rankings, however, we continue to focus on attracting, retaining, and graduating highly talented students as well as those strong leaders who may not be at the very top of their class, but who contribute greatly to student engagement and to diversity of thought in and outside of the classroom. Our goals to be second to none in building a strong academic community that inspires the best in every student.