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Rankings -- Which are the most trustworthy?

ChrchillChrchill Registered User Posts: 549 Member
Given the endless serious and tongue in cheek debates about rankings (which do add an amusement value), which rankings do folks consider most reliable and useful? NO doubt USNWR is the most influential..
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Replies to: Rankings -- Which are the most trustworthy?

  • circuitridercircuitrider Registered User Posts: 2,070 Senior Member
    edited January 25
    At this point, the Dept. of Education's college scorecard website seems to be be generating a countless number of output oriented rankings involving alumni salaries ten years after matriculation as well as some unusually granular information about the socio-economic makeup of different colleges.. Forbes is based partly on the data gleaned from it; a Brookings Institute study has already caused quite a buzz using the same data. It may be one of the Obama era's most sweeping innovations.

  • mathmommathmom Registered User Posts: 28,705 Senior Member
    I think they all have biases. So what do you care about? For our purposes the USNWR was fine - just add plus or minus 20. Just as example Carnegie Mellon was ranked 24 when my son was applying. Harvard was ranked 1 or 2 that year. But he was going to be majoring in computer science and there's really no question which has the better CS department. Still kids from Harvard end up with job offers from the likes of Google and Facebook, so if you want the rest of what Harvard offers it may be the better choice. But if you don't the social science and humanities offerings at CMU were fine and the visual arts were probably better.
  • MastadonMastadon Registered User Posts: 1,210 Senior Member
    The most reliable rankings are the ones you build for yourself using the raw data from the generic rankings and other relevant sources.
  • Ohiodad51Ohiodad51 Registered User Posts: 1,831 Senior Member
    None of them. Or really all of them, collectively. I visited a ton of very selective universities when my son was getting recruited, and then a bunch more smaller lac's with my daughter. Quite honestly, among the schools regularly ranked in the top twenty or so, the differences were really idiosyncratic. I do believe that broadly speaking there is a potential benefit to attending a "highly ranked" school, both in initial opportunity for employment/grad school, and in the rigor of education. But I would be hard pressed in making a legitimate distinction between the quality of opportunity afforded a kid at Cornell or Wesleyan as an example.
  • northwestynorthwesty Registered User Posts: 2,284 Senior Member
    edited January 25
    I found the USNWR rankings quite helpful as a useful compilation of relevant data. Easily worth the ten bucks to be used as a shopping guide.

    It is silly to use them just for the rankings (like #1 Yale is better/preferred as compared to #3 Stanford). But breaking schools out into broader tiers and types of schools is helpful in coming up with a list of schools that fit your particular kid.
  • socalmom007socalmom007 Registered User Posts: 982 Member
    I've used USNWR a lot in our college search, but like Forbes or startclass in comparing our acceptances. USNWR makes it hard to compare a LAC to a regional university or national university, the Forbes list just has colleges 1-600 regardless of their classification.
  • prezbuckyprezbucky Registered User Posts: 3,157 Senior Member
    edited January 26
    For undergraduate college quality, I like US News best.

    For overall university brand (undergrad, grad, PhD, the whole shebang) there are a bunch that measure international reputation.

    Regarding #8 -- yes!

    Note the variables that are most important to you. Make those your column headers. The rows can be schools. Assign a score for each variable at each school, tally the school totals and... voila: thy very own ranking!
  • thumper1thumper1 Registered User Posts: 59,412 Senior Member
    @Chrchill

    Why does this matter to you? I thought your kiddo already got accepted to University of Chicago...so in her mind...that should rank number ONE.
  • mackinawmackinaw Registered User Posts: 2,489 Senior Member
    I was familiar with the various college rankings. My kids were not. I couldn't persuade my son even to look at USNWR, or at any guidebook to colleges. It was I who put every one of the colleges to which he applied on the list. He had no Ivy ambitions and no interest in competing with his closest cousins -- who went to Stanford, Princeton, and Brown.

    I knew he could do well anywhere but wanted to assure that he had an intensive program with a broad set of core requirements. He didn't have to specialize as an undergrad. He had to realize his intellectual ambitions and to be challenged to think hard about things. We were looking for "fit," not rankings or prestige. The core of his applications went to top-notch LAC's (Williams, Carleton, Reed [my alma mater]), the state flagship, and the University of Chicago. He was accepted to all of these and attended UChicago. He did put in an application to Harvard, and was not accepted.

    My daughter also had no interest in guidebooks or rankings. She wanted to attend a stand-alone art school. All-purpose college rankings such as USNWR were useless to her. She attended RISD.
  • tk21769tk21769 Registered User Posts: 9,385 Senior Member
    In my opinion the USNWR rankings use the most relevant set of undergraduate ranking criteria for most good arts & science students. The US News (or Forbes) rankings can be helpful to families who are familiar only with the most famous or local colleges, and who want to discover high-quality alternatives (like, say, good research universities that are a bit less selective than the Ivies, or top LACs outside New England).

    However, small differences in rank (~10-20 positions) aren't a very good basis for choosing among colleges.
    The overall rankings may obscure relative strengths/weaknesses in specialized programs (such as business or engineering). They may overstate quality differences that are less significant to you than the net price difference. If you cannot afford the Expected Family Contribution for highly-ranked colleges, then you may need to focus on merit scholarship opportunities at much less selective, lower-ranked schools (which may nevertheless have good programs in your major). Or just focus on your in-state public universities (including honors college options).

    You may prefer Forbes because it covers LACs and research universities in one ranking. I like the Kiplinger's "best value" rankings for the up-front price and aid information. They all have pros and cons. They all use data that is subject to errors and criteria that might not be relevant to your own needs.
  • PurpleTitanPurpleTitan Registered User Posts: 9,020 Senior Member
    Go further down the list and even large differences in rank aren't significant (as you would expect with a normal distribution).
    I doubt anyone knows or cares that UGa is #95 and UCSC is #200 in Forbes, for instance.
  • saillakeeriesaillakeerie Registered User Posts: 1,121 Senior Member
    They are all the same in that they are inherently flawed. They take the subjective (which college is "best") and make it appear objective by assigning numerical values for each school which can then be sorted providing a top 10/20/50. But to determine those numerical values you need to make a whole host of value judgments (such as which factors to consider, how to score them and how to weigh them with respect to other factors). Different judgments produce different lists. Is one better than the other or are they just different? If one is better than the other, which one and why?

    Another issue with determining "best" is best for who and for what? Not all schools are equally good at everything (many don't even offer everything). Should LACs be include or have their own list? And should cost be considered? Some say no others say no. And if they are considered, what cost? Not all students pay the same to go to any given college.

    In my experience, people seem to like whatever list reflects the results they like. And criticize those which do not. In creating lists, I think there is a tendency to have a preconceived bias towards a certain order and then create the formulas that confirms that bias. I have seen posts here to the effect that "any ranking that has school x ranked ahead of school y is biased, not-trustworthy, a joke, etc." One was ranked #8 and the other #11 as if that difference was huge much less even meaningful.

    USNews seems to be something of the standard bearer. If nothing else, I believe they were the first widely circulated attempt at making the subjective appear objective. If you want to compete with that list, you likely need to come up with at least somewhat different results. If not, why bother? Does that make your list better or just different?

    Recently we have seen some support for two different approaches. Average a group of rankings. But which ones to include? Or look at groupings rather than pure rankings. So schools 1-10 (or 20 or 25 or 50) are essentially the same. But how do you determine that cutoff? 10 is essentially the same as 1 but 11 is significantly worse. Really? And what rankings should you start with to begin your groupings?

    If you don't like a given list, don't despair. There are other lists that you may well like better. And don't worry, you will know the truth, that your preferred list is the right one. ;)
  • ChrchillChrchill Registered User Posts: 549 Member
    ??? UChicago is extremely highly ranked -- elite top 3 for college (USMSWR) and top 5-8 in world U rankings.
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