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College Rankings - most useful?


Replies to: College Rankings - most useful?

  • websensationwebsensation Registered User Posts: 1,927 Senior Member
    I found from experience that Niche's ranking on cafeteria food was pretty accurate: UCLA and Cornell do have pretty good cafeteria food.
  • mackinawmackinaw Registered User Posts: 2,934 Senior Member
    edited December 2018
    Neither of my kids wanted to look at college rankings -- and they didn't! But I did look at several of the standard ones mentioned earlier on this thread. So how were the kids going to decide where to apply to? For my kids "ranking of colleges" was multivariate, and involved much more than just the types of "rankings" usually discussed on this board.

    1) Rely on me to develop a list based on the college's reputation, programs, social characteristics (including size), and location. As a college professor I have some insight into the national college scene. I also purchased some books and perused online sources including discussion boards (Princeton Review was the leading one at the time; CC came along after my older kid had entered college.) By their own choice, the kids did not look at the books and didn't participate in online discussion boards. I knew the rankings, but the plan was to develop a list of very good colleges with programs and environments fit to the kids' interests, without reaching for the stars.

    2) Use informal information and from my professional acquaintances and contacts about the undergraduate experience including the intellectual quality of life at different colleges.

    3) Apply a standard or rule that didn't fall into 1) or 2) above. For #1, the standard was that the college be one "where it's safe to be a thinker," preferably in a "major league city" (as in sports). For #2, the standard was that the college should be an outstanding art school, preferably located "in a real city in the East."

    4) Make sure there were acceptable "default" fallback colleges on the list. For #1 that included state flagships and small liberal arts colleges. For #2 this was more problematic; a couple of the art schools didn't fall into the preferred urban location.

    5) Cost was not a critical factor as we had savings (in part thanks to the grandparents), or could draw from current income, to cover the costs of any college on their list -- though merit scholarship money would be welcome.

    All of the ca. 13 colleges the kids applied to were excellent ones. Of the colleges that they applied to, they were denied admission to only one. These were all "regular" admission applications, in part because the kids' didn't want to spend time in their junior year worrying about college, and in part because the early admission game was not nearly as dominant when they were applying as it is now. The kids did all the testing that was required. For #1 this started early in part because he first took the SAT for the Northwestern CTD when he was in 8th grade. He never prepped for the SAT or National Merit tests but did have repeated exposure to the former and got excellent scores. For #2, tests were largely an afterthought; she didn't prep for the SAT. She focused her extra effort -- including summer programs -- on developing her art portfolio.
  • socaldad2002socaldad2002 Registered User Posts: 790 Member
    I like College Niche but honestly I would review ALL of them, especially ones that have student surveys as you will start to see a common theme around the academics and culture of the colleges that are helpful to applicants.

    Note: the Fiske Guide is pretty good but really sugar coats every college in their descriptions. For example, USC is in south central LA which is a safety concern for some students and families. The way Fiske describes the location you would think you are in Santa Monica! For this reason do lots and lots of research on each and every college and if possible, go visit your top choices.

  • VineyarderVineyarder Registered User Posts: 88 Junior Member
    The rankings can be somewhat useful, but you have to know when to look beyond them. My D19 will be going to Parsons School of Design. The New School, its parent institution, ranks No. 147 in USNWR. But Parsons ranks highly in lists of art and design schools, and more important, D19 made a reasoned judgment that its program is the best fit for her ambitions.
  • SJ2727SJ2727 Registered User Posts: 612 Member
    edited December 2018
    @socaldad2002 Haven’t seen Fiske but we got a copy of the Princeton review from a neighbor, a few years old but I’m assuming the newer ones are similar. At least at all the colleges we looked at in there, it looked like a summary of marketing materials. I don’t think I saw anything critical on any of them.
  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 Registered User Posts: 3,685 Senior Member
    We started with USNWR but quickly moved on. My kid is very specific about what she wants to do career wise, so she focused on which schools had profs doing research in those areas and where undergraduate research was possible and encouraged.
  • PublisherPublisher Registered User Posts: 5,383 Senior Member
    US News & the Wall St. Journal/ Times Higher Education are two helpful starting sources. But it depends upon the student's interests.

    The print edition of US News is full of helpful information.
  • pishicacapishicaca Registered User Posts: 173 Junior Member
    edited January 7
    Yes! Let's rank the rankings and see how they like it! :)
  • brooklynlydiabrooklynlydia Registered User Posts: 147 Junior Member
    The rankings: pretty much all the same. The differences are minor.
  • MWolfMWolf Registered User Posts: 190 Junior Member
    edited January 7
    A good article to read, before taking the rankings seriously:


    That being said, Niche is a good place to get a quick summary of the strengths and weaknesses of a school, and of things like the basic stats of applicants and accepted students, which can give a student an idea as to how competitive they are for a school in general. The weakness of these lists of stats is that they are for the entire school, and don't provide the correct info for students who are, say, looking to be accepted to Computer Science at UIUC.

    I would actually recommend using one of those college search engines that they have on Naviance ""Super Match" or whatever it's called, is good), and then to use multiple other sources to research the "best match" list. One of those sources is the College Confidential community.
  • TiggerDadTiggerDad Registered User Posts: 1,752 Senior Member
    edited January 7
    What's really funny about The Atlantic article is that it was a pretty good read until at the end where the author wrote:

    "So, my best advice is simply to ignore the U.S. News rankings. If you want to find rankings of American colleges and universities that are far more nourishing and beneficial, look at the ones produced by The Washington Monthly."

    I looked at The Washington Monthly's college rankings, and I found it as objectionable as the author's with the USNWR!! Hmmm... "far more nourishing and beneficial"?? :))
  • MWolfMWolf Registered User Posts: 190 Junior Member
    @TiggerDad I was also amused by "nourishing", too.

    I disagree with you about the Washington Monthly rankings being objectionable, per se, since ranking universities by their contribution to society is laudable, especially when compared to the USANews philosophy of "ranking universities by their contribution to the ruling class".

    I do agree with you, though, that it is not a ranking that is very useful for parents who are trying to figure out where they should send their kid. You send your kid to a school based on what it will provide to your kid, not based on what it provides to everybody else, as a group.
  • lostaccountlostaccount Registered User Posts: 5,009 Senior Member
    pishicaca, there are rankings of rankings.
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