Dickinson College, Niche ratings, what happened? Should we be concerned?

Today my high school Senior and I decided to devote time to finalizing our college list. We had visited Dickinson college this past spring, and were truly impressed. It checked almost every box for us. My son is wanting to study International Relations and continue his study of Chinese language. Dickinson seemed strong in both areas. Their study abroad programs appeared to be as fine as any we had seen, during our search. My understanding was also that they had a strong alumni network and could help students secure internship experiences in DC. When we initially curated our college list, we did refer to some of the published rankings, to help us think of schools we may not have been familiar with, and for us, Dickinson was initially one of those schools (we live in Ky). I believe Dickinson was ranked by Niche at number 41 for their International Studies program…so today, I was stunned to see it had fallen to number 84! That is a precipitous decline, like falling off a cliff. We really are looking more for a good fit school rather than just “prestige”, but I am now somewhat concerned and I actually feel bad for the folks at Dickinson, because I really got the sense they were trying to create something special in Carlise, Pa. Any thoughts or insights are appreciated. Thank you!

You are upset by a change in niche ratings? Niche ratings mean nothing. It’s like a popularity contest and a place for students to complain or cheerlead. The only thing we used niche ratings for was things like food and campus life which are always subjective anyway. I hope you aren’t seriously thinking niche ratings will tell you anything about the quality of a major at a school. The only thing I can’t think of that may be relevant is if a lot of kids are complaining about profs leaving or unexpectedly large class sizes or something along those lines.


I agree 100%. I would not give a second thought to these ratings. There are dozens of different rankings and they all use their own formulas. Some colleges don’t have any ranking because they refuse to participate in these games. Maybe the ranking changed one year because whoever is compiling the data didn’t have one metric they use, or maybe the ranking you saw is based on skewed data from 2020, when many excellent colleges found their numbers for various metrics fall completely out of whack by deferred admits, gap years, or other factors.

Dickinson is a fine school with a very strong 92% retention rate. That means students are happy and they come back for their second year. That’s probably one of the strongest indicators of a good college. Dickinson has a $645 million endowment. They aren’t going anywhere.

P.S. It’s worth noting that various rankings can be fallible and inaccurate, an example of which is the recent debacle of Columbia University and USNWR rankings.


I realize my previous reply probably came off a bit harsh so just wanted to come back with some encouragement. If you’ve visited and like the school, and feel it’s a good fit then letting any ranking discourage you from applying or attending would just be wrong. Dickinson is a great school and I really would not give the niche rankings a second thought.


Thank you. I appreciate the reassurance. I will try to take the rankings with a grain of salt and go with what I saw for myself. We are just a bit removed from the area, being in KY, and we know no one that has gone/planning to go to Dickinson.

Thank you, I appreciate you taking the time to reply to my post.

I toured Dickinson back in the day with my eldest, and our tour guide was actually from Kentucky. We loved it. Dickinson is an excellent school. Seriously, tell your daughter not to base ANY of her decisions on rankings.

Endowment and retention rate are two of the best indicators (there are others too) of a good school. By good, I mean a school where kids are happy and there are plenty of resources to give them a great experience, while preparing them for their futures. I don’t mean rankings. Niche is very useful though for student feedback on partying, professors, campus life, etc… That’s the best way to use Niche.


Thank you again for providing such a thoughtful response. This is my eldest child and this college admission process is “about to get real!” So, I do find myself second guessing our plan, getting cold feet, etc. It is such a huge expense, you want to know you are spending your hard earned $ wisely to give you child the best shot at the future they hope for…Thank you!!!


I also toured Dickinson with my D a number of years ago and liked it very much. Although my D attended a different LAC, Dickinson did stand out to us for its offerings in the areas your S is interested in pursuing. Agree with other posters that I would not base any decision off a NIche rating.


Thank you, you are kind to reply to my post. I appreciate the validation, that what we saw was real!

My son goes to Whitman College, which was rated on Niche as an A school. This year the rating fell to a B+. However, as far as I can tell, it’s still the same school that it was last year, and the year before… the A rated years! My son is very much enjoying his experience and loves every one of his professors this year. So I guess Niche doesn’t have the full story. I do wonder what made the rating drop so dramatically though!


All the rankings are suspect, but Niche especially so. I don’t even trust it with factors like food, dorms and student life. Niche gives my kid’s college a D- for food, but my kid likes the food fine. C+ for dorms, but my kid’s dorm is gorgeous, way nicer than any dorm I ever lived in. Location B+, and yet it is exactly where my kid wanted to be, A+ in his opinion.


I love your reply, it made me laugh! Dickinson’s overall also fell from an A to a B+…it really makes no sense to me. The University of Louisville is our local school and they are rated an A-…our high school has a day next week where an admission’s counselor will be on campus and we were told that anyone with a 2.5 GPA and a 20 on the ACT is IN, on the spot. My son worked his tail off in high school and is looking forward to experience a more like minded community. Thank you for the reply.


All good points. I guess I won’t let those Niche report cards scare me off. They really don’t make a lot of sense. Thank you for the reply! Oh, well, back to working on the Common App, this Labor day afternoon. Thank you so much!


The only ranking that matters is the one your future college student makes. If he or she thinks Dickinson is top…than that is all that matters.


I agree with the others about Niche - it’s purely a popularity contest and will depend upon who, specifically, is rating it.

If in doubt about the program, see if you can find a current student in the major online and email them to ask what they think. You can try seeing if there’s a related club, a pure google search, or perhaps admissions. I wouldn’t necessarily ask someone in the department as they could pick their favorite student.

We live relatively close to Dickinson and I haven’t heard anything negative, but I also don’t keep up on what’s going on there. Google tells me it’s less than an hour from my house, but it only makes local news for sports.

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With respect to academics, this source seems much more credible than Niche, partly because they decline any attempt to specify a numerical ranking:


Google “Language Flagship Mandarin” for a list of the 12 schools with Flagship Programs in Mandarin (assuming that is the language he studies). Compare those programs with the other schools you are considering. Generally, the Flagship Programs will have the highest level of language. Also look at the “Critical Language Scholarship” (CSL). The more proficiency your student can obtain, the more likely he will find employment in International Relations.

With respect to colleges especially notable for the study of Mandarin, this site offers an additional source of information:


Dickinson is known, in part, for its requirement that students study abroad. I don’t know if that is still the case post-covid. It certainly appealed to us, and I agree that it has a great international relations program.

It’s worth noting that even if it’s not on the other list you provided, it doesn’t mean Dickinson doesn’t have a good Mandarin program.