Has US News ranking hurt Columbia?

I atteneded some college coaching companies’s live, Columbia used to always be on the “Student acceptance” bragging slides along with Harvard, Princeton etc. I noticed this year, Columbia sometimes is not included. Is this why? Do people see Columbia any differently becuase of this ranking?

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Columbia had its second largest applicant pool / lowest acceptance rate in its history this year, only slightly behind the previous year’s peak, all from applications that would have come in well after the current USN ranking was published last year. It was the second lowest acceptance rate (3.9%) among the Ivys after Harvard.

So statistically no evidence it is suffering from its USN ranking so far. I wouldn’t read anything into a casual anecdotal observation.

Whether the rating from USN impacts Columbia over a longer period of time, especially if USN penalizes them with the upcoming update now that’s they have stopped cooperating with USN (as USN did to Reed), remains to be seen and is not certain either way. For one, the reputation of “the Ivys” (whether earned or not is a different question) precedes the USN rankings and is not purely beholden to it. Second, the USN rankings, while still very influential, have been under attack lately (particularly the professional school rankings) and may themselves be in the early stages of a decline in perception and importance. But even without the USN ranking, among those who follow it, Columbia’s behavior that led to the ranking change is problematic either way.

It’s still going to be a very prestigious and hard to get into school for a long time to come. Whether the scandal and ranking fall out helps some other highly selective schools have an edge among students deciding between their ultra-reaches is possible. Only time (probably years to really see a pattern) will tell.


Being the “best” university in NYC is such a fundamentally strong competitive position, not just in the US but globally, that I have a hard time imagining that any serious long term harm could happen.


They are basically doomed! They will close in a year or two… :joy:.

Columbia “is” Columbia… No ranking will change that.


As a comment not specific to Columbia, the recursive aspects of a change in ranking may be the most powerful and take several cycles to appear substantially (if they appear). In the first year, some potential applicants may react to the ranking change itself. In the second year, there will be those who similarly react to the ranking change as well as those who react to the impacts of the ranking change as determined in the prior year, and so on in future years. In principle, if a series such as this were to begin, it could meaningfully effect a school’s reputation over time, even if insubstantial in origin.

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I think there have been some examples of this over time, but I also think the long-term stability of most of the “top” rankings (within some range of normal variation) suggests there is some sort of damping, or “negative feedback”, effect that typically kicks in to prevent unbounded positive feedback loops.

Indeed, oscillations within a relatively tight range are characteristic of the presence of effective damping/negative feedback mechanisms in otherwise complex systems. And there can still be cases where sufficiently severe events can cause the system to break past the normal boundaries and possibly get into an unbounded positive feedback loop. But in some such potential cases, deliberate efforts to compensate can prevent a runaway effect and eventually restore oscillation within a normal range.

In this case, I think Columbia being the “best” college in NYC is going to serve as a natural damping/negative feedback function. Basically, far too many peoples’ desire to attend Columbia, or be a professor at Columbia, or give a big gift so they can name something at Columbia, or so on will be largely immune to US News rankings. If a few such people are deterred, they will simply be replaced by a virtually indistinguishable alternative waiting for their chance. That will quickly put a floor under how far it can fall in public estimation generally. And then most likely, having “observed” that floor kicking in, public estimation will likely “bounce” off that floor.

And if Columbia was in serious danger of that not happening more or less automatically, they then have the resources to compensate in all sorts of ways. Indeed, they already are–Columbia refusing to submit data to US News can be seen as a deliberate compensation effort, and I am confident in the end they will do what it takes to succeed in those efforts.

Not a chance. They wouldn’t have done this without carefully thinking about implications.

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Columbia has spent hundreds of years building itself into one of the top 10-15 academic powers in the world. A magazine can’t diminish the reputation Columbia has earned.

If they sink to #20 in USNews, some unknowing folks might view them as a “lower Ivy” but then

  1. There’s no such thing, and
  2. That may actually bring more apps, as more kids might think they have a chance to be admitted than if Columbia were up around #5-8 or so.
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Maybe they didn’t get any students into Columbia this year.


This is a perfect example of research the school and not the ranking. If they ranked Columbia 39, it would still be Columbia. If the school is a good fit for you then apply.


Again, Columbia was famous, popular and had a name brand and was associated with “the Ivy League” (which the vast majority of people think of as a moniker of top academic reputation and not as an athletic conference) well before US News ranking started in 1983. That is a natural limiter.

More relevantly, everyone knows US News is not purely objective in their rankings. The regularly tweak their methodology to favor certain outcomes because their reputation as the to ranker is a two way street that requires the majority of people perceive it as credible. If the typical readers pre-existing personal perceptions are too out of alignment with the ranking, they are less likely to “trust” it. This is a for profit business and this ranking is the lion’s share of the business. US News as a going concern would have gone out of business years ago but for their college products and the once great weekly news magazine has long since been mothballed. The rest of their site is cheap online only clickbait now – this ranking product is literally their life blood. So they will do whatever it takes to protect it, including making sure people aren’t scratching their heads why one of the most applied-to Ivys is not too far down the list. They knew they could get away with relegating Reed to oblivion on there list because most people haven’t heard or Reed. Whereas with Columbia, I guarantee they have been carefully testing methodology tweaks and debating how to punish them a little as not to encourage others to drop out and to save face for letting the cheating happen, but not too much to hurt their own reputation as a reliable source.

There’s already proof this is how US News is thinking about it. Shortly before Columbia dropped out, USN announced they were changing some of their methodology in a way that was transparently to the benefit of Columbia. It was obvious there had been some behind the scenes negotiation and Columbia ultimately decided that despite those changes they were still going to be negatively impacted by the aggregation of the General Studies data with the CC/SEAS data, so they strategically decided it was better to look like they were being penalized for non-participation than to look like they had dropped despite participation.

Columbia will be fine.

On the subject of managing their rankings, “carefully thinking about implications” hasn’t been their strong point?

USNWR does change the ranking methodology and criteria weightings fairly frequently. Many believe that they do this to keep the top of the rankings looking like what people expect.


Theres a lot of hand wringing here. Of course it womt affect Columbia right away but 5 years from now, the current 8th graders will not know Columbia used to be T5. They will see Columbia as we see Cornell today, and thats clearly not where Columbia wants to be hense the lying.

I think true T5 (not USN rankings) has been HYPMS for quite a while. I don’t think most people ever took Columbia’s #2 or 3 USN ranking seriously. Any more than they take Forbes #2 rank for Berkeley seriously. No one needs a ranking to intrinsically know HYPMS are top, and after that there’s a bunch in the next tier.

Yeah, I described Columbia as the best college in NYC, but there are some (many, frankly, in certain circles) who think that New York’s best college has actually always been Yale.

I think is a testament to the importance of NYC that only means that such people see Columbia’s peers as Chicago and maybe Penn (Philadelphia’s top college). They typically still see Columbia ahead of, say, Northwestern (the Second City’s second college).

But still, it has been irking Columbia grads for generations now that at least some people see them as permanently locked into that peer group, even though relative upstarts like Stanford and MIT have gotten tapped.

Anyway, I still think it is very unlikely Columbia will actually fall out of that peer group with Chicago either. I could be wrong, of course. We shall see.

Um not sure why you’re being facetious but NYU and Columbia are now peer schools. Lets break it down…
NYU- 25

Columbia- 4
NYU- 10

Law schools
Columbia- 8
NYU- 5

Business School
NYU- 10

Out of the 4 major schools Columbia is ranked higher in 2 and NYU is ranked higher in 2. However, theyre closely ranked in all 4.

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Sometimes public perception is hard to change (or takes a very long time to change). There are plenty of people who still consider UChicago as “less than” the Ivies. You can show them all the rankings in the world (and the Chicago folks will religiously do that here in CC), but it doesn’t matter to these folks.
Same with NYU - many don’t view it as a true peer of Columbia. That, of course, doesn’t lessen its value for those who know.

As for Columbia: no I don’t think the drop in ranking will hurt them in the short to medium term. Long term, not sure.


Their perception isnt THE reality. The facts are the facts, and NYU has a strong chance of passing Columbia in the undergrad rankings this year due to all of the changes, So it could be 3-1 in NYUs favor in a few weeks. Perception doesnt change in individuals it changes generationally. The older gen still thinks Oberlin and Wesleyan are elite and USC is a party school. Todays generation thinks the opposite.

Everything we’re talking about is perception. The US New ranking isn’t some objective measure of “reality” – it’s a list based on a subjective and constantly changing methodology (like all other rankings) that is one factor contributing to public perception. You keep quoting the ranking as if it is synonymous with “reality.” If US News ranked HYPMS 6-10 next month, that wouldn’t mean that they are now “worse” (or lower tier) “in reality” than whatever they put as 1-5 that year, and almost no one would perceive them as such. It would mean only that they are 6-10 on US News list that year.

I think the common opinion here and within academia is that the US News ranking is not a good measure of school quality. But there’s no doubting its still high influential and therefore matters (thus why the colleges care so much). But it’s influential expressly because many people still perceive it as relevant to quality. So its a bit odd to suggest that perception doesn’t matter when that’s the only thing making the US News ranking matter at all. Your caught in circular logic.