Wesleyan's Ludicrous U.S. News Ranking

I don’t care about the ranking because my daughter is so happy! She is in her second year and loves the academics, professors and social life! Who needs a number to enjoy that?

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I agree. The funny thing about the rankings is that most people do not complain about the fact that educational institutions are being compared, but rather that the rankings are wrong. What makes Bryn Mawr worse than Amherst? I’ll bet it is a “better” school than Amherst for some people. Education is so subjective. You get out what you put in. You may as well compare how committed people are rather than schools, because that probably is a better predictor of the education output than where one matriculates.

I confess to a subjective element of pique regarding Bowdoin, where I spend my first year, attaining its highest-ever ranking (3) while Wesleyan languishes at 21; my experience at the two schools was that Wesleyan had equivalent academic quality combined with a campus culture that was far more warm, exciting, and varied. You can’t argue with Bowdoin’s superiority on the dining front, but Wesleyan had better food than what I ate visiting Amherst, Swarthmore, Harvard, and Duke back in the day. Disregarding the ways in which rankings obscure more salient issues such as fit and promote an invidious narcissism of minor differences, I maintain that Wesleyan’s place in the USNWR rankings does not reflect its quality relative to other liberal arts colleges. I graduated among the top 1% of my class at Wesleyan and would likely have done the same at Bowdoin. The chair of the government department, among Bowdoin’s strongest, urged me to transfer to Harvard, his alma mater, but with a single visit to Wesleyan I knew it was where I belonged. I actually had two friends transfer from Wes to Harvard. They remarked on the inferior instruction and comparative ease of earning an ‘A’, though I think this probably applies to many LACs. In my case it was really a question of fit, not quality–a horizontal change. I recently spent a week on campus and crossed paths with Michael Roth, president of the University, several times at a campus-wide music festival (“the MASH”); part of me wanted to admonish him to do whatever it took to restore our place in the rankings (this was the day they came out). I agree with everyone’s comments about the wrongheaded excessive emphasis parents and students (and at least this alum) place on rankings. Still, anyone familiar with LACs knows that something is amiss here. I had transfer friends from Dartmouth, Chicago (2), Carleton, Middlebury (2), and Haverford. All felt the same as I did about the academic quality being at least equivalent and the overall experience to be either more exciting (Carleton, Haverford) or less toxic (Chicago and Dartmouth, in completely different ways). I feel somewhat abashed for initiating this topic, as it amounts to little more than kvetching about minutiae as the world falls apart.

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So you say until the edition that puts them back down in the lower 20s. The bottom line on rankings in my travels is that we all like the rankings that have us high and deplore those that rank us lower.

I’m with @circuitrider : complex organizations like colleges don’t change enough even every other year to justify a movement one way or the other.

@markham my D was on a summer research team at Colgate. It appears to be a fine school, but nobody is going to visit Colgate and have some epiphany about its rankings.


I would have fewer, and more expansive categories and go 1, 2, 3 and forget about it.

That way you can avoid the troubles of putting, say, Kenyon and Richmond on the same level of Barnard and Barnard below Oberlin and Colby. Or Middlebury or Wellesley above Wesleyan, Hamilton or Vassar.

I would make your tiers larger because you’re not moving far enough away from discrete rankings, as if it could be that precise.

In terms of US News’ formula being as good as any, I’m afraid that says more about how bad the alternatives must be than it does about how helpful US News is. We paid them very little mind in choosing schools.

Until Bates is L2 and Colby and Bowdoin are L1.

There will always ve a first one out / last one in issue that will create similar distrust / dislike of the process.

Rankings are really quite pointless. They change every year to generate revenue, not because anyone evaluating the schools has identified some secret formula to unmask institutional compentencies every year.


As an exercise, this is how the top two NLAC tiers would appear if groups were based on schools’ overall scores in U.S. News, divided as if in a grading system and listed within tiers alphabetically (note that no school currently has a score of 90):

Overall Score 91 to 100, Ranked 1 through 9 of 223 Schools

Claremont McKenna
U.S. Naval Academy
Washington and Lee

Overall Score 80 to 89, Ranked 13 through 33 of 223 Schools

Bryn Mawr
Colorado College
Harvey Mudd
U Richmond
U.S. Air Force Academy
U.S. Military Academy

As a system, this would remove information without any apparent benefit, in my opinion.

It’s still based on the fruit of the same tree, which is the poll’s suspect metrics (based largely on spending per size of school.)


The new US News rankings are out and Wes is tied with Barnard, Colby, Colgate, & Smith at #17. Haverford is the sole #16 spot and there is a group ranked #13 comprised of Grinnell, Hamilton and Davidson. Vassar at #22 feels low for them.

I tend to think of these schools … all of them … as generally in the same group, along with a few in the Top 10.

But this is America. We like to rank things individually and in numerical order. Tiers are confusing I guess.

So in @merc81 's tiered ranking, the #13 group had overall scores of 87 and the #17 group had overall scores of 84.

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I just conducted my own personal thought experiment and tried off the top of my head to name the top 10 LACs. I got as far as six and that was largely based on a desire to give credit to colleges outside of New England (Pomona and Swarthmore) and a kind of shared perception of being preppy by some of the others.

However, other than those five or six possibilities, it seems to me, that half the openings for top 10 LACs are up for grabs.


Williams, Amherst, Bowdoin, Swarthmore, Pomona … and?


I don’t know. I’m pretty impressed with the one with the stellar film, theater, music, creative writing, social science and natural science departments. That’s pretty good academic range right there. And not a shabby list of accomplished alumni either. :wink:

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is that Vassar? Kidding.