College Rankings: Helpful or Harmful?

Guidance counselors and independent educational consultants agree on many things; one of the strongest points for  high fives is disdain for the published college ranking system used by USNWR to sell magazines.  USNWR has about a dozen criteria; each year they manipulate the importance of the individual criteria so that the Harvard, Princeton, Yale and Stanford change positions.  None of the criteria have anything to do with educational outcomes.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy of The College Solution published a blog post listing 15 things that are wrong with the list.  Here are a few of her assessments.

  1.  One variable is ratings by administrators at the colleges in a given category such as Liberal Arts Colleges.  As O’Shaughnessy points out, the president and provost at  Lafayette probably have no idea of what goes on at  Endicott.
  2. Test scores, GPA, class rank help raise the position in USNWR rankings.  Each of these measures tend to be higher for students with more financial resources for a variety of reasons.  Colleges want to enroll students with higher benchmarks, ie wealthier students, skewing admission decisions.
  3. Related to #2 is the distribution of merit aid over need-based aid.  The former encourages wealthier students to attend and reduces resources for less well-heeled students.  With weatlthier students  showing up, costs can and do go up, disadvantaging everyone.
  4. Colleges now market strategically to encourage students that they don’t expect to admit to submit an application.  The more applicants a college denies, the more selective they appear and the higher the rank.  I know of one instance of a Tier One University admissions office personally inviting a student to apply, interview and then deny in a 2 week period near their application deadline.

Here’s the address of the entire article.

There are over 100 colleges and universities that have similar Tier One academic potential and outcomes to Ivies.  They are scattered around the US  and admit students based on many factors beyond the benchmarks.  Education is earned through hard work and where the education is earned is less important than the effort expended to earn it.  As Frank Bruni titled his book, Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be.

Lets work together to develop a list of great colleges where you can thrive academically, be comfortable socially and not send your family to the poor house.  610-212-6679 or



















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