Do College Rankings Really Matter?

There has been considerable uproar since a variety of Liberal Arts colleges decided to not participate in the US News and World Report annual rating of colleges. I cannot begin to describe the amount of times I’ve heard friends compare their colleges. One of the biggest comparisons is relative ranking. Sometimes I wonder; do rankings really even matter? For example, my older sister graduated from Ohio State with a degree in English (OSU isn’t known for having the most stellar English department).

But nonetheless she graduated and ended up at Fordham Law. Her roommates her freshman year were graduates from Yale and Dartmouth, respectively. I’m sure they outranked Ohio State in a wide variety of academic areas, yet my sister ended up at the same exact Law School. She ended up being hired by a very prestigious law firm, and now makes a sizeable amount of money. So, do rankings really matter? Were her roommates that much better off because their colleges received higher ratings?

I think there’s no simple answer (as both sides have valid arguments). However, I feel that while rankings may give you a little bit of a boost when looking for a job, it’s much more important to see what you did in college, rather than how your school was ranked. I guarantee someone who gets straight Cs at Harvard will not be as appealing to a perspective employer as someone who earned straight A’s at a state school. I know too many students get into highly ranked colleges and expect it to automatically make them better than everyone else looking for jobs.

Just because a school is highly ranked, doesn’t mean it will be the best fit for you. It also doesn’t mean that you’re guaranteed to get the best job in your field. At the same time, brighter students tend to seek out the higher ranked colleges, so one might think that the overall educational atmosphere would be better. But, again, what’s the goal of college? To get a degree, in order to get a job. Will going to a highly ranked institution always translate into a higher salary?

The last thing is that rankings really can be deceptive. Many students can make their colleges as easy or hard as they want. If students look for the easiest classes, with the easiest professors, their college experience, and degree will reflect that. Students who challenge themselves in highly ranked, and unranked schools will both probably benefit from a strong education.

Some schools deciding to not be involved in the US News and World Report rankings is a very big statement. Schools are realizing that when it comes down to it, being able to brag about being top ten in a certain area is great, but might ultimately be unfair to the thousands of schools that still have fantastic programs, but just don’t break the top 10. Should students not apply to certain universities simply because some report doesn’t rank them high?

So, do college rankings really matter? If the BCS is any indication, ranking colleges in any spectrum (either academically or athletically) can be quite challenging, and sometimes woefully inaccurate.

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