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Use Growth Mindset When Choosing a CollegeGuest Contributor
And every year, high school students and their families use these lists to create a list of dream colleges.
The colleges and universities at the top of these lists rarely change and always include the Ivies. But does this mean these are indeed the best colleges? Not necessarily.
Parents and students should understand how the rankings work and take time to make their own evaluations of the colleges that interest them. The lists have some value and can be used as a jumping off point, but putting too much emphasis on rankings may mean your student misses out on their best fit college.
College rankings are created for the sole purpose of helping college-bound students in their search for the best colleges. Most of these lists rank schools and academic programs within specific categories, like best liberal arts colleges, best online colleges, best business degrees, and even colleges with the most politically active students.
College rankings can serve as a simple and quick method to find a college or university that meets your student’s search goals.
Most college ranking lists use a combination of statistics and opinions based on survey responses.
Here are some of the statistics that influence the rankings:
These opinions gathered from college professionals and students also influence the rankings:
Here are four good ways college rankings can be helpful as your student creates their own college list.
Although college rankings can be helpful when comparing colleges, there are reasons to tread lightly when using these lists to choose a college.
A few years ago, Frank Bruni, a contributing opinion writer at The New York Times, wrote a piece he called "Why College Rankings Are a Joke."
According to Bruni, "The rankings nourish the myth that the richest, most selective colleges have some corner on superior education; don't adequately recognize public institutions that prioritize access and affordability; and do insufficient justice to the particular virtues of individual campuses."
Lynn O’Shaughnessy, author of The College Solution: A Guide for Everyone Looking for the Right School at the Right Price, points out the cheating that goes on when colleges send incorrect, inaccurate and inflated data to the list makers.
Some other things to consider:
These rankings are based on a subjective collection of information from the colleges themselves. Colleges have been known to pad their data, cheat on the reporting, and shift the data in their favor to rank high on the list.
Rankings can be beneficial when starting your college list, but I always suggest that students and families use more than one source when comparing colleges and gathering data. Following are some additional sources I recommend:
Custom College Rankings helps you view all the college statistics on a spreadsheet and change the criteria of the spreadsheet as you view it. There are over 2,900 colleges and universities with statistics for each gathered from the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Education.
The ETC College Rankings Index measures the improvement in employability and earnings that a particular college brings to its graduates, relative to students at other similar colleges. It focuses on the value-added by going to a particular college and pursuing a specific area of study.
Unlike other college ranking systems, College Factual serves as a decision-making hub throughout the entire college search process, sharing outcomes-based data such as average student loan debt per student and default rates; how well colleges retain and graduate students; graduates’ starting salaries and earning potential; and return on investment (ROI) based on cost of a degree.
GradReports ranks schools by Salary Score, a proprietary rating system based on how much alumni earn at each school compared to alumni from the same programs across all institutions. This methodology allows students to find schools whose alumni earn high salaries in their field, regardless of what they study. Their rankings are based on graduate salary data provided by the U.S. Department of Education.
Never rely solely on one set of rankings. Use the comparison tools to make a wise college choice. The best college is the college that is the best fit for your student, not a number on a college ranking list.
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