Should I Look at College Rankings when Considering a College?

Soon-to-be-in-college students usually fuss over college and university rankings in their state or on a national scale. We immediately think that a high college rank means excellent educational value. While this may be true for some, it does not apply to all schools.

Some schools that rank high on many listings may be popular, but they do not translate to 100% student satisfaction either. A college that ranks high on the school list may match with your friend who is passionate about, say, Math and Science. But what if you don’t share the same enthusiasm towards those two-course subjects? Will the same school still be the perfect fit for you? It’s important to dissect this theory carefully. An excellent college of choice for someone else be perceived as non-beneficial to another.

A high-ranking university is the best one for you—unless it aligns with your academic or future career goals. Rankings are volatile and inconsistent; many internal and external factors are at play. Relying and depending on it entirely is like purchasing clothing based on how great it looks without knowing if it is for your body type. 

About College Rankings

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College rankings take some ranking formulas into account. A series of determinants and variables alter and sway those results. It’s not uncommon for ranking sites and companies to reserve a spot for paying colleges.

That said, you can always find reputable ranking sites that gather and use relevant and up-to-date information and methodologies to come up with lists of the country’s most prestigious and selective schools in all fields of study. It must be emphasized, however, that rankings are not the end-all and be-all of choosing the best school for you.

Here are two important steps you can take as you go beyond relying on college rankings:

Develop your own set of criteria. 

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You can maximize the use of college rankings and utilize them by supplement with your own assessment. Create your own checklist instead of depending on school rankings and reputation, as marketing strategies usually influence the variables for these lists. Understand what your goals and preferences are, determine your needs, and set your goals and the ways you wish to accomplish them.

It’s wise not to ignore college rankings altogether, though. Look out for reliable reviews and ranking factors that matter to you. You might as well be spending years paying for and earning your education at a facility that others believe is worth the investment!

Make a shortlist of the schools that meet these different points.

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After prepping your own criteria, check out the colleges that you believe are a perfect match, and check them out one by one. Chances are, the colleges on your list meet your needs in some way, or they may all be prestigious and selective. Assess them based on affordability, location, financial aids, graduation rates, programs offered, diversity, quality of education, number of students, number of instructors, and student outcomes.

Evaluate the colleges based on your criteria.

You can be as creative as you want, in terms of your own grading or ranking style. Join a scheduled school visit or a virtual tour and ask questions. Make use of all the tools, resources, events, and information that can help you determine your best fit. The university that scores the highest on your list could be your best bet!

Remember that choosing a college is a decision that should not be rushed. Explore as many schools as you possibly can.


When it comes to choosing your college, don’t take anything at face value. No need to be overwhelmed with the numerous college ratings either. Do your own research and create a ranking system that is customized to your requirement!