Are College Rankings Relevant?

Updated: Sep 13, 2018

Last week, the U.S. News & World Report released its 2019 Best Colleges rankings - a much anticipated list by many students and parents. It’s not a surprise that a lot of students delay putting their college list together until this ranking is released. U.S. News modified its methodology in evaluating schools to focus more on academic excellence and student outcome.


University of California Los Angeles overtook U.C. Berkeley to become the No. 1 top pubic school among national universities for the first time. More California colleges improved in their rankings because the new methodology considered the graduating performance factor of low-income students. Colleges that did not report on this factor were put at disadvantage.

Are college rankings really all they are cracked up to be? They can serve as a quick way to find a college that meets your search criteria for an ideal school – like best engineering schools, best value schools and even schools with best dining options. The rankings provide a lot of data and statistics that can be helpful in selecting a college (student diversity, average enrolling GPA and more).


When considering these school rankings, keep in mind that subjectivity and bias cannot be completely removed. There are so many factors that make up a college making it almost impossible to rank them consistently and accurately. A more selective college does not necessarily mean it is a “better” college. Finally, getting a qualify job after graduating from college is an important end goal of earning that diploma. College ranking rarely consider job placement and the quality of it where determining where a school is placed on a list.


One of my students decided to attend a smaller liberal arts school despite getting admitted to University of California Berkeley (ranked no. 22 in National Universities by U.S. News). I had a chance to catch up with her over coffee last summer. She enthusiastically shared about her college life – her school was close-knit and felt a bit more like home. All of her classes were small in size and taught by professors. She was excited about her recent involvement with the school’s theater productions – something she never did before!


College rankings should only be one of many resources you use in your college search. Focus on the factors that are important to you in a college. Check out my web page on how to explore the colleges that best fit you.

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