How Important are College Rankings?

The official rankings of the American Colleges and Universities are published each year by The Princeton Review and the Forbes magazine.

These guides are like a doctrine to the prospective students who blindly follow them when they are choosing a university. They have the ranking on each and every conceivable parameter including the most expensive school and the best on-campus food. But are these findings really accurate? Can they be trusted?

Rankings are contradictory:

Take the case of Florida State University. Check out the statistics related to this college in the last couple of years or so. You will find that Forbes has showed an increase in rankings for Florida State University from 2009 to 2010. This obviously sounds good! But The Princeton Review rated FSU as 7th in the rankings for the schools where the students study the least. Now this is really confusing, to say the least.

Lack Specificity:

Rankings are only numbers. They do not tell you anything about the distinct nature of the school. You do not find any information about the campus life, the type of extra-curricular activities on offer and the nature of sports programs that are available for the students. You also need to find out the nature of internships that one can get while studying at the particular university. Talk to past students, if possible, and do just rely blindly on the rankings. These small details can change the course of your career. So be pro-active and get all the necessary details.

No Real Knowledge:

The Washington Post has unearthed an uncomfortable fact that college administrators take part in this voting thereby boosting each other’s schools. The ranking of the colleges is, thus, very much questionable. 25% of the scores of a college come from the peer assessment and this is mainly done by the college administrators.

But this system is really absurd. A College administrator in the University of California in Berkley might make an assessment of Old Dominion College in Virginia without knowing anything about the college. They only rely on the promotional mailings that reach their office.


Reputation of the colleges plays a major part in the ranking system. Colleges like Yale, Harvard and Princeton do not suffer from fluctuation in the rankings as a result of their reputation.

It should be remembered that rankings can play a big role in the selection of a college but it should not be the only criterion. Many factors including your own perception of the college should matter in your final choice.