Rank This: Understanding the Differences in College Rankings

April 05, 2016

For many parents and students, starting the college search is a daunting experience. With so many choices out there, it’s nearly impossible to know every detail about the schools right off the bat. While one school might be a great academic fit, it might not be the best personal fit.

Luckily, one of the most popular resources for prospective students is the US News and World Report college ranking. Every year, the publication releases its famed ranking list, featuring the top schools from top to bottom. Though it’s a reliable resource, it’s not the only one - and it only measures based on certain metrics. Even US News and World Report’s website says so:

“Many factors other than those spotlighted here will figure in your decision, including location and the feel of campus life; the range of academic offerings, activities and sports; and cost and the availability of financial aid. But if you combine the information on usnews.com with college visits, interviews and your own intuition, our rankings can be a powerful tool in your quest for the right college.”

 

Applying to college?
View the app files and essays of accepted students.
LEARN MORE

So what’s the difference between their rankings and all other rankings out there? US News and World Report focuses on academic value for the money, but doesn’t take into account the other factors that might make a college decision. Specifically, the focus is on academic reputation, student retention rate, faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources, graduation rate, and alumni giving rate. Forbes, on the other hand, looks at student satisfaction, post-graduation success, student debt, graduation rates, and academic success. Niche has a longer list of factors, but also considers professors, athletics, campus quality, surrounding area, and safety.

Consider this: Williams College is ranked #2 on Forbes’ top colleges list and is #1 on US News’ list of top liberal arts colleges, but isn’t found until #19 on Niche’s list. On College Factual’s list, Williams is ranked #50. With all those numbers and pieces of information, where would you rank Williams on your list? For some, it would absolutely be #1, while for others, it’s not even a consideration.

As Jeffrey Brenzel, former Dean of Admissions at Yale, said: “there are many excellent reasons to apply to Yale, but Yale’s position in the rankings is not one of them.” And that’s the importance of comparing different lists to each other, and then thinking about it yourself. While these lists are all objective in their own way, they all provide different data and come to different conclusions. There are lists for best dorms, best food, and even best college towns - all of which might play a huge role in where you decide to apply.

Sources: US NewsNicheForbesCollege FactualYale Admissions.

About The Author

Drew Evans
Drew Evans

​Drew is a content and social media guru. When he’s not working, he loves to photograph, play music, play sports, and travel. He is also weirdly obsessed with Thai food, Girl Scout cookies, and learning new languages (even though he’s not fluent in any). For any editorial ideas, contact info@admitsee.com.




Browse Successful Application Files

yuzhushi
UMD ‘20


Accepted to UMD, JHU, Duke, Case, Swarthmore, Penn State

I am a recent high school grad about to enter my first year of college at the University of Maryland: College Park with a full Banneker/Key scholarship.
cjjo96
Barnard ‘18


Accepted to Barnard

Barnard '18 | My passions lie in education, psychology, and human rights, all from the lens of an African Studies major. My transcript and application were far from conventional, but neither am I.
ApplyingAsAnIn…
GA Tech ‘19


Accepted to , Illinois Tech, RIT, Clarkson, Stevens, GA Tech, Case, UMich, Illinois, Colorado, Rochester

Georgia Tech Class of 2019. Studying Computer Science. Working for Google in Summer 2016
ayinUChicago
UChicago ‘18


Accepted to Duke, Brown, NYU, UChicago, UNC, East Carolina, NC State

I'm a class of 2018'er at UChicago studying Economics and Psychology! Super interested in start-ups and economics.

New Posts

10 Things You'll Probably Need in College
10 Things You’ll Probably Need in College
April 19, 2018

Not sure what you need in college? We got your back. We hope you love the products listed here! Just FYI, AdmitSee may collect a share of sales from the links on this page.1. Bedside...

“Take Your Pills”: When Your Best is Not Enough
“Take Your Pills”: When Your Best is Not Enough
April 12, 2018

Netflix’s recent documentary “Take Your Pills” provides another look into the epidemic of over-medication and the overuse of ADD/ADHD drugs to enhance performance. The synopsis for the film is this: In America...

Reviewing Your Aid Offer: Which Should You Accept?
Reviewing Your Aid Offer: Which Should You Accept?
April 11, 2018

As the early excitement of getting into college settles down, you’re faced with important decisions. Along with your acceptances, hopefully, you were also awarded aid offers. Aid offers can come in a lot of...

Rewards for Studying Hard: Merit Scholarships
Rewards for Studying Hard: Merit Scholarships
April 09, 2018

Ever question why you are working so hard? Why you’re in the library studying rather playing video games? If you’re having any doubts about studying hard, remember that they can pay off in...

Load More Posts