Like every year when these rankings from US News, Forbes, and Wall Street Journal come out, there is an incredible amount of controversy and opinion from journalists and the media about everything that is wrong with the rankings and how they “don’t matter.” The old saying goes that you should pick the college that is the best fit for you, and ignore the rankings because they’re meaningless indicators of how great a college experience should be.
And yet the same people who decry the rankings are the same people who, year after year, secretly and eagerly await the new rankings to come out and check where their school is on the list. Oh the irony.
As a college admissions consult, I feel that some of this outcry from the media is merited, but others are not. I don’t quite believe in picking a college that is “right for you.” In this day and age, when the Ivy Leagues, Stanford, UChicago, MIT and other top universities are making a strong push toward increasing diversity, I’m a strong believer that your high school child will eventually, albeit with some experimentation and networking, find his or her niche within the Ivy gates.
In any given class, you’ll have accomplished musicians, scientists, engineers, politicians, artists, and the like. From a capella groups to research teams to dance groups, the diversity at these schools is impressive and you will find a social peer group that you fit in with, even if it takes a little bit of trial and error.
Get in the the best school possible, then if anything you can decide which school is the right fit for you. In reality, who actually picks a college because of the experience these days?
These universities have evolved into emblems of societal hierarchy, though certainly not to diminish the incredible educational experience these universities offer. Students pick schools due to the name brand recognition – it’s no secret. Every year high school students and families anxiously compete at the highest echelons to get a coveted spot at one of these schools.
If data is any indicator, more often than not students will choose the university that is higher ranked, not one that is necessarily the right fit for them. So I guess these rankings do matter.
When employers screen for resumes, a name brand school sticks out like a sore thumb on the resumes. Whether it’s Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley looking for investment banking hire from Princeton or Harvard, or Google and Facebook looking to hire the next top product manager or engineer from Stanford or MIT, you can bet a degree from the Top 10 university will be put at the top of the list.
That’s also a big reason why I don’t believe in college lists. Why spend so much time crafting together a school list that is the right fit for the student? Instead, you should be apply to every university in the Top 10 if you have the academic and extracurriculars stats to back it up. Because if you don’t apply, you have a zero percent chance at getting in.
The common application allows you to apply to 20 universities. Apply to as many colleges as possible – you only get one shot at this. I’ve seen students who get into Yale but rejected from Rice, for example. It’s actually not uncommon. And imagine if that student never applied to Yale – he or she wouldn’t be attending there today.
So should you pay attention to the college rankings? I’ll leave it up for you to decide.