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US College Rankings: Do They Really Matter?

January 28, 2011 By: Category: Choosing a College

You might be starting your college search by checking out US college rankings, and there are several places to obtain these scores: U.S. News and World Report often publishes US college rankings, Internet news sites sometimes stream them to search engine landing pages like Yahoo! or, and even publishes a report of colleges whose professors are rated worst among students. Nevertheless, you might be wondering if these rankings really matter.

When US college rankings might or might not matter:

US College Rankings Might Matter to the quality of the student body—Studies have shown that when a college persistently performs poorly in US college rankings, enrollment plummets in a matter of a few years. When enrollment plummets, the college attracts less of the highly competitive, brightest students.

US College Rankings Might Not Matter if you want more grants than loans—Although tuition at an institution is not dependent on their ranking, they may extend more aid in the form of grants and scholarships to attract more high-quality students.

US College Rankings Might Matter if you want the best professors—Lists published by faculty-rating sites, like, can be a good indicator of the perceived quality of education being provided by the university from the perspective of the average student.

US College Rankings Might Not Matter if you take the rankings with a grain of salt—Rankings, especially like those on professor ranking sites, might be skewed toward the whims of disgruntled students and not representative of the institution as a whole.

US College Rankings Might Matter if you’re concerned about admission requirements of a specific institution—An institution’s ranking often directly correlates to their admissions requirements; that is, if the institution’s ranking falls, their requirements will be less stringent and vise versa.

US College Rankings Might Not Matter if you’re involved in the institution’s honors program—Colleges and universities constantly strive to attract the best and brightest to their honors programs, no matter what the general quality of their overall student body. They also attract the best professors to instruct these classes and have the best access to the university’s endowment to keep their students happy with grants and scholarships.

Making a college choice involves more than simply locating that institution on piece of paper. You might find that a college that has generally low rankings also has a lower enrollment; therefore, you might get more face-to-face interaction with your professors. Like everything in life, it’s about finding the right balance.