There should be less emphasis on college rankings

You’re looking for a college, and unlike many of your peers, you have a pretty strong idea of exactly what you’re looking for in your university: around 10,000 students, a strong focus in literature, a good college football team, and cheap housing around the area. As you scroll through U.S. News and CollegeBoard looking through all of your options, you find it: the perfect university for you! It ticks off almost everything on your checklist. But then, you notice its surprisingly low ranking; it’s ranked in the bottom 50% of colleges in the state. Exasperated, you sigh, close out the information tab, and by doing so, erase all hopes of attending the college from your mind.

Now, why is it that the singular number of a ranking has the ability to govern the huge decisions that we make when choosing a college? The sad thing is that perhaps that college mentioned above actually was perfect for you. Maybe the low ranking was due to its bad location or expensive tuition– both factors that you don’t care about. Even though the factors that determined the low ranking don’t apply to you, you still missed out on the opportunity of the ideal college because of its low grade.

The fact of the matter is that each college is bursting at the seams with a plethora of components that make up their unique composition. The distinct feeling that each campus has is based on these moving puzzle pieces that fit together to create an individual educational experience. These components- these puzzle pieces- include its academic standards, quality of sports teams, cost of living, price of tuition, food and housing options, weather, and location. The list goes on and on.

Where some colleges may be strong in academics and tuition, they may fall short in terms of weather and location. The factors that you prioritize may not be the same factors that organizations like U.S. News and CollegeBoard focus on. In other words, the ranking assigned to a university shouldn’t deter you because it may not completely apply to you. Getting a 4.0 doesn’t automatically mean that Princeton and Harvard are the right schools for you solely because they are ranked highest in the country.

While there’s no denying that rankings help us to narrow down our search, we’ve become too reliant on what is truly a glorified list. It makes no sense to pit universities against each other when there are thousands of factors to decide which is right for you. Rather, we should be using rankings to get an idea of where the college stands and to identify its strengths and weaknesses. Rankings should be used as a guide, not a tool to be obsessed over.

At the end of the day, the school that you choose doesn’t determine your future. Rather, the way you utilize your school to succeed does. Choose your college based on what matters to you, whether that be academics, sports, location, price, or the dozens of other factors that determine the outcome of your decision. In short, don’t let one number deter you from a school that could be your perfect home.