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College Ranking Debunked

On the off chance everyone you know in CSOM hasn’t already told you twice, the Carroll School of Management recently ascended to third in the BusinessWeek rankings. Beyond giving a much needed ego boost to the accounting and finance majors, this increase in ranking and the excitement that accompanied it highlight a strange trend popularized during our generation: the online college rankings.

During the application process, I know that I spent way too long staring at various college rankings in hopes of gaining some clarity into what the best school for me was. Whether it was the US News rankings, the rankings by Forbes.com, or some other website, a large part of my perception of a school was based on where it ranked. This obsession with online rankings has become a generational trend, as evidenced by the fact that there has been an exponential increase in rankings sites since 2008. All of this this begs the question: is there any value in college rankings?

While there are strong opinions on both sides of this argument, the data suggests that only one demographic actually benefits from a higher college ranking, and it’s not the students. The primary beneficiaries of a high college ranking, as it turns out, are the colleges themselves. According to the publication Research in Higher Education, colleges that rank highly in the US News college rankings parlay this into receiving up to 10% more applications the following year, allowing them to be more selective with who they admit. In this way, these rankings, which are typically derived from an assemblage of arbitrary factors that may or may not being indicative of actual academic standing, according to Alia Wong of The Atlantic, help colleges without actually informing prospective students about the quality of schools. In fact, according to Wong, “the data [used to determine a college’s ranking] are of such poor quality that ranking colleges is completely misleading.”

So, as it turns out, college rankings are not only misleading in terms of actual quality of education, but also make it tougher for students to get into schools, as arbitrary rankings allow colleges to be more selective. Speaking from the perspective of someone who transferred to Boston College from a different university that actually ranks higher in the US News rankings, my experience has taught me that a college experience is what you make of it, not where the school is ranked. I have been significantly more academically fulfilled at BC, regardless of what some Internet rankings would suggest.

So while there’s no problem with any student in CSOM taking pride in their new, higher ranking (but seriously, we all get it, stop reminding us how great CSOM is), the true value of a college education lies in what you make of it, not what any website might say.

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