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The Aquilian

College rankings should not be important

Columbia+University+continually+is+listed+as+one+of+the+highest+ranking+schools+in+the+country.
Columbia University continually is listed as one of the highest ranking schools in the country.

Every year, many different organizations and publications create a list of the highest ranking colleges in the country. These rankings are then taken as gospel by parents and students looking to get into the “best” school in the US. 

When someone goes to look up the best schools in the country, they get thousands of results of lists, in order, from best to worst colleges in the country. Many different factors help create these rankings. They take into account acceptance rate, rigor, staff, enrollment and much more. However, at the end of the day, they are still extremely subjective. Different websites have different orders as well as different statistics. Depending on which list one clicks on, the results could be vastly different. 

The rankings are already pretty subjective, and to make matters worse, much of the data about the schools is self-reported by the universities. One professor from Columbia University recently came out with a claim that Columbia exaggerated a lot of the statistics that allowed them to be ranked as one of the best schools in the country. In a New York Times article, “U.S. News Ranked Columbia No. 2, but a Math Professor Has His Doubts”, Dr. Thaddeus says that key supporting data was “inaccurate, dubious or highly misleading.”

These rankings should not be taken as seriously as they currently are and they should no longer be at the forefront of the college decision process. I started my college decision process in the fall of my junior year of high school. Since then, whenever I talk to just about anybody, the common denominator in all of our conversations is where I am going to college. It is not a private matter as it should be. It has become this insanely competitive process that brings students more anxiety than anything else. All of this should be fun and exciting, getting to decide where to spend the next four years of my life surrounded by other people my age with more freedom than I have ever experienced. However, these rankings have made it impossible for this decision and process to be fun or exciting. 

For my entire high school career, the main goal has been to work as hard as I possibly can so that I can get into the best college or university in the country. It was so important to me that when I was asked where I would be going to college, my answer was impressive. This is because of how the system is set up. We are all taught to care and worry more about going to the “best” college we can get into rather than what school we are going to be the happiest at. I was the same way for most of my junior and senior years of high school. 

This past fall, I was set on what school I wanted to attend next year. I visited the school, did my research and applied early decision to the college. I was later deferred, and I was completely devastated. It took me a long time to get over this. Although it was not a denial, I was still heartbroken and frustrated that I was not admitted. However, as time went on, I realized that the main reason I wanted to go to that school was because of name recognition. I thought that when I told people that was where I was going, they would be impressed and that was important to me. I wanted validation for my hard work. 

Now that I have had more time to process and to make my decision on where I want to go to college, I could not be happier about where I will spend the next four years of my educational career. The reason I am excited about where I will be going has nothing to do with the school’s ranking on some random list that was made using sketchy statistics and a subjective author. My excitement has everything to do with my projected happiness, enjoyment and success at this university. Getting rid of these rankings and lists of the “most prestigious” schools in the country would allow for greater success and overall happiness for students around the world. We cannot lose sight of what is most important in life, and it is certainly not going to the so-called “best” college in the country.

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    Carol CorganMar 31, 2022 at 11:18 am

    Great article, Will. And I know you will do well in college and beyond!

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