Students’ eyes roll while reeling after the strenuous test of finding the latest textbook and successfully clearing the buzzing checkout lane.
Finally free from the sounds of register receipts, credit cards swipes and murmurs of, “Just sign at the X” from an overworked cashier.
This scenario is common at any college bookstore during the beginning of a semester, but similar lines are popping up in bookstores across the nation.
The reason people are lining up is not to pick out a textbook, but to pick out a college.
Now, more than ever, parents and high school seniors are putting extreme importance on U.S. News & World Report’s annual “Best College” ranking.
In a recent Philadelphia Inquirer commentary, Earl J. Ball, the head of the William Penn Charter School, expressed his disapproval of those parents who put too much emphasis on the rankings when deciding what college their senior should attend.
After reading the article, as well as investigating the U.S. News Web site and taking my personal selection process into account, I found it impossible to disagree with Ball’s standpoint.
Ball’s commentary mentions many harmful factors of relying on the report too heavily.
One example is that some students who do not get into a college that is ranked high feel deep disappointment and dwell on the fact that they’re not the “best.”
In reality, many schools that have amazing programs to offer prospective students are not ranked or even listed on the ratings.
Parents and students are not the only ones concerned with college rankings.
In some extreme cases, schools change their curriculum to achieve a better ranking, knowing that ranking means higher enrollment, and higher enrollment means more tuition dollars.
These changes are outrageous.
No school should compromise its curriculum to save face in a magazine.
The report is a valuable source because of its research in such areas as alumni percentages, student selectivity, retention and faculty resources.
But the report should not be the only thing students consider when deciding what school to attend. Even U.S. News agrees.
The section of the magazine’s website entitled, “Why the U.S. News ranks colleges” states: “As in the past, U.S. News recommends that its readers use the rankings as one tool for selecting a college. We recognize that prospective students must consider their academic and professional goals, financial resources, scholastic record, and special needs when choosing a school.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Yet, many parents and students are obsessed with the name value of a school, rather than its curriculum, and are oblivious to the numerous deciding factors involved in choosing a college.
These ratings are similar to comparing apples and oranges.
Every college has unique programs to offer, and there is no use ranking colleges against one another when there are so many differences between them.
When considering a college, one should put their needs above any report, statistic, or ranking and form their own decision on what college is best.
What one shouldn’t do is open U.S. News & World Report, look at the number one school and say, “Yep, that’s the one.”
Brandon Lausch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org