For those of you who have not yet seen it yet, the Top Ten in US News this year are:
1. Princeton University(NJ)
2. Harvard University(MA)
3. Yale University(CT)
4. California Institute of Technology
4. Stanford University(CA)
4. Massachusetts Inst. of Technology
7. University of Pennsylvania
8. Duke University(NC)
9. Dartmouth College(NH)
9. Columbia University(NY)
9. University of Chicago
How much should you use the above data? Very little. The rankings themselves are fairly meaningless. What do they measure? What is the difference between #1 and #2 or #1 and #9. Do the criteria of the rankers match your criteria? Without the answers to these questions, you shouldn’t use the rankings at all.
While the overall rankings may be fairly useless, the statistical data included with the rankings can be helpful. First of all, they give you an indication of whether you qualify for particular programs. Some of the specialty rankings may help you if they measure factors of importance to you. They also allow you to compare programs on a limited set of criteria.
But no one can rank the schools for you. No one.
For a few other views of rankings and choosing schools, please see:
- "Rank Colleges, but Rank Them Right" from the New York Times
- "Who Needs Harvard"
- "The Admissions Process: Matching or Score-Keeping"
- "Ranking Season is Upon Us" in Notes from Peabody, a UVA Admission blog.