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Monday, September 23, 2013
It's Time for Rankings, Again
The first week of September has zoomed past us and with it, a new set of rankings from the hallowed periodical, US News & World Report. It's the kind of news that tends to keep zooming past most of us. Fortunately, my alma mater gives me Facebook updates. And guess what? They're tied for #2 in some illustrious category.
So for a quick second, I feel a surge of pride. It may have been a couple of decades, but, dang, my school is IMPORTANT. It made me feel a little important. I kind of wanted it to be known that I was an alum. I almost even "liked" the picture on Facebook. Then reason brought me to a screeching halt.
The rankings are stacked on a house of cards! They are constructed from subjective data by a single magazine that has somehow picked up steam as the Most.Reliable.Source.Ever. (Too much Facebooking for me?)
Rankings are a cash cow for the universities. It is a marketing tool. It is not a set of objective metrics upon which hopeful students should base a significant life decision. My own alma mater managed to suck me into the vortex using a simple marketing strategy.
Over the past several years, colleges have proven that they will massage almost any data into something that will boost their rankings. They get it. Selecting a college is a tough decision. If you're doing it right, it involves a lot of research, campus visiting and soul-searching. If you're not up for all that, you just lean on the rankings. Colleges know that.
David Hawkins, Director of the National Association for College Admissions Counseling, offered this (fantastic) quip: "Using "input" variables, like SAT/ACT scores, to assess a college's quality is like judging a person's character by the wealth of the people they associate with". See his entire op-ed here: US News
I agree, take a breath. Log out of Facebook, close the rankings page, and start looking for the college that's truly your match. That's where the hard work begins.
Labels: It's Time for Rankings, Again
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