Do college rankings really matter?

WRITTEN BY: Jamie Ballard
Image Source: Flickr via Prabhu B Doss

Forbes recently released their lists of the best colleges in America. They base the rankings on a number of factors, including student satisfaction, graduate success, and graduation rates, among other factors.

My school, San Diego State University, ranked 262 on the overall list, and took the number 18 spot for Most Entrepreneurial Universities, as well as the number 18 spot for Top Value Colleges. People are pretty excited, and it’s definitely an honor for our school.

But it does get me to thinking - do these rankings really matter?

I don’t mean to belittle the hard work that the people at Forbes put into creating this list, and I certainly appreciate all the work universities and colleges put into creating a positive environment for their students. But I do question whether or not the rankings can really tell prospective students about the school.

When I was applying to colleges, I obsessively looked up everything I could find about the schools that I was interested in. If there was a list, ranking, or student review of the school, I read it. But if I had based my decision only on the rankings I found, I likely would have ended up in a small private liberal arts school on the East Coast, garnering mass amounts of debt and wondering how people deal with snow.


And while the small private liberal arts school is a good option for a lot of people, it simply isn’t for me. I love my sprawling campus, where the temperature rarely dips below 70 and the beach is only 15 minutes away. I love that there are so many things to do and see on campus and in San Diego, and I love that there will always be a part of the city I haven’t yet explored.

College rankings don’t tell you about the new friends you’ll make when you’re standing outside your dorm at 3 a.m. because someone pulled the fire alarm again. They don’t tell you about the parties you’ll attend or the crush you’ll develop on the guy across the hallway or the professor you’ll really bond with. They don’t tell you about the way the sky looks on a Friday afternoon when you’re blessedly done for the weekend, and how the trees sway brighter. They don’t tell you about the exhilaration you’ll feel as you run across campus at midnight and jump in a fountain you aren’t supposed to.

There’s also a part of me that doubts the rankings because I think you can be living a miserable life at a top-notch school, or truly enjoying yourself and creating important things and memories at a lesser-recognized college.

College rankings tell you facts about the school, but they can’t tell you experiences. Those you have to make yourself.

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