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College ranking is useless

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In a generation where education is a lucrative game of cutthroat competition, choosing the right university was probably the biggest commitment that this class’s first-years ever had to make. For the class of 2015, this past May was a month that revolved around numbers: tuition prices, class sizes, graduation rates, student to faculty ratios, and gigantic cities versus small campuses.

And then there is the number that every first-year researched relentlessly, although most would deny basing their decision off of it: university rankings. _U.S News & World Report _released its Guide to Best Colleges this past Tuesday. To save you from a frantic Google search, I already checked: Carnegie Mellon is listed as the 23rd highest-ranked national university.

University deans and presidents tend to condemn such rankings, and they should: each and every applicant does not fit into a single collegiate mold. As writer of the Fiske Guide to Colleges, 2012, Edward Fiske, said in a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article, “the question is not, ‘What’s the best college?’ The question is, ‘What’s the best college for me?’” MIT is purported to be the fifth-best college in the nation, but an aspiring painter would receive a more accessible education at a smaller, less intense liberal arts school probably ranked at a number much greater than five. Reputation is not the way to scale an education.

College applicants are completely aware of how much numbers matter, and they should understand why this one doesn’t. They should know better than to sway their decision because of a single ranking, yet it is difficult to simply ignore a respected publication like the U.S. News & World Report. Rankings are every college applicant’s guilty pleasure. Most people pause when asked to name the first five presidents in order, but many incoming college students can recite the top five schools in the nation without hesitation.

College ranking is petty; an education is what a student makes of it. The allure of ranks, like so much else in the world, comes from reputation and pride. It’s about feeding one’s ego when a student compares him or herself to the rest of college-bound America and realizes, “I’m ranked 23rd best in the country. That’s pretty impressive.” As awesome as it is to receive an education at one of the top twenty-five schools in the country, that rank doesn’t count for anything other than personal satisfaction. Rankings should be the last number considered by college-bound students applying to universities. But if students absolutely have to choose from one ranker, use U.S. News & World Report’s. Forbes has us at number 98; they have no idea what they’re talking about.