Q&A with The College Whisperer on College Rankings

Q&A from #CampusChat 5/20/2015 

Topic: College Rankings: the good, the bad and the ugly with Seth Bykofsky @getcollege

Seth D. Bykofsky, founder of College Connection, home of The College Whisperer® , was our guest on #CampusChat on May 20, 2015. Below is our Q&A with Seth and his his take on college rankings. Follow Seth on Twitter @getcollege.


Q1 What exactly are college rankings? #CampusChat

A1 College rankings are metrics and analytics designed to give students a false sense of which college is “best.”#campuschat

A1 Fun to read. Interesting to talk about. And a widely used marketing tool for colleges and magazines. #campuschat

A1 College rankings, like those of of airlines, hotels, and pizza parlors, are highly subjective. #campuschat

A1 Much like tobacco industry studies that conclude, “smoking is good for you,” take rankings with huge grain of salt! #campuschat

Q2 Who ranks colleges? #CampusChat

A2 Seemingly, anyone and everyone. @USnewseducation. @ThePrincetonRev.  @Forbes. My Uncle Louie. #campuschat

A2 Lately, everyone is getting into the rankings game, from @money to @nytimes. It sells – the mags and the colleges. #campuschat

A2 Often wonder, just who really ranks the colleges, by what methodology, and what is their motive? #campuschat

Q3 What’s good about college rankings? #CampusChat

A3 They make for great bathroom reading and coffee table talk. #campuschat

A3 Always interesting to guess which college will be #1 – Harvard, Princeton, or Yale. #campuschat

A3 Enjoy watching colleges squirm to see whether they’ve made the coveted list of “bests.” #campuschat

Q4 How do we know which rankings are credible? #CampusChat

A4 Assume that they are all flawed in one way or another, and thus, incredible. #campuschat

A4 Rankings are a self-perpetuating myth, feeding into our desire to label and brand. We satisfy a need to assign values. #campuschat

A4 Rankings may help us get a sense of what a school is all about. Typically, it’s someone else’s sense, not yours. #campuschat

Q5 What do college rankings mean to students during the college search process? #CampusChat

A5 Unfortunately, rankings are to students as a flame is to a moth. Often, with the same result.  #campuschat

A5 They’re attracted to a name, a brand, a status, rather than any real value a college may have to them. #campuschat

A5 Too much time wasted letting others opine as to what is “best” for us. #campuschat

A5 Students need to ask themselves, “Which colleges would be ‘best’ for me?” #campuschat

Q6 What’s bad about college rankings? #CampusChat

A6 They emphasize attributes that have very little to do with what would be a “best fit” for any particular student. #campuschat

A6 Rankings play upon students’ fears that only the listed colleges are worthy of consideration. #campuschat

A6 Rankings marginalize otherwise exceptional colleges that may go unnoticed in favor of schools that make the lists. #campuschat

Q7 How can parents help their students use college rankings? #CampusChat

A7 Rankings are a game. Played by colleges to get more apps and by mags to get more readers. Period. #campuschat

A7 Just as students need to know that they are more than numbers – GPA, SAT, shoe size – colleges are more than rankings. #campuschat

A7 Think outside the rankings. Explore all options. Consider colleges that may not be on your radar – or any list. #campuschat

A7 On the positive, rankings of, say, ‘best theater program,’ ‘best dining hall food,’ though subjective, may hold sway. #campuschat

A7 Rankings may give you a feel for what a school wants you to believe it is “best” in or at. Again, grain of salt. #campuschat

A7 At best (there’s that word again), rankings are a guide, not the Gospel! #campuschat

Q8 What’s the ugly side of college rankings? #CampusChat

A8 Really? The ugly side of college rankings? In just an hour? 😉  #campuschat

A8 Rankings divert a student’s attention from the real business of choosing a “best fit” college. #campuschat

A8 Schools bend rules to extend application deadlines to increase the number of applicants who shall later be denied. #campuschat

A8 They encourage more applicants, so as to increase the number of denials, thus demonstrably lowering acceptance rates. #campuschat

A8 Lower acceptance rates mean higher rankings. #campuschat

A8 Rankings foster the manipulation of data (not that any college would ever do that) to game the system. #campuschat

A8 They unfairly and inequitably drive goals, policies, and admissions considerations, especially among the highly ranked. #campuschat

Q9 What is your best advice for students and their parents just starting to look at colleges? #CampusChat

A9 Start early. Have a game plan. Keep an open mind. Create your own rankings of colleges that are “best” for you! #campuschat

A9 Listen to what others say, but remember: God gave you two ears for a reason – in one, out the other. #campuschat

A9 What matters most is not where you go to college, but what you get out of the college you go to. #campuschat

A9 Don’t sweat the small stuff. And remember, it’s almost all small stuff. #campuschat

A9 Going to college is fun. Getting in should be at least half as much fun. Enjoy the ride! #campuschat

A9 Search and apply for #scholarships. Go for financial freedom. Not student debt. #campuschat

A9 Always, always, always complete and submit #FAFSA #campuschat

A9 Yes, college is worth it. Liberal arts are alive and well. It’s okay to be undecided! #campuschat

A9 Relax! You are going to get in to a college that is a great fit for you. #campuschat

A9 Forget rankings, ROI, and all the attendant silliness. The one true barometer of success in life is happiness! #campuschat

A9 Am I supposed to say something about sunscreen at this point? J #campuschat

For the complete transcript from our College Rankings #CampusChat, see our Smart College Visit page on Storify.