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.

Z. Kelly Queijo

Author: Z. Kelly Queijo

Kelly is founder of Smart College Visit and Smart College Consulting. When she's not creating content for the blog or clients, tweeting, or hosting #CampusChat, she's planning her next mobile move.

Share This Post On

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Sign up for SCV News and get tips and resources for the college-bound and the college-going. Parents and counselors, we've got you covered, too, and don't worry, your contact info will not be shared without your permission. We don't like spam and assume you don't either.

You have Successfully Subscribed!