Op-Ed: College Rankings Don’t Really Define Who You Are

By: Luanne ’22
IB English A Language & Literature

The college application process is like a game of Russian roulette. To some students, college application is a matter of life and death. Admissions to a highly prestigious college are considered a ticket to a life of guaranteed success while losing out on a place in a highly respected college designated one to the label of losers. To survive in this academic “Squid Game”, students turn to college ranking guides as their holy grail.     

As a student of the class of 2022, most of my classmates are applying to colleges that are so-called the top 100 ranking universities and they seem like really just choosing colleges off the list. U.S. News is the organization that decides the rankings by combinations of 17 measures of academic quality out of 100 points. Their standards include graduation and retention rates (22%), undergraduate academic reputation (20%), faculty resources (20%), and financial resources per student (10%) … just to name a few. Within each category, there are also sub-standards that make up the whole percentage.

But I have my doubts about the excessive adulation of this whole college ranking business. My own standards of what constitutes a good college are quite simple: Next to the ocean, having pleasant weather, and it should be a place where one, especially females, is not afraid to walk alone even in the middle of the night. 

I believe how good a college is cannot and should not only depend on academic standards and how many research papers a college has published in peer-review journals. I believe the yardstick to determine ‘how good a college is’ should take into account the level of happiness and fulfillment felt by both students and staff alike, the level of satisfaction with regard to living conditions, safety around the campus, and whether the location is convenient. This is not to invalidate the U.S. News’ standards, however, at some point, I disagree with their standards. 

How can the student-faculty ratio be worth only 1% within faculty resources? The student-faculty ratio is of paramount importance because it allows students to estimate how great their opportunities are to discuss their questions in great depth with a faculty member should they choose to attend the college. In addition, while undergraduate academic reputation is worth 20%, financial resources per student are only worth 10% out of the 100 points awarded (U.S. New 2021). So now it seems like the standards are very subjective. 

In this case, I will argue that students from a low-income family will care more about how much a school will offer in terms of their financial aid or scholarship opportunities, compared to hyper-rich students who only care about how prestigious the reputation of a college is so that their grandparents are able to brag about their grand-child bringing honors to their family and ancestors. In other words, they believe college ranking defines their children’s success, nothing else matters.

 Vanity can be dangerous. Putting extremely high pressure on your loved ones, taking away their freedom to make their own informed decision, forcing them to choose a college just because of the high ranking can lead to unfortunate consequences. Contrary to my peers, I choose to venture on a less beaten path. 

I’ve always thought about studying in Japan after high school. Before the application season, I found an American University that’s located in the heart of Tokyo – Temple University Japan, ranked No.103 among the National (TUJ 2021). Perhaps to some, such a lowly placement in the ranking is not worthy of their attention, but I believe it suits me the best. My parents offer me their full support, not just because it is my dream to study in Japan, but also because Japan is probably one of the safest countries around the world, and I am truly grateful to them for their open-minded attitude with regard to my choice of college. 

Children should not be labeled by the college rankings and the schools should not too. College ranking is just like the peel outside a fruit; a fruit with beautiful and clean peel doesn’t mean it is sweet and tasty.

Therefore, college ranking should be altered in a way for students to find their best fit. U.S. News should include more conditions and criteria, such as safety, that define a good school. Parents need to stop intervening in their children’s learning, instead, they should listen to their children’s voices and support them. To all readers, the most important thing when applying to colleges is to try to find a college that suits one best. It’s foolish to act like the two evil sisters of Cinderella, cutting their heels to fit in the crystal shoe. Ultimately it’s not the college ranking that defines what you become, it should be you to define who you really are.

Bibliography

Cohen, Steve, and John Katzman. “Why Parents Pick the Wrong Colleges For Their Kids.” TIME, 14 Apr. 2017, https://time.com/4738628/college-selection-wrong-choice/.

Frank. “7 Famous People Who Went To Community Colleges.” FRANK, Frank, 16 Mar. 2021, https://withfrank.org/how-to-pay-for-college/student-life/famous-people-that-went-to-community-college/.

Jaschik, Scott. “To Find the Best Fit, Ignore the Rankings.” Insidehighered, 15 Oct. 2018, https://www.insidehighered.com/admissions/article/2018/10/15/stanford-study-says-rankings-do-not-point-students-best-college-fit.

mastersportal. “5 Reasons Why University Rankings Are Not Perfect.” Mastersportal, mastersportal, 7 Aug. 2021, https://www.mastersportal.com/articles/2023/5-reasons-why-university-rankings-are-not-perfect.html.

Morse, Robert, and Eric Brooks. “How U.S. News Calculated the 2022 Best Colleges Rankings.” Usnews, USNews, 12 Sept. 2021, https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/articles/how-us-news-calculated-the-rankings.

Niche. “University of Chicago.” Niche.Com, Niche, 6 Oct. 2021, https://www.niche.com/colleges/university-of-chicago/.

Tai, Jack. “Do College Grades Predict Future Success?” Forbes, 19 Oct. 2020, https://www.forbes.com/sites/theyec/2020/10/19/do-college-grades-predict-future-success/?sh=5f26ca7d5af6.
Temple University Japan. “Temple University in the Global Rankings 2021.” Tuj.Ac.Jp, 24 May 2021, https://www.tuj.ac.jp/news/2021/05/24/global-ranking-2021/.

By: Kayla ’22
IB English A Language & Literature

Seriously, how many cheap clothes can we even wear in our lifetime?

My friend recently asked me what I think about this fancy dress she saw at the mall for Homecoming. She wandered across the room and blurted out: “I can’t decide which color to get. Since it’s 3 for 50% off, should I just buy all of them and see which one I like most?”

My friend is an avid consumer of good bargains and cheap clothes. And like most people, she doesn’t understand the true costs of engaging in fast fashion – overwhelming piles of clothing in landfills, irreversible environmental impacts, and the violation of human rights. As I thought about the dresses, I knew immediately that she would only wear them once in her lifetime. After all, where else is she going to wear a glitter ball gown?

I took a deep breath. I immediately thought about the eye-opening documentary “The True Cost” I watched a year ago out of curiosity that ended with tears rolling down my face of guilt and terror. That documentary truly changed the trajectory of my life, and ever since, I have not looked at clothing the same way. My constant urge for wanting new clothing completely vanished. I found myself shopping for second-hand clothing on the floor in flea markets for a fraction of the price, smiling with joy as I scoured through piles of clothing on the floor and eventually finding a purple checkered cardigan from a grandma she wore in her young flourishing years. Every piece of clothing had a story, a complete contrast from fast fashion.

Clothing waste piles up in landfills in Ghana. 
Credit: Stan Honda via Getty Images

Why is fast fashion and overconsumption that detrimental? Well, it’s kind of a long story. The turnover rate for fast fashion leads to overconsumption, and overconsumption leads to a negative environmental impact. To put it into perspective, the average American throws away 81 pounds of clothing every year and the majority of fast fashion garments are not made to last. They’re usually made of cheap synthetic fibers like polyester, which is essentially plastic. Polyester can take up to 200 years to decompose, which is especially bad because the industry produces over 100 billion new garments every year. Essentially, we are living on one big pile of plastic.

As I finally built up the courage to break it to her, I blurted out everything bad about fast fashion I knew to my friend. I couldn’t bear watching her carelessly buy 3 garments that she will probably only wear once in her lifetime. This is exactly why fast fashion stores are always having huge sales – to drive impulse purchases since they’re so cheap! More impulse purchases inherently mean more revenue, the ultimate goal of any business. 

Discounts and sales of clothing in fast fashion stores.
Credit: Vallery Jean via Getty Images

A few minutes later, I watched as my friend stood in complete silence, in awe of everything fast fashion has hidden from her. She slowly put all three dresses back to their hangers and uttered, “If fast fashion is that harmful, then what do I do about my homecoming dress?” 

The transition from fast fashion is never easy. But there are always solutions to a problem. First of all, does my friend even need a new dress? She already has dresses from previous years and I bet they aren’t too shabby. There is absolutely nothing wrong with repeating outfits, clothes are meant to be worn until they fall apart, so why bother what people may think?  Secondly, she can always repurpose clothing by styling them differently and swap clothes with friends like me! In a way, it’s like having a brand new wardrobe since the clothing belongs to another person. Homecoming is just one day after all and it’s more about having fun than the outfit. Don’t get me wrong, skipping fast fashion does not mean that style goes out the window, some of the most unique pieces are actually found when thrifting and continuing another person’s story!

While it’s impossible to completely avoid problems caused by fast fashion, we can always make a difference by doing our part in making conscious decisions. If we want to restore our landfill-free Earth, and if we want a clean, safe, fair, transparent, and accountable fashion industry, we are going to have to take matters into our own hands, and “reduce, reuse, and repurpose”.

“Textile & Fashion Waste Statistics: Facts About Clothing In Landfills”. Eco Friendly Habits, 2021, https://www.ecofriendlyhabits.com/textile-and-fashion-waste-statistics/.

“Thinking About Waste – Clothing And Landfill – Time To Sew”. Time To Sew, 2018, https://timetosew.uk/waste-clothing-landfill/. 

“20 Hard Facts And Statistics About Fast Fashion”. Good On You, May 2020, https://goodonyou.eco/fast-fashion-facts/.

By: Heloise ’22
IB English A Language & Literature

Living in Mei-shu-guan district, one of the most prestigious residential areas in Kaohsiung, I have experienced street harassment multiple times. The first time, I was just walking home on the same common routes. Nothing was threatening until, “Hey, your skirt is nice and short”, one of the construction workers yelped frivolously. I pretended that I did not hear that and continued walking. As I walked past the construction, one of them walked towards me, and he was about to put his hand on me. My legs intuitively accelerated, as if they were telling me to leave that space as far as I could. 

Never did it occur to me that I have to be careful of my wearing, my action, on the routes to school, in this gender equality country of 6th ranking in the world. (Taipei Times) I realized that my naivety has proven me wrong, that I experienced numerous times being pestered walking on the streets. The seemingly advanced progression of this country is ironically repelled. 

I did not even know if this incident counts as harassment before this op-ed assignment.

Neon billboards flashed, cars horned, and folks shuttled. It was one of the most stunning nights of the summery Taipei. Until fear surrounded my back when I noticed the inappropriate remark behind was about me and my friend. “That short skirt one looks young.” “The one beside her also got a nice pair of legs.” In the convenience store, there was a group of old male taxi drivers behind the aisle that we were standing by. As we were browsing through the items on the aisle, the whole 7-11 was filled by their people all of a sudden. There was only one clerk in the store, and we knew that he could not help us. Nervously, my friend held onto my arm tightly as we felt the threat. My head started spinning around with all kinds of scenarios. We informed each other that we had to leave the space. We then paced rapidly towards the exit, but their gang noticed and approached us closely. Ultimately, we fled the 7-11as fast as we could.

Taiwan

With the title of “Taiwan is No. 1 in Asia, world No. 6 for gender equality”, I found no words that are relatable at all in this news headline. (Taipei Times) Despite that Taiwan is ranked no.6 for gender equality, there are still countless cases of sexual harassment around us. “Last year more than 14,000 cases of sexual harassment were reported throughout Taiwan”, (Taiwan News) data was reported, as Taiwan joined the “Me Too” campaign in 2018. It is ironic that in such a progressive country, there is still a big number of cases. Knowing the fact that we are the 6th on the rank, I cannot imagine how much worse it would be in other countries.

Other countries

Walking out from the zone in Taiwan, street harassment has also been fundamentally found in numerous countries, even more seriously. A survey was conducted in 2016 by ActionAid, “They found that 79% of women living in cities in India, 86% in Thailand, and 89% in Brazil have been subjected to harassment or violence in public, as had 75% of women in London, UK.” (Stop Street Harassment) Moreover, street harassment is no longer only a women’s issue, men and LGBTQ communities also suffered from inappropriate harassment on the streets. The advocacy group Stop Street Harassment conducted a nationally representative survey. “Among U.S. men, one-quarter said they have experienced street harassment. The survey also showed that non-white individuals and people who identify as gay, lesbian or transgender are more likely to say they have experienced street harassment.” (Stop Street Harassment) The whole data is showing how harassment has been normalized, common in the public. 

We need to report

I found how few of the cases were actually reported when a worldwide study revealed that “…fewer than 1 in 10 incidents in 5 cities are reported to police, and when they are, less than one-third of cases were acted upon.” (Global Study) In fact, I experienced it multiple times and I did not report a single one either. “It takes a lot of courage to report harassment, but it’s clear that most of the time when girls report, they are not taken seriously and the system is not set up to support them. Too many of these reports just fall into the cracks.” As street harassment has become a widespread issue in many countries, systems should be set up to fight against this injustice. 

Furthermore, statements need to be made clear that it is not ok for women to endure or normalize it as part of their daily lives that they have to be extra cautious. “For too long women and girls everywhere have endured harassment as a normal part of their daily lives. They internalize it and over time, it begins to have a serious impact on their well-being. Girls and young women in our research told us loud and clear that when authorities fail to respond with the support and services they need, it can be extremely damaging and harrowing for them.”(Global Study)

A few seconds of harassment could cause trauma on one’s life for long-term effect or even forever. That comes to a reason why more educational campaigns are needed to provide information on announcing what counts towards harassment and ways to prevent it. We should not be afraid to speak against injustice in order for those forever hidden cases to come to an end, increase the security of people, and the progression of the country to continue advancing. 

Works cited

“Taiwan No. 1 In Asia, World No. 6 For Gender Equality – Taipei Times”. Taipeitimes.Com, 2021, https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2021/01/09/2003750242. Accessed 4 Oct 2021.

“Global Study: Authorities Not Acting On Street Harassment”. Plan International, 2021, https://plan-international.org/news/2019-12-02-global-study-authorities-not-acting-street-harassment.  Accessed 6 Oct 2021.

Chatterjee, Rhitu. “A New Survey Finds 81 Percent of Women Have Experienced Sexual Harassment.” NPR, NPR, 22 Feb. 2018, https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/02/21/587671849/a-new-survey-finds-eighty-percent-of-women-have-experienced-sexual-harassment. Accessed 6 Oct 2021.

​​News, Taiwan. “‘Me Too’ Campaign Takes Off In Taiwan, With A New Hotline And Website For Sexual Harassment Victims | Taiwan News | 2018-03-15 16:04:00”. Taiwan News, 2018, https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/3383463.  Accessed 6 Oct 2021. 

“Statistics – The Prevalence Of Street Harassment | Stop Street Harassment”. Stop Street Harassment, 2021, https://stopstreetharassment.org/resources/statistics/statistics-academic-studies/.  Accessed 6 Oct 2021.