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.


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