Since the U.S. News & World Report‘s infamous and unreliable college ranking system appeared on the scene years ago, it seems everybody wants to get in on the college ranking game. Last autumn Forbes released its own ranking list, and many others have been quick to follow.
None of these rankings has yet given a realistic picture of what schools really have to offer.
Grading the Schools
Yet another ranking system has popped out of the woodworks. This one, which wonders “What Will [Students] Learn” at any given college, was recently released by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), and it gave prestigious Yale an “F” grade.
So, how does the University of Arkansas outrank an Ivy League school? The ACTA results were based on a very simple formula; they simply looked at each school’s General Education (GE) requirements, and gave them points for each of the following:
- foreign languages,
- U.S. government or history,
- mathematics, and
- natural or physical science
Then they graded the schools based on whether they felt each of these requirements was broad enough to truly introduce students to a wide spectrum of topics in each field.
Out of the 100 schools ranked in the What Will They Learn study, only 5 got A grades.
If there is one thing that rings true for almost every new college ranking, it is that none of them will work for every student–and most of them don’t have reliable ranking formulas that can perfectly gauge whether or not a college is the right fit for a student.
Already the ACTA formula is being questioned and criticized for its grading methods. A representative for the Association of American Colleges and Universities claims the What Will They Learn report did not dig deep enough into what schools are offering. She suggested that rather than simply looking at course offerings, ACTA should discern what skills each schools’ students are gaining at by the end of each course. That would certainly offer a better way to grade the schools–but, of course, gathering that kind of information is no easy task.
Choosing the Right School
Many students–and parents, for that matter–feel that finding the ideal college is very challenging. Next to the mountain of information available online and what’s pouring into our inboxes and mailboxes, it all can become daunting. But I urge you, don’t be tempted to choose your student’s college from the advice of a magazine or off a website! The true “best school” isn’t one that gets an A+ or a gold star from some faceless committee–it is the school that will be the best fit for your child academically, culturally and socially. And the only way you can find that out is by doing an in-depth college visit while school is in session.
Having trouble figuring out where to begin? Take a look at this article I wrote about how to choose the best school for your student; it will walk you through a checklist of items that will make a big difference to your student’s success and happiness at the schools on his or her list!
All the best,