Make Sense of College Rankings

Posted on

May 6, 2019


Greg Kaplan


It seems like every week there is a new ranking for top colleges, top college programs, colleges where students are the happiest, etc., etc.  How are we supposed to interpret these results and their conflicts with each other?  The answer: understand the metrics.  I was forwarded a list of the best Business Schools in the US compiled by Bloomberg this week by the parent of a student I work with.    

I am a big Bloomberg fan, but was taken aback by the methodology.  The most important variable to them were employer survey's reflecting the school's preparation of its students.  This accounted for almost half of the points assigned to a school.  Absent from the list was the percentage of students employed three months after graduation in real, full time positions.  Being prepared for a job in the eyes of an employer is great, if you can find one.  If you can't... well... A paltry 15% was assigned to student starting salary.  Again this wouldn't matter as much if college was free, but given the sky-high cost, most families would like to see a return on the investment.  

The takeaway from this is that you should not put too much emphasis on any list, even if your child's dream school is #1 on it.  The variables used to rank different colleges can be divorced from the reality of why your family is willing to shell out $250,000 on a college education.   Find surveys that emphasize the variables that matter to you when evaluating a college.

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