BOZTEPE: Despite rankings, college experience is what you make of it
Opinions Column: Kaanotations
College is what you make of it. College rankings play a crucial role in why incoming first-years choose the institution they do. Many websites that have collegiate statistics, such as U.S. News, use an unknown algorithm to formulate their school rankings. Essentially, these rankings have become more of a popularity rating rather than a ranking based on the educational foundations of the colleges. U.S. News actually began their rankings in 1988 by asking college presidents what they thought about other schools, causing these ratings to be biased. This caused a lot of criticism which made U.S. News revamp their ranking system.
The system change created new categories to be a part of each school’s background information, most of the information being subjective. The subjects can include the total number of students, alumni, student to professor ratio and so forth, but the “scientific formula” is actually slanted and plenty of rankings are based on small categories which can make small unheard-of schools have a higher rating than say, Rutgers, for example. The reason? Rutgers is a very large and multifaceted institution that offers multitudes of departments, faculty members and students. To break this down, websites, such as U.S. News, do not, by any sense, rank the quality of education or the number of students that receive jobs upon graduation.
The rankings can of course still be used as a resource but most definitely should not be the main factor used to choose a certain institution. The websites allow you to see the number of people attending the institution, application deadlines, prices of tuition, room and board and the gender distribution. So, to receive some common background information, these types of websites can actually be beneficial, but the rankings mean nothing for whichever major you are considering studying. Better ways to understand the feel of the institution is to look for reviews published by students for students to get a real, first-hand experience view of what it’s really like attending whichever institution one is interested in.
There is no undeviating way to define the quality of a college, as it depends on what exactly the student is studying, what type of classroom they prefer and the amount of student engagement that they are able to achieve in a class. But, these reviews caused schools to worry about these rankings. If the ranking of one of the schools falls down the pecking order of rankings, it can actually affect the number of applicants that apply to that school, which in turn hurts the value and income of said school. This is actually a big reason that many schools now offer free application fees instead of the standard $70 applications. The more people who apply, the higher the chance of the rating rising.
The rankings are also biased, as some students go to schools for a specific major, such as Rutgers for philosophy. Rutgers’ Department of Philosophy has been in the top three best philosophy schools in the world for over five years now, yet Rutgers ranks as 69th best in the nation. Essentially, these rankings manipulate data for the primary purpose to inflate the universities that support the rankings versus those who do not. Sadly, this causes some colleges to distort their information to receive more views and applications. This is unfortunate to students who have spent hours researching the schools they would like to apply to.
So, to those who have siblings, friends, cousins or whomever else that is planning to apply to a school, let them know they should research their schools and make sure the information has well known and trusted sources. Of course, there will be websites that could seem to be good and bad so I suggest you take some of the information with a grain of salt. In the end, it really comes down to the major studied, the class size, the lifestyle one is looking for and the price tag. College is truly what you make of it, and as long as you use all the resources the college provides and do your best, you will be on the right path of success.
Kaan Jon Boztepe is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore double majoring in philosophy and history. His column, "Kaanotations," runs on alternate Fridays.
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