We get so caught up in these numbers, likely because they are easy for us to understand. There’s something wrong with this. The whole college experience cannot be measured by a series of data points, and everyone is different—including the researchers that take the data as you will notice that the rankings differ among the different companies that join in on the ranking hype and contribute their findings and data points.
Student A may desire to attend a college with a well known basketball team because he plans to join the team. He also wants to attend a school in a small college-town located no more than an hour drive from his parents house; he also wants his school to have an excellent exercise science program.
Student B may desire to attend a single-sex college near the beach that has a superb choral program as she aspires to be a choral conductor.
Student C is only attending college because her parents will be disappointed if she doesn’t, so she is going to attend and make the most of her situation by embracing the social scene. Her major is undeclared; all she cares about is going to a college that has top-notch greek life. She has her eye on Phi Mu.
All three of these students are looking for completely different characteristics in their college search.
My point is that we should look at the rankings, consider them slightly, then let them go as we realize that the aspects that were important to the researchers who took and calculated the data in order to find the rankings may not be concerned with aspects that you or your student may be concerned with. Just like no two students are the same, no two schools are the same—much less able to be set on a ranking scale.