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Are College Rankings Valuable to Your College Search?

Are College Rankings Valuable to Your College Search?

September 16, 2013

Last week, U.S.News & World Report released its always-anticipated college rankings. We were pleased that Cedarville University again finished in the Top 5 on the list of Best Regional Colleges (Midwest region) and was the highest ranked university in southwest Ohio and among the top evangelical Christian universities included on the Regional Colleges lists.

The high ranking is based on indicators of excellence that include graduation rates, student retention, financial resources, and alumni giving. Cedarville’s 85% freshmen retention rate (third highest on the list) and 72% graduation rate (second highest) were key contributors to this year’s ranking. 

BUT, how important are these published rankings? Should they factor into your student's college search and decision?

First, rankings have a place. Assuming the data used to inform the study is accurate and reasonably unbiased, at the very least, the various rankings provide an independent evaluation of a college or university and allow readers to compare various factors related to the colleges they are considering.

On the other hand, if the criteria are not particularly relevant to your family, then the ranking isn't helpful either. Rarely does one ranking evaluate all of the criteria that are most important to you. For example, none of the major rankings evaluate spiritual climate, and for many families who are considering a Christ-centered university like Cedarville, that is one of the highest priorities in a college choice.

Remember that the differences in quality between any of the colleges highly ranked in these lists would be insignificant. Therefore, rankings may provide a baseline for comparison, but finding the college with the best fit for your student should remain your highest priority!

So how can rankings be helpful?
  • Look for schools that show up on a variety of different lists. Because different criteria are used for each one, a school that has a consistent presence—regardless of the ranking on the particular list – is likely to be well-balanced.
  • Determine factors that are particularly important to you and use the scores to compare those specific factors at the colleges you are considering.
  • Prayerfully commit the decision to the Lord, outline the factors that are most important to your family, spend time researching options, and most important of all, schedule campus visits. No ranking, pictures, or website will ever confirm a college decision like eight hours on a college campus!

Has your family visited Cedarville yet? We invite you to spend a day on our campus, meet the students and faculty who make Cedarville unique, and experience campus life in action. Choose one of these visit options:

See you at Cedarville soon!