In the college admissions community, it’s always an exciting time when the “US News & World Report” college rankings come out. If you’re an admissions counselor at, say, the University of Pennsylvania, you’re curious to know if you rose this year, if you fell, or if you stayed the same. But the vast majority of time in the vast majority of cases, the rankings change only ever so slightly each year. Rare is it when a college rises or drops dramatically. It happens, sure, but not often. It’s the exception to the rule. Not the rule.
To show you how the rankings don’t change that significantly from year to year, we thought we’d compare this year’s liberal arts college ranking to last year’s liberal arts college ranking. In 2012, Williams College placed first. In 2011, Williams College also placed first. In 2012, Amherst College placed second. In 2011, Amherst College also placed second. In 2012, Swarthmore College placed third. In 2011, the same was true. In 2012, Middlebury College and Pomona College tied for fourth. In 2011, Middlbury and Wellseley tied for fourth (ok, a slight change). In 2012, Bowdoin College and Wellesley College tied for sixth. In 2011, Bowdoin and Pomona College tied for sixth. So you can see that even Pomona — which rose in the rankings this year — didn’t rise dramatically. The school rose a slot. In 2012, Carleton College placed eighth, just as the school did in 2011.
Anyway, you get the idea. Schools rarely rise or drop dramatically in college rankings. There are certainly some changes from year to year. As an example, remember the days when Caltech topped the national university rankings? It’s not like they’ve fallen off the map now. Caltech, after all, is one of the finest schools in the nation. But they’re no longer ranked first in “US News & World Report.” Times change and so, too, does the college ranking algorithm.
While you’re here, check out this newsletter on college rankings.