If you ask an admissions officer if the college they represent cares about rankings, you’ll likely hear that they don’t matter one bit to these colleges. You’ll hear they’re overblown. You’ll hear that admissions officers don’t even look at the rankings when they come out. And if you happen to believe any or all of such nonsense, well, let’s just say we don’t think you’re that gullible. Because rankings matter big time to admissions officers at our nation’s elite universities. Of course admissions officers check out the rankings when they’re published. In fact, many will quite literally sit at their computers and refresh the US News & World Report homepage until they’re released. Click, click, click. Refresh, refresh, refresh.
College Rankings Are Indeed Capitalistic Undertakings
In a terrific piece in Teen Vogue by Zach Schermele entitled “How College Rankings Can Perpetuate Inequality,” a former Wesleyan University dean of admissions is quoted, “Any admissions officer worth their position knows rankings like the U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges list are capitalistic undertakings rooted in junk science.” And that former dean of admissions is spot on. Rankings are capitalistic undertakings rooted in junk science. The rankings are put out by magazines, like US News & World Report. These publishers are businesses, their goal to sell magazines. And their rankings are rooted in algorithms that essentially they themselves determine; they weight the variables of their algorithms the way they wish to weight them.
But Their Capitalistic Roots Don’t Make College Rankings Any Less Important
But just because college rankings are capitalistic undertakings does not mean — in any way — that they aren’t hugely important to college admissions officers, to the colleges themselves, to parents and students alike. As Schermele writes in that same piece, “‘It’s absolute nonsense that they don’t put a lot of stock into the rankings,’ Brian Taylor, managing director of the college consulting firm Ivy Coach, told Teen Vogue. ‘The jobs of the deans and admissions officers depend on these rankings.'” They sure do. So the next time a college admissions officers says they don’t put stock in college rankings, smile politely. Don’t correct them. But know that you were just told a bald-faced lie.