The Ivy Coach Daily

September 13, 2017

University of Pennsylvania U.S. News Ranking

Ivy Coach was cited yesterday on the pages of “The Daily Pennsylvanian,” the newspaper of the University of Pennsylvania.

The University of Pennsylvania, considered in many circles to be one of the easier to get into Ivy League colleges when stacked against others, has a history of ranking better than quite a few Ivies in the “US News & World Report” rankings. The 2018 ranking proved to be no exception, with the University of Pennsylvania ranking #8 — higher among Ivies than all but Princeton University, Harvard University, Yale University, and Columbia University. That means that UPenn ranked higher than Dartmouth College, Brown University, and Cornell University. So why does UPenn have a track record of ranking so highly in “US News & World Report”? We’ve got answers for you. In fact, Ivy Coach was cited yesterday on this very subject in a piece (“Penn keeps its No. 8 spot in latest U.S. News rankings”) in “The Daily Pennsylvanian,” the newspaper of the University of Pennsylvania, by Harry Trustman.

UPenn Traditionally Ranks Highly

UPenn, like any Ivy League college, is one of America’s most elite educational institutions. You’re not going to find Gonzaga University near the top of the “US News” best colleges ranking because while it’s a beautiful school in Spokane, Washington and they’ve got a great basketball program, let’s face it: it’s no University of Pennsylvania. Sorry, Zags. Gonzaga doesn’t have UPenn’s renowned professors. It doesn’t have their high-achieving students. It doesn’t have their resources. It doesn’t have their reputation, one built over centuries. UPenn belongs near the very top of every college ranking, including “US News & World Report.”

But you’re wondering why it ranks higher than other highly selective colleges, like Dartmouth, Duke, Brown, Cornell, etc. Keeping in mind that every single highly selective college manipulates its ranking as they have every right to do, UPenn just happens to do it better than others. As an example, UPenn admits a huge chunk of their incoming class (often around 55% of the class) in the Early Decision round. When students apply Early Decision, they’re bound to go. That also means that UPenn’s yield will be high since close to 100% of students (give or take a couple whose admissions are rescinded or who have financial difficulties, etc.) who are admitted Early Decision will matriculate. But it’s not like UPenn rests on its laurels in the Regular Decision round. The admissions office asks a 650-word question why students wish to go to UPenn. They don’t ask a student’s favorite color. They don’t ask about their favorite book. They ask why they want to go to UPenn — and they ask them to write a really long essay delineating their reasoning. And why? To gauge if the student has done his or her homework on the school, to see if the student really will attend if admitted.

Importance of the U.S. News Ranking

While many college admissions officers are quick to state that they don’t care about rankings, regular readers of our college admissions blog know that every single highly selective college cares deeply about its ranking — particularly in the all-important “US News & World Report” ranking. Eric Furda, the dean of admissions at the University of Pennsylvania, has a track record of telling it like it is and it’s something we very much admire about him. We’ve let this be known in countless blogs and articles in which Ivy Coach is cited. As critical as we may be of some for perpetuating misconceptions about the college admissions process, we are also quick to point out when folks who have a soapbox in highly selective college admissions, as Eric Furda does as the head of the admissions office at UPenn, demystifies the process by speaking the truth even if that truth happens to counter the party line.

In this particular piece in “The Daily Pennsylvanian,” Dean Furda is quoted, “Rankings certainly shape the perception of prospective students, families and to an extent alumni. It’s always good to see Penn’s excellence recognized. But each ranking evaluates colleges and universities differently. I believe that students should first look within themselves to conduct a thoughtful, personalized assessment. That’s what can really help them understand what they want out of their college experience and hone in on the colleges that might be the best fit for them, regardless of rankings.” We couldn’t agree more. Dean Furda is acknowledging that the rankings matter. If the rankings matter to students, you can bet they matter to colleges since it’s these very students the colleges are encouraging to apply.

The piece in “The Daily Pennsylvanian” goes on, “’For many students [the ranking is] the Bible of which school is more competitive than the next,’ said Brian Taylor, managing director of the college counseling service Ivy Coach. ’Particularly in other parts of the world, notably China. Chinese parents rely on the USNWR rankings.’ Taylor cited Brown University as an example of an Ivy League university that is not well-known in China because of its comparatively lower USNWR ranking — No. 14, tied with Cornell University. Taylor maintained that although most American applicants do not rely on USNWR as exclusively as Chinese applicants do, it still has a great deal of influence in the U.S., calling it the ’kingpin’ of college rankings.”

Where do our readers stand on the importance of the “US News” rankings? Where do our readers stand on the University of Pennsylvania’s #8 rank? Let us know your thoughts by posting a Comment below.

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