College Ranking – Finding the Best College Ranking Source for Your Students

College rankings are a source of pride, stress, elation, and frustration. Your students (and their parents) may come to you insisting on getting into a “top 10 school.” But the top 10 differs from list to list. What does that mean for your students?
You can use the rankings to help students make informed choices. Translate the rankings into meaningful bits of information to help students learn more about their college choices. Abby Siegel, a New York College Entrance Consultant, says, “When I
work with students trying to build a college list, my focus is on fit. It is not on what is the highest ranked
college this student could be accepted to, it’s what is the best fit for that particular student.” But which ranking is best for helping students find the right fit? That depends entirely on your student’s personality.

U.S. News and World Report’s Best Colleges ranking system is one of the most lauded in the country. Their system is based on objective data like retention rates, alumni giving rates, standardized test scores, and financial aid. It is arguably the most
comprehensive ranking out there. What’s more, U.S. News and World Report commits to comparing apples to apples. For instance, the rankings are divided into categories including National Universities, National Liberal Arts Colleges, and Regional
Colleges. This ensures students aren’t comparing national universities like Princeton and Harvard to different, but equally prestigious, schools like Swarthmore and Amherst.
Works great for students who…Need more options or want to compare schools. The U.S. News and World Report rankings might give students names of schools they may not otherwise know.
Less helpful for students who…Are easily overwhelmed or want specific information. U.S. News and World Report is a comprehensive source with many lists, hundreds of schools listed, and eight different categories of information for each school. It’s a lot of information and may not be right for students who are already stressed out.

Forbes’ college rankings focus on the return on investment for students. It uses measurements including alumni salaries, student debt, and graduation rates to determine how well students do after college. From there, the Forbes staff determines the
“best” colleges.
Works great for students who…Are future focused. If your student is already obsessed with
getting a good job or has financial concerns, Forbes is the way to go.
Less helpful for students who…Want information to help them through the admissions process rather than after graduation.

The Princeton Review’s ranking concentrates on student experiences at 379 colleges. Their choices for the “best” colleges are based entirely on student surveys, and they even include some quotes from actual students.
Works great for students who…Prioritize having a good campus experience in college. The Princeton Review’s rankings may also be a smart resource for students who want to go to a college far away but can’t visit before applying.
Less helpful for students who…Want more objective information. For students who want hard
data to help form their college list, look elsewhere.

College Prowler’s rankings are put together by students for students. In addition to specific facts and statistics, College Prowler relies heavily on student surveys and, unlike other ranking systems, is updated weekly. The survey data goes toward very
specific rankings, including transportation, athletics, campus dining, and safety.
Works great for students who…Have specific wants. College Prowler is designed for students who have very specific concerns. For example, if you have a student who won’t have a car in college, the transportation ranking may be incredibly useful. Or a student who strongly opposes drugs and alcohol may use the Drug Safety ranking to find schools.
Less helpful for students who…Want a comprehensive source. If you have a student who wants
to look a list of schools ranked on their overall quality, College Prowler is not the best resource for this. The rankings are a powerful tool that, when used well, can help students find the right college for them. Keep your students personality and academic concerns in mind before turning to a particular ranking for information. And remember to focus on the fit!