The Truth About U.S. University Rankings

Studying at a U.S. university requires a substantial investment of both your time and money, so naturally you want to ensure that the university you choose ranks among the best. You search the internet for information on U.S. university rankings and realize that there are as many top ten lists as there are U.S. universities. Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but that’s just how baffling the situation appears to be.

The Wall Street Journal, Times Higher Education, The Economist, Forbes, and U.S. News, are just some of the big-time publishers of U.S. university rankings. Adding confusion to the chaos is the fact that no two publishers seem to agree on the national ranking of a U.S. college or university. That’s because each university ranking list uses different parameters and rating methodology, resulting in significantly different U.S. university ranking outcomes.

A U.S. universities ranking list can be a handy source of objective information on the universities it examines, but it can’t really tell you which one is the best match for your professional aspirations and interests. To gain a better understanding of a U.S. university rankings report, it’s critical to look at what is being measured. The Forbes ranking, for instance, gives higher weight to student satisfaction, graduation rates, post-graduate success, faculty reputation, and student awards. On the other hand, the U.S. news ranking emphasizes academic reputation, faculty strength, and financial resources of each university. Some U.S. university rankings place a premium on the selectiveness of the admission process of a university and the academic background of its students.

It’s difficult to say which rankings list has the most authority because for almost every well-intentioned measurement, there’s a conceivable shortcoming or glitch. For instance, the financial success of students who have graduated from a university is often an important criterion for prospective students. The problem with U.S. university rankings that focus on the post-graduate performance of students is that they don’t consider the socio-economic background of the students before college, which undoubtedly influences their future professional opportunities. Also, the existing methods used to collect the earnings data of former students are by no means comprehensive or infallible.

The best-ranked universities tend to have highly competitive entry requirements, which means you will be surrounded by other very smart students. Interacting with peers is an important part of university culture and gives you the opportunity to build your future professional network.  An undergraduate degree from a well-known university may make it easier to land that first job.

But ultimately your individual competencies will be the biggest determinant of your professional success. Instead of focusing your search on a university’s national ranking, look for a university that has a strong reputation in your program of interest.

You may be surprised to find that the top ranked universities in your chosen field are not necessarily the most highly ranked universities in the U.S. A lesser known U.S. university or a small Liberal Arts College may offer you a more rewarding on-campus experience, than a larger more reputed U.S. university. You also need to consider other factors such your preference for location and teaching environment.

Are you confused about your top choice of U.S. Universities and colleges? The highly-experienced university admissions team at Eagle Pathways can help you make sense of the individual U.S. university rankings, and give you a first-hand understanding of the academic reputation of your colleges of interest. Let’s get started today – contact us by email, phone, or WeChat