U.S. News Ranking : Is it a joke?

Raghuram Sukumar Universities 2 Comments

US news media is known to publish annual college ranking results. According to CNN:

  • Rankings include the “reputation survey,” which is filled out by college presidents.
  • This survey asks academic leaders to rate other colleges; results count for 25% of rankings.
  • Critics claim survey isn’t a valid basis for judging the quality of education.
  • A U.S. news editor says: “It is a way for students to get intangibles about colleges.”

I recently read a few articles about U.S. Colleges and Universities that do not participate in the U.S. News Ranking System. I have always told students, when short listing universities, not to depend too much on these surveys because they don’t give you an overview or in-depth information, such as on whether a current student would be given financial aid or part-time jobs, or about the average salary people get after graduating from these academic institutions.

How U.S. News ranks Colleges?

  • Peer assessment: 25% (the largest single factor).
  • Faculty Retention: 20%
  • Faculty resources: 20%
  • Student selectivity: 15%
  • Financial resources: 10%
  • Graduation rate performance: 5%
  • Alumni giving rate: 5%.

Let’s now deal with the practical issues/questions an International Student will have in mind and see how these percentages will be applicable/relevant to them.

Some important criteria that International Students must consider:

  • Availability Part Time/RA/TA: 50%
  • Cheap cost of Living: 20%
  • Quality Compared to Academic Performance: 30%.

The above applies to most of the students who are planning to study in U.S. This equation might apply to students with exceptional academic record. However, majority will not come under that category.

Typical Questions asked by a Student before Short Listing Universities:

  • Will I get admission for for my academic credentials (GRE, TOEFL, Academic %, Backlogs)?
  • How much are the fees per semester?
  • Will I get aid/part time jobs?
  • What is the cost of living per month?
  • What is the weather there like?

Making short lists of potential universities to apply to can be helpful, but it must be done very carefully. Based on my years-long experience, allow me to guess how most students make their own short lists of universities. They would typically include these considerations:

  • My friend(s) is(are) studying in a particular school.
  • My friend’s friend said that a school offers lots of part time jobs and aid.
  • Some relative/s live in nearby towns.
  • Universities applied by consultants.
  • I follow the U.S. news ranking system and random selection of colleges/universities.
  • I use the ranking system provided by i20fever.com.

Let me ask you this important question: How many of you have short listed universities based on research interests? This is actually an important consideration because this concerns the actual focus of studies/research to be made. Considerations along this line will include: My final year project is on topic XYZ. Professor ABC from University of XYZ is doing research and has a few millions in funding and I want to do research under him.

Unfortunately, only a handful of students who do this kind of research and apply for school based on academic considerations.


  1. Nice article but it would be great if you could also mention the date when the article was written.

  2. A really useful article..has thrown light on the ranking system
    but it still isn’t too informative on how u suggest we select universities..

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