Rankings, Smankings

After reading this article, once again, I suffered the sick feeling that comes from knowing the truth when I see it, but not being able to do anything about it. University rankings are a burden that all college counselors have to put up with. Students’ decisions are driven by the university rankings despite my (and probably others’) many rantings and warnings about how the decision to apply to a school should be about fit, not rankings or bragging rights. When advising my students, I’ve come to rely on some dirty tricks like laying on the guilt and I’m not above using the integrity card. I tell students not to apply to an institution if they have no chance of getting in as it only creates more work for an already over-worked admissions officer. I then suggest it unethical to submit an application where the only outcome will result in inflating the school’s application numbers, thereby lowering their already ridiculous admission rates.

The problem is students still apply because in most students’ and parents’ heart, the idea of getting into an Ivy League school is a dream come true and how do you pass up the opportunity to realize a dream? Despite all our advice about finding the right school and fit, how many students would say an Ivy League education is not the right fit? Case in point, I’ve had students who are just a smidge over a 3.0 GPA (unweighted) and have 1100 on their SAT. When I suggest they take U Penn off their list, as it would simply be a waste of money and effort, the student often replies with something like, “well, you never know, and there’s no harm in my applying, so I just want to see what happens”.

If universities would only be forthcoming in their admissions’ requirements and state outright, a minimum GPA or that only students in the top 10% of their class will be considered (caveat being, special circumstances), it would save kids and admissions officers countless wasted hours. Kids are black and white. Without that clear direction, students with less than stellar credentials, will still think they have a shot at it.

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