The numbers game


Ms. Lopez

Story writer, Caroline Kealy, is attending Mizzou, while Advocate writers, Mackenzie Murtaugh and Michael Claussen, have chosen Depaul and Indiana.

April 29 marked college t-shirt day at the school, which entails seniors wearing shirts featuring their future colleges.

Photographer Talia Sankari has chosen to attend Wisconsin.
Ms. Lopez
Photographer Talia Sankari has chosen to attend Wisconsin.

Let me ask a number question:

If a college is ranked in the 100s, is it even worth it to tell people that’s where you’ll be attending?

I’ve learned, through skeptical looks of others at my own college decision, sometimes it’s better to stay quiet.

I’ve never been one for numbers. Math is nearly impossible and the equations recited by teachers in chemistry classes never really caught my attention. And that’s why I didn’t really consider rankings for colleges and universities that big of a deal. It wasn’t until a friend of mine mentioned the ranking of  certain school that I even knew the system existed.

Numerous online sites annually publish rankings for schools nationwide. Some of the big names include US News, Niche, and The Princeton Review. These services take a few factors into consideration prior to making their illustrious lists. Aspects considered often include selectivity, student retention, and graduation rate performance. These, along with a handful of other characteristics, are thrown together to provide one overall number: the ranking.

I’m not here to question the ranking process. For some, numerical values work. They quantify things which have numerous aspects, such as a college. However, the process of viewing a school as good or bad, based only on its overall ranking, is where the flaw can be found. While insight can be provided, in many situations, the value of a school comes down to more than the average GPA of students on campus.

And one place where the overall number can get it wrong is by neglecting the significance of certain programs. While a school may not fall into the realm of the Ivies, the programs housed within the walls of the school may fall in the top ten. The University of Illinois (ranked #41 on US News) has the fifth highest ranking engineering program in the nation. Indiana University (ranked #75 on US News) has the Kelley School of Business that is ranked tenth best in the nation.

This is, by no means, me looking down on schools that overall don’t fall into the top ten. However, in hyper competitive settings, such as the hallways of Central, numbers which are tacked onto names of universities often results in certain judgments, which should not happen.

And off the track of rankings completely, colleges have their own selling points for certain people. Maybe the location was right, or the campus was just picture perfect enough to call home for another four years, or perhaps the financial aide package was great. The college decision process is, to say the least, tricky. It shouldn’t only be seen as a number.