Should Students Use the ‘Best Colleges’ List to Choose a School?

US News & World Report released their Best Colleges list this week with Harvard and Princeton Universities in first and Yale in third. This is the second year in a row that high school counselors opinions have been included in the rankings. In The Chronicle of Higher Education article “US News Keeps Courting High-School Counselors,” Eric Hoover explains the inclusion of counselor ratings is highly controversial because it is believed these votes make the rankings list more of a “popularity contest” than offering a helpful perspective to inform college applicants.

Colleges are judged on other key pieces like student selectivity, faculty-student ration, average retention of freshmen, and financial elements, like financial aid for students and faculty salary. In his Huffington Post article, “Want a Cheaper, Better College Experience? Stop the Rankings and Let Go of Tradition” writer Jeff Selingo fears the long-term effect of colleges being judged on such criteria will only cause schools to start looking alike, rather than encouraging them to make improvements.

“For some students, UCLA is a great place. For others, Pomona is a better place,” said Barry T. Baker, director of college counseling at the California Academy of Math and Science, in the article “U.S. News Keeps Courting High School Counselors.”

College ratings are one way for students to look for colleges, but students should also be lead by elements like their interests, plans for the future, financial abilities, location, and proximity to family. If students are researching colleges, have them make a pros and cons list of their top picks based on the literature they’ve received, the research they’ve done, and word of mouth. After students have chosen the schools they believe best align with their knowledge of themselves, have them put their list against the Best Colleges list.

LifeBound’s book Making the Most of High School offers strategies for students to understand their gifts and talents, strengths, and relationships so they have a better understanding of their wants and needs to make important decisions, like where to apply to college, what career choice to make, and how they want to live their life. Learn more by visiting While you’re there, check out the book assessments we have for our entire library and share them with a student so they can test if they’re ready to make the most out of high school or major in the rest of their life.


“U.S. News Keeps Courting High School Counselors” by Eric Hoover. 13 September 2011. The Chronicle. 13 September 2011. <>

“Want a cheaper, better college experience? Stop the rankings and let go of tradition” by Jeff Selingo. 13 September 2011. The Huffington Post. 13 September 2011. <>

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