Wake Forest University

College Rankings: How Important Are They?

Rethinking Admissions

Continuing the Conversation

College Rankings: How Important Are They?

Every August, there’s a lot of buzz associated with U.S. News & World Report’s new rankings of colleges and universities. According to one study, more than half of incoming college freshman surveyed say that the rankings were important when making their decision about which school to attend. But what kind of an impact do the rankings have on college acceptance rates and the quality of the students who attend the high-ranking schools? A new study entitled, “Getting on the Front Page: Organizational Reputation, Status Signals, and the Impact of U.S. News and World Report on Student Decisions,” tries to answer those questions.  The research shows that both liberal arts schools and national universities see a change in their applicant pool when their rankings improve. For example, institutions that move into the top 50 can expect to see a nearly 4 percent increase in applications as well as a 2.3 percent spike in the proportion of incoming students who finished in the top 10 percent of their class. Meanwhile, these same schools see their acceptance rates go down by an average of 3.6 percent, making them even more selective. Click here to read more about the findings of the study by Nicholas A. Bowman of the University of Notre Dame and Michael N. Bastedo of the University of Michigan published in the August 2009 issue of Research in Higher Education.

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