High school seniors experience enormous pressure to earn the highest possible SAT/ACT scores, in order to position themselves most favorably with their top choice colleges. So, it seems, do the colleges and universities seek to be able to publish the highest possible “average SAT/ACT scores of the entering class” in order to climb to the highest rungs of the US News and World Report “Best Colleges” list. By now, we have all heard that Emory University earned its 20th position in the US News and World Reports “Best Colleges” list, at least in part, by publishing inflated SAT/ACT averages for its entering class— for over ten years. (Specifically, what two Emory staff members did was to report the average SAT/ACT scores of all admitted students, which were higher than those averages of enrolled students— which is what should have been reported.)
Now more than ever it is time to view such rankings with a skeptical eye. So often the rankings are derived from narrowly defined statistics and drawn from razor-fine differences. Do such minutely defined rankings really serve any student well?
Yes, the top five colleges on the list are probably a better educational value than those listed 50-55th. A broad reading of the ranking rather than a tightly focussed one might be useful to a highly qualified student looking to discern quality. Students must also keep in mind that in a number of cases, a university ranked #40 might have a better Engineering Department (for example) than a university ranked #10.
More often than not, top rankings derive from large endowments, which in turn, allow for lower student teacher rations, more “famous names” professors, well equipped facilities, and social eclat. And only the very top students can actually benefit from a careful reckoning of such minute differences among the various ranked characteristics.
Know thyself. A good college is the one that’s good for you.
Sarah C. Reese
Executive Director, Informed Educational Solutions
- Emory U. sent false data to rankings groups (foxnews.com)
- Emory University Acknowleges Incorrect Admissions Data (thechoice.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Emory University Misreported Admissions Data (usnews.com)