The college rankings game

The college application season is finally over, but not before too many young people and their parents have put themselves through unnecessary stress (“The College Rankings Game: How Students and Parents Are Being Played,” The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, May 27). I say that because so much of what goes on is the result of strategies that colleges employ to make themselves desirable rather than because of any intrinsic value.

The two most important things to bear in mind are selectivity and yield.  Although they are related, they are not the same.  Colleges like to brag about how hard they are to get into, since that makes them seem superior (selectivity). But they rarely talk about how often those whom they accept enroll elsewhere (yield). To make themselves stand out in rankings, they use early decision because it commits students to enrolling.

So the next time that U.S. News & World Report publishes its list of the best colleges, keep those factors in mind.

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