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Love the Rankings: A Satire

Byline: Hector Martinez

October 10, 2012

I love rankings, especially when they involve colleges! After all, there’s nothing like strangers telling young people what is the best college for them even if they don’t know anything about the student or frankly the institutions they are ranking. And now is the season for college rankings.

Every fall newsstands across the country fill the racks with college guides headlining the latest ratings of America’s Best Colleges. Newsweek, Time Magazine, Forbes, USA Today, Princeton Review, Money Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, and of course the always popular U.S. News and World Report are just a few examples of the “experts” that are out there telling us what colleges are the very best. Our obsession with “the best” and “rankings” in general feed this industry, making it one of the most lucrative topics the media covers. It seems that nothing sells more magazines than celebrity scandal and college rankings!

So, I decided this year to create my very own rankings of what I think are America’s best colleges and share them with you. The methodology that I used in rankings these colleges included some very sophisticated scientific analysis of each school based on hard facts and figures (i.e. selectivity, prestige, wealth, and power). I tried very hard not to let my own personal biases influence my choices. Interestingly enough, however, I was surprised to see that the top ten list just happen to include some of my favorite schools that I like for personal reasons. What a coincidence, I know, but life is full of funny coincidences, don’t you think?! And while I realize that I could have decided to publish my rankings and make a lot of money, I just didn’t feel comfortable doing that this time. So out of sheer altruism and for the good of humanity, I’ve decided to share these rankings with you for free. I hope you appreciate them because next year I will be charging you $29.95 ($5 less than my competitors charge) to access my ratings and for an additional $199 I will let you see the other 90 schools that made my top 100 list.

The Top Ten Colleges: one experts rating of the best schools in America

  1. Pitzer College (my alma mater)
  2. Princeton University (Brooke Shields went there and I had a mad crush on her in high school)
  3. Wellesley, Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Smith, Mt. Holyoke & Scripps (These women’s colleges all tied for third place. They are better than co-ed schools and not just because they have nicer bathrooms!)
  4. Tulane University (New Orleans has great food, especially the pralines!)
  5. Kalamazoo College (Where is that? Who cares, it just has a cool name and isn’t it all about the “name” of the college!)
  6. High Point University (the school gives away free ice cream and car washes)
  7. Pepperdine University (hello, it’s in Malibu!)
  8. Deep Springs College (I’ve always been curious about that place and want to dispel the myth that it’s just a weird cult of cowboys that like to slaughter cows)
  9. St. John’s College (It’s all about the “Great Books” and who doesn’t love great books!)
  10. Pomona College (I would have ranked them higher but they wait listed me when I applied there a million years ago and I’m still not over it!)

Read the fine print: If you haven’t figured it out yet, this is a joke. I don’t really love college rankings, I hate them! And so should you. They are as silly as my reasons for ranking these 10 schools even if they do happen to be really good colleges that deserve your attention. There is no way that a numerical rating of institutions of higher learning could accurately tell us what is best and what isn’t without knowing our personal preferences and priorities. Stay away from college rankings and instead pay attention to what fits a student’s individual needs and qualities. Not only will you have more choices but the choices will make better sense. If you still don’t believe me, check out this great article I recently found in The New York Times on this very topic.

Hector Martinez is the Director of College Guidance at The Webb Schools.

Comments

  • Janel Hastings

    10/19/2012 7:06:38 PM

    We who work in the field of institutional research in higher education bemoan the annual publication of college rankings. In all honesty, Hector, I think your rankings have a more sound and thought-out methodology behind them than those sold at the grocery store. Your reasoning is logical, consistent, and informed. On the other hand, national news publications change their methodologies annual so as to create a "buzz" that will sell.

    I was especially delighted to see Scripps College make it in to your Top Five. Not that rankings matter or anything ...

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