I’m always concerned when a media source tries to determine a college’s reputation by using a survey of a single target population in its college rankings. US News, for example, places unfair weight on the results of “reputation surveys” of school guidance counselors as well as senior college administrators. I seriously doubt that that the survey respondents are familiar with every college that they rank—and they rank only a fraction of the schools in a given category—as well as those that they don’t.
Last week UC-Berkeley and UCLA touted their high top-ten appearances in the 2018 Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings. These college rankings were based on an invitation-only survey of published senior academics around the world. Each respondent was permitted to list only 15 schools that she considered to be the most reputable for teaching and research. Harvard ranked first in this survey, no surprise. Not only is Harvard the most endowed university; two-thirds of its students pursue degrees at its graduate and professional schools. Clearly Harvard can afford to attract and nurture the best researchers.
In these cases a college’s reputation was made on a collection of the personal thoughts and opinions of a school’s past, present, and possibly its future from a personal viewpoint. It’s quite possible for college administrators and professors to vote for the school where they are employed, or the one that granted them their highest degree. It’s also quite possible that school counselors with many years of experience chose schools that were most familiar to them through professional relationships as well as the past and present interests and successes of their students.
But these college rankings are unnecessary for high school students who are entering the college admissions cycle for the very first, and hopefully the only, time, and they are unnecessary for their parents. Neither college administrators nor scholarly professors nor guidance counselors currently are, or have most recently been, undergraduate college students. However, you can do a little research and determine a college’s reputation for yourself.
When you research and visit colleges, consider a college’s reputation in some different ways. For example:
A college’s reputation, as you will learn when you receive the answers to these questions, should be based on the achievements of its current students as well as its most recent graduates. They are the best representation of the customers the college has served.
Want to see how information on a college’s reputation impacts the university’s in the Big Ten conference? Contact me for a free PDF at stuart@educated quest.com.
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