What Do College Rankings Really Mean?

Ranking colleges and universities is just as subjective as ranking movies, music, etc. When using a college rankings guide, remember to ask yourself one simple question: Do these rankings reflect my own interests?

To help clear up the confusion surrounding college rankings, NACAC has compiled a number of helpful resources you can use to navigate several rankings by private companies and create your own list of what matters to you.


 A Rankings Blog from the College Admission Counseling Perspective


 Essential Facts About Rankings Every Student Should Know



 Ranking Methods

Each ranking publication relies on a formula, or methodology, to determine which colleges and universities it considers the "best." These formulas can be very different for each publication. Take a look at the methodology of a rankings publication and pay attention to the weights associated with each criteria- determine which ones matter to you or what information may be missing.

US News & World Report LinkedIn The Guar​dian​ (UK)
Forbes Niche The Times of London
Daily B​east​​ Kiplinger QS World​
Washington Monthly Money US News and World Report- Global​
Princeton Review Business Insider
Times Higher Ed World University Rankings​
Wall Street Journal



*Check out this table​ comparing different global ranking methodologies.

 Additional Resources


​NACAC Report: “Best for Whom?”: College Admission Counselors Challenge Key Assumptions About College Rankings 

NACAC Report: College Admission Counselors: US News College Rankings Create Confusing Impressions 

College Scorecard: Create your own comparison list.

Education Conservancy: Provides information on commercialization of the college admission process. 

Lead Generators: A Checklist for Reporters Because lead generators often pose as college ranking websites, but in reality only direct students to the schools that pay them, it's important to know how to tell them apart. NACAC's webpage includes more information on lead generators and how to identify​ them.