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Stanford Report: College Rankings are Deeply Flawed

By Mary Stegmeir

Are the families you serve overly concerned about college selectivity?

Researchers at Challenge Success — a nonprofit organization based at the Stanford University Graduate School of Education — released a white paper this fall that calls into question the value of university rankings.

“There is no question that the college admission process can be stressful. We hope that this paper prompts students and families to examine what college success means to them and to question common assumptions about college selectivity,” the authors note in the paper’s executive summary. 

Their findings show that when it comes to student learning, well-being, job satisfaction, and future earnings, it’s the actions of students (not the colleges they attend) that determine outcomes.

“Research tells us that the most successful students, both in college and beyond, are the ones who engage in the undergraduate experience regardless of how selective a school may be,” Denise Pope, one of the paper’s authors, said in a news story published by the Stanford University Graduate School of Education. “This is almost always the case whether a student attends the top-ranked or 200th-ranked college.”

Pope founded Challenge Success roughly a decade ago. The nonprofit works to promote student well-being and academic engagement.

“We hope that this paper encourages students and families to look beyond rankings and selectivity in the college search process, and instead seek a good fit, a school where students can engage and participate fully in academic and social life in order to thrive both during the college years and beyond,” the report notes.

Read the full white paper and read more about relieving achievement pressure in NACAC’s spring edition of The Journal of College Admission.

More articles on college rankings can be found on NACAC's Admitted blog. 

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