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Making Sense of the College Guides, Lists, and Rankings

Each August, U.S. News & World Report releases its annual rankings of colleges. Newspaper reporters, college administrators & faculty, guidance counselors, alumni, parents, and high school students study the rankings. Together with the other popular college guides — Peterson’s, Kaplan and Princeton Review – it features data on more than a thousand colleges and universities. These lists and college guides are an excellent objective source for the information students and parents need to make informed college decisions. 

Experts will tell you, however, not to rely on college rankings. At least, don’t let them be your sole criteria for deciding where to apply to college. College and university rankings are just one tool to use along with directories, brochures and web sites to help you get find and research colleges. 

In addition to U.S. News & World Report, Peterson’s, Kaplan, Princeton Review, there are other providers of different types of rankings and ratings – some of them objective (e.g. Kiplinger’s), many of them subjective (e.g. College Prowler). Some rate schools on specific criteria. Some are written by students. Before accepting information at face value, check out the source and the methodology. Also keep in mind which factors are important to you. For example, if you don’t care about really specific topics such as the weather, the abundance of parties, how beautiful campus is or the geek factor, then discount that part of the assessment. 

The College Board site ( is an objective resource with lots of information and statistics for every college. While, it does not contain subjective appraisals or student input, it’s an excellent resource to reality check some of the lesser-known guides.

For links to various college and university rating and rankings, check out the InLikeMe Web Link: College Ratings, Rankings and Reviews.

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