Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Influence of Rankings on Admissions Decisions by Students

The Art & Science Group has released the results of a survey on how much college rankings
influence students in choosing a college. I suspect that the results also apply to law school admissions. Here is a summary

Our latest studentPOLL study conducted in November and December 2012 reveals that the college rankings are having an influence on many students’ college decisions. Among the key findings of the study:

Two-thirds of students surveyed indicated that they had taken college rankings into account in their college application decisions.

Students with the highest SAT scores — 1300 and above — were more likely to have considered the rankings in their application decisions (85%) than students with SAT scores of less than 1300.

US News & World Report is the predominant source of college rankings used by students to help make judgments about colleges.

Nearly two-thirds of students surveyed “strongly agree” or “somewhat agree” that the rankings are “very important in trying to sort out the differences between colleges.”

About two-thirds, respectively, somewhat or strongly disagreed that the rankings “don’t matter” and that they “don’t matter to me, but they matter to my parents.”

More findings:

Students with the highest SAT scores (1300 and above) and those with mid-range SAT scores (1100 and above) were more likely to say they used the US News college rankings to make judgments about where to apply than students with the lowest SAT scores (1090 or lower), (66%, 60%, and 48% respectively).

Asian students (75%) were more likely to report US News & World Report as the rankings source of greatest value to them in their application decisions than Caucasian (53%), African American (54%), and Hispanic students (45%).

Students with the lowest SAT scores (1090 or lower) were more likely to say they used to make judgments about where they would apply to college than students with mid-range SAT scores (1100 to 1290) and those with the highest SAT scores (1300 and above), (9%, 1%, and 2% respectively).

However, group also has advice for schools trying to game the rankings:

So despite the fact that college rankings appear to have grown in influence in students’ college search, we would argue against spending too much institutional time, money, and energy on hand wringing over rank per se and on attempts to improve it. For most institutions, it would be far better to focus on planning strategy that strengthens an institution’s competitive position on a substantive basis: differentiation based on educational approach, student experience, innovative teaching, and the like. In short, for most, trying to game the ranking numbers is a fool’s errand.


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