It’s not always a good idea for students to
choose a university because of its high position
in the media rankings. In fact, they’re probably
better off choosing a school that seems like a good
“fit,” according to a white paper written by scholars at the Stanford
Graduate School of Education (GSE) in California and released
in October by Challenge Success, an initiative affiliated with the
school. The researchers reviewed dozens of studies on U.S. undergraduate
education to determine what college rankings say about
student success and what determines the right fit.
“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,” says the
paper’s co-author Denise Pope in an article on the school’s website.
Pope is a senior lecturer at the GSE and co-founder of Challenge
Success, which seeks to redefine success in student learning and
achievement. “This is almost always the case whether a student
attends the top-ranked or 200th-ranked college.”
While data indicate that students who attend elite schools often
enjoy financial benefits, the biggest disparities in earnings show up
in graduates from the same school. At the same time, some students
attend college not to make more money, but to improve their
well-being or attain more rewarding careers. Research shows that
for those students, the colleges they attend matter less than how
much they engage in the undergraduate experience.
The report concludes by encouraging students to discount the
rankings and instead look for programs that fit their needs in academics,
financial aid, location, or extracurricular opportunities.
Download “A ‘Fit’ Over Rankings."