U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Colleges 2018” rankings hit the streets today, and Sweet Briar College has climbed six spots to land at No. 134 on the National Liberal Arts Colleges list.
As the publisher notes, a “host of intangibles” go into finding the right college, and rankings are just one piece of the puzzle. They provide a starting point for prospective students and their parents to begin comparing schools’ characteristics and quality.
“The ranking reiterates what we know about Sweet Briar: it’s a great place for an excellent education that prepares students for a successful future,” says Bill Allen, dean of admissions and financial aid.
But he, too, agrees that rankings don’t replace thorough research, and he emphasizes the importance of campus visits.
“I do think it gives students a sense of where the institution falls in their spectrum. But they really need to look at whether a school is a good personal fit, and you’re not going to get that from rankings,” Allen says.
According to its website, the U.S. News ranking system “uses exclusively statistical quantitative and qualitative measures that education experts have proposed as reliable indicators of academic quality, and it is based on U.S. News’ researched view of what matters in education.”
The publication collects data from each college on up to 15 “indicators of academic excellence” in categories such as graduation and first-year student retention rates, assessment by administrators at peer institutions, alumni giving, graduation rate performance and others. High school counselor ratings of colleges are also factored in the National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges rankings.
U.S. News then scores and weights the indicators according to its “judgment about how much the measures matter.” Ultimately, the weighted values result in an overall score between 0 and 100 for eligible schools, with the top school or schools in each category scoring 100. The rankings within each peer group are determined by the overall score and presented in descending order.