How important are school rankings?

Understanding the U.S. education system

How important is the ranking of a university? How can I find out about ranking?

Answer: In some countries, there is a great deal of emphasis put on school rankings. Sometimes the government is responsible for school rankings. Attaining some jobs in the public sector will depend on graduation from a highly-ranked institution.

However, in the United States, all school rankings are unofficial. They are produced by book and magazine publishers and sold to the public. Rankings in one publication are often different from those in another. In our opinion, these so-called rankings should not be considered definitive. For example, many of the factors that go into such unofficial estimates do not pertain to international students very strongly at all, and relying on such a ranking could be self-defeating.

We encourage you to look for factors that fit your needs, not just the overall reputation of a particular U.S. university or program. It may well be that a school with a lower unofficial ranking may in fact be the best choice for your particular circumstances. In other words, the U.S. has over 3,000 accredited colleges and universities: don't restrict your search unnecessarily.

If you decide to look at rankings, you can obtain them from almost any bookstore that carries U.S. publications. Again, however, we caution you not to rely on them as highly important factors in your search. There are much better sources of direct information.


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