What Are College Rankings?

College rankings are only one of the many problematic lists generated each year by private companies. Consider Money Magazine's list of America's Best Jobs. Would you agree that we should all aspire to be registered nurses because it is ranked as the number one job? Think about your favorite movies. Did any of them make the top 10, or even 20, compiled by the American Film Institute? The Alfred Hitchcock movie Vertigo recently made headlines when a British magazine called it the "best movie of all time." Do you think it deserves that title? Maybe. But many of you probably do not. 

The same goes for music. Do you agree with Rolling Stone magazine that Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" is the greatest song of all time? Ranking colleges and universities is just as subjective as ranking movies and music. When using a college rankings guide, remember to ask yourself one simple question. Do these rankings reflect my own interests, or are they just another beauty contest? 

To help clear up the confusion surrounding college rankings, NACAC has compiled a number of helpful resources you can use to correctly rank your own college list. Use the information on this site as a kind of "Cliff Notes" to the rankings published annually by U.S. News and World Report, Forbes, and many other private companies. The information here will help you read between the lines and use the rankings to your advantage.  ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

A Rankings Blog from the College Admission Counseling Perspective


Essential Facts About Rankings Every Student Should Know



Ranking Methods


Additional Resources


​NACAC Report: “Best for Whom?”: College Admission Counselors Challenge Key Assumptions About College Rankings 

NACAC Report: College Admission Counselors: US News College Rankings Create Confusing Impressions 

College Navigator: Create your own comparison list.

Education ConservancyProvides information on commercialization of the college admission process. 

NACAC Written Testimony: Delivered to the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance (ACSFA) on the proposed college ratings plan.​

NACAC's feedback on the draft federal college ratings system.

Lead Generators: A Checklist for Reporters Because lead generators often pose as college ranking websites, but in reality only direct students to the schools that pay them, it's important to know how to tell them apart. NACAC's webpage includes more information on lead generators and how to identify​ them. 

(Borrowed from the NACAC website)