Why "One-Size-Fits-All" Rankings Do Not Work

Have you ever tried on a one-size-fits-all garment? I bet you can tell pretty quickly that "one size" certainly does not fit all.

Why would we ever expect "one-size-fits-all" rankings to ever be enough information for students to accurately choose a good education? Yet families all over the country are often obsessed with the latest ranking release, using it to quickly accept or reject schools without giving them a second glance.

Rankings Are Misleading

Rankings by themselves are not near enough information.  They are woefully inadequate when it comes to helping students make better decisions about their higher education.  Far too many students are encouraged to rely heavily on rankings to make their decision, when they should just be one of many tools students use to determine their best fit.

Rankings are just a starting point.  Granted, we want to give students the best starting point possible, but they are step one of many more steps to come.  The problem with most rankings is that they stop at rankings.  That is just where we get started.

There is no single answer to the question “What is the best college?”.  It’s a false question. The only question that matters is “What is the best college for YOU?”.  Each student has different strengths, abilities, interests, goals, values, limitations, preferences, etc.  One-size-fits-all rankings assume every student is exactly the same.

How long would you use a search engine that only returned the same list of top 10 pages regardless of what you entered as a search term?  Whether you were searching for “best thai restaurants in NYC”, “cheapest flights to San Francisco” or “How to make a key lime pie”, if the top 10 pages were all the same you would find it to be a pretty useless search tool.

You can quickly see the uselessness of a search engine that acted as though all people were searching for the same thing. So why should you accept that when doing a search for one of the most important and expensive purchases of your life, your college education?

Custom Rankings & Filters

As a first level of going beyond one-size-fits-all rankings, we allow a student to filter most of our rankings to find a list that is more relevant to them.  For someone who wants to go to school in New York, seeing a list of the top schools nationwide isn’t really helpful, so we allow students to see just the college rankings by state and region.  Where there are state specific values (like costs), our rankings adjust to reflect that.

We further allow students to filter by things like public vs. private, academic ability (odds of getting in), likelihood of getting financial aid and more.  For our sports rankings, we allow someone to view rankings by their specific sport and division.  Beyond just filters, we enable a student to customize the weighting of factors in many of our rankings based on what they think is most important.

Beyond Filters to True Matching

One of the problems with filters is that they are often limiting.  If a student only has a mild preference for small schools, excluding medium schools may hide schools that are a much better fit for them overall.  This option also assumes that the student has well informed preferences which many students don’t.

There is a better way to truly find the best fit college for a student and that is what we are building. Imagine what would happen if Consumer ReportseHarmony and Priceline combined their DNA somehow to create offspring focused on college selection. 

To get a better idea of what we're talking out, and to try out the matching tools yourself, click here!

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