I am going to admit it. I like rankings. I know…I know…I’m not really supposed to like rankings, but rankings are my guilty pleasure. Here’s the deal. I see the pitfalls of rankings, and I often like colleges that don’t rank highly on a list. I recognize that many ranking systems are based on the wrong things. I take rankings with a grain of salt, but I still think they’re fun. To me they’re like eating ice cream and Cheese Its for dinner– just kind of a salty indulgence that feels reckless and oddly defiant yet satisfying. I don’t make fine distinctions between who’s ranked 2nd VS who’s ranked 14th, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to knowing that the US News and World Report rankings were coming out in September. I also like College Factual. They put a lot of good data together. Their rankings just came out, and I like what they measure. They rank colleges based on academic achievement of students for one– yes, yes, yes, that means test scores. And while I do see many many students who are smarter than their test scores, I rarely see students who are not as smart as their test scores– if that makes sense. Say what you will, but students who are accomplished can challenge and push and support one another, and what’s so bad about that? They also rank colleges based on how much money the college spends per student on academic support and research. They base the rankings on freshman retention rates and grad rates. So I’m just saying, let’s not get too snippety about college rankings. They certainly aren’t perfect, they miss a lot, but when we’re immersed in an infinite ocean of information about colleges, they CAN add some simple clarity at times. Read them loosely, just look for trends. When I look at the College Factual rankings, I’m not making distinctions based on where a school falls, but I AM noticing who made the list at all. And again, many great colleges don’t make the list, so we won’t assume a college is bad if they didn’t get recognized. But we can look a little deeper when we see an unexpected college rank in the top half. Agreed?