There are numerous factors that have influenced the increasing frenzy in college admission over the past 2-3 decades:

  • the increasing presence of college rankings
  • a large increase in the number of US high school graduates
  • more applications from international students
  • journalists rarely mentioning where someone went to college unless it’s somewhere extremely selective
  • the Common Application making it easy to apply to a higher number of colleges
  • etc.

We’re going to focus on the first two, each of which has played an enormous role. First, let’s look at college rankings, which have come into significant prominence over the past three decades.

If you’re going to use rankings to help you make decisions, there are numerous factors that are important to consider. Understanding the methodology is, of course, always important. Who’s doing the ranking, and do they have an agenda? What criteria are they using, and who is providing the data? If opinions are being used, whose are they? What relevant criteria are not being used? How much weight is given to each criterion? If you don’t know the factors that go into creating the rankings you use, you might make a decision based on information that’s irrelevant to your goals.

We’ll come back a bit later to look at methodology as it relates to a second important aspect of rankings that we need to consider. This other factor is not as obviously important, but is actually critical to decision-making when using rankings.

I call it ‘depth’.

Let’s look at two examples of what I mean by this…..