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

  • the increasing role of college rankings
  • an 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
  • easier travel leading to students applying farther from home
  • the Common Application making it easier 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 any ranking you might use, you might make a decision based on information that’s irrelevant to your goals.

We’ll look at methodology as it relates to our second important rankings factor a bit later. 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…..