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Look beyond the US News college rankings to identify best-fit colleges

The annual US News college rankings came out this fall, and I want to comment on this subject not because I endorse these rankings, but because I feel it is vital for families to understand the economic and marketing drivers behind this "rankings machine." I also want to strongly emphasize that families and students should look much deeper into the colleges that interest them and not rely on these rankings as truly worthy of merit in the decision-making process.

US News has published these rankings for nearly 40 years. Let me be clear, this has always been a marketing-driven phenomenon. Initially, the magazine wanted to sell copies of its publication (and still does of course), and gradually, colleges saw the benefit of leaning into these rankings as a way to draw more prestige and thus more applications and revenue.

As many journalists and educational consultants have written in their analysis of these rankings, they are not created from objective data and are deeply flawed. A great article on this topic from a few years ago can be found here.

At Laura George Consulting, we stress the importance of building a list of colleges that is the BEST-FIT for each of our unique students. We urge families and students to look beyond arbitrary, flawed rankings like those published by US News and other national publications (and the resulting "name brand" status that this bestows upon many schools) and find the colleges that truly deliver the best course offerings and structure, location, size, extracurricular opportunities, social environment, cost, and so much more that meet a student's needs and will empower them to thrive.

Ultimately, having a certain college name on your sweatshirt does nothing for you if you are unhappy, stressed, and/or otherwise disenchanted with the school you have chosen.

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