U.S. News and World Report: How Important is Scripps's Ranking?

By Katie Pecoulas '15, Contributing Writer

After reading Lori Bettison-Varga’s email regarding the U.S. News and World Report ranking for Scripps College, I was slightly upset. I thought I could express my disappointment in an article for The Scripps Voice that explained why college rankings matter and why the Scripps community should care. But after talking to Vice President of Enrollment Victoria Romero, I realized how insignificant these rankings are. I even felt ashamed for buying into exactly what magazines like U.S. News and World Report wanted me to buy into: the significance of a number.

According to Romero, whether or not students choose liberal arts colleges like Scripps all depends on the fit of the school. “When students look at small liberal arts colleges, the fit becomes really important. Rankings may be a starting point, but ultimately when we ask applicants why they are applying to Scripps, no one answers with the ranking,” Romero said.

While the most-read issue of U.S. News and World Report is the “College Issue,” the admissions team here at Scripps works hard to focus on aspects of Scripps that cannot be understood by the U.S. News and World Report profile—for example, the traditions and sense of community that Scripps has to offer its students.

“If we are doing our job right and how we message information to families, nothing has changed,” said Romero. Scripps is still the same institution it was a year ago. The ranking indicates that Scripps is a different place, but this is not true.

We all know students and families who base their college choice off rankings, but are these the types of students we want here at Scripps? Students who care about a ranking that was calculated by a formula? No, and I don’t believe anyone at Scripps would enjoy the company of these students either.

Rankings are insignificant and do nothing to embody the values of a particular school. The ranking Scripps received this year should not negatively impact the number of applicants. If prospective students and families are not able to see the wonderful opportunities that Scripps has to offer, if they only see its lowered rank then it is simply their loss.

By Rebecca Dutta '15, Opinions & Editorials Section Head

As a student who just graduated from a “top ranking” high school, I am well aware of just how pervasive stellar college rankings play into 12th graders’ college decisions. Nowadays, instead of research, a generic number assigned to a university seems to be rapidly becoming the biggest factor in college lists. Even worse, students have started to apply to these “top tier” colleges simply because they are “top tier.”

A few weeks ago, we received an email explaining our drop to 29th in the yearly U.S. News and World Rankings for best liberal arts colleges. While we definitely will be bitter about our lowered ranking, we should also remember that Scripps has continued to maintain its academic standing as well as its distinct culture and traditions. Prospective students who express interest through thorough research will realize that a single number cannot determine their home for the next four years.

I usually follow any type of ranking with one cynical question: “On what basis?” We should not blindly believe in a rank without clearly understanding why it was given a particular standing. U.S. News and World Report claims that their college rankings are heavily based on objective data such as graduation rate, selectivity and courses offered. Yes, these factors should be highly weighted in any prospective applicant’s mind; however, such facts and figures tend to clog our reasoning capabilities to the point where we forget to consider the college subjectively.

Each college caters to a different type of mentality, and prospective students can never truly choose a college until they spend some time researching the life, culture and academic strengths of each school they apply to. Last year, after turning a blind eye to college rankings, I realized that there was no other school that offered a Career Planning and Resource center that was quite as prominent and available to students as our center at Scripps. No other college offered me an interdisciplinary science course like AISS. No other staff member remem- bered me half a year after my interview like Admission Counselor Tina Brooks did. My praise continued well beyond this list and added to the comfort and support I found at Scripps each time I visited campus.

I cannot fault the college ranking system for trying its best to present students with an unbiased ordering of the best schools in the U.S. However, the right approach to college rankings should be more specific to a student’s interests. There is no doubt that Scripps College caters to women with specific mentalities. While we are all unique, the reasons and ambitions that have guided us toward Scripps are very similar; this is what makes Scripps College a standout campus. Our drop in ranking may be difficult for us to comprehend, but let’s remember that the students who have done their thorough research and find themselves at home at Scripps College will be the ones who ultimately flourish in Scripps’s challenging yet nurturing atmosphere. As for high school seniors, it is critical that they understand the importance that fit and culture play into their college decisions before they find themselves trapped at a “top tier” college that may never feel like home.