Students discuss decision-making, rankings' role in choosing school
Here's a complicated notion: MSU is one of the top 80 schools in the world, while it only ranks 81st in the country.
Welcome to the confusing, contradictory world of college rankings. Since each reviewer uses their own methods to determine their ranking, Times Higher Education assigned MSU its top-80 ranking for global reputation, while U.S. News and World Report listed MSU 81st nationally. MSU's "Rankings and Recognitions" website alone lists 25 different ways the university fits in to various lists.
This wide variation diminished the impact of rankings for freshman Micahya Barkley as she was selecting a school. The genetics major from Detroit said the bias and non-academic factors that go into rankings may sometimes mislead students and cause them to regret their college decision.
"I don't think rankings are the best because some people only go to schools because of their rankings," Barkley said. "They get there and they're not happy with the quality they actually see."
U.S. News and World Report, in its explanation as to why they put these lists together, tries to prevent students from making their college choice based entirely on its subjective rankings. The organization, which has been publishing its Best Colleges rankings since 1983, "recommends that students gather information on colleges in a number of ways" including campus visits, guidance from their high school counselors and help from parents.
Finance junior Sven Adriaens agrees that first-hand opinions can solve many of the shortcomings Barkley alluded to, by "putting a face" to the calculations that go into rankings.
"Probably the best way to go about it is to feature more of this kind of thing, an interview from the perspective of the students attending, what made them make their decision to go to school at the university," Adriaens said. "Something more along those lines than a number just from someone that you don't really know at all."
Some students feel that rankings try to quantify things that can sometimes be difficult to understand without personal experience. For instance, it's tough to translate the Wall Street Journal and Times Higher Education's assessment that MSU has the 11th-most-engaged student body into how a student will actually engage with the university when they attend. Media and information major Jacob Berney said his experience at MSU has helped him see the meaning behind many of the rankings he previously hadn't thought about too much.
"Once you finally get to a place, it's like, 'Oh, I guess this stuff kind of matters,'" Berney said. "You start seeing where placements are, where people are in different jobs. I guess that kind of factors in when you get there, at least for me, more than actually thinking about going beforehand."
Even though rankings don't seem to be a clinching factor for many prospective students, MSU's reputation still plays a significant role, even on a global scale. Creative writing senior Yisi Fan said during her college decision process, the internet influenced her, but in a different way than just college rankings. She found some photos of campus on Google and heavily considered the online opinions of fellow Chinese Spartans.
"In China, they have Chinese MSU students that recommend this school or write something about it," Fan said. "I tried to Google some pictures. I found it's really beautiful around (campus), so I just made this decision."