College rankings: Not the end-all, be-all

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Anyone who is paying almost $45,000 a year to go to school obviously wants to be getting the most out of their money.’ Every student also knows that one of the determinants of this is how the school ranks in college guides like The Princeton Review, U.S. News, and Barron’s.’ Fairfield’s recent drop in the 2008 Barron’s College Guide from ‘highly selective’ to ‘very selective’ gives some students reason to worry.’ But is Barron’s guide really the only judge of how well a school performs?

I consider Barron’s to be on the bottom of the list as far as college ranking guides are concerned.’

When looking for information on this article, they didn’t even have a Web site I could consult, unlike Princeton Review and U.S. News ‘amp; World Report.’ I think I speak for most students, and maybe even their parents when I say that these are generally thought of as the most trusted college ranking guides.’

‘Princeton Review is what I’d go to first,’ said Brianna Cohoon ’10.’ ‘I don’t even really know about Barron’s.”

And disregarding Barron’s, on both The Princeton Review and U.S. News websites, Fairfield is ranked right up there with the likes of Providence College, Boston College and Villanova.

So if Fairfield’s rank hasn’t been affected in either U.S. News or The Princeton Review, why all the cause for concern?’ The few people I meet who, when I tell them I go to Fairfield and they know where it is (I attribute this to being from Massachusetts), I have yet to encounter a comment other than ‘Wow, I hear that’s a really good school.’

I will agree that Fairfield can be less selective in certain areas, specifically regarding legacy and diversity. I could almost bet that one out of every three students you meet here has at least one family member connected with the school; it seems as though no matter what your academic standing was in high school, if your mom or dad went here, you’re in.’ And of course we can’t forget about diversity.’ Fairfield has made it very clear that their mission to increase diversity on campus will get done any way they know how.

This is not to say that diversity is making our school any less than what it is.’ Interestingly enough, Fairfield currently sits at #2 on the ‘Most Homogenous Schools’ of The Princeton Review, but Providence College comes in first.’ Fairfield’s initiatives to increase diversity are to improve their standing on lists like that, surpassing competitive schools like Providence, and that’s obviously not the easiest thing to accomplish.

‘That’s a surprise to me, because I thought we were going in the opposite direction,’ said Cohoon, referring to Fairfield’s drop in rank. But, statistics don’t prove everything, and the diversity initiatives at school are an example of that.’

It’s common knowledge that, if we’re looking at something like economic diversity, lower-income areas are going to have lower SAT scores. Why? Because they don’t have the resources that higher-income areas have access to. That doesn’t mean that students from these areas are any less ‘smart,’ they just have less resources.

If we’re looking at the situation from this perspective, I think Fairfield is doing the best it can to try and keep the school from becoming a completely homogenous, upper-white class institution, which it already has a reputation for.

While this stereotype might not dissuade students from attending here as much as academic selectivity would, it’s something to think about.

I don’t think that Fairfield’s drop in the Barron’s ranking has much weight; it’s an issue that needs to be taken with a grain of salt.’

The success of your college experience isn’t solely based on a random ranking in a book, it depends a lot more on what you yourself make of your time here and the resources that are made available to you.

I’m pretty confident that when I graduate, Fairfield will still be a school whose name people will still associate with being ‘a really good school.’

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