Do college rankings matter?

It's a perennial issue in the world of college admission from "both sides of the desk". Colleges admission staff don't necessarily like these sometimes questionable lists but when their school does well in a ranking, the college's marketing department will probably use this information to their benefit. Likewise high school counselors find some of the methodology that creates a ranked list somewhat shaky. But we still sometimes grab those lists as a starting point. And perhaps that's the key: Rankings are just one way to consider colleges and should never replace common sense, comprehensive research.

So, we are providing the following links hoping our families will, in essence, "Take it with a grain of salt." These are simply more data points in the research process. In the end, the best college is the college that is best for you/your child.

Final tip: As much as possible, review each ranking's methodology. It's probably better to rely on truly quantifiable data and statistics than points like "academic reputation" based on the votes of university presidents. If you want to consider more qualitative data, college visits and sites like College Prowler and College Confidential will provide you plenty of fodder.

The Lists

Money Magazine College Rankings

US News and World Report's Best Colleges

Washington Monthly's College Guide

Washinton Monthly's Worst Colleges

Wall Street Journal's College Ranking

Wall Street Journal's College Ranking By Major

Wall Street Journal/PayScale College Ranking by Return on Investment

Forbes' Top Colleges

Business Insider's Most Dangerous Colleges

LGBT Friendliest Schools