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Rankings Cannot Capture the ‘Nova Experience

Brian Luppy/Villanovan Photography
No matter the rank, no number can capture the student experience at Villanova.

It’s that time of year: high school juniors and seniors are beginning their college searches, something all college students are relieved to no longer be a part of. With it, the U.S. News & World Report has released its rankings of the best colleges and universities to be used as a guide throughout this process.

I remember using U.S. News & World Report for my own personal college search, and at the time, in 2022, Villanova was ranked #49th in national universities. This was a factor in my application process, and such a high ranking is one of the reasons I felt encouraged to apply. Many may find they value a well-renowned school, as I did. 

This past week, the rankings for 2023 were released, with Villanova tied for 67th. This large leap backwards is curious, especially given that it was only within one year.

To look more into why this ranking occurred, it is important to understand where these rankings come from. 

According to the U.S. News & World Report, its ranking system is based on many factors, which are listed on its website. Some of the highest weighted categories are peer assessment, graduation rate and performance and financial resources. 

Other categories that hold smaller weights are borrower debt, faculty salaries and student faculty ratio. 

This raises the question: why is Villanova dropping in rank? 

One prominent factor is that U.S. News & World Report has shifted around the weighting and the categories that they utilize to rank schools. For example, this year there was new emphasis on the success of graduates who came from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds and an increase in weight for first-generation graduation rates. 

This is a positive change, shining light on some of the underrepresented responsibilities of a college to aid in the process of those who are first-generation college students or less socioeconomically advantaged.

For Villanova, however, it seems that strengths may lie in categories that aren’t shown: culture, student life, athletics, campus and more. These were all values I, like many others, held during my search.

In terms of how important these rankings are for prospective students, freshman Caroline Blum was skeptical.

  “I was curious [about Villanova’s ranking], but that’s not why I decided to go,” Blum said in regards to her own college application process.

She added that she was “surprised about the ranking drop,” considering not much has changed over the past year. 

Although U.S. News & World Report compiles this complicated list each year, does it make sense to use this ranking as a guide?

Students on campus seem to think it misrepresents what it means for a college to be “good.”

For example, freshman Peyton Meinhardt said she only focused on the “rank of the business school,” which differs from Villanova’s overall rank. Similarly to Blum, she did not “use rank as the deciding factor.”

Although the ranking may not have played a huge factor in everyone’s application process, it still begs the question: is it accurate?

Some have mixed opinions about whether this is a good representation. 

“The rankings should be only academic, as some of the other factors are subjective about what makes a school good,” Meinhardt said.

This is true, and serves as a reminder that this ranking, while well regarded and put-together, is only one way of determining the value of a university. 

Whether or not Villanovans agree with this evaluation, 67th out of 439 schools is an incredible accomplishment. That ranks us in the top 15% of all schools, as well as other notable rankings on acclaimed sites such as Forbes and Niche.

The school spirit, community and interest in clubs and programs are difficult to assess in a quantitative way, like a rubric, but are all major factors into why Villanovans love Villanova, regardless of any ranking.

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    Hugh SalvaSep 29, 2023 at 8:57 am

    GO NOVA!!✌️