Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Hate the Game, not the Player

So, a school was caught gaming the rankings.  Should we be shocked?  Nay.  I have often spewed about rankings of all kinds.  Law schools regularly game the rankings by employing alums for key time periods.

Congrats to Claremont McKenna:
according to Robert Morse, the director of data research at U.S. News, is “the highest-ranking school to have to go through this publicly and have to admit to misreporting.”
I guess they must have been really good at gaming the system to be so highly ranked so that their gaming can be so very visible.

Why does this happen?
But repeated revelations of manipulation show the importance of the rankings in the minds of prospective students, their guidance counselors, parents, the alumni considering donations, the professors weighing job offers — and, of course, the colleges themselves.
We have only ourselves to blame.  It is about self-esteem for folks at the schools, and it is for getting status for those who are applying.  The big questions are the real admit rates for medical schools, law schools, grad schools and .... jobs.  I would love to see a regression or three on the factors driving admission with school rank being one factor but GPA, test scores, etc being factored in as well.

I am fundamentally of the belief that for undergrad, it almost does not matter where you go with one caveat in a second---that one should go to a place that has programs in the fields you desire with enough competence in other areas in case you change your mind.  But one should not flip out about going to school number 27 rather than school number 17 or 7.  The next generation of Saidemans are approaching college (with one already in) and my key bit of advice is to largely ignore the adults and the rankingsGo to whichever school feels right for you.  I would recommend a smaller school than a bigger one, having taught at the bigs and gone to a small, but even that is not hard and fast.

What is the one caveat I have? That the quality of one's peers matters as much or more than the pedigrees and productivity of the profs.  So, go to places where one's fellow students are interesting and engaged--which is why McGill is a great place for students (not just a cheap place to be outsourced).  And if happens to be a place that is sunny or has great skiing, well, more power to ya.

The game will always be the game, but you don't have to play.  That is what I learned at Oberlin and by watching The Wire and the Game of Thrones.

1 comment:

Steve Greene said...

Peeeeeeeeers!!! Yes. Over many a conversation that's the conclusion I've come to that really makes a key difference in the quality of your undergrad education.