U.S. News Is Not the Best of Anything

Recently I heard the director of admissions at one of the nation’s premiere universities lament how U.S. News & World Reports helped to create a distorted competitive process that now surrounds college admissions. He recounted the history of the magazine’s ranking process and how it has transformed the way in which universities accept students — tuned to metrics measured in the rankings — and, in turn, the way in which high school counselors direct students, the schools students choose and, most dramatically, the paranoia and excessive anxiety of certain parents.

Much has been written on this topic so I won’t retrace the absurdity of the rankings.

However, when I heard the admissions director blame U.S. News on the state of the admissions process, as a magazine person, all I could think is this: If there was a ranking of magazines — even a ranking of newsweekly magazines — there is no way U.S. News would rank high. It’s certainly not in the Ivy League. It’s not even one of those top-tier non-Ivies. It’s, well, a small for-profit jr. college that accepts anyone with a pulse. So how crazy is that?

Therefore, it comes as no surprise that U.S. News will no longer be ranked at the bottom of the Best News Weeklies in America. It’s no longer going to pretend it’s a newsweekly — rather it’s going to be a “Best of” magazine.

In my opinion, U.S. News ranks #1 on the list magazines that should just go away completely.

Update: From a comment below, I think my post may not be clear to some. Let me try to clarify myself: I think U.S. News has long lost any standing as a magazine of importance. It has survived because it latched onto a gimmick. Unfortunately, that gimmick had seriously negative consequences and is, overall, a disservice to those it claims to serve. I think college rankings are a cancer that U.S. News spread. They place too much emphasis on metrics that have little to do with success in life. Rather than waste money and time on studying such rankings, I think students and their parents should look at resources like Colleges that Change Lives that recognize students and universities are made up of human beings, not collections of statistics and marketing-prowess.