As a senior at Beijing No. 4 High School, I’m starting my college application at the end of this year. Like many other seniors at international schools, I realize finding the right fit for myself is important and to that measure, I am currently researching college information and rankings. Recently, I had to chance to interview Robert Morse, chief data strategist at U.S. News and World Report, an American magazine known for its influential ranking and annual reports of colleges and graduate schools. Morse answers questions about college rakings, school data, and more.
Can you give us a general overview of the ranking process that U.S. News and World Report is doing?
My job is to be involved in all parts of the ranking process The college ranking the publication is doing right now is a complicated process from January until the final publication is printed in September. We start to collect the data and update our survey during the spring and summer every year and then we calculate and analyze the data. We use methodology that is based on sixteen factors includingacademic reputation and admission data. We gather the data and weighthese factors against other schools of the same ranking category. Schools that have higher weighted scores rank at top on the chart. We also publish a lot of subsidiary ranking ranges from “best public schools’ to “best undergraduate business program’ either based on the main ranking or use the separate data. Then we publish the final result on the US News website in September.
There is a lot of information about individual school from four-year graduation rates, to freshman retention rates and scholarship options, where does data gathering begin?
Mainly we get the data from the schools themselves or the survey we conduct separately among schools. We get the data of schools that don’t respond to the survey by looking into other data sources in the United States, like American association of University Professors or the U.S. Department of Education where schools are compulsory to submit similar data.
Why do you think U.S. News and World Report is so popular in China, and what factors do you think that makes it an authoritative ranking in China?
I don’t have any Chinese background, but when many affluent people in China send their children to US to get better a education, they know little about the US, in some cases they know even less than a little. So they need a ranking to bring them more information about colleges. Schools use them as advertisement and take the ranking seriously. We are the biggest ranking in the United States, so we are considered authoritative. It is prestigious to send your child to a good school in the United States, so people want to have some way of telling other people about their social group. For instance, if students go to Carnegie Mellon University, they will prove their social status by looking into US News ranking.
With more and more information being accessible online, students are overwhelmed by the information and end up finding it hard to pick a university. Furthermore, counselors stress a sense of finding the right “match,” instead of pursuing the top ranking colleges. So how do students choose a college? What exactly are we choosing when we pick a college?
You are choosing a place you are going for a number of years, you are choosing an atmosphere where you will live there, and if they have the right program for you. When you end up getting a degree, will the degree help you to get in to a good graduate school or get a job? You are definitely trying to figure out something far beyond the placement on the list, it is far deeper than that.
Harry Liu, (Liu Yinhao), is a senior at the international campus affiliated with Beijing No.4 High School, a public high school in Beijing. He is the community outreach officer for the student’s council, the president of the photography club, the deputy president of the science and philosophy club, and the editor and photographer for his school newspaper. Through his blog posts, he hopes to share unique and exciting experiences at Beijing No.4 High School International Campus.
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