Rankings don’t measure success

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    Just recently, throngs of young people headed to the local grocery store to pick up their copies of U.S. News & World Report. Can we chalk it up to an increased interest in both international and domestic politics among America’s youth? Sadly, no.In reality, it was to pick up the 2007 edition of the publication’s popular “America’s Best Colleges” series.

    Each year, U.S. News & World Report publishes a ranking of the nation’s top colleges based on various criteria. Such categories include acceptance rate, freshmen in the top 10 percent of their high school classes and average SAT score.

    Princeton University was at the top of the list, followed closely by Harvard University and Yale University. California Institute of Technology, Stanford University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology rounded out the top six. As for TCU, it came in a five-way tie for 105th.

    Have we really come to that point as a nation? Do we have to rely on a bunch of numbers in order to tell us where the best places to go to school are? College is about so much more than that. It’s about branching out from your comfort zone. It’s about accepting new challenges. It’s about moving on from being an ignorant kid to an informed adult. It’s about growth.

    Musty libraries and so-called “distinguished” faculty don’t constitute the total university experience. Selectivity doesn’t necessarily correlate with quality, and bigger isn’t always better. University selection should be a choice made with concern for the abilities and feelings of the individual, not a decision heavily influenced by a ranking system devised by a bunch of magazine editors in New York City.

    America’s youth is too concerned about attending the top universities and not focusing enough on schools better suited to certain students and their situations. But who can blame them? Every aspect of our culture seems to be preoccupied with the whole “bite and claw your way to the top” mentality, and academia is no different.

    Case in point: my high school. I know people who graduated summa cum laude by pretty much cheating their ways to the honor. I was once offered $60 for the answers to a U.S. history test – an offer I promptly refused. During my high school experience, I was made privy to more cheating rings than I care to recall.

    The sole reason? These students wanted to get into University of Texas or Texas A&M University. Sadly, most of them did.

    While this compelling evidence suggests the growing problem of academic dishonesty in our nation’s schools, it is part of a greater whole. Students believe their happiness and future success depend solely on which colleges they attend. Some believe if they don’t attend Harvard or Yale, they will just simply cease to exist. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    Let’s look at some famous names. Investment guru and multibillionaire Warren Buffet attended the University of Nebraska. Dr. Phil received his doctorate from the University of North Texas. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice graduated from the University of Denver. While none of these colleges are currently ranked in the top 85 in the nation, their graduates have served to shape today’s world.

    In the end, the decision is left up to the applicants. What everyone needs to realize is that rankings carry little importance for future success. Students are not defined by the universities they attend, but universities are defined by the people they produce. Make someone a believer today.

    David Hall is a freshman news-editorial journalism major from Kingwood. His column appears every Tuesday and Friday.