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Opinion: College rankings meaningless when it comes to finding home away from home

February 2, 2014

smith.3863@osu.edu

I remember last April when the time came to pay my acceptance fee to a university where I would spend the next four years of my life. It was a scary feeling — a $100 fee would determine which university campus I would learn like the back of my hand, for which establishment I would eventually shell out upwards of $30,000 a year for my education and which alma mater I would identify with for the rest of my life.

Every day I spend here at Ohio State, I am more confident I made the right decision by paying my $100 acceptance fee to this university. And for that, I am lucky.

While I am almost always deliriously happy with my life here at OSU, it’s hard not to look at other students from my senior class of high school that are overwhelmingly unhappy with life away from our hometown. At least four of my close high school colleagues have already returned home — a semester at the school they previously thought would be home for four years was enough time for them to realize that school wasn’t the right fit. I read friends’ complaints about the schools they attend on Facebook, and while I sympathize with the concerns of my friends, I can’t help but wonder if the problem lies in my friends’ choices in what schools they chose to attend.

I chose OSU completely unmotivated by its U.S. News and World Report “Best Colleges” ranking. When I was deciding which school to attend in fall 2013, I didn’t even know what place OSU held in the rankings.

And that has made all the difference for me.

It was rough to listen to friends, who, even in January of our senior year, would tell others that they were going to attend “the highest ranked university” to which they were accepted. Regardless of where these campuses were located or what benefits they had to offer students, some of my friends did indeed attend “the highest ranked university” to which they were accepted.

The correlation is pretty striking; many of my former classmates that selected colleges based on this thoughtless “ranking” method are unhappy at their respective schools.

Some of my high school colleagues have already returned home — a semester at the schools they thought were right because of rankings was enough time for them to realize that the schools weren’t a perfect fit.

Rankings overall are a very black and white way to define a university. They’re probably the most quantitative way to survey the array of universities in the U.S., but the problem with rankings is that they offer nothing about universities’ different personalities.

The personality of OSU is exactly what led me to choose this school over other schools to which I applied.

I was raised as a Buckeye. My dad is a 1988 graduate. Photos of a 4-year-old me in an OSU cheerleader uniform are littered around my house. My family is known for the chocolate-peanut butter buckeye candies we send to neighbors and friends at Christmastime.

Now that I’m here, it’s the little things about OSU that leave me sure I chose the right university for me.

It’s the vending machine of school supplies in William Oxley Thompson Memorial Library and the way my dad tries to hide his excitement when he visits campus and points out the hotdog cart in front of University Hall where he used to buy hotdogs between classes 30 years ago.

No ranking could ever describe how stupidly happy I get when I purchase a glue stick out of a vending machine or how proud I feel to continue the Buckeye tradition in my family.

I am now aware that OSU is ranked No. 52 in the U.S. News and World Report ranking of national universities. But OSU is so much more than its ranking. This university is a part of me just as much as I am a part of it — and it’s a part of me that I’m proud of every day.


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