What Impact do School Rankings have on College Acceptance

Written by Patricia Hawke for www.schoolsk-12.com

Determining school rankings based on college preparation tests 
Newsweek magazine bases its renowned high school rankings test on the number of students who participate in college admissions tests, taking that as the measure of a school’s success. This controversial approach to school rankings has both its admirers and its critics.  Admirers insist that a school that is invested  enough to set many of its students on the path to pursuing a college education can be relied on to have motivated staff and an overall conducive learning environment. Critics beg to differ. They maintain the Newsweek school rankings focus on college admission tests to the extent of ignoring all the other factors that govern a school’s performance; like the infamous standardized test scores. This is unfair to schools and promotes at best a skewered version of school rankings. 
But what about the rankings themselves; what part do they have to play in college admissions.  So Newsweek lists schools based on the college admissions tests participation statistics, but is mere participation in admission tests enough to guarantee the quality of a high school?  Does a school’s place in school rankings promise to guarantee or deny a student a place in a college?   More importantly, do college admission authorities, who every year hold the fates of thousands of applicants in their hands, really care? 
How do you Grade High School Rankings?
For instance an “A” in a particular high school might not mean a lot in the greater scheme of things. Not all college admission authorities are going to be impressed for the simple reason that they have never been to your school, and have no way of gauging the kinds of standards maintained.  A more important point seems to be that students have a curriculum that is packed with challenging and diverse courses that really prove the student’s abilities more than any school rankings.  A student from an institution that’s high on the school rankings, but who has his transcripts stuffed with no AP classes might actually have a lesser chance of an admission to a top college than one from a lower ranked school who is at the top of the class- AP classes or not.  Of course this is a generalization and there are other factors that go into the super secretive college application process like the all important college essay.  Even this however, has become commercialized with college admission essay polishing companies sprouting up on the Web by the dozen. 
There is enough to indicate that the college admission process in the US is becoming more and more selective as the years go by. With more applicants being turned away each year (University of Chicago acceptance rates in 1981 were 70 percent; today they are only half that) there is a need for schools to set aside their ranking tussles to prepare students for the college process right from the middle school years by including courses that will help them prepare for when high schools and college admissions tests rolls around. Just being from a school with great high school rankings just might not cut it.