NU rank holds at 11th, drops in ‘overall’ score

Stephanie Chen

Northwestern maintained its No. 11 spot this year in U.S. News and World Report’s annual undergraduate rankings released in August.

The 2005 edition has NU sharing the No. 11 spot with Washington University in St. Louis. And although NU lagged one spot behind Ivy League schools Columbia University and Dartmouth University, it topped Ivies Brown and Cornell universities, which took 13th and 14th places.

In 2004’s list, NU fell to No. 11 from its No. 10 spot in 2003, reversing the school’s previous three-year climb in the magazine’s rankings.

Carol Lunkenheimer, dean of undergraduate admissions, said the university is pleased with this year’s solid spot in the top 25.

“It shows that we’re a strong school and continuing to pull in applicants,” she said.

Many freshmen said they considered the lists released by U.S. News and World Report and the Princeton Review in their decisions when they applied a year ago.

Communication freshman Adam Shaw said he was drawn to NU because of the university’s high ranking but also researched the individual drama programs and found that NU’s curriculum was exactly what he was seeking.

“You can’t just look at (rankings) flat,” Shaw said. “There were kids in my high school who just applied to a school and accepted whatever school ranked the highest.”

But rankings can offer comments, reviews and advice that are useful to prospective students, said Weinberg freshman Maddie Dewitt.

“A number just doesn’t provide enough information,” she said. “It’s pretty arbitrary because you might get a hot school one year and then it will drop.”

Rankings were useful for Weinberg freshman and international student Karam Preet, who wanted to attend a globally-recognized school in the United States.

Created in 1983, U.S. News and World Report’s annual “America’s Best Colleges” guide is the only college guide that ranks every four-year accredited institution in the nation.

College guides like the Princeton Review’s annual “Best 357 Colleges” base their rankings almost completely on 300 surveys of students distributed at each school.

This year NU fell out of Princeton Review’s top 20 for “Best Overall Academic Experience for Undergraduates” after holding the No. 17 spot last year and the No. 1 spot in 2002.

“The big drop just shows how subjective the ranking system can be,” said Ryan Ferro, a Weinberg sophomore.

Although responses from student surveys are given 25 percent of the consideration in U.S. News and World Report’s rankings, the magazine uses other factors for judging academic quality, including student retention rates, faculty resources, incoming students’ test scores and admissions selectivity, said Richard Folkers, director of media relations for the magazine.

Folkers said the goal of the rankings is to give students and families all the information they need to make a big financial decision.

“U.S. News doesn’t care about who is up or who is down,” he added. “It’s not created to make schools feel good about themselves.”

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