Each year various magazines and newspapers publish college rankings in an attempt to inform parents and prospective students which colleges are supposedly the best.
U.S. News & World Report's "Best Colleges" – perhaps the most influential of these rankings – first appeared in 1983. Since then, many other rankings have emerged, assessing colleges and universities on cost, the salaries of graduates and other factors.
For example, The Wall Street Journal and Times Higher Education recently released their new rankings, which judge colleges on things that range from how much graduates earn to the campus environment to how much students engaged with instructors.
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But what, if anything, do all these college rankings really reveal about the quality and value of a particular college?
In order to provide a new perspective on rankings, my colleagues Matt I. Brown, Christopher F. Chabris and I decided to rank colleges according to the SAT or ACT scores of the students they admit. We approached this matter as researchers with backgrounds in education and psychology.
For our analysis, we took data from the 2014 U.S. News rankings and recorded the 25th and 75th percentile scores on the math and verbal subtests for 1,339 schools. We took all the ACT scores and converted them to SAT scores using a concordance table. Then, we simply ranked all the schools by this standardized test score metric.