Edit desk: Unranked

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Michael Reiner

If you feel slighted that Lehigh dropped to No. 47 on the U.S. News & Word Report university rankings this year: don’t.

Whether it’s the aforementioned list or another one like it, first-year jobs upon graduation are a primary statistic in the skewed and distorted metrics used to derive such a scale. What is absent of these lists are the infinitely different paths undergrads travel on to get their job offer in the first place.

The value of networking, inherited connections and other variables can all play a vital role in a 22-year-old earning a job right out of college. In many scenarios, the majority of the credit should not be deflected to the former college of a first-year employee.

We all know them. The students that are playing the hand they were dealt – as they should – to get an interview or job offer after graduation through connections. In theory, couldn’t this way “in the door” have been available to the student no matter what college the student attended? You bet. Should a student’s familiarity with a company through their parents, uncle’s doubles partner, grandmother’s book club member or neighbor’s dog walker be credited to their college’s career services center? Nope. That student was getting that interview if they called Lehigh home or a school miles away in either direction on the so-called “rankings.”

My point is this: should the university be rewarded in terms of a higher rankings for an alumnus working at Goldman Sachs, NASA or the White House even though they had little to do with getting them there in the first place? Of course not, but the rankings don’t evaluate that. Simply put, according to the logic behind college rankings, the schools absorb all credit of every matriculating student to the work force.

That being said, of course the six-letter word “Lehigh” is likely the first word job recruiters look for, as they should. The natural process and “by the book” methodology of undergraduate recruiting is simple: earn the highest GPA you can, diversify your interests on campus, show exemplary leadership skills, interview well and pray your respective university’s clout in the “real world” can afford you the opportunity to be noticed.

That just isn’t reality, though. There are no rules in trying to stand out during the interview process and often individual effort on the networking side through non-school affiliated resources can make the difference. According to rankings, however, the school played a fundamental part in landing you that coveted first job.

For some, the first thank you note doesn’t go to your career services advisor. It goes to that neighbor’s dog walker who put you in touch with the employee who got you the job. That’s just life.

Ranking distortion can also work in different ways, more specifically during your time as an undergraduate. Faculty resources are another factor in some rankings. In terms of faculty resource, class size should be a primary statistic in analyzing this category. In theory, a smaller class would provide more individual FaceTime between students and professor. Yet some students thrive in a lecture setting. How do these ranking referees derive which school’s faculty has more to offer to their students? I haven’t taken a poll here at Lehigh orchestrated by the U.S. News & World Report and neither have any my friends, to my knowledge.

Another so-called indicator of college rankings are obtained from academic scores from students when they were in high school. Does the academic stature of an 18-year-old, before they are exposed to any education inflicted by the university, really help distinguish a college from another? I don’t think so. That stat should be analyzed when trying to gauge how difficult a school is to be admitted to, not the overall, all-encompassing “ranking” of an entire institution.

Do I think figures like retention rate, first year salary and alumni involvement should be incorporated into a ranking scale? Sure. But then again I wouldn’t even attempt a ranking scale in the first place. Too many factors, too many obscure paths to the work force and way too many unquantifiable factors make up a college experience.

College rankings are merely for bragging rights without merit and should be thought of as nothing more.

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