• 2 years ago •
Admissions Advice

Reliability of Niche

Are Niche.com college rankings reliable?


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2 answers

Accepted Answer
• 2 years ago[edited]

There are two things I'd say here—1) yes, they're probably the best rankings of any kind that you can find, mainly because they clearly and concisely outline why schools are ranked the way they are and what goes into those placements, but also 2) rankings are only useful in some specific circumstances, and can actually be harmful when used improperly.

What I mean by that is that rankings like those that Niche.com (and USNWR, etc.) have are a tool, and like any tool they can be misused. Rankings are extremely useful in building an initial school list and giving yourself an overall sense of where a school might stand relative to its peer institutions in a given subject. If a school is ranked in the Top 10, 20, 30, etc. in a given subject, it's probably a pretty good place to study that thing.

However, beyond that initial step, rankings become a lot less reliable. They aren't going to tell you how strong schools are at various different concentrations or areas within certain subjects. Let's take English as an example because it's an easy and clear one to make—some English majors will be focused on studying certain eras of literature, while others might want to focus on creative writing. Niche lists Brown, Columbia, and Yale as 1/2/3 for English, and those are great schools for literary studies, but their strengths in creative writing will vary. Some of the consensus best schools for creative writing—like Northwestern, which has an amazing undergraduate writing program—are ranked far enough below them that the gap might look substantial (Northwestern is ranked #20 in Niche's English major rankings). But for an undergrad English major who wants to pursue creative writing, Northwestern is probably a better choice than Yale. And this same kind of comparison could be made in the sciences or any other subject—say in physics between quantum physics and astrophysics or something similar.

That's all to say that you should only pay so much attention to rankings, and you should always look at them for an eye with how they might relate (or not relate) to your overarching goals as a student. There are a lot of elements of "fit" that aren't captured in rankings, and making ultimate decisions based on rankings can easily lead someone down a wrong path.

• 2 years ago

Generally I'd say yes, they do a pretty good job of taking into account basically every aspect of universities (eg. academics, athletics, student life). I'd consider them reliable.


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