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Old Gold & Black

'Covers the campus like the magnolias'
"Covers the campus like the magnolias"

Old Gold & Black

"Covers the campus like the magnolias"

Old Gold & Black

Wake falls 19 spots in the college rankings, and it’s all your fault

The US News rankings do not matter, and we are better off ignoring them
Evan Harris
Wake Forest is best off ignoring the US News rankings, writes Alex Mojica.

It’s Sept. 18, 2023. You woke up and learned that the U.S. News overhauled its methodology to create their 2024 Best Colleges rankings and, as a proud Wake Forest student, you’re about to see where the Demon Deacons stand. Upon checking the new list, you find that Wake Forest University is ranked No. 10. 

Congratulations! Your institution just improved 19 spots from its 2023 ranking. What’s your initial reaction? Are you thrilled to be enrolled at a top-10 university? Are you surprised? More motivated? 

Well, don’t be. 

Profoundly little has changed about your school in the last year. Seriously, it’s like upgrading to the next iPhone. The things that matter — your textbooks, classrooms and school’s values — only change at the margins each year. On the other hand, adding La Sabrosa and some renovations to the ZSR Library won’t do much for you, and they certainly don’t justify a 19-spot boost in Wake Forest’s ranking. 

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And you know what? None of those things justify a 19-spot drop in Wake Forest’s ranking either. 

You probably don’t need me to outline the ways U.S. News revamped its college rankings methodology. There’s a good chance you know they put more emphasis on the success of first-generation students and less on small class sizes and terminal degree faculty. Most importantly, you’ve probably discovered that the Demon Deacons are rather butthurt about it.

One of Wake Forest’s largest draws for students is the interpersonal and tailored in-class experience it provides. Its relatively small class sizes and experienced professors allures students who want to establish strong connections with their professors. Although the US News values those assets less on this year’s rankings, they boost our education’s quality in a fashion most larger schools cannot match. 

Nothing has fundamentally changed about the school itself, just what US News as an organization values in a college.

— Daksh Goyal ('27)

Wake Forest’s plummet down the rankings reflects a separate issue: its overrepresentation of students from upper-class income brackets. According to the New York Times, 71% of Wake Forest students are from the top 20% in family income, and 22% are from the top 1%. This structurally impedes its ability to demonstrate support for first-generation and working class students.

My point is not that Wake Forest has been unwilling to support structurally disadvantaged students. Its First in the Forest program, for example, provides academic and career support for first-generation students. This demonstrates intent to change yet is not a panacea. Since such programs cannot immediately overhaul the institution’s socioeconomic demographics, reflections in its US News ranking could remain limited in the coming years. 

What is lost in this reaction to the rankings is that the quality of Wake Forest’s instruction and institutional support has not dropped. The rankings do not suggest that Wake Forest students will be worse off in the future than previously expected. Daksh Goyal, Wake Forest freshman, said the rankings have “not changed [his] perception of the school… nothing has fundamentally changed about the school itself, just what US News as an organization values in a college.”

Everyone came to Wake Forest for a different reason, and everyone is entitled to their take on its new ranking. My point is not that certain takes — including that of the US News — are incorrect, but that they are self-fulfilling prophecies. For those who have been paying close attention to each school’s track record with first-generation students, the new rankings will not surprise you. If Wake Forest’s drop does surprise you, it demonstrates that such data was not your biggest concern when coming here.

Trusting the U.S. News National Universities rankings is like plugging a power strip into itself and expecting infinite power. By judging Wake Forest based on these rankings, you are turning the US News’ think-piece into gospel. If you came here for the features that made Wake a top-30 school last year, then you’re still essentially attending a top-30 school. 

If you’re dropping $80k on tuition, try not to have an existential crisis. No university has a true ranking, and the ranking’s don’t predict your future success. If one of your determining criteria in choosing your school was its spot on a list that exists to garner views and generate profit, the joke’s on you.

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    edwardMay 1, 2024 at 9:16 pm

    weird article

  • A

    AlumSep 25, 2023 at 12:06 pm