According to U.S. News and World Report, Penn is climbing the ranks of the most popular schools in the country.
Earlier this week, U.S. News released its annual list of the nation’s most popular universities.
The rankings — which are based on yield rates from the Class of 2014 — put Penn in 10th place overall, in front of Princeton and Columbia universities, which came in at 13th and 15th, respectively.
Harvard and Yale universities — which came in first and eighth, respectively — were the only two Ivy League schools to place higher than Penn.
“From the perspective of raising awareness and maybe putting Penn inside the mix of schools that students and parents will consider, [the ranking] helps us,” Dean of Admissions Eric Furda said. “More often than not, when we’re not on those lists, some people are just not thinking about us.”
While Furda believes the ranking may help raise awareness about Penn, some have called into question the use of yield rates as a tool to measure an institution’s popularity.
Yield rates measure the proportion of admitted students who decide to matriculate and are “internal rates that are very helpful to admissions officers,” Top Colleges Educational Consultant Steven Goodman, who received his master’s degree from the Graduate School of Education in 1989, explained.
David Hawkins, director of public policy and research at the National Association for College Admission Counseling, said these rankings set “a new low from U.S. News,” because the list “doesn’t take into account anything about the school’s mission and obviously doesn’t factor in anything about the student’s opinion of the school once they’re there.”
“There’s absolutely no value from an academic or scientific viewpoint, but I guess it is what it ostensibly seems to be: a popularity contest,” he added.
According to Goodman, U.S. News’ emphasis on yield to generate these rankings may lead universities to accept more students through early decision, since the matriculation rate for these programs is always exactly or close to 100 percent.
Repackaged under the umbrella of “popularity,” yield rates may become more influential, he said.
“An average person may not know what the yield rate is, but they certainly know what popularity is,” he said.
Though Furda said there is some value in college rankings, he thinks prospective students should look beyond the numbers when applying to schools.
“I think at the end of the day, for any of this … it’s important that we put it in its proper context,” Furda said. “If a school is in the top 10 for yield and popularity, it may not mean that it’s the best school for the student.”
Based on NACAC’s studies to date, Hawkins does not think many domestic students rely on rankings in their college search process, but that they may be influential for international applicants.
Wharton freshman Yash Kothari — originally from Mumbai, India — agreed.
“In India, the rankings are a lot of what you see because you can’t actually go see the school,” he said. “You make decisions based on other people’s perceptions of the school.”
Robert Morse, director of data research at U.S. News defended the organization’s recent rankings.
“We wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t think it has some relevance,” he said.