General Education

Wall Street Journal: Rating the Rankings

Wall Street Journal: Rating the Rankings
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Noodle Staff February 8, 2019

Each publication seems to have its own take on college rankings. Noodle explains the criteria behind the Wall Street Journal system.

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Each fall, a variety of publications release their lists of the best schools, the most ubiquitous of which comes from U.S. News & World Report. So why is Harvard University #1 according to U.S. News, while Forbes thinks it's Williams College and Washington Monthly claims U.C. San Diego is the best in the land?

School size and type aside, publications use different measures of quality when assigning rankings. Furthermore, two publications may use the same measure (for example, retention rates) but value them in different ways (e.g. 15% at U.S. News but 6% at Forbes) when assigning ratings.

The most common measures used for school rankings in 2012 were test scores, retention/graduation rates, student surveys and the student/faculty ratio. And the similarities pretty much end there. Publications use all kinds of measures and many of them don't overlap. So who does what? We decided to take a look behind the rankings....

Today's School Rankings: The Wall Street Journal

Who It's For: Students who know what they want to major in and are ready to be on the career path

What They Look At: In a word, careers and college majors as they relate to said careers.

Who They Asked:

In collaboration with Cambria Consulting, they sent surveys to recruiters at large corporations, for-profit companies, federal agencies and non-profit organizations across the country in almost 2 dozen industries. These surveys included a list of 100 schools and asked respondents to indicate which schools they had hired graduates from in the past year and which schools graduates were the best in each major or field. Respondents were also allowed to write in with the names of schools that were not on the list.

So how did they come up with the 100 schools on the original list?

They looked at the undergraduate alma maters of the board of directors at largest companies and the 10 largest non-profit organizations while making sure to include the most common schools that emerged from an annual alumni survey.

And how did they come up with the best professions?

They collaborated with to look at professional jobs (excluding law, medicine and education) where:

-no more than a bachelor's was required

-the pay was good from the start and through the first 5 years

-solid future growth was predicted

-recent grads were satisfied


The Wall Street Journal's rankings are "purposefully practical and limited in scope." They're all about showing students the schools that do a good job getting their graduates hired in well-paying professions that are growing and report high levels of employee satisfaction. One seriously awesome thing about the WSJ rankings is that you can search for lists of the top schools by major.


Because their rankings are so focused on careers, executives and Fortune-500 type companies, they may not be as useful for students who either a) aren't sure exactly what they want to do with their life/college career or b) aren't interested in a corporate career

Their Top 5 Colleges/Universities According to Recruiters:

Pennsylvania State University

Texas A & M University

University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign

Purdue University

Arizona State University

Choosing a college is about much more than rankings. Find out which schools are a good match for you with our College Wizard!

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Get the scoop behind other rankings:

U.S. News & World Report's Best Colleges

Forbes Top Colleges

Washington Monthly

Kiplinger's Best Value Colleges

Times Higher Education


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