What you can’t tell about a university from rankings alone

yale students rankings
Academic reputation is important, but it's not everything. Source: Shutterstock.

University rankings can be very helpful; you can find out which unis are at the top of their game for many different things. However, there is so much to be gleaned from a university that you just can’t see from a scoreboard.

Here are five other things worth considering above, or at least alongside, where a university measures in rankings.

1. What it is actually like living there

How much does public transport cost? Or a burger? Or a glass of your chosen tipple?

The living costs will no doubt affect the quality of your time studying. If the city is too expensive and you can’t afford to get the bus into town or a meal out every once in a while, it’s unlikely you’ll have a blast studying there.

Good to know how much it’ll cost before you get the bill. Source: GIPHY.

There is an unlimited number of questions you may have regarding living in the university city. What is the weather like? How big is the campus? Do students tend to interact with the locals much?

Ask the university to put you in touch with current students to ask your burning questions and research as much as you can. Ideally, you will be able to visit for an open day to really get a feel for the place – but, unless you have the time and money to jet off all over the world sizing up potential universities, it is unlikely you will be able to manage to get to all of them before you apply.

Real experiences of current students will tell you so much more than a number could.

2. Extracurricular activities & social life

You will almost definitely want to get involved in university life outside of your classes – and rankings certainly can’t tell you what your social life will be like.

While rankings can measure things such as student satisfaction and the number of clubs, societies and sports teams the university has, they can’t measure friendship or fun.


From food to football, swimming to sewing, university societies have so much to offer. Source: Shutterstock.com

Have a look at universities’ websites to see what things they offer outside of the classroom. It is all well and good having a flawless academic reputation, but if the students aren’t enjoying themselves it might not really be the ‘best’ place to go.

3. Your accommodation options 

It is worth exploring what sorts of accommodation are on offer through the university. Are you guaranteed halls? Do they provide support if you need to find alternative housing? Will you be expected to share a bedroom?

The top university in the rankings might have a poor selection of housing options or offer little support to students struggling to find a house, which is less than ideal.

Roommate or going solo? Halls or house? En-suite or shared bathroom? It’s worth knowing. Source: GIPHY.

4. How passionate and inspiring the lecturers are

Your professors’ qualifications and accolades are understandably important, but if they deliver everything they know in a dry and unenthusiastic manner, you might not take much away with you. You want lecturers with fire in their bellies, who are confident and passionate, who inspire and challenge, who are critical but personable. You can’t rank that.

5. Whether it will be the right fit for you

There are a million and one things to consider when choosing a university and you could spend years over-analysing ever tiny aspect of each campus… but really there are some things you just can’t measure in rankings, some things you won’t even be able to explain on paper. Sometimes a university just feels right, and, if it does, it might be wise to just follow your gut.

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