This 1 Shocking Factor Increases a School's US News + World Report College Rank by 6.58 Positions

d'Skills in Action

20-12-2022 • 13 mins

When you come across a "study" like "100 most influential people", do you ever pause to ask "what factors actually go INTO producing that?" I hadn't.

At least not when it came to college rankings. Until I came across a startling report.

Reed College's US News Rank Dropped 54 Places After They Stopped Sending Data...

We're all familiar with the US News Best Colleges Ranking.

But when a private liberal arts school in Portland, Oregon smelled something fishy with the way USNWR calculated rankings, they decided to stop cooperating.

The result?

Even though nothing changed about the academics of their school, USNWR decided to drop them 54 places on that year's report. So Reed's statistics students went a step further...

They built an algorithm to duplicate the "secret" formula US News uses to produce the ranking.

The results were startling.

Reed was able to produce a model, using public sources, that predicted the rankings of USNWR with 98% accuracy.

Guess what they found has the LARGEST impact on your rankings?

A little something called the "Peer Assessment Score"...

Sounds very academic, right? Heh.

The PAS has a coefficient of 6.58, meaning if you hold everything else constant, but increase the PAS by 1 unit, your overall score will increase by 6.58 positions.

But... you may ask, how is the PAS calculated?

I'm glad you asked.

Each year, USNWR sends out 3 surveys to the President, Provost, and Head of Admissions in the other 220 schools in your category. These 3 individuals are asked to rate the OTHER SCHOOLS on a scale of 1-5.

Schools that most heads of academia have never visited, might have beef with, or simply know nothing about. So on what basis are they making these judgments?

No one can answer that.

In other words, these rankings are based on FEELINGS. So if you've ever wondered why Princeton consistently ranks Top 5, now you know. It's all in the name. Literally.

Sounds made up, no?

It's not. And we wonder why Gen Z overwhelmingly does NOT trust institutions.


Read the full study here. And listen to Malcolm Gladwell's AMAZING episode on this topic (thx Pushkin Media for the inspiration for this article)