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University a ‘dream school’ for parents

Laura McCrystal | Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Notre Dame was rated as the fourth-most desirable school for parents to send their children, according to a poll of “dream schools” released earlier this month by the Princeton Review.

Various rankings of colleges are becoming increasingly popular, yet Notre Dame does not emphasize its rankings, Dan Saracino, assistant provost for undergraduate admissions, said.

“It’s interesting,” he said. “Do we do anything different to improve our rankings? No. They are what they are.”

The dream school ranking was based on a poll of approximately 3,000 parents of college applicants, according to a press release from the Princeton Review. Notre Dame ranked behind only Harvard, Stanford and Princeton in these parents’ list of dream colleges.

The Princeton Review also ranks colleges in a number of other categories. For example, Notre Dame is currently ranked first for “everyone plays intramural sports” and “alternative lifestyles not an alternative,” and second for “most religious students,” according to the company’s Web site.

Saracino said rankings by the Princeton Review tend to be quite subjective.

“They send their people to colleges and stand outside the dining halls and just quickly interview students,” he said. “They just get a sample. Is it large enough a sample to make those rankings?”

While other colleges and universities publicize high rankings, Saracino said Notre Dame does not use this marketing technique because rankings focus on numbers rather than the University’s unique qualities.

“There isn’t anything to say that Notre Dame is the best school for every student or every senior who is in high school,” he said. “We have a variety of schools in the United States because we have a variety of students.”

Rankings also do not ultimately have a large impact on students’ college decisions, Saracino said.

“The rankings of a college play a role in the eyes of students, but it’s a role along with many other factors,” he said. “It’s more of an affirmation of what you’ve already been thinking of.”

Saracino said U.S. News and World Report, which is the most well-known ranking system for colleges and universities, releases rankings each August which are more objective than those by the Princeton Review. Notre Dame ranked 18th among national universities in 2008 in the U.S. News and World Report rankings, according to Saracino.

Even though U.S. News and World Report is most highly regarded and publicizes its ranking methods, Saracino said all rankings have some level of subjectivity.

“In general my advice is you take all of those rankings with a little grain of salt,” he said. “You say, they’re interesting, but I still need to on my own dig a little deeper.”