To Rank or To Not: the Rationality of Abandoning Educational Rankings


Courtesy of M. Matsui ’23

On November 16th, Yale Law School released a notice announcing the end of its participation in the US News National Law School Rankings. Within the next week, nine T14 law schools, a term coined by the legal industry for the fourteen law schools consistently recognized as the nation’s best, followed in suit of Yale. Yale’s decision to no longer participate in the rankings came as a surprise to many, considering that it has been ranked as the number one law school for all but two academic years since the U.S News rankings began. 


While it may seem to many that the boycott of a law school ranking system bears little importance, it hints at an academic trend that could prove immensely catastrophic in the future. 


It is important to first understand what is driving law schools’ aberration from rankings. Yale Law School’s primary concern was that the rankings use a misguided one-size-fits-all approach that “discourages law schools from providing critical support for students seeking public interest careers… and also discourage law schools from admitting and providing aid to students”. While the concerns raised by Yale are understandable, rankings are designed to assist prospective students, not serve as any sort of factor in administrations’ decisions. 


School rankings are a powerful tool for prospective applicants. For the average student who has virtually no connections to the legal sector, finding the right law school is a difficult task. Each application incurs a hefty fee and there is a realistic limit to the number of school visits and hours of research an applicant can dedicate to the process. Thus, many flock to the rankings, where they can customize parameters to see ranks based on careers in a variety of fields, ratings on school life, and the bottom and top quartiles of GPAs or test scores. Without the rankings, however, applicants will no longer have access to key values such as how much money is endowed to each student, how many students graduate with a typical JD compared to a more advanced masters or PhD, or how many students in each occupational sector find employment directly following graduation. Applicants will also lose access to precise numbers on GPA or test scores, which helps students devise a list of schools to apply to and divide their lists into reach, target, or likely schools. This then makes it difficult to create more sophisticated lists on affordability, chance of admission, and value. Further, law schools have shared that they will simply share important information with all students who are interested. However, for a busy college senior or junior, it would be preposterous to scroll through hundreds of the five-page brochures making out why each school is the perfect experience. 


The domino-like rejection of law school rankings highlights the growing movement towards eradicating educational rankings. In the past two years, various articles from Forbes, the New York Times, and the Washington Post have raised the question “is it time to ignore college rankings?” They mirror Yale Law’s concern that schools may feel influenced to make administrative decisions based on ranking. 


However, once again, rankings are designed for the student, not the university. In order for students to find the most educationally fulfilling and well-fit schools to themselves, these rankings provide a tailored view for each student to create a realistic and interest-based list of schools to apply to. 


Law schools may have chosen to deviate from rankings, but institutions in other fields should not make rash decisions to follow suit. Rankings serve not to dictate or limit a student’s choices but instead to provide helpful accessories for a more organized and informed application process.