The most popular website for giving out college rankings is the US News and World Report (they rank other things too, like cars, hospitals, and places to live). In terms of colleges and universities, they rank schools by major, location, subject area, and money (Best Value Schools). You can also search the rankings based on their location in the United States as well. You all should definitely check it out because the rankings are interesting and some of them are actually quite surprising!
So, are they important? In my opinion, no they aren't important, but if you are looking for that prestigious institution, then by all means listen to the rankings. However, rankings do not determine how nice professors are, what the campus atmosphere is like, or what study abroad trips are available. This is where the rankings fall short.
When choosing a college or university to attend, it is more important to find the right fit for you, than it is to find a top school with five #1 rankings. Chances are, your perfect college will not be in the top 10 in any category or will not even be on the list ... and that is okay! These rankings are great for initial research and getting ideas on where to visit colleges, but don't rest your decision on where a college is in comparison to another.
For my alma mater, which was the perfect school for me, they are ranked #11 in Regional Colleges, #4 in Best Value, and #7 for Best Colleges for Veterans. They were not ranked in the top list of liberal arts colleges, nor were they listed as a top college for Study Abroad opportunities. The other university I applied to, however, was ranked on the National Rankings for Liberal Arts Colleges ... it was not the perfect fit, though. This shows just how unimportant those rankings are for making a final decision. You need to find a university that best fits your needs and that will provide you with all of the experiences you want!
So, when your friends are talking about getting accepted into this ranked college or that ranked university, that's great for them, but just remember it's about finding your perfect fit, not your perfect ranking!
enjoy the chase,
P.S. I am planning a series on commuting to college and that lifestyle, if you have suggestions, ideas, or questions about what I should include, please comment below or tweet me @Chasing_College