Why University Rankings Aren’t Everything – Admissions

We sometimes hear students say things like “I won’t bother applying to this university; a lower-ranked university rejected me previously, so I don’t stand a chance” or “I got into this university, so I’m sure to get into that university – its ranking is lower.” These assumptions about university admissions aren’t always accurate, and are a good example of how relying too much on rankings when making decisions about your application can lead you astray.

While university rankings such as the QS or Times Higher Education rankings can be a useful place to start when thinking about where to apply, they don’t tell you everything you need to know about a university (more on that in a future blog post), and aren’t a perfect measure of how likely you are to be accepted by a particular institution.

“The university admissions system is not a ladder”

For instance, students are sometimes surprised to learn that one of our colleagues received an offer from Cambridge and a rejection from Edinburgh, despite the difference in the universities’ rankings. This shows how important it is to understand that the admissions system is not a ladder: acceptance to a “higher-ranked” institution doesn’t guarantee entry to any institution ranked “below” it, nor does rejection from one institution make it impossible to be accepted at one “above” it.

Why is this? It’s mostly because the UK has a relatively holistic admissions system. As anyone who has filled in a UCAS application knows, universities consider a wide range of material as part of the admissions process – not only objective measures of performance such as exam marks, but also more subjective ones like your letter of recommendation, personal statement, and (in some cases) interview performance, auditions or portfolio submission.

Although it’s true that there’s usually a correlation between a university’s ranking position and its admissions rates/criteria, it isn’t absolute and different universities may be looking for slightly different things when assessing students. This is also true of different subject faculties, which is why it’s really not worth choosing a subject you are less passionate about just because you think it will make it easier to get into a higher-ranked university.

“The outcome may surprise you”

Of course, you do need to meet the admissions criteria in the first place! But don’t be surprised if the offers and rejections you get after that don’t align perfectly with the ranking of the universities you applied to. Ultimately, the most important thing is to choose a university and a subject that’s a good fit for you – if you meet the admissions standards, don’t let rankings deter you from applying to a university you’d like to apply to. You get five UCAS choices, after all, and the outcome may surprise you!

To find out how CamVision Education can help you with your university application, book a free consultation now