A new study revealed that college rankings on a national level affect the number of competitive applicants for that school, according to the study.

The reputation for students’ quality of life and academic rankings had a significant effect on the number of applications received by universities and their competitors, according to a study published in a journal by the American Educational Research Association.

The study focused on eight of the top 20 college ranking lists released by the Princeton Review, including “Best Overall Academic Experience for Undergraduates,” “Happy Students,” “Least Happy Students,” “Most Beautiful Campuses,” “Tiny and Unsightly Campuses,” “Party Schools,” “Stone-Cold Sober Schools” and “Jock Schools.”  

Schools ranked in the top 25 by U.S. News & World Reportfor academics can expect a 6 to 10 percent increase in applications, and schools ranked on Princeton Review’s Top 20 list for academics can expect an increase of 2.3 percent, according to the study.

“There are certain kinds of rankings, like that we are the 13th fastest growing public university or that we’re ranked as a very high research institution, that we do advertise, and we do share with students,” said Suzanne McCray, vice provost for enrollment. “We see evidence that there is an increased interest in the University of Arkansas because of those rankings.”

The UofA has seen an increase in the number of applicants in recent years while also being featured on various nationally recognized lists for academic achievement.

The Walton College Graduate School of Business has seen an increase in the number of applicants since it was first ranked nationally in 2010. In 2009, the school received 422 applications. Today, the school receives approximately 1,000 applications every year, of which about 300 are accepted.

In 2013, the College of Engineering was ranked No. 19 for biological engineering and No. 31 for industrial engineering by U.S. News and World Report. Additionally, the UofA School of Law was ranked second on The National Jurist’s “Best Value Law Schools” list.

“I know we have gone up in the rankings and our applications have increased every year for the past four years,” McCray said. “However, that’s happening simultaneously. If one is the cause of the other we have no way of demonstrating that.”

Though the UofA is nationally ranked on several different lists, those rankings didn’t affect freshman Ciara Schroeder’s decision to attend the university.

“I probably would have come here even if the school had bad academic rankings, honestly,” Schroeder said. “It was an in state school for me and it has a great nursing program and that’s what matters to me.”

Students’ quality of life rankings also affected the number of applications to universities, according to the study.  

There was an increase in the number of applications, as well as the competitiveness of applications, by 2.9 percent when schools were ranked on the “Happy Students” list. There was also a 2.3 percent increase if ranked on the “Most Beautiful Campus” list.

Conversely, the number and competitiveness of applications decreased by about 5 percent when schools were ranked on the “Least Happy Students” list and 5.2 percent when ranked on the “Tiny and Unsightly Campus” list.

Additionally, the study found that changes in rankings of a competitor college can affect a university’s own applicant pool.

Reputational changes for competitors can either enhance or weaken a college’s own ability to attract students. Unfavorable student quality of life ratings for peer colleges could reflect  an increase in another college’s application pool and the academic competitiveness of applicants.


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