Everybody wants to be No. 1, or close to it. Human nature dictates that college students who encounter a list of best colleges will almost certainly want to know how their own school stacks up.

The question is, should Grinnell be content with being No. 18 in U.S. News and World Report college rankings? What exactly would it take to be No. 15, or No. 12, or even third?

Randy Stiles, Grinnell’s associate vice president for analytic support and institutional research, says there is more nuance than meets the eye from positions 1 through 20.

“When you add everything up in the U.S. News college ranking system, schools will score numbers in their overall tally of about 70 to 100,” Stiles says. “The top 10 schools — and there is a lot of variation in the top 10 — go from a score of 100 down to about 87.

“Among the next 10, there’s a variation of only two points.” Grinnell’s overall score in last year’s U.S. News rankings was 85, tied with the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

“If this were a road race, you would see the first 10 runners spread out,” Stiles says. “Right behind them would be another 10 in a clump, which is where Grinnell is. In the one-to-10 range it takes a big change to make a move, but even a small move in the overall score in the 10-20 range could move us six or seven places.”

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