U.S. News & World Report released its  annual rankings of the best colleges in the U.S last week. But should those rankings really matter to prospective students?

The answer, according to Michael Horn, is no.

Horn, the co-author of a newly released book, "Choosing College: How to Make Better Learning Decisions Throughout Your Life," said only one thing should matter to those students and their parents: why?

“We are really searching for how people can understand why thy are going to college," he said. "That’s the first question, because if you don’t understand your 'why,' you can make decisions that put you at pretty big financial risk."

“Understanding your 'why' helps you prioritize what’s important to you in a college,” Horn said, adding that students usually default to the rankings, which do not use criteria around what success looks like for a student.

Horn, who attended Yale University and the Harvard Business School, said in writing the book, he and Bob Moesta, who also holds a degree from Harvard Business School, tried to understand what’s causing students to make the choices that they make using their own language.

The hope, Horn said, is that the book in many ways serves as a Rosetta Stone of sorts to translate parents speak and children speak and vice versa “so that parents can understand that when they say certain things to kids or when they send certain messages or they increase the social pressure to go to college, regardless of whether the student is excited about a certain school, that they can actually cause some significant repercussions in terms of financial outcomes.”

Horn said they found a significant number of students go to college because someone expects them to go. “It’s just the next logical step and they are doing it to fulfill someone else’s wishes for them,’’ he said, adding that of those students, 74% are either dropouts or transfers, “and well over 50% said time spent in school was a complete waste of time and money.”

Horn said that there is a lot of rhetoric around college debt. “But college debt can be a good thing if you graduate, in the sense that it’s an investment in your future and you are going to have an income to pay it back,” he said. On the other hand, if you don't have a desire to pursue a degree and don’t graduate, your chances of defaulting on the debt just skyrockets, and just for doing what your parents wanted, he said.

Research has shown that many college graduates and student loan borrowers have regrets about their decision to enroll in the schools they did because of the financial burden placed on them. Student loan debt has become one of the biggest consumer debt categories, with more than 44 million Americans responsible for a portion of the $1.6 trillion total.

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