I’m a third degree nerd. To clarify, third degree nerds are huge fans of things like Star Wars, Joss Whedon creations, Avatar: The Last Airbender, the X-Men, and more, but fall short of the extremes taken by the likes of Star Trek aficionados (second degree nerds) or WOW addicts, comic book fiends, or Magic: The Gathering players (first degree nerds). I do love all things nerdy – though I’m an embarrassment to my peers of the first two degrees – and one of my particular expressions of nerd-dom is the creation of rankings.

In high school, I perused high school basketball recruiting magazines – any I could get my hands on – and recreated my own rankings, drafting 160 high school athletes into 16 10-man rosters (teams with names like Ricola – the Dan Patrick/Keith Olberman SportsCenter era) and then simulating seasons with NCAA: Road to the Final Four (remember that game?). I did this for the high school classes of 1996, 1997, and 1998. For anyone interested, either Larry Hughes or Tracy McGrady was probably the most dominant performer.

In college, a close friend and I continued ranking-building together; from greatest hip-hop albums of all time – Nas’s Illmatic and Mobb Deep’s The Infamous vie for the top spot – to favorite movies…for me, Last of the Mohicans.

In the past several years, I’ve worked as a counselor advising students on the college admissions process. I always loved the US News and other college rankings, but in my work as a counselor, I’ve seen the serious problems that emerge from the use of rankings. Parents and students alike, overwhelmed by the number of higher educational institutions in the U.S. and desperate for labels of prestige, place far too much weight into a school’s rank in one publication or another.

Despite my increasing repudiation of the value of rankings, and the particular weight given the US News iteration, my own fondness for rankings persisted. Inspired by the posting of Fulbright awards and the institutions whose students won them, I made my own composite ranking, lending equal weight to four different rankings, one of which was my own, simply conceived “Fulbright Ranking.”

My addiction hasn’t stopped. After I finished the 2012 version of my rankings, I decided to create Beyond College Rankings, a website that publishes and promotes college rankings, while simultaneously being among the harshest critics of college rankings. As a grad student, several friends did describe me as a paradox, so it’s fitting that my website is an enormous criticism of my own content.

Oh, and for transparency in where my biases may or may not lie, I earned a B.A. from Northwestern University, an M.Div. from the Claremont School of Theology, and an A.M. from the University of Chicago. I grew up on the shores of Lake Superior in extremely northern, rural Wisconsin, have lived in four countries and seven U.S. states, and currently reside in the San Francisco Bay Area.

But rankings are all about biases. They’re SUPPOSED to be about biases. Your job is to determine what’s most important to you, and find the schools that do that the best.