Rankings. The best of the best. Top dog. Number one seed.

Whether of colleges, basketball teams, tennis players, or pizza parlors, somebody is ranking them, and everyone is reading about them.

Suspect as they are -- and they are, on so many levels -- we are drawn to rankings like so many moths to a flame (or was that, so many flies to... you get the idea).

Rankings give us a sense -- often a non-sense -- of someone else’s idea of which school, which restaurant, which airline, which dry cleaner, is numero uno.

Whether U.S. NewsForbesPrinceton Review (among many others) on colleges, or the Long Island Press on local barber shops and delis, there are rankings and listings galore, few of them amounting to a hill of beans, mind you, but all geared to get your attention, and, lest we forget, sell magazines, newspapers, books, or website ”hits.”

Now comes Niche (the once college and scholarship search engine formerly known as College Prowler), with their take on the best of the best -- a ranking of the Best Public High Schools In America.

Just, what exactly, does Niche know about high schools? Apparently, everything. Or at least enough to bring you to the website, and, once there, shall hopefully serve as your entree to that which may make Niche commercially viable.

Of course, having little actual knowledge about anything has never stopped anyone from professing complete knowledge about everything. Come up with a formula, a set of analytics and defined metrics, set forth your criteria, and voila, you are now an expert on ranking something. Okay, everything.

You will morph, as Chegg, formerly just a seller of textbooks (I like to think of Chegg as Chicken or the Egg, one of my favorite spots to eat on Long Beach Island), has done. Gobbling up Zinch, a college and scholarship search engine, and now, leading the field (there’s a pied piper for everyone to follow), in college enrollment management. Who knew? Probably no one. Not even Chegg. But if we could sell you something...

I never put much credence into rankings, and often talk -- or should I say, rant, almost ad nauseum -- about how the only ranking that matters, in anything, is YOURS. Which college, supermarket, smart phone, cellular plan, or bagel emporium is BEST for YOU!

Still, those silly rankings are fun to read and interesting to talk about. Bragging rights of, say, Jericho High School (number 3 on Niche’s list of Best Public High Schools In New York), and Garden City High School (number 41, but trying really, really hard).

There is certain irony here, which should not be lost on college-bound high school students and their already weary parental units. [Perhaps we need a ranking of irons. Call for a meeting of the Ironing Board!] When it comes to gaining admission to college, particularly a college that is “popular”, students may have an easier time, relatively speaking, getting in to a “top” college, from a school district that is not high on the “best” list. 

So, as I tell students I counsel, half in jest, your parents made a big mistake moving to Syosset, Jericho, Dix Hills, Old Westbury, or Garden City. They would have been better off, in terms of getting you in to that highly ranked college, moving to Elmont, Freeport, Hempstead, or Wyandanch. The horror on their faces... 

Maybe we need a ranking of “best” high schools from which to get into the “best” colleges. How about a ranking of those who make the rankings? Better still, every student, in any high school, needs to find his or her own niche in which to thrive. In college. In careers. In life.

Find a niche. Make it your own. The one true barometer of success -- your litmus test of “best” -- is happiness!

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