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College Rankings

college-rankings

Lists of the best colleges are popular among students and parents. College rankings have an undue influence on college application rates, despite the questionable value. The difference between a college ranked #10 and a college ranked #100 is minimal.

An in-state public college provides the same or even better quality education, but at a quarter to a third the cost of a private college.

Popular college rankings correlate strongly with acceptance rates and SAT and ACT admissions test … [+] scores.

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Several organizations publish rankings of the best colleges, including Kiplinger, Niche, Princeton Review, Times Higher Education, U.S. News & World Report, and Washington Monthly. Of these, U.S. News & World Report’s college rankings are the most popular.

There is not much of a difference between the most popular rankings and a limited set of narrow criteria, demonstrating that college rankings aren’t as meaningful as families might assume.

Consider lists of the most selective colleges or the colleges with the highest 75th percentile SAT or ACT test scores. These lists overlap significantly with the U.S. News and World Report rankings, demonstrating that the popular college rankings add only minimal added value.

Do you really want to base your college list on the colleges that are hardest to get into? That’s only slightly more meaningful than choosing a college based on the number of books in the college library.

College rankings are also prone to manipulation. For example, when a college goes test optional, only students with high admissions test scores submit them as part of their college admissions application. This causes an increase in the 75th percentile test scores for the college, artificially improving their ranking among the best colleges. Early decision skews the admitted student population toward a wealthier mix of students, who also happen to score well on admissions tests.

The data in this article is based on data reported by the colleges to the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). It was based on 2019 data, as opposed to more recent data, since more recent data may be distorted by the pandemic. For example, many colleges went test-optional during the pandemic and some are starting to revert to pre-pandemic policies.

Selectivity

Selectivity, often measured by the acceptance rate, is a popularity measure.

The acceptance rate is the ratio of the number of applications accepted to the number of applications received.

Colleges that receive a greater number of applications have a lower acceptance rate. Some colleges send out aggressive promotions to solicit applications from hundreds of thousands of students, just so that they can reject them to make the college look more selective.

Ranking the top 100 colleges by selectivity, more than three quarters (78%) are ranked in the top 50 National Universities or National Liberal Arts Colleges in the U.S. News and World Report college rankings. Conversely, 78% of the top colleges in the U.S. News and World Report rankings are among the most selective colleges.

In contrast, only 19% of the top 100 colleges ranked by yield are in the top 50 National Universities or National Liberal Arts Colleges in the U.S. News and World Report college rankings. Yield is the percentage of admitted students who enroll.

This is the list of the most selective colleges. Not only does this list overlap with the U.S. News and World Report rankings, but the colleges are mostly in the same order, plus or minus a few positions.

  1. Stanford University (CA)
  2. Harvard University (MA)
  3. Columbia University in the City of New York (NY)
  4. Princeton University (NJ)
  5. Yale University (CT)
  6. University of Chicago (IL)
  7. California Institute of Technology (CA)
  8. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MA)
  9. The Juilliard School (NY)
  10. Brown University (RI)
  11. Pomona College (CA)
  12. Duke University (NC)
  13. University of Pennsylvania (PA)
  14. Dartmouth College (NH)
  15. United States Naval Academy (MD)
  16. Rice University (TX)
  17. Swarthmore College (PA)
  18. Northwestern University (IL)
  19. Bowdoin College (ME)
  20. Vanderbilt University (TN)
  21. Colby College (ME)
  22. College of the Ozarks (MO)
  23. Claremont McKenna College (CA)
  24. Cornell University (NY)
  25. United States Air Force Academy (CO)
  26. Johns Hopkins University (MD)
  27. Amherst College (MA)
  28. University of Southern California (CA)
  29. Barnard College (NY)
  30. United States Military Academy (NY)
  31. Bates College (ME)
  32. University of California-Los Angeles (CA)
  33. Williams College (MA)
  34. Tulane University of Louisiana (LA)
  35. Colorado College (CO)
  36. Harvey Mudd College (CA)
  37. Pitzer College (CA)
  38. Washington University in St Louis (MO)
  39. Georgetown University (DC)
  40. Ottawa University-Ottawa (KS)
  41. Tufts University (MA)
  42. Middlebury College (VT)
  43. Carnegie Mellon University (PA)
  44. Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art (NY)
  45. Emory University (GA)
  46. University of Notre Dame (IN)
  47. New York University (NY)
  48. University of California-Berkeley (CA)
  49. Haverford College (PA)
  50. Hamilton College (NY)
  51. Wesleyan University (CT)
  52. Northeastern University (MA)
  53. Davidson College (NC)
  54. Washington and Lee University (VA)
  55. Boston University (MA)
  56. Carleton College (MN)
  57. Emory University-Oxford College (GA)
  58. United States Coast Guard Academy (CT)
  59. Georgia Institute of Technology-Main Campus (GA)
  60. Wellesley College (MA)
  61. Colgate University (NY)
  62. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (NC)
  63. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor (MI)
  64. Grinnell College (IA)
  65. Vassar College (NY)
  66. University of Virginia-Main Campus (VA)
  67. United States Merchant Marine Academy (NY)
  68. California Institute of the Arts (CA)
  69. Rhode Island School of Design (RI)
  70. Babson College (MA)
  71. University of California-Irvine (CA)
  72. Alice Lloyd College (KY)
  73. University of Miami (FL)
  74. Boston College (MA)
  75. Case Western Reserve University (OH)
  76. University of South Florida-St Petersburg (FL)
  77. Coppin State University (MD)
  78. Villanova University (PA)
  79. University of Richmond (VA)
  80. California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo (CA)
  81. Purdue University Northwest (IN)
  82. Trinity University (TX)
  83. Point University (GA)
  84. University of North Carolina School of the Arts (NC)
  85. Denison University (OH)
  86. University of California-Santa Barbara (CA)
  87. Wake Forest University (NC)
  88. University of Rochester (NY)
  89. Brandeis University (MA)
  90. Plaza College (NY)
  91. Skidmore College (NY)
  92. Berea College (KY)
  93. Franklin and Marshall College (PA)
  94. American Musical and Dramatic Academy (NY)
  95. The University of West Florida (FL)
  96. Lafayette College (PA)
  97. University of California-San Diego (CA)
  98. Pepperdine University (CA)
  99. The University of Texas at Austin (TX)
  100. Scripps College (CA)

Applications per Enrolled Student

A more end-to-end metric would calculate the ratio of the number of applications to the number of students who ultimately enroll. A higher ratio indicates a combination of a low acceptance rate and a high yield.

This list overlaps only 47% with the U.S. News and World Report top 50 lists. The order of the colleges also differs. Emory University is ranked first, with 38 applications for every seat, followed by Caltech at 36 applications per seat.

  1. Emory University-Oxford College (GA)
  2. California Institute of Technology (CA)
  3. Paine College (GA)
  4. Dillard University (LA)
  5. Columbia University in the City of New York (NY)
  6. Rice University (TX)
  7. Stanford University (CA)
  8. Swarthmore College (PA)
  9. Harvard University (MA)
  10. Wilberforce University (OH)
  11. Spring Hill College (AL)
  12. Colby College (ME)
  13. Millsaps College (MS)
  14. Pomona College (CA)
  15. Princeton University (NJ)
  16. Duke University (NC)
  17. Iowa Wesleyan University (IA)
  18. Yale University (CT)
  19. University of West Alabama (AL)
  20. The Juilliard School (NY)
  21. Brown University (RI)
  22. Vanderbilt University (TN)
  23. Tulane University of Louisiana (LA)
  24. Rust College (MS)
  25. Amherst College (MA)
  26. The King’s College (NY)
  27. Coppin State University (MD)
  28. Emory University (GA)
  29. Alice Lloyd College (KY)
  30. Central State University (OH)
  31. Case Western Reserve University (OH)
  32. New England College (NH)
  33. Fordham University (NY)
  34. Johns Hopkins University (MD)
  35. CUNY Lehman College (NY)
  36. University of Southern California (CA)
  37. Northeastern University (MA)
  38. Tuskegee University (AL)
  39. Clark Atlanta University (GA)
  40. Northwestern University (IL)
  41. Our Lady of the Lake University (TX)
  42. University of Chicago (IL)
  43. Dartmouth College (NH)
  44. Washington Adventist University (MD)
  45. Boston University (MA)
  46. Coe College (IA)
  47. Mary Baldwin University (VA)
  48. Claflin University (SC)
  49. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MA)
  50. Arcadia University (PA)
  51. Florida Memorial University (FL)
  52. University of California-Santa Barbara (CA)
  53. Johnson C Smith University (NC)
  54. University of California-Los Angeles (CA)
  55. University of Pennsylvania (PA)
  56. Bowdoin College (ME)
  57. University of Bridgeport (CT)
  58. Claremont McKenna College (CA)
  59. Humboldt State University (CA)
  60. Harvey Mudd College (CA)
  61. Virginia Union University (VA)
  62. Williams College (MA)
  63. Brescia University (KY)
  64. University of Mary Hardin-Baylor (TX)
  65. Livingstone College (NC)
  66. Colorado College (CO)
  67. University of Miami (FL)
  68. Spelman College (GA)
  69. Hamilton College (NY)
  70. Pepperdine University (CA)
  71. Hollins University (VA)
  72. Carnegie Mellon University (PA)
  73. Grinnell College (IA)
  74. Wesleyan University (CT)
  75. Shaw University (NC)
  76. Wingate University (NC)
  77. University of San Francisco (CA)
  78. University of California-San Diego (CA)
  79. Bates College (ME)
  80. Chicago State University (IL)
  81. Emerson College (MA)
  82. Roosevelt University (IL)
  83. University of the Pacific (CA)
  84. La Sierra University (CA)
  85. Tougaloo College (MS)
  86. Middlebury College (VT)
  87. Hofstra University (NY)
  88. Pitzer College (CA)
  89. University of California-Irvine (CA)
  90. University of Denver (CO)
  91. Iona College (NY)
  92. CUNY Medgar Evers College (NY)
  93. Boston College (MA)
  94. University of Houston-Victoria (TX)
  95. Cornell University (NY)
  96. Trinity University (TX)
  97. Franklin and Marshall College (PA)
  98. Rockford University (IL)
  99. Skidmore College (NY)
  100. Notre Dame de Namur University (CA)

Admissions Test Scores

The SAT and ACT admissions tests attempt to measure the academic performance of college-bound students. So, average admissions test scores measure the quality of the student body more than they measure the quality of the college. But, then again, part of the difference between colleges lies in differences among the students more so than the value added by the college itself.

This list is based on the 75th percentile composite SAT test scores, calculated as the sum of the 75th percentile SAT math and verbal test scores.

Four-fifths (80%) of the top 100 colleges ranked by 75th percentile composite SAT test scores are in the two top 50 lists on the U.S. News and World Report college rankings.

If one were to rank colleges by the 75th percentile SAT math test scores, 80% also appear in the top U.S. News and World Report college rankings. There is also significant overlap between ranking by the 75th percentile composite SAT test scores and the 75th percentile SAT math test scores, with only 10% of the colleges appearing in one list but not the other.

A similar result occurs if one ranks by 75ht percentile ACT composite test scores, with 80% appearing in the top U.S. News and World Report college rankings.

The 25th percentile composite ACT test scores yield a similar result, with 81% appearing in the top U.S. News and World Report college rankings. Only 8% of the colleges appear in only one of the rankings by the 25th and 75th percentile test scores.

  1. Columbia University in the City of New York (NY)
  2. Rice University (TX)
  3. Stanford University (CA)
  4. Harvard University (MA)
  5. Princeton University (NJ)
  6. Duke University (NC)
  7. Yale University (CT)
  8. Brown University (RI)
  9. University of Chicago (IL)
  10. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MA)
  11. Harvey Mudd College (CA)
  12. California Institute of Technology (CA)
  13. Vanderbilt University (TN)
  14. Johns Hopkins University (MD)
  15. Dartmouth College (NH)
  16. University of Pennsylvania (PA)
  17. Carnegie Mellon University (PA)
  18. Cornell University (NY)
  19. Washington University in St Louis (MO)
  20. Northwestern University (IL)
  21. Williams College (MA)
  22. Georgetown University (DC)
  23. University of Notre Dame (IN)
  24. Swarthmore College (PA)
  25. Pomona College (CA)
  26. Northeastern University (MA)
  27. Tufts University (MA)
  28. Carleton College (MN)
  29. Haverford College (PA)
  30. Emory University (GA)
  31. University of Southern California (CA)
  32. University of California-Los Angeles (CA)
  33. Grinnell College (IA)
  34. Middlebury College (VT)
  35. New York University (NY)
  36. University of California-Berkeley (CA)
  37. Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art (NY)
  38. Wellesley College (MA)
  39. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor (MI)
  40. Colby College (ME)
  41. Tulane University of Louisiana (LA)
  42. Amherst College (MA)
  43. Hamilton College (NY)
  44. Reed College (OR)
  45. Barnard College (NY)
  46. Brandeis University (MA)
  47. Vassar College (NY)
  48. University of Virginia-Main Campus (VA)
  49. Emory University-Oxford College (GA)
  50. Case Western Reserve University (OH)
  51. Boston University (MA)
  52. Claremont McKenna College (CA)
  53. Macalester College (MN)
  54. Georgia Institute of Technology-Main Campus (GA)
  55. William & Mary (VA)
  56. Boston College (MA)
  57. University of Rochester (NY)
  58. Washington and Lee University (VA)
  59. Colgate University (NY)
  60. Stevens Institute of Technology (NJ)
  61. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (NC)
  62. University of California-San Diego (CA)
  63. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (NY)
  64. Scripps College (CA)
  65. University of Alabama in Huntsville (AL)
  66. Davidson College (NC)
  67. University of California-Santa Barbara (CA)
  68. Occidental College (CA)
  69. Oberlin College (OH)
  70. Southern Methodist University (TX)
  71. The University of Texas at Austin (TX)
  72. University of Minnesota-Twin Cities (MN)
  73. University of Wisconsin-Madison (WI)
  74. Villanova University (PA)
  75. George Washington University (DC)
  76. Rhode Island School of Design (RI)
  77. University of Maryland-College Park (MD)
  78. University of Washington-Seattle Campus (WA)
  79. University of Florida (FL)
  80. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (IL)
  81. Hillsdale College (MI)
  82. University of Richmond (VA)
  83. United States Naval Academy (MD)
  84. Kenyon College (OH)
  85. Colorado School of Mines (CO)
  86. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology (IN)
  87. Ohio State University-Main Campus (OH)
  88. The University of Texas at Dallas (TX)
  89. Fordham University (NY)
  90. Pepperdine University (CA)
  91. Trinity University (TX)
  92. Connecticut College (CT)
  93. Whitman College (WA)
  94. Lehigh University (PA)
  95. Babson College (MA)
  96. Trinity College (CT)
  97. Missouri University of Science and Technology (MO)
  98. University of Miami (FL)
  99. Binghamton University (NY)
  100. Lafayette College (PA)

Although there’s a lot of overlap the set of colleges included in rankings by SAT composite and SAT math test scores, the order does differ. This list, which is ranked by SAT math test scores, lists colleges known for tech whizzes at the top.

  1. California Institute of Technology (CA)
  2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MA)
  3. Rice University (TX)
  4. Harvard University (MA)
  5. Harvey Mudd College (CA)
  6. Carnegie Mellon University (PA)
  7. Columbia University in the City of New York (NY)
  8. Princeton University (NJ)
  9. Duke University (NC)
  10. Yale University (CT)
  11. Brown University (RI)
  12. University of Chicago (IL)
  13. Vanderbilt University (TN)
  14. Johns Hopkins University (MD)
  15. University of Pennsylvania (PA)
  16. Washington University in St Louis (MO)
  17. Northwestern University (IL)
  18. Stanford University (CA)
  19. Dartmouth College (NH)
  20. Cornell University (NY)
  21. Williams College (MA)
  22. Pomona College (CA)
  23. Northeastern University (MA)
  24. University of California-Berkeley (CA)
  25. Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art (NY)
  26. United States Naval Academy (MD)
  27. Georgetown University (DC)
  28. Swarthmore College (PA)
  29. University of California-Los Angeles (CA)
  30. Haverford College (PA)
  31. University of Southern California (CA)
  32. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor (MI)
  33. Claremont McKenna College (CA)
  34. Stevens Institute of Technology (NJ)
  35. Amherst College (MA)
  36. University of Virginia-Main Campus (VA)
  37. Case Western Reserve University (OH)
  38. Georgia Institute of Technology-Main Campus (GA)
  39. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology (IN)
  40. Washington and Lee University (VA)
  41. Wellesley College (MA)
  42. Barnard College (NY)
  43. Vassar College (NY)
  44. Grinnell College (IA)
  45. Colby College (ME)
  46. Boston College (MA)
  47. Reed College (OR)
  48. William & Mary (VA)
  49. Boston University (MA)
  50. University of Rochester (NY)
  51. University of Maryland-College Park (MD)
  52. University of California-San Diego (CA)
  53. Brandeis University (MA)
  54. Lehigh University (PA)
  55. The University of Texas at Austin (TX)
  56. Colorado School of Mines (CO)
  57. University of Washington-Seattle Campus (WA)
  58. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (IL)
  59. Illinois Institute of Technology (IL)
  60. Purdue University-Main Campus (IN)
  61. New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJ)
  62. Colgate University (NY)
  63. Villanova University (PA)
  64. University of California-Santa Barbara (CA)
  65. Tulane University of Louisiana (LA)
  66. Scripps College (CA)
  67. Macalester College (MN)
  68. Southern Methodist University (TX)
  69. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (NC)
  70. Lafayette College (PA)
  71. United States Air Force Academy (CO)
  72. The University of Texas at Dallas (TX)
  73. Ohio State University-Main Campus (OH)
  74. Babson College (MA)
  75. California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo (CA)
  76. Stony Brook University (NY)
  77. Soka University of America (CA)
  78. Rutgers University-New Brunswick (NJ)
  79. United States Military Academy (NY)
  80. Eastern University (PA)
  81. George Washington University (DC)
  82. Connecticut College (CT)
  83. Oberlin College (OH)
  84. Kenyon College (OH)
  85. University of Florida (FL)
  86. Whitman College (WA)
  87. University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh Campus (PA)
  88. University of California-Irvine (CA)
  89. Trinity College (CT)
  90. University of Miami (FL)
  91. Occidental College (CA)
  92. Fordham University (NY)
  93. Bucknell University (PA)
  94. University of Wisconsin-Madison (WI)
  95. University of Georgia (GA)
  96. North Carolina State University at Raleigh (NC)
  97. Rochester Institute of Technology (NY)
  98. Union College (NY)
  99. St Olaf College (MN)
  100. Rhode Island School of Design (RI)
College Rankings originally appeared on Forbes.com

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