US College Rankings

US College Rankings | A Complete Guide to Understanding College Rankings

When many students search for a college, they turn to college rankings for help, but should these rankings affect a student’s college choice? The following is a complete guide to understanding the US College Rankings and a few other things to consider before choosing a college:

Which college rankings should be considered?
There are four main publishers of US college rankings:

  1. US News and World Report: Best Colleges
  2. America’s Best Colleges
  3. Princeton Review: The Best 373 Colleges 
  4. Newsweek/Kaplan: The 25 Most Desirable Schools

How are these US college rankings determined?
Each of these companies apply a different methodology to determine their rankings:

US News and World Report: These college rankings are based on seven criteria including undergraduate academic reputation (weighting: 22.5 percent for national universities and national liberal arts colleges; 25 percent for regional universities and regional colleges), graduation and freshman retention (20 percent for the national universities and national liberal arts colleges and 25 percent for regional universities and regional colleges), faculty resources (20 percent), student selectivity (15 percent), financial resources (10 percent), graduation rate performance (7.5 percent; for national universities and national liberal Arts colleges only) and alumni giving rate (5 percent)

Forbes: The Forbes Best Colleges rankings are based on student satisfaction (27.5%), postgraduate success (30%), student debt (17.5%), four-year graduation rate (17.5%), competitive awards (7.5%).

Princeton Review: The Best 373 Colleges are not ranked through a mathematical formula, but rather the rankings are based on a compilation of student surveys.

Newsweek/Kaplan: The 25 Most Desirable Schools are based on data from the National Center for Education StatisticsWashington Monthly and College Prowler. The Newsweek factors include the school’s retention rate; student-to-faculty ratio; a student opinion survey that rated student views of dining, housing, and the school’s facilities; a climate score, based on Newsweek’s college climate rankings; and the school’s endowment.

For further information, visit our US College Rankings Analysis.

What do college rankings fail to consider?
While US college rankings measure several important college choice factors, they do not determine whether colleges are going to be a good “fit” for their prospective students. Students often forget they are going to have to spend four years (or five, or six, or seven) on the campus they choose, so it is important to consider the importance of “fit” as well as “rank” when making a college choice.

What other college choice factors should be considered?
To determine whether a college is a good “fit”, it is important to consider the location, campus setting, teaching philosophy, student culture and many other college choice factors. For a list of colleges that will be a good fit for you, consider taking the college match quiz.

In summary, the US college rankings can be a great tool, but should not be the only tool used to choose a college.