Overview of 5 Different College Rankings Systems
College rankings abound. These rankings are often subjective, or only look at select data sets, so colleges may have different rankings depending on the service ranking it.
Rankings may help you determine how good of a reputation a college has, but it shouldn’t be the only factor in your decision. You’ll also want to consider the cost, how it matches your interests (like if it has your major!), the location and more.
As you get started putting your college list together, here’s a quick overview of a few different college rankings you may come across.
U.S.News & World Report: These rankings are among the most popular rankings colleges cite in their marketing brochures. The Best Colleges rankings are based on formulas that take into account data on 16 “indicators of academic excellence” such as student retention rates, student selectivity, financial resources and graduation rates. Administrators at universities also fill out surveys to rate peer institutions, and those results are incorporated into the data used to create these rankings.
Washington Monthly: These rankings evaluate colleges “based on their contribution to the public good.” Three broad categories are considered: social mobility, research and service. Social mobility includes data on a college’s net price and number of students receiving Pell grants. Research covers information on how much money the college spends on research and the number of Ph.D. degrees awarded in certain areas, among other data points. Service relates to community service hours students participate in and support services offered to students.
Forbes America’s Top Colleges: Forbes is a business magazine that generates these annual rankings with a focus on the return you’ll get on your investment in that college. The rankings are based on categories such as student satisfaction, graduate success, student debt, graduation rate and academic success.
Princeton Review: The rankings in this annual publication are based on surveys from more than 130,000 students attending those colleges. This publication provides lists in dozens of different categories from Best Campus Food to Happiest Students to Best College Dorms to Most Beautiful Campus. It even has a guide to “green colleges,” that is, colleges that have a strong commitment to sustainability.
AIER College Destinations Index: The American Institute for Economic Research creates these rankings to rate the “college experience,” which takes into account the towns and cities schools are located in. The rankings divide cities by size, and compares data on student life, culture, economic health of the area and economic opportunities in the area.