A few months back, the 2008 U.S. News College Rankings were released. Princeton topped this year's list, edging out Harvard and Yale. As usual, the release of the U.S. News rankings sparked considerable debate about whether they help or hurt students' efforts to find colleges that are a good fit.
Some argue that high school seniors get caught up worrying about where a college is ranked rather than focusing on their own preferences and finding a college that matches these preferences.
Proponents counter that the U.S. News college rankings can be used as one of many tools to help high school seniors and their parents assess the quality of colleges.
We do not recommend basing your college decision solely on the U.S. News College Rankings or any other ranking system (unless you've devised your own personal ranking system). However, these rankings can often have significant value for you in your research. If you take some time to look beyond the actual ranking of a college and look into the underlying data, you can uncover some very useful information.
First, these rankings can often serve as a quick barometer for how competitive a college will be to get into. The top colleges on the list will generally be the most selective colleges in the U.S. Colleges further down are generally a little easier to get into. That can be a huge help as you start narrowing down the list of colleges you want to apply to. You should be thinking about whether a college is a reach, a good fit, or a safety school. You ideally want to have a school or two in each of these categories when you are applying to colleges.
Second, the U.S. News College Rankings, as well as other rankings, often provide quick snippets of data in a single location on a number of colleges. The U.S. News College Rankings can be a useful place to go to find SAT Scores for the 25th and 75th percentiles of the incoming freshman class. The Washington Monthly does their own college ranking, scoring colleges on what they are "doing for the country". These rankings provide interesting data for students who might be interested in ROTC or public service. You can find out which colleges have the most graduates go on to serve in the Peace Corps or which university work-study programs have the most money going to community-service efforts.
Finally, a major bi-product of rankings efforts is that they encourage colleges to share information. The Common Data Set, an effort to standardize data reporting and data sharing by colleges, was largely a result of the proliferation of college rankings. All college-bound students have benefited from this data being more readily available.
We've created a tool that allows you to come up with your own college ranking system. Our College Scorecard lets you to decide what criteria are important to you and then allows you to rank up to 4 colleges using these criteria. You'll end up with your own personal college rankings... which are the best college rankings of all!
1. Princeton University (Private)
2. Harvard University (Private)
3. Yale University (Private)
4. Stanford University (Private)
5. California Institute of Technology (Private)
5. University of Pennsylvania (Private)
7. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Private)
8. Duke University (Private)
9. Columbia University (Private)
9. University of Chicago (Private)
11. Dartmouth College (Private)
12. Cornell University (Private)
12. Washington University in St. Louis (Private)
14. Brown University (Private)
14. Johns Hopkins University (Private)
14. Northwestern University (Private)
17. Emory University (Private)
17. Rice University (Private)
19. University of Notre Dame (Private)
19. Vanderbilt University (Private)
21. University of California-Berkeley (Public)
22. Carnegie Mellon University (Private)
23. Georgetown University (Private)
23. University of Virginia (Public)
25. University of California-Los Angeles (Public)
25. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor (Public)
27. University of Southern California (Private)
28. Tufts University (Private)
28. University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (Public)
30. Wake Forest University (Private)
31. Brandeis University (Private)
31. Lehigh University (Private)
33. College of William and Mary (Public)
34. New York University (Private)
35. Boston College (Private)
35. Georgia Institute of Technology (Public)
35. University of Rochester (Private)
38. University of California-San Diego (Public)
38. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Public)
38. University of Wisconsin-Madison (Public)
41. Case Western Reserve University (Private)
42. University of California-Davis (Public)
42. University of Washington (Public)
44. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Private)
44. University of California-Irvine (Public)
44. University of California-Santa Barbara (Public)
44. University of Texas-Austin (Public)
48. Pennsylvania State University-University Park (Public)
49. University of Florida (Public)
50. Syracuse University (Private)
50. Tulane University (Private)