By Jessica Brondo
I’m not sure how big a fan I am of college rankings, but they certainly are inevitable. I know that whenever U.S New & World Report releases its annual list, I will either get inundated by calls from my Harvard buddies rubbing it in that they beat us (Princeton) out this year, or the phones will be silent if Princeton has prevailed. However, these lists certainly do not provide a comprehensive view of the colleges they list and definitely cannot account for how a student “feels” on its campus, which is why college visits are so important.
U.S. News’ list is largely based on low acceptance rates and high GPAs and SAT scores. It’s a pretty standard formula for them and has been for the past several years, which is made pretty obvious by the minor variations from year to year. However, Forbes recently started releasing its own list of America’s top schools that is totally different from most of the other lists out there.
Williams, which I do not believe has been on the top of any other college ranking list, tops their list this year and Princeton comes in a close second (phew!), but if we even just take a look at the top 10, it’s pretty shocking. Harvard is way down from its normal place in the top 3 (or at the very least the top 5) and is sitting at spot #8, and Yale (#10) just barely stayed in the top 10. Then there are the top 10 shockers: Williams for starters, the US Military Academy at #4, Swarthmore at #7, and Claremont McKenna, a widely unknown school to most, at #9.
Only 4 of the 8 Ivy League schools (Princeton, Harvard, Yale, Columbia) made it into the top 25 and Cornell, another Ivy, didn’t even make it into the top 50. This seems outrageous as the Ivies have for centuries been looked upon as some of the best schools in the world, and yet they are being beaten out by lesser known schools like Colby (31), Kenyon (32), and Wabash (42), and “hot” schools like Boston College (27) and Tufts (34).
Two major factors in Forbes’ decision making process are student satisfaction and a lack of debt for graduating students. I’m a huge fan of students coming out of school without any loans, which is why Princeton is up there at #2 with its 100% grant program for students qualifying for financial need and why military and naval schools have such a strong presence on the list. However, student satisfaction is a pretty hard thing to measure. I’d love more information from Forbes on how they chose the students for the anecdotal research.
In any case, it’s definitely a new perspective on college rankings. To view the full list, visit: