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2019 U.S. News and World Report College Rankings Released

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It’s that time of year again—the U.S. News and World Reports 2019 Best Colleges have been released. As is always the case, there are a few surprises, a few patterns, and lots to learn from this annual ranking.


Founded in 1933 as a weekly news magazine, U.S. News and World Report first began ranking colleges and graduate schools in 1984 and has since expanded to rank hospitals, cars, states, and high schools. Its college rankings are widely regarded as the most valuable set of college rankings, based largely on the number of schools included and the multitude of ranking lists produced.


Using information from over 1,800 undergraduate institutions, the publication released nearly 50 different ranked lists ranging from broad categories like overall best public and private universities, to more specific rankings like best value and best business programs.


Although there are many different resources that you should use to make decisions about the best college for you, the U.S. News and World Reports can provide you with some valuable information, including details like class size, graduation rate, and alumni giving rate. Being an informed consumer means using all the information available before making a final college choice, and the ranking are a good place to gather more of that information. Keep reading to learn more about them.


How Are the Rankings Calculated?

The rankings begin with an extensive survey distributed to all eligible institutions. To qualify, an institution must award bachelor’s degrees and be regionally accredited. This year, 1,803 schools participated. These colleges self-report data in a number of different categories, with the responses ultimately being fact-checked by U.S. News and World Reports. Sometimes, additional data collected by the government or private educational organizations is included.


To learn more about how the data is collected, compiled, and weighed in the rankings, read the full description available on the Best Colleges 2019: About the Rankings/Methodology.


Once all the data is gathered, U.S. News and World Reports uses its own algorithm to assign scores for overall school quality and in specific smaller categories. Unlike other rankings, U.S. News and World Report only includes quantifiable data, and not qualitative information like student opinions or campus culture.


Sometimes, even schools that are included in the rankings will have a result of “unranked”. This occurs when a school is so significantly different from its peers or has such a small sample size that its statistics become incomparable. These schools are typically very small or have such a highly specialized program of study that they cannot be effectively compared to other schools.


Not all rankings are ultimately released. Only schools that place in the top 75% of each category are published. Schools that don’t appear on overall rankings might appear in specific, smaller categories in which they scored better than their overall rank.


What’s New This Year?

Each year, the rankings change slightly to reflect improvements in methodology. This year, the changes reflect some of the ways in which college admissions are now changing. For the first time, acceptance rates are no longer included in the rankings. These previously were weighted 1.25% but no longer have any weight, with the intention being to shift more emphasis to outcomes.


Also new this year is a social mobility indicator. In an effort to analyze “how well schools succeed at enrolling and graduating students from low-income families,” the rankings now take Pell Grant recipient numbers and their graduation rates into account.


Finally, this year’s rankings reflect lower emphasis on expert opinion and SAT/ACT scores. These factors now receive less weight than they did previously.


Which Schools Scored the Best?      

Here, we list the top ten schools in three different categories. For the complete list of rankings, refer to the U.S. News and World Report College Rankings or buy the Best Colleges issue of the magazine.


Top 10 National Universities:

1. Princeton University

2. Harvard University

3. Columbia University

3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

4. University of Chicago

5. Yale University

6. Stanford University

7. Duke University

8. University of Pennsylvania

9. Johns Hopkins University

10. Northwestern University

Top 10 Liberal Arts Schools:

1. Williams College

2. Amherst College

3. Swarthmore College

3. Wellesley College

4. Bowdoin College

5. Carleton College

6. Middlebury College

7. Pomona College

8. Claremont McKenna College

9. Davidson College


Top 10 Public Schools:

1. University of California – Los Angeles

2. University of California – Berkeley

3. University of Virginia

4. University of Michigan – Ann Arbor

5. University of California – Santa Barbara

6. University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill

7. University of California – Irvine

8. Georgia Institute of Technology

9. University of Florida

10. College of William and Mary


As you make your own decisions about college applications, you should weigh a number of different factors. Some might be easily reviewed through the college rankings, like class size, median starting salary of alumni, or cost. Other factors, though, you’ll need to uncover for yourself. These usually include things like campus culture, specific student resources, and certain programs of study. There’s no one-size-fit-all ranking set for determining the best colleges for everyone. Instead, students should use the rankings to make their own unique informed decisions.


For more help compiling a college list or comparing college options, consider the benefits of the CollegeVine Near Peer Mentorship Program, which provides access to practical advice on topics from college admissions to career aspirations, all from successful college students.


For more about college lists, check out these CollegeVine posts:


Choosing a College: How to Get Started

Seven Tips for Creating Your College List

Five Mistakes to Avoid When Creating Your College List

10 Considerations For Making Your College List


Curious about your chances of acceptance to your dream school? Our free chancing engine takes into account your GPA, test scores, extracurriculars, and other data to predict your odds of acceptance at over 500 colleges across the U.S. We’ll also let you know how you stack up against other applicants and how you can improve your profile. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today to get started!

Kate Sundquist
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.