The 2018 “US News & World Report” college rankings came out today and, lo and behold, Princeton University has secured the top slot for the seventh year in a row as the top-ranked national university. That’s quite a run indeed for the Ivy League university. This year’s runner-up is Harvard University followed by the University of Chicago and Yale University (in a tie for third), and Columbia University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Stanford University (in a tie for fifth). Rounding out the top fifteen are: University of Pennsylvania (eighth), Duke University (ninth), California Institute of Technology (tenth), Dartmouth College, Johns Hopkins University, and Northwestern University (in a three-way tie for eleventh), and Brown University, Cornell University, Rice University, and Vanderbilt University (in a four-way tie for fourteenth). In all, the schools at or near the top of the “US News” ranking last yer largely stayed put this year. In fact, the list very much mirrors the ranking of the last few years, with minor fluctuations.
The Methodology of the College Rankings
“US News & World Report” provides a detailed methodology of how the publication ranks universities. Graduation and retention rates account for 22.5% of the ranking. So, yes, highly selective colleges absolutely hate it when students transfer since it hurts their ranking. Undergraduate academic reputation? Another 22.5% of the metric. Faculty resources account for 20% of the calculation. Student selectivity accounts for 12.5% of the calculation. Financial resources? 10%. Graduation rate performance impacts 7.5% of the metric. The alumni giving rate? 5%. And which highly selective university has an extremely high alumni giving rate? You guessed it. Princeton University. Over the last couple of years, over 60% of Princeton alumni have donated funds to the school, demonstrating their love for their alma mater. So there’s one reason, of many, why Princeton has taken this crown seven years in a row — and running!
The Importance of Rankings
While many publications release college rankings, there is no more important ranking than the “US News & World Report” annual metric. As we like to say, in some parts of our world, it is considered the Bible of college rankings (hello to our parents in China!). Attend an information session at a highly selective college and you’ll learn that colleges actually don’t care about rankings, that they are not guided by these metrics. Now don’t raise your hand to correct these admissions officers. These very admissions officers will be debating your child’s case for admission. But know that these admissions officers just aren’t telling it like it is. Of course college rankings matter. Of course highly selective colleges do what it takes to manipulate these rankings, to climb in the “US News & World Report” annual metric. As but one example, highly selective colleges encourage unqualified students to apply. Why? The more students who apply, the lower the admission rate will be, a key metric in the “US News & World Report” ranking.
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