2021 US News College Rankings

While there are many publications that release annual college rankings, the US News & World Report ranking is the one that matters most to elite colleges.

The 2021 US News & World Report college rankings are out. And which school topped the list? That would be Princeton University, marking the ninth consecutive year the Ivy League school has outperformed all of its peers in the annual college ranking. And which school earned the runner-up nod? Look no further than Harvard University. There’s psychological science that suggests bronze medalists are happier than silver medalists since bronze medalists just barely got on the medal stand, whereas silver medalists are often disappointed they missed out on gold. With this science in mind, Columbia University placed third in the annual college ranking. Last year, Columbia shared the bronze medal platform with Yale University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — but not this year.

2021 US News Top 25 Universities

And which elite universities round out the top 25? The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Yale University took fourth. Stanford University and the University of Chicago took sixth. The University of Pennsylvania took eighth. The California Institute of Technology, Johns Hopkins University, and Northwestern University took ninth. Duke University took 12th, Dartmouth College 13th, Brown University and Vanderbilt University 14th, Rice University and Washington University in St. Louis 16th, Cornell University 18th, Notre Dame University 19th, the University of California — Los Angeles 20th, Emory University 21st, the University of California — Berkeley 22nd, Georgetown University 23rd, and the University of Michigan and the University of Southern California 24th.

2021 Trends Include Rise of Caltech and Wash U

So what are the trends in the latest ranking? Which schools are up and which are down? Well, Yale, MIT, Dartmouth, and Cornell slipped a slot each, while UPenn and Duke slipped two slots. Johns Hopkins, Vanderbilt, and Rice inched up a slot, while Caltech and Wash U rose three slots. Notre Dame slipped four slots. And while, in our experience, the US News & World Report college ranking is the most important ranking to admissions officers, know that minor year-to-year fluctuations don’t mean all that much. Is Yale’s admissions office fretting slipping a slot? No. While they’re not celebrating dropping a slot, they’re not anxious about it either. And if you’re applying to college, we encourage you to view the rankings similarly: don’t change your Early Decision / Early Action strategy based on one school dropping a couple of slots and another school inching up. That’s just plain silly.

Have a look at US News & World Report‘s 2021 ranking of best national universities.


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1 Comment

  • Jeremy says:

    I agree with your comments, but some schools have more to worry about. Cornell has has a continual slide the past decade or so. From a high of 12 in 2008 they are now at their worst-ever ranking, #18. As an alum, it seems a very unfair ranking, especially considering some of those listed above it, but Cornell is not entirely blameless either. For one, they do not seem to operate much like Ivies and more like Big 10 schools, mostly due to size, but also for other, undefined reasons. Jonathan Burdick, from all accounts an upstanding guy, is the new Dean at Cornell, having come from University of Rochester, a decent but not super elite school. He promptly did away with reporting regular decision acceptance rates (the only Ivy to do so) and has firmly planted himself in the no-SAT/ACT camp, touting the benefits of the holistic approach, though yet to be implemented. UChicago’s experiment in the test-optional mode has firmly dropped them 3 slots in the rankings and kept them there. And, like it or not, the US News ranking, which you point out is THE RANKING, translates into real world consequence for schools: Lower applications, disgruntled alumni, and, concomitantly fewer donations, not to mentione angst and apathy among applicants and students. The UC system has decided it also will do away with testing, but now seems to be reconsidering with producing a test of its own. How interesting is that? But how do you ‘holistically’ filter 50,000 applications without having a 1,000 readers? You don’t. And any idea to the contrary is just stupid. There will be schools axing large numbers of applicants by using arbitrary filters that will prove even more unfair than testing. There needs to be some universal standard that everyone agrees to be a part of. The ‘no-test’ experiment might work for a small liberal arts college, but even then it would seem only fair everyone have some similar testing to compare Iowa farm school to Dallas publics to Boston privates, as ‘unfair’ as that may seem. But it certainly can not work for larger universities receiving tens of thousands of applications. Once tried, I think they will find the quality of student will deteriorate. There will be a lower graduation rate and higher rates of depression/suicide and greater need for tutoring for those unwilling or unable to keep up with the pace of a rigorous college. Many experts point to different studies, but nothing has been tried yet at the elite level- en masse.

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