Just as Princeton University has long topped the annual US News & World Report national college ranking (remember the days when the the California Institute of Technology topped the list in back-to-back years?), Williams College has long topped the annual US News & World Report liberal arts college ranking. This year is no different. For the umpteenth time in a row, Williams College has claimed the grand prize among liberal arts colleges by placing first in the all-important ranking. And always a bridesmaid, never the bride Amherst College has, once again, placed second (note, Amherst has topped the rankings ten times in the past — just not in some time, but saying rarely the bride just wouldn’t be as much fun).
Taking third is Pomona College, which placed fourth last year, and overtook Swarthmore College for the bronze. Swarthmore placed fourth this year. Rounding out the top ten are Wellesley College (#5), Bowdoin College (#6), Carleton College (#6), the United States Naval Academy (#6), Claremont McKenna College (#9), and the United States Military Academy at West Point (#9).
So, besides for Swarthmore and Pomona flipping slots near the very top of the list, there wasn’t all that much movement among the top ten — with one key exception. Carleton climbed to a tie for sixth after placing #9 last year. Middlebury College, which ranks #11 this year, fell out of the top ten from the #9 position last year. West Point, which placed #11 last year, usurped Middlebury.
Rounding out this year’s top 20 are: Washington and Lee University (#11 in a tie with Middlebury), Smith College (#13), Vassar College (#13), Davidson College (#15), Grinnell (#15), Hamilton College (#15), Barnard College (#18), Colgate University (#18), Haverford College (#18), United States Air Force Academy (#18), University of Richmond (#18), and Wesleyan University (#18). Yes, there’s a whole lot happening at the eighteenth slot!
And if you asked us which of these schools, like Columbia University on this year’s US News “Best National Universities” ranking, is much more competitive in admissions than its current rank implies, that answer is an easy one. It’s Barnard College of Columbia University. Barnard, historically, has not fared so well on the liberal arts college ranking — independent of this year’s reporting scandal involving Columbia — but it remains one of our nation’s most prestigious and highly selective universities. Wesleyan University is also much more competitive than its rank seems to imply.
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