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Universities Ranked by Prestige

potatoes345potatoes345 Registered User Posts: 265 Junior Member
edited March 2010 in College Search & Selection
I present for you a ranking of major American universities by prestige:
1. MIT
2. Harvard
3. Yale
4. Stanford
5. Princeton
6. Columbia
7. UC - Berkeley
8. CalTech
9. University of Chicago
10. University of Pennsylvania
11. Cornell University
12. Duke University
13. Brown University
14. Johns Hopkins University
15. Georgetown University
16. UCLA
17. University of Texas
18. University of Michigan
19. NYU
20. Dartmouth
21. UVA
22. Northwestern
23. UNC - Chapel Hill
24. University of Illinois
25. University of Wisconsin
26. Rice University
27. University of Maryland
28. Carnegie Mellon
29. USC
30. Notre Dame

Now, for my methodology. The ranking is based on 3 different measurements: academic prestige (40%), prestige among students (30%), and prestige among members of the general public (30%).

Academic prestige is measured by the combination of the US News Peer Assessment score, which indicates the prestige given to a university by administrators at other universities (5%). The second factor is the Wall Street Journal rankings of admissions to elite professional schools, measuring prestige for professional school admissions committees (10%). The third factor is the average score for the universities graduate programs according to the US News survey (25%), this measures what professors (and thus graduate school admissions committees) think of schools.

Prestige among students is measured on the basis of the revealed preference ranking of colleges, scores from which were standardized to scores out of 100.

The third element of the ranking is prestige with members of the general public. This is difficult to measure, so as a proxy, media mentions of the school not in reference to sports were used - drawing from a sample of 1600 US and international media sources.

The rankings produced are fairly close to other major rankings, and particularly similar to the US News ranking done by guidance counselors. Though generally similar to the standard US News rankings, certain schools perform much better (e.g., Berkeley) while some do much worse (e.g., Northwestern at #22, WUSTL at #33).

I welcome your feedback, and I have all of the raw data in an excel sheet, so if you'd like to see what the rankings look like given a different weighting, just let me know.

Edit: One final note. There's a very significant drop off in prestige between the top and the bottom. MIT earns a prestige score of 91.4 and Harvard one of 86.9, but #30 Notre Dame scores a 47.1.
Post edited by potatoes345 on

Replies to: Universities Ranked by Prestige

  • tk21769tk21769 Registered User Posts: 9,256 Senior Member
    I like to think of college rankings in terms of an input-output model. How do we measure the inputs (the caliber of the students) and the outputs (the quality of post-graduate outcomes, or the volume of research production)? In between the input and the output, stuff happens. How do we measure that? How would we measure quality of the classroom instructional environment, facilities etc.?

    Your model covers the outputs, to some extent, with the WSJ study (which by the way has been strongly challenged on College Confidential). It probably covers research output, implicitly, in the peer assessment scores. It sorta kinda covers inputs in the revealed preferences. It does not seem to cover the "in between", structural features at all (which I would expose through measurements of average class size and such).

    The fact that you manage to come up with nearly the same rankings as USNWR is interesting. I think you are shifting emphasis from undergraduate program quality to metrics more sensitive to graduate program quality and research output. Which may be significant factors in "prestige" perceptions, but to my thinking, perhaps distort the picture for the purpose of rational college choice (depending on what kind of student is making the choice).
  • potatoes345potatoes345 Registered User Posts: 265 Junior Member
    Well, the model intentionally ignores the "in between" in that things like small class size don't really have much of an effect on prestige (except insofar as they have an impact on other things).

    The rankings metric here is also not intended to show what school is "better" than another (however defined), but only to show what schools are more prestigious. In my opinion, it's not surprising that prestige tracks closely with the "quality" rankings of USNWR, which I take as something of a confirmation of the general validity of approach.
  • josh1250josh1250 Registered User Posts: 3 New Member
    College problems

    Ok im in 10th grade and currently i have a 2.7 gpa im going to start applying collges talking the sat next year and all that what should i bring my gpa up to next year and what should i get on the sat and act to get into these colleges

    Boston University
    vermont university
    william paterson
    Richard Stokton

    its not definat but im decinding between these majors
    speech theripest
    or social worker

    tell me what i should take off or if you have any college sugetions tell me and the college has to be on the east cost
  • collegehelpcollegehelp Registered User Posts: 6,486 Senior Member
    If you get 1100 on your SATs, you should get into some of your colleges. You should consider starting your own thread about this.

    The rankings in post #1 look pretty good to me. I'm surprised Caltech and Dartmouth are not higher.
  • PizzagirlPizzagirl Registered User Posts: 40,488 Senior Member
    The third element of the ranking is prestige with members of the general public. This is difficult to measure, so as a proxy, media mentions of the school not in reference to sports were used - drawing from a sample of 1600 US and international media sources.

    Was this a google search? If so, how do you account for mentions that might be linked to a town itself? (For example, any searches you did on "Princeton" might include tons of links to general Princeton, NJ websites that aren't related to the university.)

    I don't see how media mentions relate to prestige. McDonald's gets more media mentions than French Laundry.
  • tk21769tk21769 Registered User Posts: 9,256 Senior Member
    The media buzz thing is tricky. To do it right, you not only need to filter for ambiguous names but also for sensational news spikes, like the Virginia Tech shootings. This has been tried, but the metric does not seem to have caught on as a component of any major ranking.
  • potatoes345potatoes345 Registered User Posts: 265 Junior Member
    Media buzz is tricky, but the measurement factor isn't especially challenging when it comes to filtering out false positives. I used Newsbank, which gives much better coverage and functionality than something like Google pass and did a few stages of refinement to make things work right. So, in the case of Princeton, my search accepted anything that matched the literal "Princeton University" as well as any document that included the words Princeton and university or professor within 40 words of each other. In all likelihood, I erred slightly on the side of having too few rather than too many results, but spot checks reveal essentially no false positives.

    As for how media mentions relate to prestige, it's much more straightforward for universities than restaurants. McDonald's gets a lot more mentions than haute cuisine because it's such a large restaurant and important business, which is not interchangeable in the case of food. For universities, however, importance ties closely to prestige. Most news coverage of universities takes one of several forms: "Researchers at MIT discovered...", "In a new book, Joe Smith of Harvard....", "In a speech at Yale....", or "John Doe, CEO of Mega Company X, received his MBA from Stanford...." etc. To be sure, there are occasional events or scandals which result in a lot of of news coverage of particular universities (e.g., the Tech shootings), so this is why it would be a rather poor idea to produce a ranking solely based on news coverage.

    Within the sample ranked above, however, I glanced through the top news hit for each university and the coverage was generally positive and not connected to single events. The level of media coverage also closely parallels intuitive quality judgments. Ranking exclusively on media coverage, we would get:
    1. MIT
    2. Harvard
    3. Columbia
    4. Stanford
    5. Yale
    6. Berkeley
    7. Johns Hopkins
    8. Chicago
    9. NYU
    10. Texas

    The only one on that list that's at all unexpected is Texas and NYU does a bit better than I would tend to expect, but that alone would be a reasonable top 10 prestige list. The fact of the matter is that public opinion is largely shaped by the media and most media coverage of universities is positive. Thus, colleges that are in the media the most have the most prestige.
  • PizzagirlPizzagirl Registered User Posts: 40,488 Senior Member
    I disagree that general public opinion of colleges is shaped by the media. When it comes to general public opinion, it IS a) sports prowess / presence and b) proximity that shape perceptions. Prestige is SO regional.

    And Joe Q. Public is not paying one whit to whether the CEO of XYZ Company got his MBA from Stanford. Really. You are overstating the concerns of most Americans.
  • dimsum123dimsum123 - Posts: 142 Junior Member
    Pizzagirl wrote:
    I don't see how media mentions relate to prestige. McDonald's gets more media mentions than French Laundry.

    This is at least the 3rd or 4th time I've heard you say something along these lines. You need newer material.
  • SWHarborfanSWHarborfan - Posts: 672 Member
    Try a list that is informed by student happiness--somehow, more meaningful, I think, especially because happiness (food, professorial access, administrative flexibility, freshmen retention, student (attempted) suicide rate (or, moreover, lack of a suicide rate), collaborative learning, geography, size, ease of housing, political life or lack of one, etc.) affects performance.

    In crafting such a list, you might be amazed as to what drops off or moves down/up the list.
  • potatoes345potatoes345 Registered User Posts: 265 Junior Member
    Pizzagirl, I don't think you're quite right there. If public opinion is so shaped by sports prowess, then why do Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and MIT have such great public reputations? Why is the Ivy League and not the SEC considered the most elite group of schools? If prestige is SO regional, then why do people from California still think HYP are great schools?

    People don't pay that much attention to where Joe Q. Public got his MBA, but the cumulative effect builds up. People respect the universities they see favorably in the media. All that times that you read "Researchers at MIT discovered" add up and give you a favorable impression of MIT, and every time you hear about a successful person who went to Stanford, it incrementally increases your opinion of Stanford.

    I'm not familiar with any work on colleges as such, but research in sociology and psychology have proved this over and over again. The more good things you hear about an institution/brand/person, the more you tend to like it. That's so overwhelmingly intuitive, that I find it hard to believe I'm even saying it. "Liking" a college in that way translates into prestige for it. As a matter of fact, this even explains why prestige has regional components. People who live in Michigan hear a lot more about the accomplishments at the University of Michigan than people who live in Texas do, and vice versa.

    SWHarborfan, the happiness rankings are already out there. As I said above, all that I'm trying to rank is prestige. I'm not saying that prestige should be the dominant factor in anyone's college choice.
  • SWHarborfanSWHarborfan - Posts: 672 Member
    <<I'm not saying that prestige should be the dominant factor in anyone's college choice.>

    I'm not saying that you were (were you?). I'm merely saying that such a thoughtful list would be interesting, esp. as it relates to the (very silly/worthless, frankly) prestige list.
  • swish14swish14 Registered User Posts: 1,325 Senior Member
    Wake Forest, Boston College, William & Mary, Tufts all have to be in top 30 for any prestige list to be legit.
  • DunninLADunninLA Registered User Posts: 4,271 Senior Member
    swish... why? None of those schools has enough Ph.D. production to make it into the top 30...

    If prestige correlated to undergraduate excellence, then Williams, Swarthmore, Amherst, Bowdoin, Wellesley, Pomona, Carleton, et. al would need to be included as well, but it isn't.
  • AlexandreAlexandre Super Moderator Posts: 23,593 Super Moderator
    Potatoes, somehow, the pieces seem to have fallen in the right places. I would drop MIT one or two notches though. Harvard is the undisputed prestige heavyweight.
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