Composite Ranking of Computer Science schools

As I mentioned in the post regarding averaged overall school rankings, I’ve been tracking similar data as my D seeks out Computer Science schools.

Below(hopefully) is a composite ranking from seven different CS ranking sources, listed at the top. Schools are generally ranked by the number of rankings on which they appear, then their average. For a few outliers (really, Niche, Princeton isn’t a top 100 CS school?), I used some judgement to place them. I looked at top 6 of 7, top 5 of 7, toss high and low, etc. These are judgement calls.

I cut it off where schools stopped regularly appearing on at least 4 of the surveys. Even past the top 30 or so, the numbers get a bit sketchy.

Hopefully useful or saving someone some research time.

(EDIT: looks like CC shrinks it - you can click on the image, then click again to see it at a reasonable size. Downloading will provide the full-rez version)


Seems like, for an undergraduate in CS (or many other subjects), the criteria for “good/best college for the major” would be something like:

  • Academic content of the curriculum and courses.
  • Coverage of important areas of the major subject in upper level courses.
  • Undergraduate research and other opportunities for strong students to go beyond the base curriculum for the major.
  • Access to the major and courses, including whether the major requires secondary admission (which may be affected by initial admission status), how frequently each course is offered, and how much difficulty students face with full classes even when in the major.

It is not at all obvious that typical rankings are based on these factors (versus assumptions of such based on pre-existing reputation).


If you would like to provide alternative rankings based on your criteria, please do so.

I find these types of composite rankings generally useless, even if the underlying rankings are useful at all (highly questionable themselves). In addition, if there’s a reason to prefer a major-specific ranking, then the same logic would dictake that consideration must be given to specific field within CS as CS covers such a wide range of disparate fields.

I generally agree with @ucbalumnus that students need to take a deep dive into each college’s program to see if it meets his/her objective over the entire duration of his/her study.


Personally CSRankings is best for CS among all available rankings as it goes in depth for every criteria and one can easily adjust ranking by excluding criteria not applicable to them, so it gives more realistic dynamic ranking than preconceived one size fit all.

I’m not so sure about the CSR ranking, as it puts Caltech at #69

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Something also for students to take into account is employability from some of these programs. Often times these days, people think just graduating with a CS degree is all it takes to get a good job, however, there are schools on that list, some highly ranked where their career placement is really lacking and a lot of it is on the students to find the jobs and internships because companies just don’t recruit at those programs.

Additionally, my son who works in the CS field at a former job would perform interviews at one of the top schools on that list and often took a pass on those students because while they may have been geniuses, they didn’t have the skills the company needed to solve the problems and do the work. Many companies in Silicon give “tests” for lack of better word for their different stages of interviews and these applicants couldn’t get past the second round. So sometimes your school can be one of the best but that doesn’t mean anything if you can’t do anything with it.


100% agree with this in addition to class size, access to professors and TA’s, office hours, internships, variety of classes and so much more to look at.

My daughter is in one of those programs that is at the very top and her first CS course which fortunately was somewhat of a repeat for her had 1,000 students in it. Many kids suffered in it because it was required for all Engineering students. Then this year (soph) first semester she had trouble getting into another one she needed because she was a semester ahead and probably because of how covid affected course size. Worked out better for her for next semester though but she has friends that are CS majors that are behind. While she loves her program, she does have problems getting in office hours and the times are very limited, not to mention they only give 15 min time slots before you go back to the end of the line.

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Here is a good source for outcomes/employability.

I think most of the ranking lists even though they claim to be ranking undergraduate programs are really skewed by the graduate programs. Yet schools with smaller less prestigious grad programs that focus on undergraduate teaching, like Brown where my daughter is a CS major, offer opportunities for undergrads for research, TAing, and general interactions with professors that are far harder to get at other schools that are higher ranked on this list. My daughter was offered the opportunity to apply for research with a top Professor after her first semester freshman year and is about to TA her second class sophomore year. While some of her intro classes are on the larger side—200 or more—she has always been able to interact with professors and the department does a lot of outreach with companies for internship and job opportunities for grads.

As mentioned in the other thread, Niche claims Princeton does not have a CS major, so Niche does not rank them in CS. The bulk of Niche’s weightings more relate to overall rather than CS (50% from “overall” and SAT scores), and 20% relating to portion majoring in CS. Based on Niche methodology, I expect Princeton would have come in 3rd or 4th if they had a CS major (according to Niche)… slightly above Harvard and Yale (5th and 6th).

I’m not so sure about any of these rankings being especially meaningful – not just CSR. CSR is based on solely total number of publications by faculty. Caltech is smaller with less faculty, so it has less publications and gets a relatively poor ranking. If you only compare colleges with as little faculty as Caltech or smaller, then the CSR rankings are:

  1. Caltech
  2. Toyota Technical Institute (doesn’t have undergrad… not sure if they offer degrees)
  3. Dartmouth

This is just a list of the CollegeScorecard database for federal reported early career earnings among federal FA recipients. A couple things to consider when using the CollegeScorecard database are:

  1. The sample size for federal FA recipients in a particular major at a particular college can be small. You can view the number of students in the sample and other relevant stats for each college when looking at the CS database directly, rather than via 3rd party websites.
  2. In CS, salary is highly dependent on portion of the class that works in high cost of living areas, such as SV, NY, Boston, and Seattle. For Brown CS, the portion of class that works in these areas is close to 100%.
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Speaking of employability lots of colleges publishes the data for their undergrads outcome solely based on survey and social media data points. I found that very useful.
In terms of efforts by career counseling or other orgs within a school, a quality and diversity of companies participating in career fairs provides better insight how Target the school is for those companies.
But yea, it is for a school, not schools side by side…

Grind the Leetcode… :grinning:

Each college uses a different ranking system, utilizing different factors and different measuring systems, and even measuring different things. So using the average ranking does not make sense. You can’t average between #1 for undergraduate teaching, #3 for research spending, and #6 for reputation among donors, and claim that the average ranking of the college is 3.33.

Then there is the fact that the ranking systems of these different entities are driven by different political and social agendas. Some have a vested interest in making sure that the wealthiest and most connected colleges always rank highest, others are interested in awarding publication numbers and research dollars, others want to make sure that the present power structure in academia remains as it is, while others are trying to pull attention to non-USA or non-Western colleges.

Then there is the fact that rankings like CSRankings are themselves composite, and, depending on the field within CS that interests somebody, they change. So why would a person who is interested in Machine Learning choose a colleges which has a high compasite ranking over a colleges which is highly ranked in machine learning, but has a lower composite ranking.

Finally, aside from USNews and Niche, most of these rankings do not weigh undergraduate teaching very highly, or do not include it at all, so they are not all that relevant for parents and kids who are looking for a good undergraduate education.

USNews does not have a ranking of LACs by their CS undergraduate program, so that 20 score for HMC is kind of meaningless.

As for Niche - their top factors are always the income of the students’ families, the endowment of the school, and the prestigiousity of the school…

So using a problematic metanalysis of weak or irrelevant data is hardly a good way to come to any meaningful conclusions.


Dude. is an undeniable garbage ranking. It has nothing to do with CS undergrad quality.

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Not garbage at all. It’s actually a very good ranking. It is very useful for people looking for grad school, or applying for a job in those departments.

It is, however, not much use for choosing an undergraduate program.


Generally for UG, research and pubs are less relevant to pick a school. But if a school has solid graduate program, it provides a very good window into its respective UG program.

agree, ranking are tailored to appease their audience.

Precisely the point for CS. Ony CSR provides that window based on your interests and what matter to you academically.

It can be a useful tool for people who are interested in looking up faculty at different colleges, including what types of research they are doing. However, is the ranking number itself meaningful? For example, with the default selections, a reader might see the following for 3 colleges that interest him in some way. And their relative ranking numbers tells him?

14 – Northeastern
25 – Stony Brook
64 – Caltech

I expect Caltech has highly research productive faculty, yet Caltech and other smaller colleges will inevitably be ranked relatively poorly because they have a small fraction of the total number of faculty members at larger colleges,.

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I don’t think ranking devalue the research quality. I do agree that smaller colleges have disadvantage over larger ones just by sheer number game. Irrespective of the research quality, for smaller colleges it is practically impossible to produce that many researches in same amount of time. I noticed a big difference, when compared to those large colleges with small ones, larger ones have more breadth in categories, hence pie chart seems more distributed than smaller ones which is more looks concentrated.
That makes selection of those individual area more important.

The problems with rankings are as numurous as the number of these rankings. The size of the department is just one of them. Smaller size often mean the school has to be selective in what fields/areas it wants to emphasize/specialize. Caltech, for example, choose not to specialize in NLP (Natural Language Processing) or HCI (Human Computer Interaction). So for students who want to study in one of these fields, Caltech isn’t a choice (certainly not a good choice). But it more than makes up for it by the depth in the fields it does specialize. It also has a top-notch quantum computing track that few other schools even offer (let alone to their undergraduate students). The smaller size also gives it the advantage in its ability to meet the demand for all CS courses by all of its students without waitlisting and prioritization. Most of its larger peers simply can’t match. In the current enviroment where the demand for such courses overwhelmingly exceeds supply, this is a very significant advantage.

Another example of erroneous results from rankings is in the area of post-graduation salaries. First of all, they are mostly based on voluntary survey results. Those who choose to respond tend to be the one who are relatively happy with their offers. What they choose to report often lack consistency (base? +bonus? +other incentives? etc.) Moreover, the graduates who are potentially the highest earners from the CS department are almost universally going to grad schools to specialize further in some areas of AI, and they aren’t in the surveys.

Even if one ignors all the numerous errors and shortcomings in rankings, there’s still a fundamental problem with rankings. There’re so many factors that affect the quality of education and these factors are different and their relative importance is different for different applicant. So how can all this complexity be distilled down to a single number, the position of a college in the rankings? It can’t.

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