Top 30 Best Colleges in America

Business considered 12 factors including cost to attend, earnings 6 years after graduation, and rate of admission.

The list of 30 schools includes 4 LACs at #20 Pomona College, #26 Bowdoin College, #28 Harvey Mudd College, and at #30 Carleton College.

Business Insider’s list of 30 Best Colleges in America–August, 2020:

  1. MIT–4,557 undergraduates–7% admission rate

  2. Harvard–7,210–5%

  3. Stanford–7,087–4%

  4. Yale–5,939–6%

  5. Duke–6,659–9%

  6. Princeton–5,321–5%

  7. Rice–3,900–11%

  8. CalTech–948–7%

  9. Brown–6,735–8%

  10. UPenn–10,605–8%

  11. Vanderbilt–6,789–10%

  12. Columbia–7,666–6%

  13. Dartmouth College–4,357–9%

  14. Northwestern University–8,161–8%

  15. WashUStL–7,146–15%

  16. Notre Dame–8,607–18%

  17. UChicago–6,600–7%

  18. Cornell–15,157–11%

  19. USC–19,194–13%

  20. Pomona College–1,559–85

  21. Johns Hopkins (JHU)–5,595–11%

  22. Carnegie Mellon (CMU)–6,343–17%

  23. Michigan–29,245–23%

  24. UCLA–31,009–14%

  25. Georgetown University–6,990–15%

  26. Bowdoin College–1,825–10%

  27. Georgia Tech–14,318–22%

  28. Harvey Mudd–887–14%

  29. Virginia–15,990–26%

  30. Carleton College–2,077–20%

Surprised that Williams College, Amherst College & Swarthmore College are not listed.

Also not making the list of Top 30 Colleges in America are UCal-Berkeley, Emory, and Wellesley College.

Bluntly speaking, I do not think that it is right to include CalTech with just 948 students and Harvey Mudd with just 887 students while excluding the other 6 schools (Williams, Amherst, even 1,560 student Swarthmore, Berkeley, Emory, & Wellesley) that I listed in this post. But, it is not my ranking and not my list.

Even Lancaster Bible College has more undergrad students than either CalTech or Harvey Mudd.

Why do you think the small size of Caltech and HM should keep them off the list?

Same schools, different order.

The BI article linked above republished the first 30 schools from Niche’s Best Colleges in America ranking, in which the top 92 schools receive an “Overall Niche Grade” of A+.

It may be “same schools, different order”, but it’s fun to see the new order.

For those who don’t care for the ranking, then the other data may be of interest.

Why do I think that the small size of two highly specialized schools should keep them off the list ?

Probably for the same reason that UPenn’s Wharton School, Juilliard, Curtis Institute of Music, any public university honors college, any school’s CS majors, etc. are not included as candidates for the list–too small & too specialized. While they do not belong on this list, there is another list where they do belong.

Also, the same reason that we don’t run a 15 yard dash in track & field competitions.

@merc81: I like your post #6 above because I think that any list of the top schools in America should include at least 100 colleges & universities.

P.S. Feel free to post the link to the Niche ranking of top 92 colleges & universities if allowed by CC rules.

“according to xxxx, based on criteria that judge a school as aN aggregated whole, rather than by specific programs, which is what students actually apply to and study in”

should be appended to every one of these ranking posts.

MIT is not the best school in America for a student studying Criminal Justice, one of the country’s top 10 undergrad majors…

Business Insider didn’t do the ranking. They copied from another site. The other site uses a larger number of criteria than I have ever seen in a ranking… Some of the largest factors are below. There are dozens of others. Obviously this weighting is completely arbitrary, and changing the arbitrary weighting would change the output ranking.

6% – Acceptance Rate
5% – Niche Student Survey: Overall
4% – Niche Student Survey; Academics
3.4% – Median Earnings Actual vs Expected
3% – Yield Rate
2.7% – Net Price for FA Recipients
2.7% – Graduation Rate
2.7% – Loan Default Rate
2.7% – Median Earnings After 2 Years
2.5% – Niche Student Survey: Campus Facilities
2.5% – Percent National Merit Scholars
2.5% – Total Research Expenditures
2.1% – Median Earnings After 6 Years
2% – First Year Retention Rate
2% – Research Expenditures Per Student
2% – 25th Percentile SAT/ACT
2% – 75th Percentile SAT/ACT

I assume the numerator would be all research. That would really hurt schools that don’t have a med school (Princeton and LACs).

Williams, Amherst, Swarthmore and the other schools you listed were not excluded . They do fairly well, all ranking in top 3%, with an overall grade of “A+”. Specific rankings are below::

Williams – 33rd out of 1619 (top 3%)
Amherst – 37th out of 1619 (top 3%)
Emory – 40th out of 1619 (top 3%)
Swarthmore – 42nd out of 1619 (top 3%)
Wellesley – 43th out of 1619 (top 3%)
Berkeley – 46th out of 1619 (top 3%)

The lowest ranking of the group is Berkeley at 46th. Perhaps it seems counterintuitive to rank UCLA at 24th and Berkeley at 46th. There are far too many criteria to give a simple answer about why Berkeley was not ranked higher. I expect differences in the Niche student surveys played a key roll in why Berkeley is below UCLA.

Expanding on my earlier post, a comparison of the Niche student survey results for Berkeley and UCLA is below. The combination of all survey categories makes up a good chuck of the weighting in the overall college ranking. In the student survey portion, UCLA does significantly better than Berkeley in all categories I checked except academics. The difference in survey ratings no doubt contributes to the difference in rankings between the 2 schools, with UCLA being ranked higher.

Overall Experience --UCLA = 51% Excellent, Berkeley = 39% Excellent
Academics – UCLA = 22% Excellent, Berkeley = 24% Excellent
Student Life – UCLA = 19% Excellent, Berkeley = 15% Excellent
Campus – UCLA = 24% Excellent, Berkeley = 14% Excellent
Value – UCLA = 20% Excellent, Berkeley = 16% Excellent

All Categories Combined – UCLA = 28% Excellent, Berkeley = 19% Excellent

The Niche student survey ratings appear to be informal and self-reported without verification. It would be easy for someone to manipulate this survey and change the ranking of schools by submitting large number of fake reviews. The sample size is also concerning, particularly for small schools. For example, only 11 people ranked Harvey Mudd in the academics category. Only 12 ranked Caltech and 19 ranked Williams. It’s nice that they have reviews in which students can describe what they liked and disliked about the school and can give a general rating. However, giving those ratings a lot of power to influence the overall college rankings is problematic.

Keeping things in perspective, there are approx 3000 colleges / unis in the US. The US is generally considered as the best overall set of colleges in the world (yes Oxford, Cambridge and others are outstanding). But generally speaking, international students want to come here more than other places.

So if a US school is considered a top 100 (in the US), it’s in the top 3%ish of schools in the best higher ed system in the world.

Lots of great schools out there.

One thing that I like about lists like this is the information shared about each school. For example, I enjoy seeing a list which includes the number of undergraduate students enrolled at each college or university.

Sounds like another rearranged elitist list to me. Who do you think sponsors these magazines? It couldn’t be the actual universities, could it?

I do not think that schools sponsor these magazines as a way to buy a high ranking.

Stability in higher education is a good thing, just as debate about the strengths & weaknesses of a rating & ranking system is a healthy exercise.

As always, if you do not like any given list, you can find others than you may prefer more.

Or suggest a better method of rating & ranking schools that satisfy your concerns.