What colleges are in tier 1, tier 2, and tier 3?

I do not know which schools are Tier One, Tier Two & Tier Three without more criteria. But, for prestige purposes, my totally subjective impression is :

That among the top group of most prestigious US colleges & universities are:

Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, MIT, Penn-Wharton School, Caltech, Juilliard, Curtis School of Music, US Military Academy at West Point, US Naval Academy-Annapolis, US Air Force Academy-Colorado Springs. ( Also, "an Ivy–as in: “I went to an Ivy League school for undergrad.”)

The next tier:

Columbia University, Univ. of Chicago, Northwestern University, Duke, Penn, Johns Hopkins, UCal-Berkeley, Cornell, Dartmouth College, Brown, Williams College, Amherst College, Wellesley College, Swarthmore College, Pomona College. (Also Georgetown School of Foreign Service & Univ. of Michigan-Ross School of Business.)

And, finally, the “this will make me enemies” next tier:

University of Michigan, Rice University, Vanderbilt University, University of Notre Dame, WashUStL, Georgetown, UCLA, Bowdoin College, NYU- Stern, NYU- Tisch, NYU (philosophy), Georgia Tech & Carnegie Mellon University.

OP: Although prestige is largely subjective, it is a very real factor for many employers. This is especially true with respect to graduate business (MBA) schools & law schools.

Ranking law schools in three tiers makes sense with respect to employment prospects. The first tier of law schools is recruited nationally, the second tier regionally & the third tier locally.

Very important with respect to graduate business schools.

MBA Schools: The top tier are the M-7. Harvard, Stanford, Penn-Wharton, Northwestern-Kellogg, Chicago, MIT, & Columbia—but, even among the ultra prestigious M-7, Harvard, Stanford & Penn-Wharton are considered to be in a class by themselves.

The next tier is composed of: Duke, UCal-Berkeley & NYU, Michigan & Dartmouth-Tuck.

Yet, with respect to obtaining lucrative employment within 3 months of graduation, the University of Washington-Foster School of Business leads them all with 98% job placement.

To muddy the water further, it also depends on the major/area of study.

I’d argue that yield is as significant as fit. A college that is picky in admissions but that few admits actually commit to shouldn’t be viewed as being more desirable than one that is less selective but yields a higher ratio of its admits. Perhaps the ratio (quotient) admit rate / yield would be better than admit rate alone. If anyone wants to produce a list based on that criterion, I’d love to see it. I’d bet there would be at least some reshuffling.


As a benchmark these are the most recent yield stats I could find for Ivies (class of 2021) source IVYWISE.

Brown 56%
Columbia 60.0%
Cornell 52.7%
Dartmouth 53%
Harvard 80%
Princeton 68%
Penn 68%
Yale 70%

Georgetown and the like are all in the 45-55% ranges
Stanford, MIT around 75-80%

I would suggest any school with sub 5% acceptance and 75%+ yield (H,Y, M, S) stand alone top top tier.

Top tier sub 8%-9% acceptance rates 55%ish plus yield U Chicago, Columbia, Brown, Duke, and Penn with arguably Cornell, Vandy, Dartmouth right there but slightly below on both matrices.

Sure I have missed a few and in no way scientific or exact. A ton of great schools remain in the super elite category.

If you’re talking Computer Science, the Big 4 is Cal-Berkeley, Carnegie-Mellon, MIT and Stanford in no particular order. Then you have a group of about 12-15 that you could consider second tier: UDub, UIUC, GaTech, Harvard, Princeton, Cornell, UCLA, Maryland, Wisconsin, Purdue, Columbia, Michigan, UT, UPenn. Then a bunch of third tier, many of whom could easily be considered in the second tier, such as Northeastern, USC, UCSD, Northwestern, UMass-Amherst, etc.

@Nocreativity1 : Not certain, but Dartmouth’s most recent yield is closer to 60%–if I recall correctly.

Appologies Publisher not intended. Never in doubt as to Dartmouth’s top status is irrefutable. Limited data source as noted was IVYWISE and a year dated. In all candor all of these schools have jacked up yield by taking close to 50% of class ED.

Once again not meant to diminish Dartmouth or any other school in the least, and only intended as generalities.

Thank you, but I was not offended. This was discussed in a recent thread last week. :slight_smile:

Re #14, if the criteria were shifted to those undergraduate colleges that
produce the most graduates who go on to highly-regarded law schools, then these colleges would be most represented on a proportional basis:

Claremont McKenna*

*Graduates similarly represented in highly-regarded MBA programs.

(College Transitions.)

I’ve seen several of these threads and, while there seems to be a consensus that there are probably rough tiers, there is not agreement on which schools fall in which tiers.

Consequently there exists a consensus that there is no consensus.

Where’s the prestigiosity thread when we need it?

@Publisher Would the University of Florida make it into the tier 3 list? Because some people consider it very prestigious however I have heard some people saying it’s not that great of a university.

Did someone say “tiers”? :))

Here are mine – this is really a silly exercise, as these are all great schools (and the US boasts many more…) and you should choose your app list based on affordability and fit variables related to (namely) academics, social vibe, and location/size/environment.

Mine are based mainly on the perceived quality of undergrad academics/academic rep. I also use things like selectivity (stats and admit rate…), support/endowment, undergrad focus, and prestige to break ties… or else the tiers would each comprise about 25 schools.

Private Universities

  1. Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Stanford, Yale
  2. Caltech, Chicago, Columbia, Penn
  3. Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth, Duke, Johns Hopkins, Northwestern
  4. Emory, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Rice, Vanderbilt, Washington U in St. Louis
  5. Carnegie Mellon, NYU, Southern Cal, Tufts
  6. Boston College, Boston U, Brandeis, Case Western, Lehigh, U of Rochester, Tulane, Wake Forest…

Public Universities

  1. Berkeley, UCLA, Michigan, UVA
  2. UCSD, Georgia Tech, Illinois, North Carolina, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin
  3. UCD, UCI, UCSB, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue
  4. Alabama, Cal Poly, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, UMass, Michigan State, NC State, Ole Miss, Rutgers, aTm, VA Tech…

Honestly, unless your state flagship(s) doesn’t offer what you want to study, or if you need to apply OOS for big auto merit scholarships, the majority of flagships are more than adequate to serve their states’ students’ needs. So perhaps nowhere is the frivolity of tiers more evident than when sorting the state flags into tiers… but you asked.

@tippy46: US News Best Colleges 2019 edition ranked The Top 30 Public National Universities:

  1. UCal-Berkeley

  2. UCLA

  3. Virginia

  4. Michigan

  5. UC-Santa Barbara

  6. UNC-Chapel Hill

  7. UC-Irvine

  8. Georgia Tech

  9. Univ. of Florida

  10. Coll. of Wm. & Mary

  11. UC-Davis

  12. UC-San Diego

  13. Univ. of Georgia

  14. Illinois

  15. Wisconsin

  16. Ohio State

  17. Purdue

  18. Rutgers-NB

  19. Penn State

  20. Univ. of Washington

  21. UConn

  22. Maryland

  23. Clemson

  24. Texas A&M

  25. Florida State Univ.

  26. UC-Santa Cruz

  27. UMass-Amherst

  28. Univ. of Pittsburgh

  29. Minnesota

  30. Virginia Tech

US News places the University of Florida in a tie with Georgia Tech & ahead of several very prestigious schools such as UC-San Diego, Penn State, Univ. of Washington, Wm. & Mary, Wisconsin, etc.

With respect to the largely subjective & illusive concept of prestige, those in the know rank Florida highly.

I simply do not know enough about the Univ. of Florida in order to comment. Tough to get into. I suspect that the Univ. of Florida’s soaring popularity has placed UF in a position where it needs to add professors & facilities.

Some of the smartest people whom I know who are living in the Southeast US target UF as the top choice for their kids & none are Florida residents.

P.S. If you plan to live & work in Florida after college, then it would be hard to beat UF for alumni & career connections.

@tippy46: With respect to the Univ. of Florida and the concept of “prestige”, it depends upon the situation. For employment purposes, I am not sure how West Coast (California, Washington state) employers would react to a UF degree in a not in high demand major. Same for New York City & Boston firms.

If seeking a position outside of the Southern US immediately after graduation, my best guess is that it would be wise to research UF alumni at the targeted company in order to establish a connection who might be able one to get an interview.

But @Gator88NE or other UF grads would know much more on this topic than I do.

I disagree that you can rank tiers simply by “demand for the product.” This is just a fancy word for a popularity contest, and not valid for many people.

Just because you use numbers and words with multiple syllables does not make a better ranking. “There are lies, dam* lies, and statistics.”

Where for example, are many of the women’s colleges? One or two are there. Does Barnard or Wellesley offer a better education than, say, Smith or Bryn Mawr? It’s just silly to believe that. Especially when you consider that Haverford is on the list but Bryn Mawr isn’t – they’re almost the same school, sharing facilities, majors, etc. The only difference is that BMC is all women and Haverford isn’t.

Many schools that offer educations that are not mainstream will not be on the list because serving a niche interest area removes much of the “demand” for the school.

@tippy46: If you are a Florida resident & can get admitted into the school or major that most interests you, then the Univ. of Florida is worth fighting for as the cost of attendance is incredibly low. Graduating debt free with an undergraduate degree from a major state university is a blessing that enables one to pursue almost any avenue including graduate school.

@Dustyfeathers: Although this is not my thread, I would like to respond to your comment. I agree. With respect to prestige, Wellesley College, Barnard College, Mount Holyoke, Smith College & Bryn Mawr all have a bit of an Ivy League quality identity.