IMPORTANT NOTES

As a reminder, here are the criteria and weights I used:

% of class sections with fewer than 30 students

Total number of class sections

First-year retention rate

Student diversity

Faculty diversity

% of full-time faculty with highest degree in their field

Do students think their professors teach well?

Are students happy with other important factors?

20%

20%

10%

10%

10%

10%

10%

10%

1) The numbers to the right of each college’s name are the total score each received on my scale. Pay close attention to how small the differences in scores are between #1 and #100 on my combined list of liberal arts colleges and national universities compared to the differences between #1 and #50 on USNWR’s two separate lists–around 12 points versus 27 and 30. Twelve points more accurately reflects the distances between colleges, which is critical to understand. There’s not nearly as much distance as many people think between the most selective colleges and others that many consider to be those colleges’ ‘safety schools’. This is true all the way down the ladder of selectivity to colleges that accept everyone who applies.

Fully understanding how small the differences are between different levels of selectivity makes it a lot easier to be disappointed but not devastated if not admitted to one’s first choice of school. [Note: For much more on how small the differences are, see Part 2 under the Presentation tab.]

2) Notice how different the outcome is if different criteria and weightings are used. I didn’t know what to expect when I began to gather data, and was very interested in how things came together. It’s kind of disorienting after so many years of looking at a list based on different criteria, and it emphasizes how important it is to use data relevant to your own preferences in order to avoid making decisions based on assumptions made by someone else regarding what matters in choosing a college.

Creating your own list allows you to share with others–who may have preconceptions about what the best colleges are–that the schools you’re applying to that they might think aren’t so great actually fit very nicely with your preferences based on the personal ranking you created. And there’s no need to share your formula with them if you don’t want to feel like you have to justify every decision you made. This approach is much less stressful than partaking in a process in which everyone assumes certain outcomes are universally more desirable than others.

3) I found data for only 94 of the colleges that have median SAT scores of roughly 1350 or higher. I thought it would be nice to round this out to 100, so I looked at the data for some schools I have connections to where students don’t test as highly. I’ve included the six that scored the highest, with an asterisk next to their names. I was very surprised to see one of them land in my top 25!

4) In case you like the idea of creating your own list, I’m offering suggestions for sources of data and criteria you might consider on page 7 of this section of the website. I’ll keep adding more as I get time.

5) This list is absolutely not intended to compete with USNWR’s list. It’s based on my personal preferences and is intended only to illustrate the importance of each individual creating a list that is relevant to their own wants and needs.

You think it’s unwise to depend on the opinions of college students? Awesome! Make your own list.

You actually like bigger classes because you enjoy feeling anonymous and being able to skip class without the professor knowing or caring? Great! Make your own list.

You agree that diversity is important, but wouldn’t make it 20% of your decision? Fantastic! Make your own list.

You want to factor in net cost, or percentage of financial need met? Or maybe some subjective criteria like location or beauty of the campus? Weather? Vegetarian/kosher/halal food options? Whatever else is important to you? Spectacular! Make your own list.

Only you know what’s important to you in choosing a place to spend 4-5 years furthering your education, so only you should select the criteria upon which that decision is made.

Make your own list!

Here’s mine…..

1) Pomona

2) Northwestern

3) Scripps

4) Wellesley

5) U Pennsylvania

6) Williams

7) Occidental

8) Carleton

8) Mt. Holyoke

10) Bryn Mawr

10) Vassar

12) Claremont McKenna

13) Vanderbilt

14) Macalester

15) Colorado College

15) Emory

17) Smith

17) Yale

19) New York U

19) Northeastern

19) U Richmond

22) Haverford

23) American U*

23) Barnard

23) Brown

23) Trinity U

27) Tufts

28) U Southern California

29) Swarthmore

30) Duke

31) Rice

31) UC Santa Barbara

33) Boston U

33) Reed

35) Pepperdine*

35) Pitzer

37) Harvey Mudd

37) Wesleyan

39) Amherst

39) Princeton

39) U Miami

42) UC Berkeley

43) Cornell

43) Santa Clara U

43) Skidmore*

46) U Illinois

47) U Michigan

48) Stanford

49) Kenyon

50) UC Los Angeles

51) U Florida

51) U Texas-Austin

53) Bates

54) George Washington

54) UNC-Chapel Hill

56) Colgate

57) Dartmouth

58) Bowdoin

59) Middlebury

60) Carnegie Mellon

60) Hamilton

60) MIT

63) Fordham

64) Wake Forest

65) Dickinson*

65) Franklin W. Olin

67) Brandeis

68) CalTech

68) Oberlin

70) Davidson

71) U Maryland-College Park

72) Gettysburg*

73) SUNY Binghamton

73) UC San Diego

75) Holy Cross*

76) Harvard

76) U Virginia

78) U Georgia

78) U Pittsburgh

80) Rose-Hulman

80) Tulane

82) U Washington

83) Case Western

83) Ohio State

85) U Wisconsin

86) Rensselear

86) U Minnesota

88) Lafayette

88) Villanova

90) Washington U in St. Louis

91) Notre Dame

92) Bucknell

93) William and Mary

94) Southern Methodist U

95) US Air Force Academy

95) Worcester Polytech

97) Lehigh

98) Georgia Tech

99) Georgetown

100) U Texas–Dallas

90.9

90.8

90.5

90.1

89.7

89.6

89.4

89.2

89.2

89.0

89.0

88.9

88.6

88.5

88.4

88.4

88.3

88.3

88.2

88.2

88.2

88.1

88.0

88.0

88.0

88.0

87.9

87.8

87.7

87.6

87.4

87.4

87.3

87.3

87.1

87.1

87.0

87.0

86.8

86.8

86.8

86.5

86.4

86.4

86.4

86.3

86.1

86.0

85.9

85.8

85.7

85.7

85.6

85.5

85.5

85.4

85.3

85.2

85.1

84.9

84.9

84.9

84.8

84.7

84.6

84.6

84.5

84.4

84.4

84.2

83.9

83.8

83.7

83.7

83.6

83.5

83.5

83.3

83.3

83.1

83.1

82.9

82.8

82.8

82.5

82.4

82.4

82.2

82.2

82.1

81.8

81.7

81.6

81.3

80.7

80.7

80.6

80.1

79.8

78.5