U.S. News Best Colleges Rankings 1983-2014


Harvard University, this year’s top ranked college

“Why does U.S. News rank colleges and universities?” U.S. News asks on its website. “It’s a controversial question with a simple answer: We do it to help you make one of the most important decisions of your life,” with a recommendation that you “Don’t rely solely on rankings to choose a college.” By U.S. News’s logic, their ranking, however problematic in methodology, sifts an overwhelming amount of information down into a usable list from which students can begin their college search. Oh—and that annual list brings in a lot of money. Within 3 days of the rankings being released in 2007, the rankings received 10 million page views, compared to around 500,000 in a regular month [1]. Why we care so much about these numbers, I can’t say, but they do matter. Studies have shown that a college’s current rank influences the number of applicants it receives in the coming admissions cycle, and thus the caliber of its class [2].

Below you’ll find the 2014 ranking with others included for comparison. Remember that this one ranking isn’t everything. That’s why we included three well-cited rankings, the selectivity of the most recent entering class (2017), and other important numbers side-by-side for your judging pleasure. The U.S. News ranking is based primarily on national reputation, wealth and selectivity; the Forbes ranking on value, quality, and student outcomes; and the QS World University ranking on research output and international reputation. Included for historical comparison are an early ranking of U.S. colleges by Cattell in 1910, the first U.S. News rankings from 1983, and those from 2006.

Per commenter request, I have added three rankings: the Times Higher Education World University Rankings; the Shanghai Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU); and the Parchment Rankings, a ranking of which colleges admitted students most prefer to attend.

Nobel Prizes per institution has been corrected thanks to one reader’s research. The correct number places the University of Chicago first with 87 Laureates and Columbia second with 86.


National University Rankings 2014

1. Princeton University

 

U.S. News 2013: 1
U.S. News 2012: 1
U.S. News 2006: 1
U.S. News 1983: 4
Cattell 1910: 17
Forbes 2012: 1
Parchment 2013: 5
QS World 2012: 9
Times 2012: 5
ARWU 2012: 7
2013 acceptance rate: 7.3%
2012 acceptance rate: 7.9%
Undergraduate enrollment: 5,249
2011 Endowment: $17.110 billion
Founded: 1746
Nobel Prizes: 35
 


2. Harvard University

 
 

U.S. News 2013: 1
U.S. News 2012: 1
U.S. News 2006: 1
U.S. News 1983: 2
Cattell 1910: 1
Forbes 2012: 6
Parchment 2013: 1
QS World 2012: 3
Times 2012: 2
ARWU 2012: 1
2013 acceptance rate: 5.8%
2012 acceptance rate: 5.9%
Undergraduate enrollment: 6,657
2011 Endowment: $31.728 billion
Founded: 1636
Nobel Prizes: 46
 


3. Yale University

 

U.S. News 2013: 3
U.S. News 2012: 3
U.S. News 2006: 3
U.S. News 1983: 3
Cattell 1910: 4
Forbes 2012: 5
Parchment 2013: 3
QS World 2012: 7
Times 2012: 11
ARWU 2012: 11
2013 acceptance rate: 6.7%
2012 acceptance rate: 6.8%
Undergraduate enrollment: 5,349
2011 Endowment: $19.374 billion
Founded: 1701
Nobel Prizes: 49
 


4. Columbia University

 

U.S. News 2013: 4
U.S. News 2012: 4
U.S. News 2006: 9
U.S. News 1983: 15
Cattell 1910: 3
Forbes 2012: 8
Parchment 2013: 21
QS World 2012: 11
Times 2012: 12
ARWU 2012: 8
2013 acceptance rate: 6.9%
2012 acceptance rate: 7.4%
Undergraduate enrollment: 6,027
2011 Endowment: $7.790 billion
Founded: 1754
Nobel Prizes: 86
 


5. Stanford University

 

U.S. News 2013: 6
U.S. News 2012: 5
U.S. News 2006: 5
U.S. News 1983: 1
Cattell 1910: 12
Forbes 2012: 3
Parchment 2013: 2
QS World 2012: 15
Times 2012: 2
ARWU 2012: 2
2013 acceptance rate: 5.7%
2012 acceptance rate: 6.6%
Undergraduate enrollment: 6,988
2011 Endowment: $16.503 billion
Founded: 1891
Nobel Prizes: 55
 


5. The University of Chicago

 

U.S. News 2013: 4
U.S. News 2012: 5
U.S. News 2006: 15
U.S. News 1983: 6
Cattell 1910: 2
Forbes 2012: 4
Parchment 2013: 6
QS World 2012: 8
Times 2012: 9
ARWU 2012: 9
2013 acceptance rate: 8.8%
2012 acceptance rate: 13.2%
Undergraduate enrollment: 5,388
2011 Endowment: $6.575 billion
Founded: 1891
Nobel Prizes: 87
 


7. Duke University

 

U.S. News 2013: 8
U.S. News 2012: 10
U.S. News 2006: 5
U.S. News 1983: not ranked
Cattell 1910: not ranked
Forbes 2012: 24
Parchment 2013: 12
QS World 2012: 20
Times 2012: 22
ARWU 2012: 36
2013 acceptance rate: 11.6%
2012 acceptance rate: 11.9%
Undergraduate enrollment: 6,680
2011 Endowment: $5.747 billion
Founded: 1838
Nobel Prizes: 12
 


7. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

 

U.S. News 2013: 6
U.S. News 2012: 5
U.S. News 2006: 7
U.S. News 1983: 10
Cattell 1910: 10
Forbes 2012: 11
Parchment 2013: 4
QS World 2012: 1
Times 2012: 7
ARWU 2012: 3
2013 acceptance rate: 8.2%
2012 acceptance rate: 8.9%
Undergraduate enrollment: 4,384
2011 Endowment: $9.713 billion
Founded: 1865
Nobel Prizes: 78
 


7. The University of Pennsylvania

 

U.S. News 2013: 8
U.S. News 2012: 5
U.S. News 2006: 4
U.S. News 1983: not ranked
Cattell 1910: 17
Forbes 2012: 17
Parchment 2013: 17
QS World 2012: 12
Times 2012: 16
ARWU 2012: 14
2013 acceptance rate: 12.1%
2012 acceptance rate: 12.3%
Undergraduate enrollment: 9,779
2011 Endowment: $6.582 billion
Founded: 1740
Nobel Prizes: 28
 


10. The California Institute of Technology

 

U.S. News 2013: 10
U.S. News 2012: 5
U.S. News 2006: 7
U.S. News 1983: not ranked
Cattell 1910: not ranked
Forbes 2012: 18
Parchment 2013: 8
QS World 2012: 10
Times 2012: 1
ARWU 2012: 6
2013 acceptance rate: 10.6%
2012 acceptance rate: 13.0%
Undergraduate enrollment: 978
2011 Endowment: $1.772 billion
Founded: 1891
Nobel Prizes: 32
 


10. Dartmouth College

 

U.S. News 2013: 10
U.S. News 2012: 11
U.S. News 2006: 9
U.S. News 1983: 10
Cattell 1910: 36
Forbes 2012: 34
Parchment 2013: 25
QS World 2012: 113
Times 2012: 90
ARWU 2012: 151-200
2013 acceptance rate: 10%
2012 acceptance rate: 9.4%
Undergraduate enrollment: 4,194
2011 Endowment: $3.413 billion
Founded: 1769
Nobel Prizes: 3
 


12. The Johns Hopkins University

 

U.S. News 2013: 13
U.S. News 2012: 13
U.S. News 2006: 13
U.S. News 1983: not ranked
Cattell 1910: 6
Forbes 2012: 67
Parchment 2013: 38
QS World 2012: 16
Times 2012: 14
ARWU 2012: 17
2013 acceptance rate: 16.8%
2012 acceptance rate: 17.7%
Undergraduate enrollment: 5,980
2011 Endowment: $2.598 billion
Founded: 1876
Nobel Prizes: 36
 


12. Northwestern University

 

U.S. News 2013: 12
U.S. News 2012: 12
U.S. News 2006: 12
U.S. News 1983: not ranked
Cattell 1910: 32
Forbes 2012: 22
Parchment 2013: 37
QS World 2012: 27
Times 2012: 26
ARWU 2012: 30
2013 acceptance rate: 13.9%
2012 acceptance rate: 15.3%
Undergraduate enrollment: 8,475
2011 Endowment: $7.183 billion
Founded: 1851
Nobel Prizes: 8
 


14. Brown University

 

U.S. News 2013: 15
U.S. News 2012: 15
U.S. News 2006: 15
U.S. News 1983: 15
Cattell 1910: 29
Forbes 2012: 19
Parchment 2013: 7
QS World 2012: 42
Times 2012: 49
ARWU 2012: 65
2013 acceptance rate: 9.2%
2012 acceptance rate: 9.6%
Undergraduate enrollment: 6,380
2011 Endowment: $2.497 billion
Founded: 1764
Nobel Prizes: 7
 


14. Washington University in St. Louis

 

U.S. News 2013: 14
U.S. News 2012: 14
U.S. News 2006: 11
U.S. News 1983: not ranked
Cattell 1910: 37
Forbes 2012: 71
Parchment 2013: 50
QS World 2012: 84
Times 2012: 41
ARWU 2012: 31
2013 acceptance rate: 15%
2012 acceptance rate: 15.4%
Undergraduate enrollment: 7,239
2011 Endowment: $5.280 billion
Founded: 1853
Nobel Prizes: 22
 


16. Cornell University

 

U.S. News 2013: 15
U.S. News 2012: 15
U.S. News 2006: 13
U.S. News 1983: 8
Cattell 1910: 5
Forbes 2012: 51
Parchment 2013: 22
QS World 2012: 14
Times 2012: 20
ARWU 2012: 13
2013 acceptance rate: 15.2%
2012 acceptance rate: 16.2%
Undergraduate enrollment: 14,167
2011 Endowment: $5.059 billion
Founded: 1865
Nobel Prizes: 41
 


17. Vanderbilt University

 

U.S. News 2013: 19
U.S. News 2012: 17
U.S. News 2006: 18
U.S. News 1983: not ranked
Cattell 1910: not ranked
Forbes 2012: 33
Parchment 2013: 29
QS World 2012: 167
Times 2012: 70
ARWU 2012: 50
2013 acceptance rate: 12%
2012 acceptance rate: 13.3%
Undergraduate enrollment: 6,817
2011 Endowment: $3.415 billion
Founded: 1873
Nobel Prizes: 7
 


18. Rice University

 

U.S. News 2013: 17
U.S. News 2012: 17
U.S. News 2006: 17
U.S. News 1983: 15
Cattell 1910: not ranked
Forbes 2012: 37
Parchment 2013: 30
QS World 2012: 120
Times 2012: 72
ARWU 2012: 91
2013 acceptance rate: 16.6%
2012 acceptance rate: 17%
Undergraduate enrollment: 3,775
2011 Endowment: $4.451 billion
Founded: 1912
Nobel Prizes: 3
 


18. The University of Notre Dame

 

U.S. News 2013: 17
U.S. News 2012: 19
U.S. News 2006: 18
U.S. News 1983: not ranked
Cattell 1910: not ranked
Forbes 2012: 12
Parchment 2013: 27
QS World 2012: 235
Times 2012: 89
ARWU 2012: 201-300
2013 acceptance rate: 22.3%
2012 acceptance rate: 22.7%
Undergraduate enrollment: 8,452
2011 Endowment: $6.260 billion
Founded: 1842
Nobel Prizes: 2
 


20. Emory University

 

U.S. News 2013: 20
U.S. News 2012: 20
U.S. News 2006: 20
U.S. News 1983: not ranked
Cattell 1910: not ranked
Forbes 2012: 46
Parchment 2013: 103
QS World 2012: 122
Times 2012: 75
ARWU 2012: 101-150
2013 acceptance rate: 26%
2012 acceptance rate: 26%
Undergraduate enrollment: 7,441
2011 Endowment: $5.400 billion
Founded: 1836
Nobel Prizes: 2
 

Complete rankings from U.S. News

Archive of U.S. News Best Colleges Rankings 1983-2007


National Liberal Arts College Rankings 2014

1. Williams College

2. Amherst College

3. Swarthmore College

4. Bowdoin College

4. Middlebury College

4. Pomona College

7. Carleton College

7. Wellesley College

9. Claremont McKenna College< 9. Davidson College

Complete rankings from U.S. News


U.S. News Rankings Methodology

Undergraduate academic reputation (22.5%) – Peer assessment survey completed by college students, high school counselor survey

Faculty resources (20%) – Student/faculty ratio, average class size, faculty compensation, % of faculty with a terminal degree in their field, % of faculty that is full time

Graduation and retention rates (20%) – Average graduation rate, average freshman retention rate

Student selectivity (15%) – Acceptance rate, average ACT and SAT scores, high school class standing in top 10% and 25%

Financial resources (10%) – Expenditures per student

Graduation rate performance (7.5%) – The difference between the actual six-year graduation rate for students and the predicted graduation rate

Alumni giving (5%) – Average alumni giving rate


Rankings Attribution

Best Colleges Rankings 2014, U.S. News & World Report

America’s Top Colleges 2012, Forbes

Parchment Top Choice College Rankings 2013

QS World University Rankings 2012

Times Higher Education Rankings 2011-2012

Shanghai Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) 2012

Cattell Rankings 1910

Wikipedia: Nobel Prizes and Endowment

[1] “Putting a Curious Eye on a High School Ranking System,” The New York Times

[2] “The Impact of U.S. News & World ReportCollege Rankings on Admissions
Outcomes and Pricing Policies at Selective Private Institutions,” James Monks and Ronald G. Ehrenberg

Cover image via WordPress


  • David

    The standard for claim  Nobel prize winners is totally different from school to school. Remember only three schools produced more than 30 winners from its own graduates, these schools are Harvard 40-50, Columbia 38,  and Chicago 30. .MIT produced 29,  while Stanford produced 7……..

  • http://www.hrms.com/ Chris_B

    This is a wonderful effort and provides a decent framework. But since ranking is primarily national and international prestige based, I would like you guys to also include Shanghai(ARWU) and Times Higher Education ranking as well, QS is no better than the other two. Another one that is really helpful is the parchment ranking, in my opinion, that is most helpful, becasue it shows what students have actually chosen when given a choice. With all of these data in one site, I think your site will be a really helpful place for prospective college students.

    • Jon Catlin

      Thanks, Chris_B. We have upgraded our article to include more rankings.

      • http://www.hrms.com/ Chris_B

        Jon Catlin Chris_B Wonderful. The Cattell ranking is very interesting. Could you review it a bit closely? I thought I saw Stanford ranked at 12, UPenn at 15 and Princeton at 17.

        • Jon Catlin

          Chris_B Jon Catlin Thanks again for your comment. As you noted, the typed 1910 rankings did not match the original list from the document. I have updated the page based on the orignal document.

    • imperialmight

      The shanghai ranking is completely bogus. It doesn’t take the size of an institution into account when evaluating how much research it produces. As a result of this, mediocre schools like the University of Colorado are ranked above prestigious universities like Dartmouth, Duke and Brown.

      • MarkC

        Why is research per capita? If you’re looking at ranking by where your kid should go, arguably it is. That is a consumerist (albeit widely accepted) view of colleges, but actually the net contribution to the world in terms of research is also a metric in which people might be interested.

        • Bob Siano

          Even if that were true, who cares about quantity of research? Its quality that is so much more important, which Shanghai (and many other international rankings) fail to evaluate.

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