College rankings can be a useful tool to help determine how schools stack up against one another, and which ones might be the best fit. There are a multitude of rankings released every year that offer insight into the most expensive colleges and universities, the best campus food, the most beautiful campuses, the most politically active students and the most accessible professors. And because rankings can be based on different factors, a college could be number 15 under one ranking system and number 150 under another. The Washington Post takes a critical look at rankings in this article," Number of lists ranking colleges proliferate - and some don't make sense."
See below for a list of some of the most popular annual college rankings.
- U.S. News & World Report
Often considered the holy grail of college rankings, U.S. News & World Report's College and University rankings have been compiled since 1983. To be included in the rankings, a college or university must be regionally accredited and have a total enrollment of at least 200 students. Find out more about the magazine's methodology.
- The Princeton Review
The Princeton Review says it surveyed more than 122,000 students at 376 schools to produce its 62 ranking lists. Each of the 62 ranking lists reports the top 20 schools - of the total 376 - in a specific category. As part of the ranking, The Princeton Review surveys thousands of students on hundreds of campuses. The survey has more than 80 questions in four main sections: "About Yourself," "Your School's Academics/Administration," "Students" and "Life at Your School."
- The Newsweek/Daily Beast
25 different lists (including Best Food, Best Weather and Greenest), analyzing the 25 best schools in each of those niches. "To come up with our rankings," Newsweek said. "We looked at what American kids really care about these days, and also pulled from sources including the National Center for Education Statistics, the College Board, the Shanghai Ranking Consultancy, the Sustainable Endowment Institute, and, in one case, even Playboy."
Prepared for Forbes by the Washington, D.C., think tank Center for College Affordability and Productivity, the rankings are based on five general categories: post graduate success, which evaluates alumni pay and prominence; student satisfaction, which includes professor evaluations and freshman to sophomore year retention rates; debt, which penalizes schools for high student debt loads and default rates; four-year graduation rate; and competitive awards, which rewards schools whose students win prestigious scholarships and fellowships including the Rhodes, the Marshall and the Fulbright.
- QS World University Rankings
Produced by Quacquarelli Symonds and published annually since 2004, the QS World University Rankings considers more than 2,000 universities and evaluates more than 700 universities in the world, ranking the top 400. Six indicators comprise the ranking: academic reputation, employer reputation, citations per faculty, faculty-student ratio, proportion of international students and proportion of international faculty.
- Academic Ranking of World Universities
Published since 2003 by the Center for World-Class Universities and the Institute of Higher Education of Shanghai Jiao Tong University, ARWU uses six objective indicators to rank world universities, including the number of alumni and staff winning Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals, number of highly cited researchers selected by Thomson Scientific, number of articles published in journals of Nature and Science, and per capita performance with respect to the size of an institution. More than 1,000 universities are ranked by ARWU every year, and the best 500 are published online.
- Times Higher Education World University Rankings
Developed with Thomson Reuters, Times Higher Education's World University Rankings list the top 400 world universities as well as top universities by region (Europe, North America, Africa, etc.) and top universities by subject (engineering, arts and humanities, life sciences). Five headline categories determine the rankings: teaching, research, citations, industry income and international outlook. "We believe we have created the gold standard in international university performance comparisons," Times Higher Education said.
- Leiden Rankings
The Leiden Ranking measures the scientific performance of 500 major universities worldwide. Indicators include the average number of citations of the publications of a university; the proportion of the publications of a university that, compared with other similar publications, belong to the top 10 percent most frequently cited; the proportion of the publications of a university that have been co-authored with one or more other organizations; the proportion of the publications of a university that have been co-authored by two or more countries, among others.
- The Guardian
This listing from the UK newspaper The Guardian ranks UK universities according to teaching excellence. The tables, compiled by independent consultancy firm Intelligent Metrix, are based on data for full-time undergraduates at UK universities.