US College Rankings 2021-2022

College rankings are one way of assessing which college degrees you might wish to apply for, by looking at what are seen as the "best" colleges out there.

Every year several organisations, including U.S News, The Princeton Review, Forbes, and The Economist, publish rankings based on what they think make colleges the best in the country.

Therefore, please bear in mind that each rankings list is calculated by measuring a particular set of criteria, and that as a prospective college student you should apply for programs you feel are the best fit for you, rather than just applying to the top schools in a list.

This also means it’s best to read up on how each rankings is compiled, so you can decide how much it’s really worth taking into account when deciding which colleges to apply to.

We provide a brief guide to each college rankings source below.

U.S News

U.S News lists the 10 best universities for 2021 as follows:

1. Princeton University
2. Harvard University
3. Columbia University
4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
5. Yale University
6. Stanford University
7. University of Chicago
8. University of Pennsylvania
9. California Institute of Technology
10. John Hopkins University

These rankings are calculated using a formula proposed by education experts, and their own views of what factors are important in education. Find out more about the U.S News National Universities Methodology, and the full rankings list for 2021.

U.S News also produce rankings for the best National Liberal Arts Colleges, the best Regional Universities, and Regional Colleges Rankings.


Starting in 2008, Forbes have published their own annual college rankings list based on student satisfaction, postgraduate salaries, student debt loads, graduation rate, and academic awards.

The rankings by Forbes for 2019 currently list the following as America’s top 10 colleges:

  1. Harvard University
  2. Stanford University
  3. Yale University
  4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  5. Princeton University
  6. University of Pennsylvania
  7. Brown University
  8. California Institute of Technology
  9. Duke University
  10. Dartmouth College

Find out more about the methodologies used at Forbes for calculating this list at Ranking America’s Top Colleges 2019. You can also read the full rankings list at Forbes America’s Top Colleges.

The Princeton Review

The Princeton Review have published their own rankings since 1992. These are based purely on feedback and other information provided by 136,000 students in a satisfaction survey. This has the benefit of giving potential applicants an honest reflection of how good it actually is to study at a particular college.

Further details on how their rankings are put together can be found in The Princeton Review’s College Ranking Methodology, and in their Surveying Students: How It Works.

In 2019, Reed College achieved the highest marks overall from students, while Bentley University secured top spot for Best Careers Service, and Vanderbilt University for Great Financial Aid.

Colleges are ranked in 62 different categories in total, including Best College Library, Best Athletic Facilities, and Best Campus Food. So if there are particular factors that are important to you, then these can help guide your decisions.

Discover more about The Princeton Review’s best 380 colleges online, or buy the printed version in paperback for $23.99.

The Economist

In 2015, The Economist produced their first ever college rankings based solely on the economic value of each university. This is defined as being equal to how much students earn once they graduate, compared to what they might have made had they chosen to study elsewhere.

The Economist currently rank the top colleges in America as follows:

  1. Washington and Lee University
  2. Babson College
  3. Villanova University
  4. Harvard University
  5. Bentley University
  6. Otis College of Art and Design
  7. Lehigh University
  8. Alderson Broaddus University
  9. Texas A & M International University
  10. California State University - Bakersfield

Full details on how The Economist has compiled these rankings can be found in their October 2015 College Rankings Article. It's also worth noting that The Ecoomist has not updated the list for more recent years.

Further information

For more tips and advice on applying to college, please see: