The 2017 U.S. News Best Colleges Edition

The 2017 edition of the U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges Rankings was released earlier this month to the usual media fanfare. Much attention is accorded this annual publication because, as we noted in a recent post, the U.S. News rankings are the most renowned and commonly used even though there are several other college rankings that are produced by equally respected sources, including Money, Kiplinger’s, Forbes, Princeton Review, and Washington Monthly.

College rankings can be quite useful to high school students and their families as they begin to research elite colleges and universities. US News is a quick, easy-to-use reference that includes extensive information about the top schools in the country. It also includes links to relevant websites and reference sources.

US News makes available to users the large relational database that it assembles annually for the college edition. This is valuable for the ease with which you can search and filter by key data elements to isolate a set of those schools that satisfies criteria of your choosing. Some search and filter criteria you may use free-of-charge, include School Name, Location, Distance (from city or zip code), Rankings By Type (e.g., National Universities, Regional Colleges North, etc.), Additional Rankings (e.g., Most Innovative, Best Value, etc.), Tuition and Fees, Enrollment, Acceptance Rate, and Majors.

In addition to the free fields, US News offers an upgrade option called U.S. News College Compass, which licenses for $29.95 per year. This service allows you to search and filter schools using these additional characteristics; High School GPA, Test Scores, Ethnicity/Diversity, Activities/Sports, Gender Distribution, Public/Private, and Campus Setting.

Using US News with or without Compass as a high school student, allows you to easily create a preliminary list of those schools that, early in the process, seem to be the most appropriate for you to target. You can then use this list as a guide in making choices that will improve your chances of acceptance. However useful this tool may be to you initially, the creation of a final target list of schools, by late junior/early senior year, is a complex process that can’t be accomplished by filtering fields in a database.

US News itself includes a statement to this effect in the Best Colleges edition:

The host of intangibles that makes up the college experience can’t be measured by a series of data points. But for families concerned with finding the best academic experience for their children, the U.S. News Best Colleges rankings provide an excellent starting point for the search.”

At the start of your IvySelect engagement, your college admissions consultant will help you develop a thorough understanding of your educational and career goals, academic record, accomplishments, strengths and weaknesses, interests, talents, and preferences. With this information, we work with you to develop a comprehensive admissions plan that is uniquely yours.

Among the first steps in your plan is to collaborate with us in building a list of 12 or 13 schools that, in combination, best serve your educational goals. Based on our knowledge of elite institutions, we guide you in identifying those colleges and universities that suit your preferences, talents, and academic record. These will represent a range of acceptance probabilities from “safety” to “reach”. We reduce the stress most students experience during this process. You’ll be confident that your targeted colleges are great matches for you no matter where they’re ranked.

The table below compares the US News rankings for the top 10 schools in 2016 and 2017 for National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges. As you can see, the top 10 schools have been stable in both categories. US News also ranks schools in other categories including Public National Universities, National Public Liberal Arts Colleges, Graduate Schools, and Global Universities.

National Universities                                                       National Liberal Arts Colleges

    2017     2016     2017    2016
1 Princeton Princeton 1 Williams Williams
2 Harvard Harvard 2 Amherst Amherst
3 Chicago (tie) Chicago (tie) 3 Wellesley Wellesley
3 Yale (tie) Yale (tie) 4 Middlebury Middlebury
5 Columbia (tie) Columbia (tie) 5 Swarthmore Swarthmore
5 Stanford (tie) Stanford 6 Bowdoin Bowdoin
7 MIT MIT 7 Carleton (tie) Carleton (tie)
8 Duke (tie) Duke (tie) 7 Pomona (tie) Pomona (tie)
8 Penn (tie) Penn (tie) 9 Claremont McKenna Claremont McKenna
10 Johns Hopkins John Hopkins 10 Davidson Davidson

Understand that all ranking methodologies have limitations. You should use college rankings as guides, not as holy writ. Your IvySelect college consultant will help you develop your college list based on a nuanced understanding of the schools that best fit your needs, interests and career aspirations.

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