Princeton, Williams top 2018 U.S. News best colleges rankings

After a slight decrease in enrollment between 2010 and 2015, the number of undergraduates in college is expected to soar.

It’s projected to increase by 14 percent between 2015 and 2026, leading to approximately 19.3 million undergraduates in the U.S., according to the National Center for Education Statistics. This increase could reflect an upcoming uptick in applicants, making for a more competitive admissions cycle at some colleges. Prospective students should not, however, expect fewer options for finding the right school.

They have many institutions to choose from that vary by majors offered, size, location and other factors. The 2018 U.S. News Best Colleges rankings, released today, can help applicants and their families search for the right fit.

[Video: Create a college short list.]

In the 2018 edition, there are data on more than 1,800 colleges and universities, including almost 1,400 ranked institutions.

Schools report most of the data to U.S. News via an extensive survey. They are divided into categories such as National Universities, which offer a range of bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees and emphasize research, and National Liberal Arts Colleges, which focus on undergraduate education and award at least half of their degrees in liberal arts fields.

Schools are evaluated on up to 15 indicators of excellence, such as class size, standardized test scores of incoming students and average graduation rate. As part of the methodology, U.S. News also looks at schools’ predicted six-year graduation rate. This year, for National Universities only, that analysis included the proportion of science, technology, engineering and math degrees out of the total degrees granted, to account for the greater difficulty STEM-focused schools typically have in achieving high graduation rates.

Also new this year: To provide a better sense of how college students fare after graduation, U.S. News has published postgraduate salary data that PayScale collected and provided; these data, however, were not used in the rankings.

Princeton University in New Jersey again topped the list for National Universities. Harvard University in Massachusetts remained at No. 2 while the University of Chicago and Yale University in Connecticut again tied for No. 3.

Three schools are tied for No. 5: Columbia University in New York, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and California’s Stanford University. And the California Institute of Technology is now No. 10, up from a tie at No. 12.

There were several other noteworthy shifts farther down the National Universities rankings. The University of Oklahoma went from a tie at No. 111 to a tie with five other schools for No. 97. Other schools saw a sharp drop in their ranks. Yeshiva University in New York, for example, is in a three-way tie for No. 94 but was previously tied at No. 66.

[See photos of the 2018 Best National Universities.]

There were also a few rankings changes for National Liberal Arts Colleges. While Massachusetts’ Williams College and Amherst College remain at No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, Bowdoin College in Maine cracked the top five. It is tied for No. 3 with Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts’ Wellesley College.

Harvey Mudd College in California, previously tied for No. 21, is now tied with five other schools for No. 12. Farther down in the rankings, Austin College in Texas leaped from a tie at No. 105 to a tie with two other schools for No. 93. Moving in the other direction, Beloit College in Wisconsin dropped from a tie at No. 62 to a tie with five other schools for No. 76.

The No. 1 Regional Universities remained the same for 2018. These schools offer a range of bachelor’s degrees, some master’s programs and a limited number of doctoral degree programs. Providence College in Rhode Island is No. 1 in the North while Elon University, in North Carolina, is No. 1 in the South. In the Midwest, Creighton University in Nebraska remains at the top and Trinity University in Texas is first in the West.

Regional Colleges, which focus on undergraduate education and award fewer than half of their degrees in liberal arts fields, had a similar pattern with their rankings. All of the top schools in 2017 held onto their No. 1 spots in the new rankings: Cooper Union in New York for the North, North Carolina’s High Point University in the South, Michigan’s Calvin College in the Midwest and Carroll College in Montana for the West.

These categories aren’t the only school rankings and lists that U.S. News offers. Prospective students and families can also see the rankings of the Best Value Schools, for example, which weigh a school’s academic quality with the net cost of attendance for a student who received the average level of need-based financial aid. Harvard fell to No. 2 among National Universities in the value rankings, making Princeton No. 1.

[Learn 10 ways to get a tuition discount.]

Among A-plus Schools for B Students — top schools that often accept students who don’t have stellar standardized test scores or grades — Skidmore College in New York is once again the highest-ranked liberal arts college on the list, while Pennsylvania State University–University Park is now the top-ranked National University.

College applicants can visit U.S. News to read school profiles, search for institutions by state and use tools to compare institutions with each other. There’s also a wealth of information on paying for college and expert advice on the admissions process.

Looking for full rankings information? Access the U.S. News College Compass to find all published data points, including student debt and employment statistics.

More from U.S. News

See the Full 2018 U.S. News Best Colleges Rankings

View Photos of the Top 20 National Liberal Arts Colleges

Learn How U.S. News Calculated the 2018 Best Colleges Rankings

Princeton, Williams Top 2018 U.S. News Best Colleges Rankings originally appeared on

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