Best Colleges of the US Ranked
This Line Graph represents the best colleges in the US ranked since 1999. Top colleges have the best ranking. Hover over a line to see the schools historical ranking highlighted.
Best Colleges Ranking
This Graph was inspired on news of college rankings in the United States. Since there was no detailed chart that showed the historical rankings to compare Universities throughout the years, this was a great opportunity to graph how they have ranked in the last two decades.
This chart basically depicts What is the best university in the USA? Which are the best 10 colleges? Which university is consistently ranking at the top?
The data set starts in 1983 but in this graph, it starts in 1999. The rankings from 1983 until 2008 do not include all the universities. Only Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, California at Berkley, Chicago, Michigan at Ann Arbor, Cornell, Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, MIT, Dartmouth, Caltec, Carnegie Mellon, And U. of Wisconsin at Madison have the complete ranking from 1983.
The ranking is complete since 2008. Some university rankings go below the number of universities shown. This is because not all universities are included, and at some point these universities outrank the ones in this list.
The rankings of institutions in higher education are ordered on the basis of a combination of various factors. The factors covered in this ranking include success at graduation or outcomes, faculty resources, expert opinion, financial resources, and student excellence. They are also a mix of different degrees. For more information read the Methodology.
10 Best Colleges in the U.S.
Summarized from the historical ranking college data, here is the list of best colleges in the U.S. for 2021.
- Princeton University
- Harvard University
- Columbia University
- Yale University
- Stanford University
- Chicago University
- University of Pennsylvania
- Johns Hopkins
Universities at the Top
So what makes the top colleges stay at the top? Yes, the ranking methods from US NEWS explain the data behind the numbers. But digging deeper into each college to get the reasons to their success was the next step. A quick look at the About page or Mission Statement explains what these universities are doing to maintain their position above others.
Some have new descriptions others old, some are short some are long. These excerpts give a glimpse of why these universities rank so high and what each university holds sacred and important.
It was fascinating to see that some of these statements include words used more than a hundred years ago, when the institutions were founded. It was also interesting to see how they highlight their location and community!
Below is the compilation of what each university does, and how they reach success.
"Princeton University has a longstanding commitment to service, reflected in Princeton’s informal motto — Princeton in the nation’s service and the service of humanity — and exemplified by the extraordinary contributions that Princetonians make to society."
Princeton has a more collaborative than competitive atmosphere where professors are more accessible. Princeton takes the middle ground when it comes to core requirements versus other universities. Students are quite engaged in campus politics and institutional change.
Princeton is the only Ivy that has neither fraternity nor sorority houses, though it has chapters of these Greek social organizations on campus. Princeton is the “most suburban” Ivy. Cornell and Dartmouth are in isolated places, the other Ivies are in cities. Princeton is an “athletes school.”
"Harvard University is devoted to excellence in teaching, learning, and research, and to developing leaders in many disciplines who make a difference globally. The University, which is based in Cambridge and Boston, Massachusetts, has an enrollment of over 20,000 degree candidates, including undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. Harvard has more than 360,000 alumni around the world."
Harvard offers a very generous financial program, and the financial aid officers will make sure that finances will not be the reason students will not choose Harvard College. Harvard, for most families, is cheaper than attending their state’s college or university. That means students can graduate debt-free; and also, that means the student body can be diverse and filled with the best people possible.
"Columbia University is one of the world's most important centers of research and at the same time a distinctive and distinguished learning environment for undergraduates and graduate students in many scholarly and professional fields. The University recognizes the importance of its location in New York City and seeks to link its research and teaching to the vast resources of a great metropolis.
Columbia seeks to attract a diverse and international faculty and student body, to support research and teaching on global issues, and to create academic relationships with many countries and regions. It expects all areas of the University to advance knowledge and learning at the highest level and to convey the products of its efforts to the world."
In the words of an MIT former student, MIT is special because it allows students to choose their living groups based on cultural fit allowing students to find their best place at the Institute. The intensity, it is a work hard play hard school. The passion and nerdiness with which the students do something. The unconventional creativity, and the collaboration among students.
"Since its founding in 1701, Yale has been dedicated to expanding and sharing knowledge, inspiring innovation, and preserving cultural and scientific information for future generations. Yale’s reach is both local and international. It partners with its hometown of New Haven, Connecticut to strengthen the city’s community and economy. And it engages with people and institutions across the globe in the quest to promote cultural understanding, improve the human condition, delve more deeply into the secrets of the universe, and train the next generation of world leaders".
Yale is best defined by the word and. Yale is a research university and a liberal arts college. Its scholars are driven by innovation and more than 300 years of tradition. Yale students excel in the arts, humanities, social sciences, sciences, and engineering at the highest levels. Students of all backgrounds, beliefs, identities, and interests join a global community that values a multifaceted approach to undergraduate education.
About Stanford, "A place for learning, discovery, innovation, expression and discourse."
Business Insider lists some of the reasons why Stanford is the best university. Here is summary of what they say: Even though students study a lot, they still make time for an active social life. Stanford athletic teams are dominant in a number of sports. Stanford has one of the most beautiful campuses in the country—and incredible weather year round. Stanford academics are top-notch and professors are among the best in the fields. Stanford offers great value and helps students who need financial aid. Finally, Stanford does a great job of encouraging student entrepreneurship.
University of Chicago
"The University of Chicago is an urban research university that has driven new ways of thinking since 1890. Our commitment to free and open inquiry draws inspired scholars to our global campuses, where ideas are born that challenge and change the world". "We empower individuals to challenge conventional thinking in pursuit of original ideas. Students in the College develop critical, analytic, and writing skills in our rigorous, interdisciplinary core curriculum. Through graduate programs, students test their ideas with UChicago scholars, and become the next generation of leaders in academia, industry, nonprofits, and government."
The University of Chicago according to Forbes offers more than 50 undergraduate majors and over 40 minors. All undergraduates are required to complete the school’s core curriculum and are encouraged to engage in numerous research opportunities, through the university’s national and affiliated laboratories. Beginning with the Class of 2023, the institution’s UChicago Empower initiative will guarantee free tuition for students whose families earn less than $125,000 a year. The school’s No Barriers policy works to ensure that students from all backgrounds can graduate debt free.
University of Pennsylvania
"Penn has a long and proud tradition of intellectual rigor and pursuit of innovative knowledge… That tradition lives today through the creativity, entrepreneurship, and engagement of our faculty, students, and staff. "Dr. Amy Gutmann, President of the University of Pennsylvania.
Penn has a strong focus on interdisciplinary learning and research, offering double degree programs, unique majors and academic flexibility. This means competition to study at Penn is fierce, particularly at undergraduate level. Student life at Penn serves up opportunities to discover new interests and passions galore, through a wide diversity of social, political, religious, and cultural activities.
"Caltech is a world-renowned science and engineering institute that marshals some of the world's brightest minds and most innovative tools to address fundamental scientific questions and pressing societal challenges."
Caltech is known as a tiny powerhouse in science and engineering. While sometimes inviting the comparison as the “MIT of the West,” Caltech is much smaller than its east-coast counterpart, with just 979 undergraduates on its 124 acres in Pasadena, CA. This concentrated and intense academic environment produces millions of dollars in research grants every year, and a formidable list of Nobel Prizes, patents, tech company CEO’s, and the like, lending Caltech a well-earned prestige in scientific circles.
Johns Hopkins University
"The encouragement of research . . . and the advancement of individual scholars, who by their excellence will advance the sciences they pursue, and the society where they dwell.” Daniel Coit Gilman, inauguration in 1876. Johns Hopkins University
"Northwestern is committed to excellent teaching, innovative research and the personal and intellectual growth of its students in a diverse academic community."
Duke University is expected to: "'provide real leadership in the educational world' by choosing individuals of 'outstanding character, ability, and vision' to serve as its officers, trustees and faculty; by carefully selecting students of 'character, determination and application;' and by pursuing those areas of teaching and scholarship that would 'most help to develop our resources, increase our wisdom, and promote human happiness.'"
"One of the world’s greatest academic institutions and a member of the Ivy League, Dartmouth has been educating leaders since 1769. Our undergraduate and graduate programs are distinguished by academic excellence, personal attention from top faculty, opportunities to participate in research, and a close-knit community."
"Brown is a leading research university distinct for its student-centered learning and deep sense of purpose. Our students, faculty and staff are driven by the idea that their work will have an impact in the world."
Resources for Ranking Best Universities
The historical data was obtained from Public University Honors. It includes Public and Private Universities. The rankings themselves come from US News.
This is the second version of this ranking. Due to the comments received on Reddit, the design was updated using Cale Tilford’s Block code.
Made by Luz K. Molina with D3.js.