Deciding where to apply for college is not easy. But the U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges rankings, now in their 38th year, can help. Our latest edition assessed an all-time high of 1,500 U.S. bachelor’s degree-granting institutions on 17 measures of academic quality. The comparisons are useful for crafting a shortlist of institutions to examine more closely and may also highlight new options.
U.S. News’ directory of institutions contains each school’s rankings data and key characteristics about majors, campus life, costs of attending, and more. Users can filter schools by selected academic and non-academic characteristics along their priorities. The My Fit College Search, a premium-level search accessible only to Compass subscribers, goes further by building customized rankings.
Although the methodology is the product of years of research, we continuously refine our approach based on user feedback, literature reviews, trends in our own data and availability of new data. We also regularly engage with institutional researchers and high-ranking academic officials, including presenting at higher education forums and conducting interactive webinars. Our detailed methodology is transparent in part for use by schools and academics, but mostly because we believe prospective students will find our rankings more useful if they know what the rankings measure.
Only academic data from our surveys and reliable third-party sources are used to calculate each ranking factor. This means for better or for worse, we do not factor nonacademic elements like social life and athletics; we do not conduct unscientific straw polls for use in our computations; and schools’ ranks are not manipulated to coddle business relationships.
U.S. News surveyed schools in the spring and summer of 2022. Some information published in our directory, like schools’ application deadlines and tuition, is for the current 2022-2023 academic year. However, the ranking factors themselves are snapshots of the recent past, reflecting fall 2021 and earlier.
The lagging nature of the data is why methodology changes were made this edition relating to COVID-19, even as campus operations have since returned mostly to normal. This is particularly evident in our revamped treatment of standardized test data, explained below.
How Ranks Are Determined
We calculated 10 distinct overall rankings where colleges and universities were grouped by their academic missions. For each ranking, the sum of weighted, normalized values across 17 indicators of academic quality determine each school’s overall score and, by extension, its overall rank.