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Finding Top Universities

By Peterson's Staff updated on Monday, January 28, 2013

How do I find top universities?

Many factors go into deciding which college or university is right for you, such as academic offerings, location, campus life, and cost. Sifting through all of this information can be daunting, but ranking systems can help you identify top colleges and top universities in each of these categories.

Top universities in different categories

The "U.S. News and World Report" ranking system lists top colleges and top universities for many different categories. Schools are categorized by mission, such as degrees or types of programs. So, for example, the "U.S. News and World Report" system generates a list of the best colleges that grant associate degrees and a list of the best universities with master's programs. Similarly, "U.S. News and World Report" provides a list of the top liberal arts colleges and the top ranking national universities, institutions that offer a full range of undergraduate majors, master's degrees, doctoral degrees, and that often focus on research.

Engineering and business schools are categorized separately. The top business schools are ranked by their M.B.A. programs, such as the best accounting program or the top finance program. Rankings for the top engineering schools are based on 10 indicators, including peer assessment, average Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores, and specialty rankings for each area of engineering, such as aerospace and civil engineering.

Schools are further divided by region, so you can find the best college or best university in your area. The "U.S. News and World Report" system divides the United States into 4 regions: the North, South, Midwest, and West. Within each region, the top colleges or top universities are also categorized by mission, so that you can find the best master's college or master's university, the top baccalaureate college, or the best baccalaureate/associate college in your area.

Top universities as decided by students

"The Princeton Review" college ranking system is based solely on student opinion instead of statistical data. This system ranks colleges into many categories, including schools with the best quality of life, the best college library, the top party school, and the college with the best classroom experience. So, once you have narrowed your search, you can use this information to help you distinguish between a handful of schools to find the best colleges for you.

Finding top colleges with other ranking systems

Several other ranking systems exist to assist you in your search for the best university for you. The "Faculty Scholarly Productivity Index" ranks universities based on faculty publications, citations, research grants, and awards.  So, if you are interested in research or studying under highly-accomplished faculty, you can check these top college and top university lists.

The "Forbes College Rankings" bases its rankings on student evaluations of professors, self-reported salaries of alumni, graduation rates, the number of students and faculty who receive nationally competitive awards, and 4-year accumulated student debt. Therefore, if you're interested in finding the best universities based on more objective statistics, this ranking system might be beneficial to you.

About the Author

Peterson's has more than 40 years of experience in higher education, and the expert staff members here are all ready to leverage their considerable knowledge and experience to help you succeed on your educational journey. We have the information, the know-how, and the tools -- now all we need is you!

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