America's Top 25 Colleges and Universities for 2021
Deciding what makes a certain college more desirable than another is highly subjective. Some prospective students might think a championship-winning football team and a massive student body are major selling points, while others prize a small, tightly knit community above all else.
To try to come as close as possible to identifying objectively great colleges and universities around the country, WalletHub analyzed a whopping 30 factors in seven categories, from student selectivity and cost to campus experience and career outcomes. These encompass basic metrics—admissions rate and average class size, for example—as well as more specific considerations, like study abroad programs, on-campus employment opportunities, and the median salaries of recent graduates.
Of all 1008 schools included in the study, the Ivy League ones continue to reign supreme. Harvard University ranked first, with a score of 78.6 across all 30 metrics, edging out Yale by just .03 points. Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia, Dartmouth, and Brown also made the top 25. With low acceptance rates and high graduation rates—not to mention huge endowments—these stately old institutions are rather difficult to compete with, but they’re definitely not the only esteemed places to get a four-year education.
As a testament to the continuing success of the tech industry, three technology institutes made WalletHub’s list: Massachusetts in third place, California in fifth, and Georgia in 11th. Those three schools ranked in the top five for return on educational investment, meaning that graduates make high starting salaries compared to how much their education actually cost.
Geographically, New England (and the East coast in general) is home to a majority of the top schools, though five from California alone did chart, too: Stanford University; University of California, Berkeley; Pomona College; and Claremont McKenna College, in addition to the aforementioned California Institute of Technology.
Check out the top 25 below, and see where your alma mater ranks on WalletHub’s full list here.
- Harvard University // 78.6
- Yale University // 78.57
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology // 78.44
- Princeton University // 78.41
- California Institute of Technology // 77.65
- Stanford University // 77.12
- Rice University // 76.96
- Northwestern University // 75.4
- Duke University // 75.18
- University of Pennsylvania // 74.95
- Georgia Institute of Technology // 74.92
- Vanderbilt University // 74.66
- University of California, Berkeley // 74.54
- Columbia University // 74.51
- Johns Hopkins University // 74.37
- University of Chicago // 73.59
- Dartmouth College // 73.43
- Williams College // 73.19
- Brown University // 73.17
- Carnegie Mellon University // 73.11
- Washington and Lee University // 73.08
- Swarthmore College // 73.08
- Pomona College // 72.92
- Claremont McKenna College // 72.84
- Amherst College // 72.83