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The Best Colleges and Universities in the U.S.A.

May 26, 2015 - Posted to Study

Content 28

Wow! Here’s a “loaded” and very subjective topic. How is it possible to identify and name the best colleges and universities in the United States? What criteria are even used to formulate such a list? Often, the criteria, such as those used by U.S. News and World Report magazine, which publishes a list each year, are rather unclear. Here, though, is the list that comes from a “consensus” of sorts of news outlets and other organizations, although, again, the criteria are widely varied.

The Ivy Leagues

Who would not expect these schools to be included within the top 10 of anyone’s list? Princeton, Yale, Harvard, Brown, and Columbia always find their way to the top, and it is now the contention of many that this is simply a factor of “tradition” rather than their continued ability to offer the most rigorous curricula for its students. Still, the names themselves, along with the huge number of accomplished and famous alumni, warrant inclusion of these schools on any lists of top schools. In particular, their grad schools in political science, law, and medicine are certainly stellar, although a number of institutions can now rival what they offer.

Other Private Institutions

In addition to the “Ivy Leagues,” there are ample other private institutions that merit inclusion on the list of the best. Duke, Dartmouth, Johns Hopkins, Georgetown, Northwestern, Washington University in Missouri, Stanford, Cornell, Notre Dame, Vanderbilt, and Rice are names that seem to be included in most every list. All of them boast outstanding faculty and highly rigorous programs, and graduates from these universities seem to be highly sought after for top positions in their career fields.

Public Institutions

While they tend to be further down on most every list, several public universities seem to pop up on most lists – University of Pennsylvania, Cal Tech, MIT, University of Missouri-Rolla (for engineering), U.C. Berkeley and Los Angeles, the U. of Virginia, the U. of Illinois, and the U. of Michigan appear to make everyone’s list, at least within the top 50.

Who Determines the Criteria?

This is the big question. If one reads the U.S. News and World Report list, for example, a lot of space is given to a discussion of the athletic teams and their records. How important is this to the student who is in an academic program which s/he hopes will land a great career position and a lifetime of advancement? Not very, actually. Perhaps, then, it is time to overhaul the methods and criteria for creating lists of the best colleges and universities in the United States?

Toward a New Definition

To be really workable, perhaps lists of the best colleges and universities should be multiple ones, according to the degree programs for which they best prepare students. For example, if a student is looking for the best schools of journalism, the list might include the following:

The point is this: Most college and universities have areas of academic strength and weakness. Just going to Harvard does not mean that a student will receive the best education possible in computer science; the University of Michigan may be well known for its school of veterinary medicine, but how is it in the field of music? Julliard is the top rated music school in the country, and yet it never appears on any general list.

The time for rating colleges and universities by their famous alumni, their athletic programs, and their few schools of renown is over. Schools must be rated according to the specific programs they offer that set them apart from all other schools. Only then will the American public and students who are looking at college options be able to truly judge an individual school’s merit. The time for “snobbery” is over. It is a whole new competitive world out there, and tomorrow’s leaders will not be formed so much by the name of their alma mater as by their skills and innovations that improve society.

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