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Top 100 Colleges by Student Choice

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The Top 100 Colleges by Student Choice represent the most desired schools in the country, whether they are small liberal arts colleges, military academies, or large national universities. Unlike most conventional rankings, this list was generated based on objective, trusted data: it considers the acceptance rate as well as the enrollment rate for every school in the country. Our rankings showcase schools that students are actually choosing, not just the institutions with the lowest admission rates.

What has resulted is a list that allows us to meaningfully compare very different schools and to give credit to often overlooked institutions who are satisfying student needs. You’ll see the United States Naval Academy outranking many Ivy League colleges and small schools with under 2,000 students like Claremont McKenna College and Bowdoin College ranking in our top 20. You’ll see a list where affordability, personal attention, and strong career outcomes allow unexpected schools to rise to the top.

We hope to challenge the common perception that prestige alone makes a college desirable and to bring attention to the wider range of schools that reflect actual student choice. Read More

College Acceptance Rate Enrollment Rate Score Recommend Rate
#1 Stanford University Acceptance Rate 5% Enrollment Rate 80.4% Score 250.1 Recommend Rate 100% (19 reviews)
#2 Harvard University Acceptance Rate 6% Enrollment Rate 79.8% Score 240.9 Recommend Rate 100% (19 reviews)
#3 Yale University Acceptance Rate 7% Enrollment Rate 67.1% Score 217.1 Recommend Rate 100% (5 reviews)
#4 Columbia University in the City of New York Acceptance Rate 7% Enrollment Rate 62.6% Score 215.7 Recommend Rate 83% (18 reviews)
#5 Princeton University Acceptance Rate 7% Enrollment Rate 67.7% Score 212.3 Recommend Rate 100% (12 reviews)
#6 United States Naval Academy Acceptance Rate 9% Enrollment Rate 86.7% Score 207.7 Recommend Rate 100% (10 reviews)
#7 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Acceptance Rate 8% Enrollment Rate 72.8% Score 202.4 Recommend Rate 100% (14 reviews)
#8 University of Chicago Acceptance Rate 8% Enrollment Rate 61.0% Score 193.8 Recommend Rate 93% (14 reviews)
#9 United States Military Academy Acceptance Rate 10% Enrollment Rate 83.2% Score 190.7 Recommend Rate 85% (13 reviews)
#10 University of Pennsylvania Acceptance Rate 10% Enrollment Rate 64.3% Score 179.4 Recommend Rate 91% (34 reviews)
#11 Brown University Acceptance Rate 9% Enrollment Rate 56.0% Score 179.3 Recommend Rate 100% (11 reviews)
#12 California Institute of Technology Acceptance Rate 9% Enrollment Rate 42.1% Score 173.4 Recommend Rate 100% (2 reviews)
#13 Pomona College Acceptance Rate 10% Enrollment Rate 48.0% Score 165.5 Recommend Rate 100% (5 reviews)
#14 Mount St. Joseph University Acceptance Rate 15% Enrollment Rate 100.0% Score 164.3 Recommend Rate 100% (1 review)
#15 Dartmouth College Acceptance Rate 11% Enrollment Rate 49.6% Score 161.5 Recommend Rate 90% (10 reviews)
#16 Duke University Acceptance Rate 11% Enrollment Rate 49.0% Score 157.4 Recommend Rate 100% (13 reviews)
#17 Claremont McKenna College Acceptance Rate 11% Enrollment Rate 43.8% Score 156.2 Recommend Rate 100% (1 review)
#18 Vanderbilt University Acceptance Rate 12% Enrollment Rate 43.7% Score 150.6 Recommend Rate 100% (14 reviews)
#19 Northwestern University Acceptance Rate 13% Enrollment Rate 48.2% Score 145.2 Recommend Rate 93% (14 reviews)
#20 United States Air Force Academy Acceptance Rate 17% Enrollment Rate 79.7% Score 143.6 Recommend Rate 100% (6 reviews)
#21 Swarthmore College Acceptance Rate 12% Enrollment Rate 41.7% Score 142.7 Recommend Rate 100% (3 reviews)
#22 Pitzer College Acceptance Rate 13% Enrollment Rate 46.5% Score 140.9 Recommend Rate 100% (5 reviews)
#23 Harvey Mudd College Acceptance Rate 13% Enrollment Rate 40.1% Score 137.7 Recommend Rate 100% (3 reviews)
#24 Bowdoin College Acceptance Rate 15% Enrollment Rate 49.5% Score 135.0 Recommend Rate 100% (1 review)
#25 Cornell University Acceptance Rate 15% Enrollment Rate 50.4% Score 134.6 Recommend Rate 100% (37 reviews)
#26 Amherst College Acceptance Rate 14% Enrollment Rate 39.4% Score 129.6 Recommend Rate 100% (1 review)
#27 Johns Hopkins University Acceptance Rate 14% Enrollment Rate 38.0% Score 128.0 Recommend Rate 100% (16 reviews)
#28 United States Coast Guard Academy Acceptance Rate 20% Enrollment Rate 69.3% Score 124.2 Recommend Rate Add Review
#29 Tufts University Acceptance Rate 16% Enrollment Rate 44.3% Score 123.3 Recommend Rate 92% (13 reviews)
#30 Georgetown University Acceptance Rate 17% Enrollment Rate 46.7% Score 119.6 Recommend Rate 96% (22 reviews)
#31 United States Merchant Marine Academy Acceptance Rate 22% Enrollment Rate 70.6% Score 117.5 Recommend Rate 100% (1 review)
#32 Williams College Acceptance Rate 18% Enrollment Rate 45.5% Score 116.6 Recommend Rate 100% (5 reviews)
#33 University of California - Berkeley Acceptance Rate 17% Enrollment Rate 41.7% Score 116.5 Recommend Rate 94% (54 reviews)
#34 Colorado College Acceptance Rate 17% Enrollment Rate 42.2% Score 115.8 Recommend Rate 100% (4 reviews)
#35 University of Notre Dame Acceptance Rate 20% Enrollment Rate 55.8% Score 115.4 Recommend Rate 100% (24 reviews)
#36 New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology Acceptance Rate 24% Enrollment Rate 84.9% Score 115.3 Recommend Rate 75% (4 reviews)
#37 Rice University Acceptance Rate 16% Enrollment Rate 33.8% Score 112.3 Recommend Rate 100% (7 reviews)
#38 Barnard College Acceptance Rate 20% Enrollment Rate 48.6% Score 110.1 Recommend Rate 100% (5 reviews)
#39 Washington University in St. Louis Acceptance Rate 17% Enrollment Rate 35.3% Score 110.1 Recommend Rate 100% (14 reviews)
#40 Middlebury College Acceptance Rate 17% Enrollment Rate 38.0% Score 109.6 Recommend Rate 100% (4 reviews)
#41 University of California - Los Angeles Acceptance Rate 17% Enrollment Rate 35.5% Score 107.5 Recommend Rate 100% (82 reviews)
#42 Fort Valley State University Acceptance Rate 21% Enrollment Rate 43.5% Score 101.4 Recommend Rate 100% (2 reviews)
#43 University of Southern California Acceptance Rate 18% Enrollment Rate 32.1% Score 101.2 Recommend Rate 87% (39 reviews)
#44 Liberty University Acceptance Rate 22% Enrollment Rate 45.4% Score 99.0 Recommend Rate 61% (219 reviews)
#45 Bates College Acceptance Rate 22% Enrollment Rate 42.0% Score 94.7 Recommend Rate Add Review
#46 Davidson College Acceptance Rate 22% Enrollment Rate 42.8% Score 94.2 Recommend Rate 100% (8 reviews)
#47 Carleton College Acceptance Rate 21% Enrollment Rate 35.4% Score 91.9 Recommend Rate 100% (8 reviews)
#48 Wesleyan University Acceptance Rate 22% Enrollment Rate 34.7% Score 84.8 Recommend Rate 100% (8 reviews)
#49 Haverford College Acceptance Rate 25% Enrollment Rate 40.6% Score 82.8 Recommend Rate 100% (3 reviews)
#50 University of Michigan - Ann Arbor Acceptance Rate 26% Enrollment Rate 44.8% Score 81.2 Recommend Rate 98% (58 reviews)
#51 Washington and Lee University Acceptance Rate 24% Enrollment Rate 35.4% Score 79.2 Recommend Rate 100% (3 reviews)
#52 Colby College Acceptance Rate 23% Enrollment Rate 29.7% Score 76.8 Recommend Rate 67% (3 reviews)
#53 Carnegie Mellon University Acceptance Rate 24% Enrollment Rate 32.3% Score 75.9 Recommend Rate 63% (8 reviews)
#54 Hamilton College - NY Acceptance Rate 25% Enrollment Rate 35.1% Score 75.6 Recommend Rate 50% (2 reviews)
#55 Bucknell University Acceptance Rate 25% Enrollment Rate 34.5% Score 75.0 Recommend Rate 100% (5 reviews)
#56 Berea College Acceptance Rate 37% Enrollment Rate 72.4% Score 73.5 Recommend Rate 100% (5 reviews)
#57 Florida Memorial University Acceptance Rate 24% Enrollment Rate 30.8% Score 71.6 Recommend Rate Add Review
#58 Vassar College Acceptance Rate 26% Enrollment Rate 34.3% Score 71.5 Recommend Rate 100% (3 reviews)
#59 Emory University Acceptance Rate 24% Enrollment Rate 28.0% Score 69.8 Recommend Rate 90% (10 reviews)
#60 Berklee College of Music Acceptance Rate 29% Enrollment Rate 40.7% Score 69.1 Recommend Rate Add Review
#61 Scripps College Acceptance Rate 28% Enrollment Rate 38.0% Score 68.9 Recommend Rate 100% (2 reviews)
#62 Wellesley College Acceptance Rate 30% Enrollment Rate 43.1% Score 68.5 Recommend Rate 100% (7 reviews)
#63 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Acceptance Rate 31% Enrollment Rate 42.9% Score 66.2 Recommend Rate 95% (38 reviews)
#64 University of Virginia - Main Campus Acceptance Rate 30% Enrollment Rate 40.0% Score 65.4 Recommend Rate 93% (30 reviews)
#65 Grinnell College Acceptance Rate 25% Enrollment Rate 27.7% Score 64.9 Recommend Rate 100% (6 reviews)
#66 Kenyon College Acceptance Rate 26% Enrollment Rate 28.9% Score 64.3 Recommend Rate 100% (3 reviews)
#67 Colgate University Acceptance Rate 27% Enrollment Rate 32.4% Score 63.6 Recommend Rate 100% (5 reviews)
#68 Oberlin College Acceptance Rate 29% Enrollment Rate 34.6% Score 62.1 Recommend Rate 83% (6 reviews)
#69 Fashion Institute of Technology Acceptance Rate 41% Enrollment Rate 64.9% Score 58.7 Recommend Rate Add Review
#70 Babson College Acceptance Rate 26% Enrollment Rate 26.7% Score 58.7 Recommend Rate 100% (1 review)
#71 Emmanuel College - GA Acceptance Rate 34% Enrollment Rate 43.8% Score 58.1 Recommend Rate 50% (2 reviews)
#72 Wake Forest University Acceptance Rate 29% Enrollment Rate 32.9% Score 58.1 Recommend Rate 100% (8 reviews)
#73 Rhode Island School of Design Acceptance Rate 37% Enrollment Rate 51.4% Score 57.0 Recommend Rate 100% (3 reviews)
#74 Lehigh University Acceptance Rate 30% Enrollment Rate 32.3% Score 54.3 Recommend Rate 100% (13 reviews)
#75 Prism Career Institute Acceptance Rate 47% Enrollment Rate 76.2% Score 54.0 Recommend Rate 36% (73 reviews)
#76 Brigham Young University Acceptance Rate 48% Enrollment Rate 79.8% Score 53.8 Recommend Rate 96% (75 reviews)
#77 Georgia Institute of Technology Acceptance Rate 32% Enrollment Rate 35.2% Score 53.2 Recommend Rate 94% (16 reviews)
#78 Washburn Institute of Technology Acceptance Rate 43% Enrollment Rate 60.7% Score 51.7 Recommend Rate Add Review
#79 Lafayette College Acceptance Rate 30% Enrollment Rate 29.8% Score 51.2 Recommend Rate 83% (6 reviews)
#80 East Central University Acceptance Rate 46% Enrollment Rate 68.8% Score 51.2 Recommend Rate 100% (3 reviews)
#81 Boston College Acceptance Rate 29% Enrollment Rate 25.7% Score 50.0 Recommend Rate 100% (14 reviews)
#82 Grambling State University Acceptance Rate 38% Enrollment Rate 46.0% Score 49.8 Recommend Rate 100% (1 review)
#83 Corban University Acceptance Rate 31% Enrollment Rate 29.0% Score 49.2 Recommend Rate 100% (5 reviews)
#84 New York University Acceptance Rate 32% Enrollment Rate 32.0% Score 49.2 Recommend Rate 83% (54 reviews)
#85 Governors State University Acceptance Rate 39% Enrollment Rate 47.0% Score 49.0 Recommend Rate 100% (3 reviews)
#86 The University of Texas at Austin Acceptance Rate 39% Enrollment Rate 46.6% Score 48.1 Recommend Rate 95% (57 reviews)
#87 University of Richmond Acceptance Rate 31% Enrollment Rate 26.0% Score 42.9 Recommend Rate 100% (9 reviews)
#88 Point University Acceptance Rate 49% Enrollment Rate 62.9% Score 41.7 Recommend Rate 100% (2 reviews)
#89 Southeastern University Acceptance Rate 46% Enrollment Rate 55.1% Score 40.7 Recommend Rate 100% (3 reviews)
#90 Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences Acceptance Rate 53% Enrollment Rate 70.3% Score 40.5 Recommend Rate 100% (1 review)
#91 Southern Virginia University Acceptance Rate 38% Enrollment Rate 37.1% Score 40.3 Recommend Rate 100% (1 review)
#92 American University Acceptance Rate 35% Enrollment Rate 30.5% Score 39.6 Recommend Rate 85% (27 reviews)
#93 American University - MBA Acceptance Rate 35% Enrollment Rate 30.5% Score 39.6 Recommend Rate Add Review
#94 College of William and Mary Acceptance Rate 34% Enrollment Rate 29.5% Score 39.4 Recommend Rate 96% (22 reviews)
#95 Franklin and Marshall College Acceptance Rate 32% Enrollment Rate 25.7% Score 39.2 Recommend Rate 100% (2 reviews)
#96 Seminar L'moros Bais Yaakov Acceptance Rate 64% Enrollment Rate 100.0% Score 39.2 Recommend Rate Add Review
#97 Northeastern University Acceptance Rate 28% Enrollment Rate 19.4% Score 38.0 Recommend Rate 97% (32 reviews)
#98 Gordon State College - GA Acceptance Rate 57% Enrollment Rate 75.9% Score 37.3 Recommend Rate 100% (1 review)
#99 Bryn Mawr College Acceptance Rate 39% Enrollment Rate 34.6% Score 36.8 Recommend Rate 100% (4 reviews)
#100 Tulane University Acceptance Rate 30% Enrollment Rate 21.5% Score 36.3 Recommend Rate 91% (11 reviews)

Our list emphasizes schools that students value most. The institutions that rose to the top tend to equip students with the skills they need to succeed after graduation and offer ways for their students to graduate without the burden of massive financial debt. Many of these colleges offer generous financial aid policies, with sizeable grants and scholarships; a good number of these schools have small class sizes, giving students a more personalized education. And still others have produced alumni with some of the highest average early and mid-level career salaries in the country.

Affordability is a key feature common to most schools on our top list. Several of the schools on this list agree to meet most, if not all, of demonstrated financial need. Bowdoin College (#20) and Pomona College (#22), for example, are dedicated to meeting 100% of student financial need. A typical student on financial aid at Bowdoin receives over $39,000 in grants. Pomona awarded $35 million in loan-free aid to more than 800 students in the 2013-14 school year. After acceptance letters are all sent and the student has the power to choose, these generous financial aid policies may give these schools a distinct advantage. Schools like the United States Naval Academy (#3) and the United States Air Force Academy (#15) offer free tuition in exchange for service in the military, providing students with a rigorous education without putting them into debt.

The majority of these schools also have small student-to-faculty ratios, giving students an opportunity to forge relationships with their professors and personalize their education. The majority of classes at Amherst College (#23) have less than 20 students; the United States Air Force Academy boasts an 8:1 student-to-faculty ratio; and Vanderbilt University (#17) has an average class size of 19. These schools are incredibly selective, and the small class sizes allow for a higher level of interaction between students and teachers, in addition to creating a stronger student community.

Military schools and technically-focused liberal arts colleges like Harvey Mudd College (#37) also boast high starting pay. The average salary of HMC alums comes in at $75,600 for those early in their careers. Most graduates of this school work in the field of engineering and software development. Graduates of Colgate University (#52), a liberal arts college in rural New York, have an average mid-level career salary of $126,600. Alumni from military schools like the United States Naval Academy and the United States Military Academy (#8) boast some of the highest salaries out of all college graduates, with average starting salaries upwards of $70,000.

Across the board, these schools offer students much more than a prestigious reputation, and reflect the factors students consider when choosing an education. Five military schools and over thirty liberal arts colleges made it onto our list of the top 100 schools, ranking alongside the most selective universities across the country. These are the schools that students choose to go to, and they paint a much more complex picture of what makes a “top” university than prestige alone.

Methodology

Our rankings considered two factors: acceptance rate and enrollment rate. The “student choice” score reflects both the selectivity of each school as well as its desirability by combining these metrics; specifically, the score is calculated by dividing the enrollment rate by the square of the acceptance rate. Then this number was represented logarithmically for readability. By comparing the number of students that enroll to the admissions rate, we are able to prioritize the schools that students are choosing most.

Colleges and universities with rolling admissions or enrollment under 200 students were excluded from our list. For acceptance rate and enrollment rate, we used the most recent data available from the National Center for Education Statistics, 2013-2014, in order to evaluate these schools.

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This icon indicates that a school offers annual tuition for $15,000 or less. Tuition figures reflect the most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics or data provided by an official representative of the school.