The Best Colleges: 2017 Edition

the best collegesThe Best 381 Colleges, 2017 Edition (Penguin Random House / Princeton Review Books, August 30, 2016, $23.99)

This school year is the 25th anniversary of The Princeton Review’s “Best Colleges” book! The Princeton Review started publishing The Best Colleges in 1992 with surveys from 30,000 students. A quarter-century and more than a million student surveys later, they stand by their claim that there is no single “best” college, only the best college for you… and this is the book that will help you find it!

The Best 381 Colleges book lists Top 20 colleges in 62 categories on topics ranging from professors to political leanings. The current college rankings are based on The Princeton Review’s survey of 143,000 students (average 375 per campus) at 381 colleges. The survey asks students to answer 84 questions about their school’s academics, administration, student body, facilities, and campus life.

At each school, the students rated their colleges on dozens of topics, reported on their campus experiences, and offered their candid opinions. The ranking methodology uses a five-point Likert scale to convert qualitative student assessments into quantitative data for school-to-school comparisons.

College Rankings:

According to the survey, the college at which students gave their teachers the highest marks is Wellesley College (MA). It is #1 on the “Best Professors” list. The “Most Accessible Professors” are in the U.S. Military Academy at West Point (NY). The “Least Accessible Professors” are in the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point (NY).

Topping the Princeton Review list of “Great Financial Aid,” based on students’ satisfaction with their aid award packages, is Vassar College (NY) — a not-so-surprising distinction, given that Vassar’s average undergraduate need-based scholarship last year was $45,100.

Bentley University (MA) captured the top spot for “Best Career Services” and quite credibly: the university reports that a whopping 98% of its 2015 grad respondents are employed or in grad school.

Of timely interest this year are the book’s rankings based on students’ reports about their political leanings. Topping the “Most Liberal Students” list is Sarah Lawrence College (NY), while Brigham Young University (UT) is #1 on the “Most Conservative Students” list. George Washington University (DC) is #1 for “Most Politically Active Students.” The book has a new list in this edition, “Most Active Student Government” on which Bucknell University (PA) is #1.

Other ranking list categories in the book — and #1 colleges on them:
“Best Campus Food” – University of Massachusetts Amherst (MA)
“Best College Dorms” – Washington University in St. Louis (MO)
“Best College Library” – University of Chicago (IL)
“Best Health Services” – University of Wisconsin-Madison (WI)
“Everyone Plays Intramural Sports” – University of Dayton (OH)
“Students Pack the Stadiums” – Syracuse University (NY)
“Best Athletic Facilities” – Pennsylvania State University (PA)
“Best College Theater” –Muhlenberg College (PA)
“Best Science Lab Facilities” – Harvey Mudd College (CA)
“Best College Newspaper” – Columbia University (NY)
“Party School” – University of Wisconsin-Madison (WI)
“Stone-Cold Sober School” – Brigham Young University (UT)
“Most Religious Students” – Thomas Aquinas College (CA)
“Least Religious Students” – Reed College (OR)
“Most Beautiful Campus” – Rhodes College (TN)
“Happiest Students” – Rice University (TX)
“Best Quality of Life” – Virginia Tech (VA)
“Best College City” – Vanderbilt University (TN)
“Best-Run College” – Elon University (NC)

The Best 381 Colleges book includes a list of “Great Schools for 20 of the Most Popular Undergraduate Majors” and a bonus list of 200 “Colleges That Pay You Back” — naming schools profiled in The Princeton Review’s book by that title published in February 2016.

The school profiles in the book also include ratings in eight categories including: Admissions Selectivity, Financial Aid, Fire Safety, and Green. Those rating scores are based primarily on data from The Princeton Review’s surveys of administrators at the colleges in 2015-16.

All of the ranking lists are published in the 2017 edition of Princeton Review’s annual “Best Colleges” guidebook, The Best 381 Colleges, released on August 30 in print and available October 11 in an e-book edition.

“Since 1992 when we created this guide to the colleges we believe are the nation’s best, academically, our purpose has been twofold. One: we want to shine light on these exceptional institutions which represent only 15% of the nation’s four-year colleges. Two: we work to give applicants considering them an incomparable amount of campus feedback to decide which college may be best for them. We base our 62 ranking lists entirely on what the colleges’ customers, their enrolled students, report to us on our surveys. As such, they provide unique insights into the campus cultures, aid offerings, services, and student body communities at these schools. In the end, it’s all about the fit.” ~Robert Franek, Princeton Review’s Senior VP-Publisher and lead author of the book

The Princeton Review’s ranking lists of the Top 20 colleges are also posted online at, where they can be accessed in full for free with registration.

The Best 381 Colleges is one of 150 Princeton Review books published by Penguin Random House. The Princeton Review is a leading tutoring, test prep and college admission services company. The experts at The Princeton Review have been helping students, parents, and educators achieve the best results at every stage of the education process since 1981. Every year, they help millions of college- and graduate school-bound students achieve their education and career goals through online and in person courses delivered by a network of more than 4,000 teachers and tutors, online resources, and its more than 150 print and digital books published by Penguin Random House. The Princeton Review is headquartered in New York, NY and is an operating business of Match Group (NASDAQ: MTCH). For more information, visit Follow the company on Twitter @theprincetonrev.

NOTE: The Princeton Review is not affiliated with Princeton University.

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