The Best Colleges in America

Business Insider
MIT
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When it comes to assessing the value of a college, only one thing matters: how much that school will help you succeed in life. And with college tuition at record highs and staggering unemployment rates, it's more important than ever to select a school wisely.

For our fourth annual list of the Best Colleges in America, we asked real professionals in a variety of industries—most of whom have hiring experience—what they consider to be the best colleges in America.
And for the third year in a row, our readers have determined that the number one school in America is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Almost 1,500 of our readers responded, of which 90.7 percent had bachelor's degrees and 64.8 percent had hiring experience. Almost 30 percent of the respondents work in finance, 22 percent work in technology, 9.9 percent work in education, 9.9 are current students, 9.2 percent work in media and marketing, and 8 percent work in law.

Despite the high cost of tuition and large amounts of student debt, 52.2 percent of respondents said that college is still worth it. However, other people said that the value of college depends on factors such as the caliber of the school, major and coursework, the quality of the education, the cost of tuition and financial aid packages, potential return on investment, and social opportunities.

"Certain majors are worth it — finance, engineering, comp sci. Other majors are not worth paying 40k a year in order to still earn only 30k after graduation," one respondent wrote.

Other respondents stressed the quality of the education and the opportunities to learn as the most important part of a college education. One respondent wrote that, "There's a huge intellectual growth you experience in college."

#1 Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Location: Cambridge, Mass.
Enrollment: 4,384
Rating: 4.50 out of 5

This is the third year in a row that MIT has held the top spot on our list. The top-tier school ranked high in other ratings too, taking the #11 spot in Forbes and the #5 spot in US News' National Universities ranking.

Reader comments: "It's all about ROI and what exactly are you going to do with the degree? I have colleagues that have MITs degree... they're sitting right here with me, and twice the loan debts."

"While I'm admittedly biased, I still believe the Big Ten schools are a phenomenal deal for engineering and technology degrees. Their graduates have a good industry reputation, the education quality is adequate and in-state tuition is far less than comparable programs at big-name private schools... The one exception was MIT; the two grads I knew were absolutely brilliant R&D technologists."

#2 Stanford University

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Location: Stanford, Calif.
Enrollment: 6,988
Rating: 4.37 out of 5

Stanford held the same spot from last year's list. The California school ranked at #3 in Forbes and #5 in US News' National Universities ranking.

Reader comments: "In today's world, it's the alumni network that means the most to employers - gone are the days when Harvard, Princeton, Penn, and Yale had a monopoly over top alumni. Now Stanford leads the charge with founders of technology companies, top business executives from Stanford's top-ranked GSB, high-level government leaders, legal scholars, engineers, and finance professionals."

"Honestly, the best people that I've seen in the industry have been from Stanford and UVA. Stanford produces more intellectually aware people who have an instinctive drive. "

#3 Harvard University

Location: Cambridge, Mass.
Enrollment: 6,657
Rating: 4.32 out of 5

Harvard held the same spot from last year's list. The Ivy-league school ranked at #6 in Forbes and at #1 in US News' National Universities ranking.

Reader comments: "In the game of public vs. private schools, name recognition is everything. Schools like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, etc. have instant recognition by EVERYBODY, even people who have never attended college. This type of recognition coupled with the fact that these schools can attract and keep world-class instructors with their massive endowments will ALWAYS put all other schools at a disadvantage."

#4 Yale University

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Location: New Haven, Conn.
Enrollment: 5,349
Rating: 4.26 out of 5

Yale gained one spot from last year's list. The elite Ivy-league school held the #5 spot in Forbes and the #3 spot in US News' National Universities ranking.

Reader comments: "I've found that I've met idiots from Yale and geniuses from state schools--it all depends on how hard you work and how much you choose to challenge yourself. The school may give you a better chance at getting a job interview, but after your first or second job, it's your work that counts. But that initial boost is oh so useful."

"The "Ivy+" schools have a prestige value that outweighs almost any cost. Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Cornell, Columbia, Penn, Dartmouth, Brown, MIT, Caltech, Stamford."

#5 Princeton University

Location: Princeton, New Jersey
Enrollment: 5,249
Rating: 4.19 out of 5

Princeton dropped one spot from last year's list. However, the Ivy-league school held the #1 spots in both Forbes and US News' national universities list.

Reader comments: "In the game of public vs. private schools, name recognition is everything. Schools like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, etc. have instant recognition by EVERYBODY, even people who have never attended college. This type of recognition coupled with the fact that these schools can attract and keep world-class instructors with their massive endowments will ALWAYS put all other schools at a disadvantage."

#6 California Institute of Technology


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Location: Pasadena, Calif.
Enrollment: 978
Rating: 4.16 out of 5

Cal Tech held the same spot from last year's list. The tech school ranked at #18 in Forbes and #10 in US News' National Universities ranking.





#7 Columbia University

Location: New York, New York
Enrollment: 6,027
Rating: 4.00 out of 5

Columbia held the same spot from last year's list. The Manhattan Ivy-league school ranked at #8 in Forbes and #4 in US News' national universities list.

Reader comments: "Universities with global perspective such as Columbia prepare students for the world and global opportunity set."

"Schools like Columbia or NYU and other urban schools are highly effective as their students tend to have real life experiences during their studies. Interns can attend class and work in a broad array of fields during school, as opposed to rural students who tend to have a more limited exposure."

#8 Dartmouth College

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Location: Hanover, New Hampshire
Enrollment: 4,194
Rating: 3.89 out of 5

Dartmouth held the same spot from last year's list. The school ranked lower in Forbes at #34, but maintained a spot in the top 10 in US News' national universities list at #10.

Reader comments: "Dartmouth, Colgate, Wiliams and Yale -- great launchers of careers."

"Even top students from elite universities can suffer in the job market if they did not choose an in-demand major. I still have several friends from Brown, Dartmouth, and Columbia who majored in English, Writing, and other Humanities subjects currently less valued (due both to surplus of Humanities majors looking for jobs and technical requirements of many hiring institutions) in the job market who are still unemployed or underemployed while looking for more challenging work."

#9 University of Pennsylvania

Location: Philadelphia, Penn.
Enrollment: 9,779
Rating: 3.85 out of 5

U Penn held the same spot from last year's list. The Ivy-league school ranked at #17 in Forbes and at #8 in US News' national universities list.

Reader comments: "There's a difference between best "schools" and best "universities". Take Penn, for example. Wharton is the best undergrad business school and Penn's nursing school is the best undergrad nursing program. They both are "extremely helpful" in landing jobs after graduation. Many majors in Penn's college of arts and sciences will not be so helpful, however. Grade by program, not by university. Kids aspiring to college need to focus less on the sports team and more about individual programs."

#10 Cornell University

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Location: Ithaca, New York
Enrollment: 14,167
Rating: 3.83 out of 5

Cornell held the same spot from last year's list. The upstate New York Ivy ranked lower in Forbes at #51, but higher in US News' list of national universities at #15.





#11 United States Naval Academy

Location: Annapolis, Maryland
Enrollment: 4,576
Rating: 3.81 out of 5

Tiebreaker: Navy had more '5' ratings than Hopkins.

Like Army, Navy gained five spots from last year's list, demonstrating a rise in interest in U.S. military schools. The academy ranked at #14 in US News' National Liberal Arts Colleges ranking and at #43 overall in Forbes.

Tie breaker: United States Naval Academy had 37.6% excellent ratings, while Johns Hopkins had 31.0% excellent ratings.

Reader comments: "Graduates of military colleges (US Military Academy, US Naval Academy, US Air Force Academy, US Coast Guard Academy, Virginia Military Institute and The Citadel) have an advantage in knowing how to both lead and work in teams."

"If success is judged by the percentage of graduates with decent paying jobs 3 months after graduation, then Westpoint and the Naval academy probably come out much better than the private liberal arts colleges."

#12 Johns Hopkins University

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Location: Baltimore, Maryland
Enrollment: 5,980
Rating: 3.81 out of 5

Hopkins dropped one spot from last year's list. The school ranked at #67 in Forbes and at #13 in US News' National Universities ranking.

Reader comments: "The "Ivy+" schools have a prestige value that outweighs almost any cost... The "next dozen" also are worth stretching for....Hopkins, Berkeley, Claremont, Michigan, Wisconsin, Amherst, Williams, Chicago, Duke, NYU, Rice, NYU, Swarthmore."

#13 United States Military Academy

Location: West Point, New York
Enrollment: 4,624
Rating: 3.78 out of 5

Like Navy, Army gained five spots from last year's list, showing that military schools are gaining in popularity. The school ranked high in other rankings as well, at #7 in Forbes and at #18 in US News' National Liberal Arts Colleges ranking.

Reader comments: "Graduates of military colleges (US Military Academy, US Naval Academy, US Air Force Academy, US Coast Guard Academy, Virginia Military Institute and The Citadel) have an advantage in knowing how to both lead and work in teams."

"If you are a business Entrepreneur, just one to 2 years of select business classes...real world training and education come from real world jobs here and overseas...better to join the Military and get the best education possible while serving your country...then enter the business world!"

#14 University of Chicago

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Location: Chicago, Ill.
Enrollment: 5,388
Rating: 3.75 out of 5

U Chicago fell three spots from last year's list. The school ranked much higher on other major rankings, taking the #4 spot in both Forbes and US News' national universities list.

Reader comments: "I've hired hundreds of people over my career. I no longer hire people from unserious universities where kids can and do graduate being ignorant and sloppy thinkers. The remaining serious universities include University of Chicago, MIT, Caltech and Carnegie-Mellon."

#15 Duke University

Location: Durham, North Carolina
Enrollment: 25,885
Rating: 3.74 out of 5

Duke fell three spots from last year's list. It took the #24 spot in Forbes, and a much higher spot at #8 in US News' list of national universities.
Reader comments: "Duke University: Work Hard, Play Harder."

#16 University of California - Berkeley

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Location: Berkeley, Calif.
Enrollment: 25,885
Rating: 3.70 out of 5

UC Berkeley fell two spots from last year's list. The school ranked at #21 in US News' National Universities ranking and at #50 overall in Forbes.

Reader comments: "If the top public schools (Berkeley, UCLA, UVA, Mich) can keep their tuitions down, I don't see why they won't over take the other top schools - at least for US students."

#17 Brown University

Location: Providence, Rhode Island
Enrollment: 6,380
Rating: 3.65 out of 5

Tiebreaker: Brown had more '5' ratings than Carnegie Mellon.

Brown fell two spots from last year's list. The school ranked at #15 in US News' National Universities ranking and at #19 overall in Forbes.

#18 Carnegie Mellon University

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Location: Pittsburgh, Penn.
Enrollment: 6,281
Rating: 3.65 out of 5

Carnegie Mellon fell one spot from last year's list. The school ranked at #69 in Forbes and at #23 in US News' national universities list.

Reader comments: "Carnegie Mellon has Hi-tech companies recruiting Computer Science and Engineering undergraduates before they graduate."


#19 Northwestern University

Location: Evanston, Ill.
Enrollment: 8,475
Rating: 3.59 out of 5

Northwestern held the same spot from last year's list. The school ranked at #22 in Forbes and at #12 in US News' national universities list.

Reader comments: "I was hired at my current job almost solely because I went to Northwestern. I think that's crazy but I'll take it."

#20 Georgetown University

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Location: Washington, D.C.
Enrollment: 7,590
Rating: 3.53 out of 5

Georgetown held the same spot from last year's list. The school ranked at #38 in Forbes and at #25 in US News' national universities list.

Reader comments: "Small liberal arts colleges such as Haverford or particular programs such as Georgetown's School of Business are the best type of programs."

#21 University of Michigan — Ann Arbor

Location: Ann Arbor, Mich.
Enrollment: 24,407
Rating: 3.36 out of 5

U Michigan rose two spots from last year's list. It took the #57 spot in Forbes and the #25 spot in US News' national universities ranking.

Reader comments: "Michigan has great academics, active alum network and students have minimal attitude."
"Generally, a first rate student from UMichigan is equivalent to an ivy first rater, but the networking factor is not as good."

#22 University of Virginia


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Location: Charlottesville, Virg.
Enrollment: 15,762
Rating: 3.34 out of 5

UVA rose one spot from last year's list. The school ranked at #36 in Forbes and at #24 in US News' National Universities ranking.

Reader comments: "Honestly, the best people that I've seen in the industry have been from Stanford and UVA. Stanford produces more intellectually aware people who have an instinctive drive. UVA, and this comment may surprise a few people, produces some unbelievably well-rounded kids. I mean if you ever go there to recruit, you'll know what I'm talking about. If I were to make a law that made sure that all businesses had its employees only from one school, UVA's company would beat all others, without the slightest doubt."

"While the star universities are all well represented in the alternative asset industry,I have noticed a disproportionate share of the truly bright people across hedge funds and private equity come from UVA's undergraduate business school. As a public school, it seems UVA offers quite a strong value proposition, especially for those who enroll in the business program."

#23 University of Notre Dame

Location: Notre Dame, Ind.
Enrollment: 8,452
Rating: 3.30 out of 5

Notre Dame rose four spots from last year's list. The school ranked high on other college ratings, at #12 in Forbes and #17 in US News' national universities list.

Reader comments: "While highly ranked private schools like Notre Dame, Boston College, Emerson, Vassar and Skidmore offer fine educations and a nice experience they are not worth the money."

#24 Georgia Institute of Technology

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Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Enrollment: 13,948
Rating: 3.26 out of 5

Georgia Tech rose eight spots from #32 on last year's list. The school ranked much lower though at #135 in Forbes. It took the #36 spot in US News' National Universities ranking.





#25 New York University

Location: New York, New York
Enrollment: 22,280
Rating: 3.25 out of 5

NYU dropped one spot from last year's list. The Manhattan school ranked at #97 in Forbes and at #32 in US News' National Universities ranking.

Reader comments: "NYU's Tisch School for the Arts is considered one of the most respected training grounds for young actors in the world. However, I speak from experience when I say, "it is not worth thousands of dollars in debt." I look at all of the STEM majors at NYU and wish that I studied something in that area. Those fields are where the jobs are. Either learn an actual skill in college or don't go at all."

"Schools like Columbia or NYU and other urban schools are highly effective as their students tend to have real life experiences during their studies. Interns can attend class and work in a broad array of fields during school, as opposed to rural students who tend to have a more limited exposure."

Business Insider's rating is based on a simple and pragmatic survey that asked how much each college will help students succeed in life. Our ranking tends to favor more famous schools, perhaps rightly so. We also reference Forbes' US college ranking and US News' rankings of US universities and liberal arts colleges.

Click here for the full list of Best Colleges in America.

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