Colleges where freshmen usually return

Forbes Ranks Top Colleges Of 2015
Forbes Ranks Top Colleges Of 2015

The process of finding the right college doesn't always end once students move into their dorms and start their freshman year.

Some realize their chosen university doesn't offer what they need or the time isn't right for school and decide not to return for sophomore year. Among public institutions, an average of 64.2 percent of full-time, first-time students who started school in fall 2013 returned in fall 2014, according to a report from ACT, which manages the standardized test by the same name. The average rate is slightly higher at private colleges and universities: 70.2 percent.

At a few schools, however, almost every freshman returns for another year.

[Learn which schools have the highest undergrad enrollment.]

The average freshman retention rate at Columbia University and the University of Chicago for students who entered in the fall between 2010 and 2013 was 99 percent. They had the highest freshman retention rate among 1,354 ranked schools that submitted data to U.S. News in an annual survey.

While both schools were listed in the past among the colleges and universities with the highest freshman retention rate, two new schools have been added to the list. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Pomona College each had a 98 percent average freshman retention rate.

Pomona is one of three National Liberal Arts Colleges to make the list. These schools emphasize undergraduate education and award at least half of their degrees in liberal arts fields.

RELATED: Forbes reveals 2015 top colleges

The school with the lowest freshman retention rate is East-West University in Illinois. About 30.5 percent of first-time, full-time students who started between fall 2010 and fall 2013 returned for sophomore year.

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Below is a list of the 12 schools with the highest average retention rate for freshmen who started between fall 2010 and fall 2013. Unranked schools, which did not meet certain criteria required by U.S. News to be ranked, were not considered for this report.

Average freshman retention rate (2010-2013 fall entering classes)
Columbia University (NY) - 99%
University of Chicago - 99%
Yale University (CT) - 98.75%
Dartmouth College (NH) - 98.25%
Princeton University (NJ) - 98.25%
Stanford University (CA) - 98.25%
Harvey Mudd College (CA) - 98%
Massachusetts Institute of Technology - 98%
Pomona College (CA) - 98%
Amherst College (MA) - 97.75%
University of Notre Dame (IN) - 97.75%
University of Pennsylvania - 97.75%,

​Don't see your school in the top 10? Access the U.S. News College Compass to find retention data, complete rankings and much more. School officials can access historical data and rankings, including of peer institutions, via U.S. News Academic Insights.

U.S. News surveyed nearly 1,800 colleges and universities for our 2015 survey of undergraduate programs. Schools self-reported myriad data regarding their academic programs and the makeup of their student body, among other areas, making U.S. News' data the most accurate and detailed collection of college facts and figures of its kind. While U.S. News uses much of this survey data to rank schools for our annual Best Colleges rankings, the data can also be useful when examined on a smaller scale. U.S. News will now produce lists of data, separate from the overall rankings, meant to provide students and parents a means to find which schools excel, or have room to grow, in specific areas that are important to them. While the data come from the schools themselves, these lists are not related to, and have no influence over, U.S. News' rankings of Best Colleges, Best Graduate Schools or Best Online Programs. The retention data above are correct as of Jan. 5, 2016.

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