Princeton, Williams top 2018 US News best colleges rankings

After a slight decrease in enrollment between 2010 and 2015, the number of undergraduates in college is expected to soar.

It's projected to increase by 14 percent between 2015 and 2026, leading to approximately 19.3 million undergraduates in the U.S., according to the National Center for Education Statistics. This increase could reflect an upcoming uptick in applicants, making for a more competitive admissions cycle at some colleges. Prospective students should not, however, expect fewer options for finding the right school.

They have many institutions to choose from that vary by majors offered, size, location and other factors.

The 2018 U.S. News Best Colleges rankings, released today, can help applicants and their families search for the right fit.

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Best national colleges 2018
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Best national colleges 2018

10. The California Institute of Technology is now No. 10, up from a tie at No. 12.

5. California's Stanford University (tie)

5. Columbia University in New York (tie)

3. Yale University in Connecticut (tie)

3. The University of Chicago (tie)

2. Harvard University in Massachusetts

1. Princeton University in New Jersey again topped the list for National Universities. 

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In the 2018 edition, there are data on more than 1,800 colleges and universities, including almost 1,400 ranked institutions.

Schools report most of the data to U.S. News via an extensive survey. They are divided into categories such as National Universities, which offer a range of bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees and emphasize research, and National Liberal Arts Colleges, which focus on undergraduate education and award at least half of their degrees in liberal arts fields.

Schools are evaluated on up to 15 indicators of excellence, such as class size, standardized test scores of incoming students and average graduation rate. As part of the methodology, U.S. News also looks at schools' predicted six-year graduation rate. This year, for National Universities only, that analysis included the proportion of science, technology, engineering and math degrees out of the total degrees granted, to account for the greater difficulty STEM-focused schools typically have in achieving high graduation rates.

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Best liberal arts colleges 2018
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Best liberal arts colleges 2018
10. Washington and Lee University (tie)
10. Davidson College (tie)
8. Claremont McKenna College (tie)
8. Carleton College (tie)
6. Pomona College (tie)
6. Middlebury College (tie)
3. Wellesley College (tie)
3. Swarthmore College (tie)
3. Bowdoin College (tie)
2. Amherst College
1. Williams College
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Also new this year: To provide a better sense of how college students fare after graduation, U.S. News has published postgraduate salary data that PayScale collected and provided; these data, however, were not used in the rankings.

College applicants can visit U.S. News to read school profiles, search for institutions by state and use tools to compare institutions with each other. There's also a wealth of information on paying for college and expert advice on the admissions process.

Looking for full rankings information? Access the U.S. News College Compass to find all published data points, including student debt and employment statistics.

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