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Freshman Year

College Rankings Are Out, and Princeton Tops the List Again

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Princeton University is still sitting pretty atop U.S. News & World Report’s annual ranking of colleges, the magazine announced Wednesday.

The elite New Jersey school has held its coveted position for three years in a row, consistently ranking ahead of Harvard (number two) and Yale, in third. Williams College in Massachusetts, listed at number one among liberal arts colleges, has kept the title for 13 years. The University of California-Berkeley is the top public school.

This year’s firsts include a Top 10 spot for the United States Naval Academy among liberal arts colleges (tied for number 9) and, after 16 years, Johns Hopkins’ triumphant return to the top 10 among national universities.

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The 1,376 colleges on the list are ranked according to academic excellence. Graduation and retention rates are weighted the heaviest, and all of the top schools on the list have higher-than-average freshman retention.

The 2016 rankings also list the most innovative schools, which are all making “cutting-edge changes” on campus.

Though the rankings are eagerly awaited by colleges, parents and prospective students (and alums, for the bragging rights), the list has its detractors. U.S. News hosted its own debate on the topic in 2013, allowing educational professionals to openly criticize their methodology and results.

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Some believe it’s wrong to take a one-size-fits-all approach to choosing colleges, while others say the lists reward the schools with the most money. In 2013, President Barack Obama proposed that the Department of Education create its own rankings, in part to combat schools’ gaming the numbers to rise in the lists. That plan was met with opposition.