schools/colleges U.S. Colleges Ranked: Top 100+ Elite Schools  

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List Rules Updated for 2016-2017

This is a transparent and simpler ranking than U.S. News, Forbes, etc.  You’ll notice the term “Ivy" throughout, though the actual Ivy League comprises eight universities. However the Ivy League started as an athletic conference that happened to be made up of some of the oldest and most prestigious schools. 

Since then, the term "Ivy" expanded to mean a larger (but still small) number of schools offering prestige, academic rigor, and tremendous educational opportunity.  You'll see references to other groups often labeled Ivies such as the NESCAC (largely synonymous with the Little Ivies), the UAA, the SCAC, and the Centennial Conference that we around academic excellence.   Experts have also labeled schools Public Ivies, Hidden Ivies, Catholic Ivies, or the "Magnolia League."  Almost all of those plus other elite institutions scored high enough, using the formula below, to be included.

The factors considered in scoring: freshman retention, graduation rate, % of classes with fewer than 20 students, % of classes with more than 50 students, and % of alumni donations.

I’m not a professional statistician or education expert, so this system is not perfect.  However, experts say these metrics are strong indicators of student happiness, the happiness of graduates with their experience, the seriousness your student's classmates will take his or her education, and the school's dedication to providing personal attention to your student.

A sample score: Fauxville State University: Freshmen Retention: 75%, Graduation Rate: 50%, Classes 20 & under: 33%, Classes 50 & over: 24%, freshmen in the top 10% of their graduating class 20%, and alumni giving: 10%.

 Fauxville State’s score would be 75 + 50 + 33 – 24 + 20 + 10 = 164.

A perfect score would be 500. This list includes schools that scored 300 or above. Where schools earned a tie score, the school with the higher percentage of students who graduated in the top tenth of their high school class will be listed first.

Only about 8% of four-year colleges score 300 or above. Because there are still fantastic schools that didn't quite make the list, I'll expand the regional lists.

Schools scoring a freshman retention below 75%, a graduation rate below 50%, classes with 20 students or fewer below 33%, classes with 50 students or more above 24%, are not included even if the total score is above 300. There’s no minimum for students not in the top 10% of their high school class nor alumni giving.

For what is likely the best evaluation, my understanding is experts consider the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) to be the most valuable analysis of undergraduate colleges. 

I believe this list is complete. If you feel a school has been omitted or a listing is incorrect, I will be happy to recheck. Thanks for reading!

1
Williams College is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list U.S. Colleges Ranked: Top 100+ Elite Schools
Williams College Williamstown, Massachusetts, United States of America - Score: 416.7,  Williamstown, Mass.Williams is one of the three traditional Little Ivies. It's also a a NESCAC Little Ivy (the athletic league of elite liberal arts colleges generally referred to as Little Ivies).  Also ...

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2
Princeton University is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list U.S. Colleges Ranked: Top 100+ Elite Schools
Princeton University Princeton, New Jersey, United States of America - Score: 411.4  Located in Princeton, NJ, one of the eight members of the Ivy League and the highest scoring research university.    

3
University of Chicago is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list U.S. Colleges Ranked: Top 100+ Elite Schools
University of Chicago Chicago, Illinois, United States of America - Score 402 Chicago, Illinois.  The top research university in the Midwest.Chicago is a Greene's Guide Hidden Ivy and also a "UAA League Ivy".   Again, like the Ivy League and NESCAC, the UAA is an ...

4
Columbia University is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list U.S. Colleges Ranked: Top 100+ Elite Schools
Columbia University Upper Manhattan, New York City, New York - Score 398, New York, NY.  Columbia is a member of the Ivy League.  It is world-famous for its library and its journalism program.    

5
Swarthmore College is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list U.S. Colleges Ranked: Top 100+ Elite Schools
Swarthmore College Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, United States of America - Score 397.8, Swarthmore, PA. Though frequently associated with the Little Ivies (see "Little Ivies" in Wikipedia), Swarthmore is actually a Centennial Conference "Ivy". 

6
Washington and Lee University is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list U.S. Colleges Ranked: Top 100+ Elite Schools
Washington and Lee University Virginia, United States of America - Score 395.2, Lexington, VA.  Washington and Lee is a liberal arts college and a Greene's Guide Hidden Ivy

7
Bowdoin College is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list U.S. Colleges Ranked: Top 100+ Elite Schools
Bowdoin College Brunswick, Maine, United States of America - Score 394.7, Brunswick, Maine.  Bowdoin is a NESCAC Little Ivy and Greene's Guide Hidden Ivy.

8
Wellesley College is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list U.S. Colleges Ranked: Top 100+ Elite Schools
Wellesley College Wellesley, Massachusetts, United States of America - Score 393.6, in Wellesley, Mass. Wellesley is a member of the Seven Sisters, the women's colleges founded as companion institutions to Ivy League and Little Ivy schools and comparable in educational reputation.  One of the ...

9
Amherst College is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list U.S. Colleges Ranked: Top 100+ Elite Schools
Amherst College Amherst, Massachusetts, United States of America - Score: 393.4, in Amherst, Mass, one of the three traditional Little Ivy colleges, a NESCAC Little Ivy, and a Greene's Guide Hidden Ivy. Also a member of the Five College Consortium with Mount Holyoke and Smith.   ...

10
Haverford College is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list U.S. Colleges Ranked: Top 100+ Elite Schools
Haverford College Haverford, Pennsylvania, United States of America - Score: 392.2.  Haverford, PA.  Haverford is often associated with Little Ivies though it is not an official member. It is a Greene's Guide Hidden Ivy. Instead of NESCAC which is comprised of schools in New England ...

11
Yale University is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list U.S. Colleges Ranked: Top 100+ Elite Schools
Yale University New Haven, Connecticut, United States of America - Score 389.4, New Haven, CT.  Yale is one of the eight Ivy League universities.  

12
Davidson College is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list U.S. Colleges Ranked: Top 100+ Elite Schools
Davidson College Davidson, North Carolina, United States of America - Score 388, Davidson, North Carolina.  Davidson is a Greene's Guide Hidden Ivy. 

13
Harvard University is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list U.S. Colleges Ranked: Top 100+ Elite Schools
Harvard University Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States of America - Score 386.4, Cambridge, MA  The most famous member of the Ivy League.  Harvard is the oldest college in the nation and is usually the most selective school each admissions cycle.

14
Middlebury College is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list U.S. Colleges Ranked: Top 100+ Elite Schools
Middlebury College Middlebury, Vermont, United States of America - Score: 386, Middlebury, Vermont.  Middlebury is a NESCAC Little Ivy and a Greene's Guide Hidden Ivy

15
Dartmouth College is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list U.S. Colleges Ranked: Top 100+ Elite Schools
Dartmouth College Hanover, New Hampshire, United States of America - Score 384.1, Hanover, New Hampshire.  Dartmouth is a member of the Ivy League. 

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16
Duke University is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list U.S. Colleges Ranked: Top 100+ Elite Schools
Duke University Durham, North Carolina, United States of America - Score: 383.9, Durham, North Carolina.  Duke is the highest scoring research university in the South and is also a Greene's Guide Hidden Ivy.  Duke was planned to be a member of the "Southern Ivy League" ...

17
Stanford University is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list U.S. Colleges Ranked: Top 100+ Elite Schools
Stanford University Stanford, California, United States of America - Score: 383.4, Stanford, CA.  Stanford is often called the "Western Ivy" and is listed as a Greene's Guide Hidden Ivy.  Stanford is the top research university in the West.

18
Carleton College is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list U.S. Colleges Ranked: Top 100+ Elite Schools
Carleton College Northfield, Minnesota, United States of America - Score: 382.9, Northfield, MN.  Carleton is a Greene's Guide Hidden Ivy and the top liberal arts college in the Midwest

19
Johns Hopkins University is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list U.S. Colleges Ranked: Top 100+ Elite Schools
Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, Maryland, United States of America - Score: 382.7, Baltimore, MD, a Greene's Guide Hidden Ivy and a Centennial Conference Ivy.Unlike the rest of the league, Johns Hopkins is a research university. So the academic experience would likely be closer to the UAA ...

20
Thomas Aquinas College is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list U.S. Colleges Ranked: Top 100+ Elite Schools
Thomas Aquinas College Santa Paula, California, United States of America - Score 382.7, Santa Paula, California.  Thomas Aquinas is a very small conservative Catholic school that's rarely listed with the schools considered Catholic Ivies, probably because it's not on the radar of most journalists.

21
Claremont McKenna College is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list U.S. Colleges Ranked: Top 100+ Elite Schools
Claremont McKenna College Claremont, California, United States of America - Score 381.8, Claremont, CA, a liberal arts college and a member of the Claremont Consortium.   The Claremont schools are often considered the equivalent of Little Ivies for the West, but a better comparison is probably ...

22
Pomona College is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list U.S. Colleges Ranked: Top 100+ Elite Schools
Pomona College Claremont, California, United States of America - Score: 381.6, Claremont, California, Pomona is a Greene's Guide Hidden Ivy and a member of the Claremont Consortium.  

23
University of Pennsylvania is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list U.S. Colleges Ranked: Top 100+ Elite Schools
University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States of America - Score 381, Philadelphia, PA.  Penn is a member of the Ivy League.  It's considered the strongest Ivy League school for pre-professional studies like business or education.  Its graduate business school, Wharton, ...

24
Northwestern University is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list U.S. Colleges Ranked: Top 100+ Elite Schools
Northwestern University Evanston, Illinois, United States of America - Score 379.2, Evanston, IL.  Northwestern is a A Greene's Guide Hidden Ivy.  Though compatible in most ways with UAA schools like Carnegie-Mellon and University of Chicago, Northwestern goes in for Division I sports and ...

25
Brown University is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list U.S. Colleges Ranked: Top 100+ Elite Schools
Brown University Providence, Rhode Island, United States of America - Score: 378.8. Brown is a member of the Ivy League.  It's usually considered the most progressive of the eight institutions and often attracts students interested in liberal arts colleges like Oberlin, Bowdoin, and Vassar ...

26
Hamilton College is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list U.S. Colleges Ranked: Top 100+ Elite Schools
Hamilton College Clinton, New York, United States of America - Score 378.2, Clinton, NY. Hamilton is a NESCAC Little Ivy and a Greene's Guide Hidden Ivy.

27
University of Notre Dame is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list U.S. Colleges Ranked: Top 100+ Elite Schools
University of Notre Dame Notre Dame, Indiana, United States of America - Score 378.2, South Bend, Indiana.  Notre Dame is a Greene's Guide Hidden Ivy and is often called one of the Catholic Ivies along with Georgetown, Boston College, and College of the Holy Cross. 

28
Massachusetts Institute of Tec... is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list U.S. Colleges Ranked: Top 100+ Elite Schools
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States of America - Score: 375.2, Cambridge, Mass.  Probably the most famous school in the nation for engineering.  Along with CalTech, M.I.T. is often called the "Tech Ivy". 

29
Scripps College is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list U.S. Colleges Ranked: Top 100+ Elite Schools
Scripps College Claremont, California, United States of America - Score 371.2, Claremont, CA. Scripps is a renowned women's college and a member of the Claremont Consortium.

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30
Rice University is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list U.S. Colleges Ranked: Top 100+ Elite Schools
Rice University Houston, Texas, United States of America - Score: 370.8, Houston, Texas.  Rice is considered a Southern Ivy/"Magnolia Conference" university along with Duke, Vanderbilt and Tulane. Rice is also a Greene's Guide Hidden Ivy.  Rice's student population ...

31
Colgate University is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list U.S. Colleges Ranked: Top 100+ Elite Schools
Colgate University Hamilton, New York, United States of America - Score 370.3, Hamilton, New York.  Many people guess Colgate is a NESCAC Little Ivy. It's definitely comparable to many of them academically, but I suspect it would beat them to pieces in most sports. So perhaps NESCAC ...

32
Wesleyan University is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list U.S. Colleges Ranked: Top 100+ Elite Schools
Wesleyan University Middletown, Connecticut, United States of America - Score 367, Middletown, CT.  Wesleyan is one of the three traditional Little Ivies (along with Williams and Amherst), a NESCAC Little Ivy, and a Greene's Guide Hidden Ivy. 

33
Colby College is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list U.S. Colleges Ranked: Top 100+ Elite Schools
Colby College Waterville, Maine, United States of America - Score 365.6, in Waterville, Maine.  Colby is a NESCAC Little Ivy and Greene's Guide Hidden Ivy.

34
University of Southern Califor... is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list U.S. Colleges Ranked: Top 100+ Elite Schools
University of Southern California Los Angeles, California, United States of America - Score: 364.4, Los Angeles, California, I think USC is the highest scoring research university that isn't on any "Ivy" listings nor in an academic league which shows that there are high performing, elite schools without ...

35
Vanderbilt University is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list U.S. Colleges Ranked: Top 100+ Elite Schools
Vanderbilt University Nashville, Tennessee, United States of America - Score 363.3, Nashville, Tenn, Vanderbilt is a member of the unofficial Southern Ivy/Magnolia Conference universities.  Vanderbilt is also a Greene's Guide Hidden Ivy.

36
Harvey Mudd College is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list U.S. Colleges Ranked: Top 100+ Elite Schools
Harvey Mudd College Claremont, California, United States of America - Score 363, Claremont, California.  Harvey Mudd is a member of the Claremont Consortium.  It's often called a "Tech Ivy" or an "Engineering Ivy". 

37
Grinnell College is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list U.S. Colleges Ranked: Top 100+ Elite Schools
Grinnell College Grinnell, Iowa, United States of America - Score 361.9, Grinnell, Iowa.  Grinnell is a Greene's Guide Hidden Ivy

38
Georgetown University is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list U.S. Colleges Ranked: Top 100+ Elite Schools
Georgetown University Washington, D.C., United States of America - Score: 361.4, Washington DC,  Georgetown is a Greene's Guide Hidden Ivy and a "Catholic Ivy".  However, non-Catholic students should know that Georgetown tends to be much less focused on religious background ...

39
California Institute of Techno... is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list U.S. Colleges Ranked: Top 100+ Elite Schools
California Institute of Technology Pasadena, California, United States of America - Score, 360.9, Pasadena, CA.  CalTech is often called a Tech Ivy along with schools like M.I.T., Harvey Mudd, Worcester Polytechnic, Rensselaer, and Rose-Hulman.  

40
College of the Holy Cross is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list U.S. Colleges Ranked: Top 100+ Elite Schools
College of the Holy Cross Worcester, Massachusetts, United States of America - Score 360.5, Worcester, Mass.  One of four colleges most often labeled Catholic Ivies and the only liberal arts college of the four.   Holy Cross is considered somewhat more progressive than many Catholic campuses ...

41
Bates College is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list U.S. Colleges Ranked: Top 100+ Elite Schools
Bates College Lewiston, Maine, United States of America - Score 360.3, Lewiston, Maine.  Bates is a NESCAC Little ivy and a Greene's Guide Hidden Ivy.

42
Tufts University is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list U.S. Colleges Ranked: Top 100+ Elite Schools
Tufts University Medford, Massachusetts, United States of America - Score: 359.3, in Medford, Mass.  Tufts is technically a NESCAC Little Ivy.  While its academic reputation is certainly comparable, Tufts is a little larger than most liberal arts colleges. So it's unlikely to be a ...

43
Barnard College is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list U.S. Colleges Ranked: Top 100+ Elite Schools
Barnard College New York City, New York, United States of America - Score 354.4, New York, NY (affiliated with Columbia University).  Barnard is a women's college and a member of the Seven Sisters.  It's also a Greene's Guide Hidden Ivy.  Other than Wellesley, Barnard tends to be ...

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44
Union College is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list U.S. Colleges Ranked: Top 100+ Elite Schools
Union College Schenectady, New York, United States of America - Score 354.1, Schenectady, NY.  Union is a Greene's Guide Hidden Ivy.  Union is sometimes associated with the Little Ivies, and it used to be a member of NESCAC.  It is now a member of the Liberty League.

45
Washington University in St. L... is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list U.S. Colleges Ranked: Top 100+ Elite Schools
Washington University in St. Louis St. Louis, Missouri, United States of America - Score 354, St. Louis, Missouri.  Wash U is a UAA Ivy and a Greene's Guide Hidden Ivy.  Along with Johns Hopkins, it's one of the most popular schools with pre-med students.  

46
Macalester College is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list U.S. Colleges Ranked: Top 100+ Elite Schools
Macalester College Saint Paul, Minnesota, United States of America - Score 353.8, St. Paul, Minnesota. Macalester is a Greene's Guide Hidden Ivy.

47
Vassar College is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list U.S. Colleges Ranked: Top 100+ Elite Schools
Vassar College Poughkeepsie, New York, United States of America - Score: 353.5, in Poughkeepsie, New York.  Vassar is a member of the Seven Sisters although it is now coed.   Vassar is also a member of the Greene's Guide's Hidden Ivies and the most renowned member of the Liberty ...

48
Kenyon College is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list U.S. Colleges Ranked: Top 100+ Elite Schools
Kenyon College Gambier, Ohio, United States of America - Score 348.5, Gambier, Ohio.  Kenyon is one of the top liberal arts colleges in the Midwest and is a Greene's Guide Hidden Ivy

49
Cornell University is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list U.S. Colleges Ranked: Top 100+ Elite Schools
Cornell University Ithaca, New York, United States of America - Score 347.7 Cornell is by far the youngest member of the Ivy League as well as the largest. However, it's also considered to be one of the most rigorous academically. 

50
Pitzer College is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list U.S. Colleges Ranked: Top 100+ Elite Schools
Pitzer College Claremont, California, United States of America - Score 346.7, Claremont, California.  Pitzer is a member of the Claremont Consortium along with Pomona, Harvey Mudd, Claremont McKenna, and Scripps.