Our 62 annual college rankings lists are entirely based on what students attending the schools in our Best Colleges book tell us about their colleges and their experiences at them via our student survey for this project. Each ranking list reports the top 20 colleges (of the 380 in the book) in a specific category.

We tallied the rankings lists in the current edition, The Best 380 Colleges (published August 2015), based on the data from our surveys of 136,000 students at the 380 schools in the book.

Our student survey has 80 questions in four sections. We ask students about: 1) their school's academics/administration, 2) life at their college, 3) their fellow students and 4) themselves. Students answer by selecting one of five answer choices that range across a grid or scale. The answer choice headers might range from "Excellent" to "Awful" or "Extremely" to "Not at All": some are percentages with ranges from "0–20%" to "81–100%." This answer choice five-point scale—which is called a Likert scale—is the most commonly used measurement for this type of survey research: a consensus-based assessment.

We give each college a score for its students' answers to each survey question. Similar to a GPA, it is a metric that provides us with a numerical base to compare student opinions from college to college—apples to apples, as it were. Using these scores (which we compute out to several percentage points), we are able to tally our ranked lists. Schools that make it onto any of our 62 top 20 lists are those at which the surveyed students (as a group) indicated a very high consensus of opinion about that topic.

Most of our ranking lists are based on students' answers to one survey question, such as "How do you rate your campus food?" Some, such as our "Best Classroom Experience" list, are based on students' answers to more than one question.

Note: The Princeton Review does not rank the schools in the book overall, 1 to 380, hierarchically or in a single list category. The Princeton Review reports the top 20 schools (of the 380 in the book) for each of its 62 different ranking list categories—but does not report ranks beyond the top 20 in any category (i.e., schools ranked 21 to 380).

Note: No ranking list reflects The Princeton Review's opinion of (or rating of) the colleges. A college's appearance on a ranking list in the book is entirely the result of what its own students surveyed by The Princeton Review reported about their campus experiences as well as how they rated various aspects of their college life.

Note: The Princeton Review college rankings are different from The Princeton Review college ratings. Our college ratings are numerical scores on a scale of 60–99 that we give to all colleges in the book. We report those rating scores in eight categories, including Admissions Selectivity, Financial Aid, Fire Safety and Green. Unlike our 62 ranking lists, which are based entirely on our student surveys, our eight rating scores are based primarily on our surveys of administrators at the schools who annually provide us with institutional data we request about their colleges. (A few of our rating scores factor in some of our student survey data—e.g., our "Professors Accessible Rating" score is based on students' answers to our survey question that asks students to rate the accessibility of their professors on our five-point scale). Our college ratings scores appear in our school profiles in The Best 380 Colleges (as well as in our school profiles in our books Colleges That Pay You Back and The Complete Book of Colleges ) and on our site. Learn more about our ratings here .

The Princeton Review's 62 college ranking lists cover nine general areas: Academics/Administration, Quality of Life, Politics, Campus Life, Town Life, Social Life, Extracurriculars, Social Scene and Schools by Type. Here is a breakdown on each of those eight general areas, the titles of the ranking lists we report in each area, and information about each ranking list basis: the student survey question(s) we use to report the list.

 

Academics/Administration
Best Classroom Experience  
Based on students' answers to several survey questions, including how they rate their professors, their classroom and lab facilities, the amount of in-class time devoted to discussion and the percent of classes they attend.

Students Study the Most  
Students Study the Least

Both lists are based on students' answers to the survey question: "How many out-of-class hours do you spend studying each day?"

Professors Get High Marks  
Professors Get Low Marks

Both lists are based on students' answers to the survey question: "Are your instructors good teachers?"

Most Accessible Professors  
Least Accessible Professors

Both lists are based on students' answers to the survey question: "How accessible are your instructors outside the classroom?"

Best Science Lab Facilities  
Based on students' answers to the survey question: "How do you rate your school's science lab facilities?"

Most Popular Study Abroad Program  
Based on students' answers to the survey question, "How popular is studying abroad at your school?"

Best Health Services  
Based on students' answers to the survey question, "How do you rate your school's campus health services?"

Best Career Services  
Based on students' answers to the survey question: "How do you rate your school's career/job placement services?"

Best College Library  
This Is a Library?

Both lists are based on students' answers to the survey question: "How do you rate your school's library facilities?"

Great Financial Aid  
Financial Aid Not So Great

Both lists are based on students' answers to the survey question: "If you receive financial aid, how satisfied are you with your financial aid package?"

Best-Run Colleges  
Administrators Get Low Marks

Both lists are based on students' answers to the survey question: "Overall, how smoothly is your school run?"

Their Students Love These Colleges  
Based on students' answers to the survey question, "Overall, how satisfied are you with your school?"

Quality of Life
Happiest Students  
Least Happy Students

Both lists are based on students' answers to the survey question: "Overall, how happy are you?"

Most Beautiful Campus  
Least Beautiful Campus

Both lists are based on students' answers to the survey question: "How do you rate the beauty of your campus?"

Easiest Campus to Get Around  
Based on students' assessments of ease of getting around their campus.

Best Campus Food
Is It Food?

Both lists are based on students' answers to the survey question: "How do you rate the food on campus?"

Best College Dorms  
Is That a Dorm?

Both lists are based on students' answers to the survey question: "How do you rate the comfort of your campus dorms?"

Best Quality of Life  
Based on students' answers to several survey questions, including how they rate the beauty, safety and location of their campus, their campus dorms and food, their ease in getting around the campus and in dealing with the administration, the friendliness of fellow students and interactions among different student types on campus and their overall happiness.

Politics
Most Conservative Students  
Most Liberal Students  
Both lists are based on students' answers to the survey question: "Politically, are you left-wing, Democrat, middle, Republican, right-wing?"

Most Politically Active Students  
Election? What Election?

Both lists are based on students' answers to the survey question: "How popular are political/activist groups on your campus?"

Demographics
Lots of Race/Class Interaction  
Little Race/Class Interaction  
Both lists are based on students' answers to the survey question: "Do different types of students (black/white, rich/poor) interact frequently and easily at your school?"

LGBTQ-Friendly  
LGBTQ-Unfriendly

Both lists are based on students' answers to the survey question: "Do students, faculty and administrators at your college treat all persons equally regardless of their sexual orientations and gender identity/expression?"

Most Religious Students  
Least Religious Students

Both lists are based on students' answers to the survey question: "How religious are students at your school?"


Town Life
College City Gets High Marks  
College City Gets Low Marks

Both lists are based on students' answers to the survey question: "How do you rate the city or town where your school is located?"

Town–Gown Relations Are Great  
Town–Gown Relations Are Strained

Both lists are based on students' answers to the survey question: "How well do students at your college get along with members of the local community?"


Extracurriculars
Best Athletic Facilities  
Based on students' answers to the survey question: "How do you rate the recreational/athletic facilities at your school?"

Students Pack the Stadiums  
There's a Game?

Both lists are based on students' answers to the survey question: "How popular are intercollegiate sports at your school?"

Everyone Plays Intramural Sports  
Nobody Plays Intramural Sports

Based on students' answers to the survey question: "How popular are intramural sports at your school?"

Best College Radio Station  
Based on students' answers to the survey question: "How popular is the college radio station?"

Best College Newspaper  
Based on students' answers to the survey question: "How do you rate your campus newspaper?"

Best College Theater  
Based on students' answers to the survey question: "How do you rate your college's theater productions?"

Students Most Engaged in Community Service  
Based on students’ answers to the survey question “How committed is the student body to community service?”


Social Scene
Lots of Greek Life  
Based on students' answers to the survey question: "How popular are fraternities/sororities at your school?"

Lots of Beer  
Got Milk?

Both lists are based on students' answers to the survey question: "How widely is beer used at your school?"

Lots of Hard Liquor  
Scotch and Soda, Hold the Scotch

Both lists are based on students' answers to the survey question: "How widely is hard liquor used at your school?"

Reefer Madness  
Don't Inhale

Both lists are based on students' answers to the survey question: "How widely is marijuana used at your school?"


Schools by Type
Party Schools  
Stone-Cold Sober Schools

Both lists are based on students' answers to survey questions concerning: the use of alcohol and drugs at their school, the number of hours they study each day outside of class time and the popularity of fraternities/sororities at their school.
Schools on the "Party Schools" list are those at which surveyed students' answers indicated a combination of low personal daily study hours (outside of class), high usages of alcohol and drugs on campus and high popularity on campus for frats/sororities
Schools on the "Stone-Cold Sober Schools" list are those at which surveyed students' answers indicated a combination of high personal daily study hours (outside of class), low usages of alcohol and drugs on campus and low popularity on campus for frats/sororities.

Future Rotarians and Daughters of the American Revolution  
Birkenstock-Wearing, Tree Hugging, Clove-Smoking Vegetarians

Both lists are based on students' answers to survey questions concerning their own political persuasion, the use of marijuana at the school, how religious students are at the school, the popularity of student government on campus and the level of acceptance of the LGBTQ community on campus.

Schools on the list "Future Rotarians and Daughters of the American Revolution" are those at which surveyed students' answers indicated their personal political persuasions to be very conservative, low levels of acceptance of the gay community on campus, high levels of popularity for student government on campus and a very religious student body.

Schools on the list "Birkenstock-Wearing, Tree Hugging, Clove-Smoking Vegetarians" are those at which surveyed students' answers indicated their personal political persuasions to be very liberal, high levels of acceptance of the LGBTQ community on campus, low levels of popularity for student government on campus and a student body that is not very religious.