What’s a top school?

July 30, 2006 at 6:34 am 9 comments

Posted by Dee

I suppose it might be helpful to define as best I can what a “top school” is. Yes, reputation is a key factor. But, are there not other characteristics that top colleges or universities share? I think besides reputation, top schools provide superior academics. This manifests itself in 1) top professors, and 2) a myriad of interesting class choices and learning opportunities, both in and out of the classroom.

Here’s my list of what I consider “top schools,” in no particular order:

– Harvard
– Yale
– Princeton
– Stanford
– UC Berkeley
– Cornell
– UPenn
– Georgetown
– Dartmouth
– Duke
– Columbia
– Brown

To me, these are America’s top schools. They all have prestige combined with great academics and student life. Feel free to comment and leave your own list. And, if you disagree with my list or think one of these schools should be off the list, tell me why… or, conversely, if you think I left a school off my list, tell me why too!


Entry filed under: Academics, Brown, Caltech, CIT, Colleges/Universities, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Duke, Georgetown, Harvard, MIT, NYU, Princeton, Stanford, UC Berkeley, UCLA, University of California, University of Pennsylvania, UPenn, Yale.

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9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. SB  |  September 13, 2006 at 7:27 pm

    My son is a sophomore and is starting to look into admission criteria to various schools. Is it true that the admission “preferences” to any of the “top schools” may drastically vary from one year to another? What is the best way to find them out?


  • 2. Dee  |  September 14, 2006 at 6:10 pm

    SB —

    I can say quite confidently that admission criteria itself, in terms of testing and grades, does not vary drastically from year to year; the expectation from colleges is that scores and academic record will be high.

    That said, in terms of admission “preferences,” I think it’s fair to say that all Admission Committees are aiming for balance. Their challenge each year is to select students who will contribute to a diverse, well-rounded class.

    My advice to your son is, of course, to maintain high grades and testing scores as well as to focus on hobbies and extracurriculars that will allow him to stand out from other applicants. I’d recommend taking a look at the AdmitSpit post on this subject, “Well-rounded is out” at https://admitspit.wordpress.com/2006/07/31/well-rounded-is-out/ from July 31, 2006.

    Best of luck!

  • 3. Michael  |  November 14, 2006 at 2:02 am

    Washington University in St. Louis!

  • 4. mark  |  December 3, 2006 at 7:18 pm

    uhh what about amherst williams pomona swarthmore wellesley middlebury etc…

  • 5. Camille  |  December 14, 2006 at 10:44 pm

    Glaring omissions, in my humble opinion:

    -U of Chicago (more Nobel laureates than any other American school, ever)
    and, finally, the smaller liberal arts schools,in no particular order….exceptional undergrad experiences on par with (and,in some cases, better than, those at ‘top’ universities. Also, most definitely as competitive, overall, in terms of admissions rates):


    Oops…just realized the last poster mentioned almost every school I just did ! Promise I wasn’t copying…

  • 6. Annie  |  March 16, 2007 at 1:49 am

    i think USC should be on the list if UCLA and NYU are!

  • 7. BB  |  March 16, 2007 at 5:22 am

    I was recently reading a Princeton Review college book and it said that many of the Ivies – notably harvard along with a few companions – highly recommended four years of a foreign language. When they say “recommend”, what does that really mean? Does it mean “mandatory”? Thank you. I would fit Span IV into my schedule, but i simply cannot legally take 8 classes. I’m taking the four AP core classes along with journalism, Symphonic Band (highest band), and Academic Decathlon. Is that good enough?

  • 8. Mike  |  June 7, 2007 at 9:37 pm

    I would remove NYU and put University of Chicago on your list.

  • 9. Matt  |  August 24, 2007 at 12:43 am

    Respectfully disagree with removing NYU from that list. To cite a few rankings, NYU is ranked in the elite top 5 Law and Business schools in the country (US News and Report)l, 1st in philosophy(2006-2008 Philosophical Gourmet Report), and high regarded as the premier school to go to for any of the Arts (Music, Drama, etc.). It’s a top school.


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