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North American university rankings

University rankings can be a useful source of information and many students want to apply to the highest ranked university that they are eligible for. The universities we work with are named among the best in the world, USA or Canada by popular university rankings and student surveys.

The campus of Royal Roads University in Canada Long Island University campus in the USA

How North American universities are ranked

University rankings are lists of the best worldwide, Canadian or American universities and colleges based on a wide variety of criteria. In addition to overall university rankings there are also rankings of academic programs and departments.

There is no official ranking of universities by the US or Canadian governments. Instead, North American university rankings are compiled by magazine, newspaper, and book publishers. The method of determining top universities varies from publication to publication. The rankings are a helpful starting point, but they can be very subjective and should not be your only consideration when choosing the best university for you.

Understanding the rank of a US university

There are 4,409 degree-granting institutions in America but only the highest quality US universities are recognized by the popular university rankings:

  • QS World University Rankings includes 145 US universities, representing the top 3.3% of universities in America
  • The 'Best Colleges' named by The Princeton Review represent the top 9% of universities in America
  • Forbes 'America's Top Colleges' lists the best 15% of US universities
  • A university ranked by U.S.News and World Report's 'Best Colleges' is in the top 32% of universities in the USA

The US universities we work with are ranked by one or more of these publications: see lists on the right.

Popular American university rankings

Well-known lists of top-ranked universities are published by:

QS (Quacquarelli Symonds)

QS World University rankingsQS, a UK company specializing in education and study abroad, publishes the annual QS World University Rankings, which is recognized as one of the most influential and referenced university rankings. For this list of the world's top universities, QS reviews over 2,000 universities, and ranks the top 400 universities individually. 6 indicators of quality form the World University Rankings: academic reputation, employer reputation, faculty research activity, faculty:student ratio, proportion of international students, and proportion of international faculty. In addition to the overall ranking, QS also publishes World University Rankings by Subject considering the top 200 universities worldwide for 30 academic subjects, QS Best Student Cities, and other rankings by continent.

U.S. News & World Report

US News & World Reports Best Colleges logoU.S. News & World Report publishes many lists of top-ranked universities, including America's Best Colleges and America's Best Graduate Schools (by academic program). U.S. News & World Report rankings are the best known American university rankings and have been published since 1983. Rankings are determined based on data collected from each university either by survey or from the information on the university's website. The methodology used by these rankings has changed many times, and not all data is shared with readers. Some of the most important ranking factors include graduation rates, per-student spending, average class size and student-teacher ratio.

The Princeton Review

Princeton Review logoThe Princeton Review is an education services company known for test preparation courses. It publishes an annual Best Colleges in USA guide of top ranked universities and gives top 20 lists in many categories. Instead of focusing on academics, these rankings consider student experience. Data is gathered by a survey of more than 100,000 students who are asked their opinions on their university. These university rankings include popular categories like 'Best College Library,' 'Best Classroom Experience,' and 'Most Accessible Professors.' It also includes lists like 'Best Campus Food,' 'Most Politically Active,' and 'Green Rating'. The Best Colleges Guide has been published since 1992. The Princeton Review is not affiliated with Princeton University.

Forbes magazine

Forbes America's Best Colleges LogoForbes publishes a list of 650 universities called America's Top Colleges. The Forbes rankings consider a variety of criteria, including student evaluations of courses and instructors, university graduation rates, postgraduate success, and the number of students or faculty who have won nationally competitive awards like Rhodes Scholarships or Nobel Prizes. The Forbes rankings include some less commonly recognized colleges.

Washington Monthly College Guide

Washington Monthly college rankings logoThe annual ranking of Washington Monthly magazine offers a different approach to many other American university rankings: the list is based upon a university's contribution to the public good. It looks at how universities enhance social mobility, foster scientific and humanistic research, and promote service (encouraging students to give something back to their country). The Washington Monthly University Rankings is a full list of 1500+ universities and colleges in America.

How important are university rankings?

With all the choices of US universities that are available, no single university - no matter how high the ranking - is the best fit for everyone. Rankings may give you a starting point for your decision, but there are many other factors that should you should consider when choosing a university. The very 'best' university is the one that is right for you!


A range of carefully selected universities are available through Universities in the USA. Many are in the highest categories for their main fields of study. Use our University Search Tool to quickly find and compare universities and colleges that best fit your needs.