The 25 Most Desirable Schools


When students get an acceptance letter from these schools, they are likely to send in their security deposit the next day. We scored desirability based on yield (the percentage of accepted students who enroll), admissions, test scores, endowment, student-to-faculty ratio, retention, and as well as climate and the quality of facilities, housing, and dining. Harvard's top spot may not be surprising, but Cooper Union? This tiny Manhattan art school makes it to the top 10 because it's selective and its students get a full ride.

About Our Rankings:
Contributing editor Peter Bernstein and researcher Courtney Kennedy drew on dozens of sources to compile these rankings including information from the National Center for Education Statistics, The Washington Monthly, and College Prowler. A portion of the data they used is represented in the following school profiles, but for the full methodologies, see our FAQ here. And if you're not a rankings fan, take a look at this piece by Colin Diver, the president of Reed College, about why schools dislike rankings and how families can use them wisely as part of their college decision-making process.

For more from College Prowler, visit their website.

Rose Lincoln / Courtesy of Harvard University

Just in case Harvard University hasn't earned enough distinctions since its founding as the first institution of higher learning in the United States in the mid-1600s, Newsweek adds a few more to America's preeminent university, chief among them the school's rank as the number one most desirable school in the country.

The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based university also earns top billing as the most desirable urban school and the most desirable large school. With eight presidents, 24 senators, and 43 billionaires among its alumni, it's no wonder the school lands squarely on the No. 1 spot for future power brokers. It comes in at No. 2 for brainiacs with 17 Nobel Prize winners and 24 students going on to become Rhodes Scholars over the last decade or so. And of course graduates were no slouches when they arrived on the prestigious campus either, averaging 35 on the ACT and 1580 on the SATs. Lending credence to the theory that strong bodies go with strong minds, the school earns the 25th spot for jocks.

It's no surprise that the school only accepts about 8 percent of applicants. Of the school's more than 26,000 students, about 10,000 are undergrads, and the school boasts a 7:1 student-to-faculty ratio.

Tuition and fees for the 2009-2010 academic year were roughly $37,000, which is an increase of about 2 percent from the previous year. Sixty-two percent of students received financial aid. The school's student body is more than half female, 15 percent Asian, 7 percent black and 6 percent Hispanic.

Courtesy of Yale University

Yale University--the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States--continues to attract the best and the brightest from across the globe. Whether you're a brainiac, future power broker, or a jock there's probably something for you at Yale.

Located on 250 acres in downtown New Haven, Connecticut, Yale ranked No. 2 on Newsweek's list of most desirable schools. But it's not easy to get in: Yale only accepts 10 percent of its applicants, and 96 percent of enrolling students graduated in the top 10 percent of their high-school class. Those standards may help explain why Yale, No. 1 on Newsweek's list of brainiac schools, has produced 17 Rhodes Scholars and 6 Nobel Prize winners over the last decade or so. Five U.S. presidents, 15 senators, and 16 billionaires also spent their undergraduate years at Yale, helping to propel the Ivy into the No. 2 slot on Newsweek's list of best schools for future power brokers.

The Yale Bulldogs also made the top ten in Newsweek's list of colleges stocked with jocks. In fact, 16 percent of Yalies play on the school's 30 varsity sports teams, and the college offers nearly 79 intramural sports. With its largely Collegial Gothic architecture, Yale also took the No. 2 spot on Newsweek's list of most desirable urban schools. To spend the 2010-2011 year in this multi-honored place, students can expect to pay $49,800 in tuition, room, and board.

Linda A. Cicero / Courtesy of Stanford University

Stanford University, already a power player among the nation's top universities, can now add some more accolades to its roster. The private liberal arts Ivy in Stanford, California, which claims fearless inquiry and action as its mission, has landed spots on seven of Newsweek's college ranking roundups: most desirable overall (No. 3), most desirable suburban school (No. 1), most diverse (No. 16), best for power brokers (No. 4), best for brainiacs (No. 6), most gay-friendly (No. 11) and the most favorable climate amongst intellectual power houses (No. 2).

The school had 30,429 students apply for a spot on "The Farm", a nickname for Stanford's campus, and Stanford admitted just 9 percent of those applicants to the class of 2013, enrolling 1,694 freshmen for fall 2010. Females made up 49 percent of the freshman class. While all 50 states are represented in the class of 2013, nearly 40 percent of students hail from California.

Asian-Americans make up 23 percent of Stanford's diverse student body, followed by Mexican-Americans and other Hispanic (12 percent), African-Americans (10 percent), international students (10%) and American Indians or Alaskan Natives (2 percent).

Tuition at Stanford is currently around $37,000 per year, and 80 percent of students in the 2008-2009 school year (the most recent year data was available) received aid. Perhaps a wise investment--27 of its alums are billionaires.

Courtesy of Princeton University

Founded in 1746, Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey, is the fourth-oldest college in the United States (Harvard, founded in 1636, is the oldest, followed by the College of William & Mary and Yale, respectively).

The Ivy finds itself on a slew of Newsweek's "best of" lists, ranking among the best schools for diversity (No. 9), most gay-friendly (No. 10), most desirable overall (No. 4), as well as the second most desirable suburban school in the country. Its output of two presidents, three senators and eight billionaires lands it at No. 5 for future power brokers, and with 20percentof its student body on varsity teams, Princeton earns 14th place on schools for jocks.

Princeton admitted just 10.1 percent of students who applied in 2009, 95percentof whom were in the top 10percentof their high-school class. No wonder it comes in at No. 4 for brainiacs. The school currently has 5,047 undergraduates and boasts a 5:1 student-to-faculty ratio. American minorities make up roughly 32 percent of the undergraduate student body. Men only have a slight edge over women when it comes to enrollment numbers.

Tuition for the 2009-2010 school year was $50,620. Currently, 58 percent of Princeton's students receive financial aid, with aid grant for the class of 2013 averaging $35,309.

Donna Coveney / Courtesy of Massachuesetts Institute of Technology

Internationally known by three simple letters, the Cambridge-based Massachusetts Institute of Technology gains a host of distinctions from Newsweek, including fifth most desirable school in the nation and third most desirable urban school.

It's no surprise that MIT is also seventh for brainiacs (of the only 12percentof applicants accepted, they averaged a 34 on the ACT and 1560 on the SAT and the school boasts 11 Nobel Prize-winning graduates over the last decade or so) and No. 14 for future power brokers (alum include four members of the House, four Fortune 100 CEOs and six billionaires). What may be surprising is that Newsweek also places the school at No. 15 for athletes (22 percent of students participate at the varsity level and 53 intramural sports are played).

MIT is packed with a diverse student body (No. 10 on the list), which is 37 percent white, 25 percent Asian, 8 percent black and 12 percent Hispanic. Though its nearly $38,000 tuition isn't cheap, and even grew close to 4 percent for the most recent academic year, more than 60 percent of MIT students received financial aid. The school has just over 4,000 undergraduates and a student-to-faculty ratio of 8:1.

Eileen Barroso / Courtesy of Columbia University

Columbia University has sealed its position as a "best value" school, thanks to strong value rankings in US News, Kiplinger, Princeton Review and Forbes, which have cast the school as offering high-quality academics at a reasonable price.

Located in New York City's Upper West Side, Columbia University was established by royal charter in 1754 as King's College and remains one of the premier schools in the United States. Newsweek plants it at No. 6 on the Most Desirable Schools list as well as the fourth most desirable urban school. Twelfth on Newsweek's schools for brainiacs, The Ivy League school is highly selective, with only 11 percent of applicants admitted as students. The fewer than 8,000 undergrads that enroll enjoy a student-to-faculty ratio of 6:1.

All that individual attention seems to pay off--third on the list for future power brokers, Columbia produces alums who frequently find themselves in illustrious positions. With a gay-friendly culture (No. 12 on the list) and non-whites representing more than one-third of its students, Columbia is the 17th most diverse school in Newsweek's rankings.

Though the school's tuition and fees for the 2009-2010 academic year totaled more than $41,000, more than half of Columbia's student population receives financial aid, many of them institutional grants. The school's endowment neared $6 billion in 2009.

Leo Sorel / Courtesy of Cooper Union

Cooper Union may be a small college--its campus spans just a few city blocks in New York's East Village and serves only 920 undergraduates--but its list of accolades is not. This highly selective arts college is No. 7 on Newsweek's list of most desirable schools, the fifth most desirable urban college and tops the list of most desirable small schools.

This coveted institution of higher learning for students pursuing architecture, art or engineering not only offers a 9:1 student-to-faculty ratio, but grants every student a full-tuition scholarship, as it has done since its founding in 1859.

For the fortunate 9 percent of applicants who are accepted, and therefore given a free ride, the college, as per its mission statement, "provides close contact with a distinguished, creative faculty and fosters rigorous, humanistic learning that is enhanced by the process of design and augmented by the urban setting."

Joseph Mehling / Courtesy of Dartmouth College

Ranking No. 1 on Newsweek's list of most desirable rural schools and the eighth most desirable school in the country, it's no wonder that only about 15 percent of the applicants are invited to matriculate at this sought-after Hanover, New Hampshire, gem. The student population, totaling almost 6,000 students, more than 4,000 of which are undergraduates, is offered a low student-to-faculty ratio of 8:1, contributing to Dartmouth College's No. 1 ranking on U.S. News & World Report's list of schools with a "Strong Commitment to Teaching."

With a student body that is 55 percent white, 14 percent Asian, 8 percent black and 7 percent Hispanic and an ongoing commitment to Native American education (in the past 40 years, more than 700 Native Americans have attended Dartmouth) this Ivy is the 24th most diverse school on Newsweek's list.

Influential alums earn Dartmouth 11th place for power brokers. Its nearly 25 percent participation in varsity sports positions the Big Green at No. 13 for athletics. With 3 Rhodes scholars in just the last decade or so, a sizable number of students going on to get Ph.D.s, an average incoming student scores of 34 on the ACT and 1550 on the SAT it's not a surprise that Dartmouth ranks 13th on Newsweek's brainiacs list.

Taking advantage of these accolades isn't cheap, however. According to U.S. Department of Education estimates, tuition and fees were almost $39,000 for the 2009-2010 academic year, nearly five percent more than the previous year.

Courtesy of United States Naval Academy

At the United States Naval Academy, the government foots the tuition bill. That could be part of the reason why the public school holds the No. 9 spot on Newsweek's list of most desirable colleges and the No. 3 spot on its roundup of most desirable suburban schools. "Annapolis is said to be the sailing capital of the world," writes one student on "During the summer it lives up to its billing. On the other hand, during the winter Annapolis slows down, leaving the streets a bit empty at times."

Of course, empty streets shouldn't matter much to the midshipmen at USNA. Another student writes on the site how third and fourth class "mids" cannot go out on Friday nights and how all students must be back by midnight on the weekends¬"or else."

Founded in 1845, the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, had just under 4,500 students in 2008, the most recent year data was available, and close to 80 percent of them were men. Caucasians made up about 75 percent of students, followed by Hispanics (10.5 percent), African-Americans (4.3 percent) and Asian or Pacific Islanders (3.4 percent).

Courtesy of Brown University

Founded in 1764, stalwart Brown University is still considered one of the nation's elite institutions of higher learning. This Ivy gains several distinctions in Newsweek's rankings, including tenth most desirable school in the country and sixth most desirable urban school. And with 92percentof its students coming from the top 10percentof their high-school class, Brown is ranked No. 9 for brainiacs.

Established even before the United States, the school was the first in the nation to accept students regardless of their religious background, and the tradition of diversity carries on today--it's No. 2 on Newsweek's list of diverse schools--as only about 45 percent of the school's students are white, with 16 percent of Asian heritage, 7 percent African-American and 8 percent Latino or Hispanic. The student body is 52 percent female. Brown is also fourteenth on Newsweek's list of the best gay-friendly schools.

Yet, getting through the doors of this citadel of intellect and broad-mindedness is an elusive quest; only around 14 percent of those who apply are accepted. The school's 6,000 undergrads on average scored a 33 on the ACT and 1540 on the SAT. The Providence, Rhode Island-based school charged about $39,000 for full-time undergraduate tuition and fees during the 2009-2010 academic year, according to U.S. Department of Education estimates.

Courtesy of Pomona College

Small in size, Pomona College is big on diversity, bright students and kudos--it has consistently ranked among the top ten American liberal arts colleges by U.S. News & World Report, has similarly been granted high marks from Forbes, and now places 11th among Newsweek's most desirable schools, fourth most desirable suburban school and second most desirable small school.

The Claremont, California-based private college has only 1,500 undergrads; they major in the arts, humanities, social sciences or natural sciences in a desert setting within an hour of the Pacific Ocean, the Mojave Desert, the San Gabriel Mountains and Los Angeles. Unsurprisingly, Pomona was No. 5 for Newsweek's list of academically rigorous schools with terrific weather. Though its Southern California location is a world away from the ivied East Coast universities its founders emulated, the school prides itself on its 7:1 student-to-faculty ratio, intimate classes and overall academic excellence. Only 16 percent of applicants are accepted (averaging ACT scores of 34 and SAT scores of 1560), which helps explain why Pomona College is No. 15 on the list of schools for brainiacs.

Its 50/50 gender breakdown, gay-friendly atmosphere, and racially, geographically and socioeconomically mixed student body makes Pomona the 20th most diverse school and the thirteenth among the best gay-friendly schools on Newsweek's lists.

Courtesy of California Institute of Technology

A lot of big brains have passed through this small university dedicated to science, technology and engineering studies, including 3 Nobel Prize winners, 54 National Medal of Science winners and 6 Crafoord Prize recipients, which earns the California Institute of Technology the No. 3 spot on Newsweek's list of brainiac schools.

The private Pasadena, California-based research college offers a 6:1 student-to-faculty ratio that lands it at No. 3 on Newsweek's Most Desirable Small Schools list, No. 7 on the Most Desirable Urban Schools list and the twelfth most desirable school overall. Its favorable SoCal climate (the 124-acre campus rests northeast of downtown Los Angeles) might have something to do with its impressive 98percentstudent-retention rate and is definitely responsible for the school's No. 3 spot on Newsweek's Great Education, Great Tan list.

As promised in its mission statement, the California Institute of Technology "investigates the most challenging, fundamental problems in science and technology in a singularly collegial, interdisciplinary atmosphere, while educating outstanding students to become creative members of society." Good if you can get it--only 17percentof applicants do.

Courtesy of University of Pennsylvania

The University of Pennsylvania, a private Ivy League college in Philadelphia is on seven of Newsweek's "best of" lists, ranking 13th on our list of most desirable colleges; eighth on the list of most desirable urban colleges; second for most desirable large campus; sixth in schools best for future power brokers; first for gay-friendliness and diversity; and finally, 18th among the 25 best colleges for the super-smart.

Admission is competitive, with just 17 percent of the 22,718 applicants for the class of 2013 receiving acceptance letters. Additionally, 96 percent of the students admitted for the fall 2009 school year were from the top 10 percent of their graduating high-school class and scored an average of 1520 on the SAT. Penn retains 95 percent of its students each year, and data shows that 88 percent of students graduate from the school in four years.

The undergraduate population at the school is 10,337, with 84 percent of students coming from outside Pennsylvania. The campus consists of 51 percent women and minorities make up 39.6 percent: After Caucasians at 37 percent, Asian-Americans are the next populous at 16 percent, followed by African-Americans at 7 percent and Hispanics at 5 percent. The student-to-faculty ratio is 6 to 1.

Tuition for the 2009-2010 school year was $53,250 with 61 percent of students receiving some form of financial aid.

Mike Kaplan / Courtesy of Air Force Academy

The United States Air Force Academy in USAFA, Colorado, is both a military organization and a university. And make no mistake--the marriage is rock solid. The school's mission is to "educate, train, and inspire men and women to become officers of character motivated to lead the United States Air Force in service to our nation."

The four-year public institution, which lands on Newsweek's list of most desirable schools (No. 14) and most desirable suburban schools (No. 5) had 4,537 undergraduates in the fall of 2008, the most recent year data was available from the National Center for Education Statistics. All of the students attend full time and 81 percent of them are male. At 77 percent, they are also largely white, followed by Asian-American (8%), Hispanic (7%) and African-American (5%).

At USAFA, the U.S. government pays for tuition.

Courtesy of United States Military Academy

The United States Military Academy lands on Newsweek's list of most desirable schools at No. 15, as well as most desirable suburban schools at No. 6. Having produced two presidents and one senator, the school is also No. 22 on the list of best schools for future power brokers. Its hometown of West Point, New York, is steeped in American history: It served as a fortified site during the Revolutionary War and is the place where Benedict Arnold committed his famous act of treason when he tried to turn the site over to the British Army.

Today, the public school, where the government pays for the students' tuition, has roughly 4,500 undergraduates enrolled, 85 percent of which are male. In the fall of 2008, the most recent year data was available, Caucasians made up 72.5 percent of cadets, followed by Hispanics (8.9%), Asian or Pacific Islanders (5.7%) and African-Americans (5.6%).

In addition to a rigorous academic schedule, cadets at the United States Military Academy must participate in intercollegiate, club or intramural sports each semester. This leads to one of the oft-heard gripes about the United States Military Academy: overcrowding. "But, with so many physically active students in one place, it would be hard for places like the weight room not to get crowded," writes one student on

Courtesy of Willians College

Along with Wesleyan University and Amherst College, Williams College is part of the "Little Three," the small-liberal-arts-school version of the "Big Three" that consists of Harvard, Princeton and Yale. And Williams shares the limelight with its Big and Little counterparts on several of Newsweek's lists: It's No. 17 for future power brokers, No. 16 on Most Desirable Schools overall, No. 2 on Most Desirable Rural Schools, No. 4 on Most Desirable Small Schools and No. 10 for brainiacs.

Undergraduate enrollment at Williams College is roughly 2,000, with the majority of students pursuing a degree in economics, followed by English. If that sounds like a student body of polar opposites, consider this: Approximately 50 percent of all Williams College students participate in varsity sports, putting it eighth on Newsweek's list of colleges stocked with jocks.

Another unusual aspect of Williams College is an academic year that operates on two four-course semesters, plus a one-course January term. An all-male college until 1970, Williams began to phase out fraternities in 1962.

During the 2009-2010 school year, students paid $49,880 for tuition, fees, and room and board.

Courtesy of Amherst University

Amherst, No. 5 on Newsweek's list of most desirable small schools, can offer students a lot of individualized attention. With a faculty-to-student ratio of 1:8, this private liberal arts school in New England boasts an average class size of 16. In fact, 90 percent of Amherst courses have fewer than 30 students. "We believe in teaching as conversation because the best teaching is conversation," Tom Gerety, the president of Amherst from 1994-2003, once said.

Situated on a scenic 1,000-acre campus near the center of the town of Amherst, Massachusetts, the college also made the top 3 in Newsweek's list of most desirable rural schools. Indeed, Amherst comes in as the 17th most desirable school overall. Along with Wesleyan University and Williams College, Amherst College is part of the "Little Three," the small-liberal-arts-school version of the "Big Three" that consists of Harvard, Princeton and Yale.

Despite its small size (roughly 1,700 undergraduates total), Amherst boasts many accomplished alumni, including U.S. President Calvin Coolidge and Supreme Court Chief Justice Harlan Fiske Stone, which lands the school the 20th rank in Newsweek's list for future power brokers and 11th for brainiacs. And the $48,400 in comprehensive fees that students paid in the 2009-2010 school year just might turn out to be a good financial investment: Amherst has also produced two billionaires.

Bob Handelman Images / Courtesy of Bowdoin College

Selective, athletic, intellectually rigorous and historic Bowdoin College is the 18th most desirable school in the country, according to Newsweek's rankings. Located in scenic Brunswick, Maine, the school also finds itself fourth on the list for most desirable rural schools and the sixth most desirable small school.

The private school, with only 1800 undergraduates, is very selective, admitting less than one in five applicants. Those who attend scored high on both the SAT and ACT, averaging 1510 on the former and 33 on the latter. The school offers more than 40 majors, with the most popular majors in the social sciences, including economics and political science, which may account for Bowdoin's 24th place on Newsweek's list for future power brokers. The school also takes spot No. 25 for its service-minded culture according to the Washington Monthly.

The student body exercises their bodies as much as their minds, with 39 percent playing on one of 28 varsity teams. There are an additional 51 intramural sports on offer, making Bowdoin the fifth-ranked jock school.

Tuition for the 2009-2010 academic year averaged around $40,000, and about 45 percent of students received financial aid. The student body is 66 percent white, 12 percent Asian, 10 percent Hispanic, 6 percent African-American and 51 percent female. Eighty-three percent hail from out of state.

*For the complete college rankings from the Washington Monthly, visit their website at

Matt Cashore / Courtesy of University of Notre Dame

Rudy, one of the most highly regarded sports films of all time, is about one Notre Dame student's intense desire to play for the university's football team. Years later, that intense desire persists--the college ranked No. 21 on Newsweek's list of colleges stocked with jocks. The private college in Notre Dame, Indiana, also lands at No. 7 on our list of most desirable suburban schools, No. 19 for most desirable overall and No. 16 for schools best for future power brokers.

Founded in 1842, the Catholic university now welcomes around 8,300 undergraduates to its campus each year. Admission is highly competitive, with five applicants for each freshman seat. Notre Dame also says that women, first admitted in 1972, now account for 47 percent of the undergraduate student body. National Center for Education Statistics data identify 77 percent of the student body as Caucasian, 9 percent Hispanic, 7 percent Asian-American and 4 percent African-American.

Tuition for the 2009-2010 school year was $51,297, with 76 percent of students receiving some form of financial aid.

Courtesy of Claremont McKenna College

Talk about a well-rounded applicant. One of seven of The Claremont Colleges, which its founders modeled after England's Oxford University, Claremont McKenna casts itself as an intellectually stimulating and socially fulfilling, yet intimate, school, given its roughly 1,200 undergraduates. It places at No. 20 on Newsweek's Most Desirable Schools list (No. 8 on Most Desirable Suburban Schools and No. 7 on Most Desirable Small Schools). Perhaps that desirability is tied into its sunny California locale--the school is 35 miles east of downtown Los Angeles--since it takes seventh place on that list as well.

Claremont McKenna College is one of the most selective liberal-arts colleges in the nation, accepting only 19 percent of its applicants. While its academic programs, competitive application process and high test scores propel it to No. 24 among best colleges for brainiacs, the school also offers a robust sports program with 46 intramural sports leagues and 19 varsity sports, making it No. 17 in colleges stocked with jocks.

Emphasizing education in economics, government and international relations, Claremont McKenna is the starting point for many careers in law, business, government and public policy. Founded in 1946 as Claremont Men's College, the private school went co-ed in 1976.

Eleftherios Kostans / Courtesy of Swarthmore College

Swarthmore College's numerous accolades belie its small size, as the private college, located just outside of Philadelphia, appeared on several of Newsweek's "best of" lists, ranking eighth among small schools, ninth among suburban schools, and fifth among schools for brainiacs. With women slightly outnumbering men and more than a third of its student body represented by ethnic minorities, Swarthmore is the fourth most diverse school on Newsweek's list. If that weren't enough, the school was also ranked by Newsweek as the 16th on the best of the gay-friendly schools in the country and the 21st most desirable school overall.

It's clear why: For academics, the college claims that 87 percent of its students ranked in the top 10 percent at their high schools, averaging 33 on the ACT and 1520 on the SAT. For those seeking an intimate setting, Swarthmore's 399-acre campus is home to fewer than 1,500 undergrads and its 7:1 student-to-faculty ratio keeps class sizes small.

If that weren't enough to attract students, its $1 billion endowment gives the college the 14th largest per-student endowment among all U.S. colleges and universities, affording Swarthmore the opportunity to admit students regardless of their financial need. No surprise it's a competitive school, accepting only 16 percent of applicants.

Les Todd / Courtesy of Duke University

Adding to numerous accolades since its founding in 1838, Newsweek counts Duke University as the 22nd most desirable school in the country and the ninth most desirable urban school. Newsweek also ranks Duke among its brainiac schools, at No. 14--its students averaged a 34 on the ACT and a 1540 on the SAT and 90 percent come from the top 10 percent of their high-school class.

With African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asians accounting for nearly 40percentof its student body and an appearance on The Advocate's gay-friendly list, Duke takes eighth place among the most diverse schools in the nation and 17th among the best gay-friendly schools. Counting billionaires, Fortune 100 CEOs and high-ranking politicians among its alumni ranks makes Duke the seventh best school for future power brokers.

Located in Durham, North Carolina, about half of its 14,000-strong student body is comprised of undergraduates, and the school has a student-to-faculty ratio of 10:1.

Tuition and fees for the 2009-2010 academic year was nearly $39,000, a nearly 4 percent increase from the previous year, and only about 22 percent of applicants are admitted.

Courtesy of Middlebury College

Middlebury College rakes in several honors in Newsweek's rankings, including the 23rd most desirable school in the country, the fifth most desirable rural school and the ninth most desirable small school. No wonder that its acceptance rate is a very selective 21 percent, with entrants averaging a 33 ACT score and 1490 SAT score.

Fifty intramural and 25 varsity sports as well as one-third of its students on varsity teams help catapult the small school to No. 16 among schools for jocks.

Middlebury College is also renowned for its commitment to environmental stewardship through its curricular offerings and eco-friendly practices on campus. However, a Middlebury education extends well beyond its idyllic home in Vermont's Green Mountains, with a robust study-abroad program that spans more than 40 countries and opportunities at more than 90 programs and universities worldwide.

Lindsay France / Courtesy of Cornell University

In addition to being named by Newsweek as the 24th most desirable school in the country and the third most desirable large school, Cornell University ranks 25th for brainiacs. This well-rounded package also comes in at No. 11 for athletes and No. 20 for gay-friendliness.

The school has more than 20,000 students, nearly 14,000 of them undergraduates. To be counted among the 21percentof accepted applicants, you'll need an average 33 on the ACT and 1500 on the SAT. Notable alumni include one U.S. senator, two fortune 100 CEOs and eight billionaires, as ranked by Forbes.

About 9 percent of students play on one of 30 varsity sports teams at this Ithaca, New York-based school. The school also has about 90 intramural sports.

Co-founder Ezra Cornell's mission to establish in 1865 an institution "where any person can find instruction in any study" is maintained today with a diverse student body that is 49 percent white, 16 percent Asian, 5 percent black and 6 percent Hispanic. The school is among the best for women in science, counting among its graduates five "women of NASA" and six eminent female physicists.

Tuition and fees neared $38,000 for the 2009-2010 academic year, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Courtesy of Rice University

If Newsweek had a list for colleges with the most intriguing provenance, Rice University in Houston, Texas, would most certainly be on it. In 1900, William Marsh Rice, a wealthy investor, was murdered for his money by his lawyer and valet. Luckily, they were found out before they could abscond with the dough, and the funds eventually helped establish the institution that now bears the murdered man's name. Rice University opened September 23, 1912, on the anniversary of Rice's death, with just 77 students and about a dozen faculty.

While there isn't an "intriguing provenance" list, there are several other lists upon which Rice University appears. It made Newsweek's roundup of most desirable colleges overall (No. 25), most desirable urban schools (No. 10), best for brainiacs (No. 20), and best gay-friendly schools (No. 18).

Rice University prides itself on its 5 to 1 student-to-faculty ratio and its tuition--$31,430 in 2009--which it says is "substantially less" than what's charged at "comparable private institutions." In 2009, the school had 3,279 undergraduates, about half of who were from Texas. The male-to-female ratio was nearly even, and these students were predominantly white, followed by Asian-American, Hispanic, multi-racial, African-American and Native American.


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