How We Rank Schools

At BestColleges, we want to recognize schools with outstanding performance in areas that directly impact students. Our goal is to give students all the information needed to choose the right school for them. By displaying awards, we hope this will help them effectively compare schools and ultimately decide where they want to apply.

We use a normal bell curve to determine if we should issue an award. These awards are based on if the school is significantly higher or lower than other schools in certain areas. If the metric we're measuring falls outside one standard deviation of the mean (or approximately higher or lower than 84% of all other similar schools), that school is given an award.

Chart with standard bell curve, standard deviations, and cumulative percentages.

We use publicly available provisional datasets from Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) [2020-2021] to collect data to inform our school awards. In the absence of IPEDS data, information was collected directly from the school and is accurate as of the collection date. Schools missing substantial data were not considered when determining if a school qualified for an award.

Data is complex, and we acknowledge we may not always get it right; if you spot missing or outdated information on our site, please contact us at so we can address it.