Amherst Magazine

College Row

Amherst is top liberal arts college in listing of student choices

A new study that attempts to rank U.S. undergraduate programs based on students’ “revealed preferences” lists Amherst among the top 10 colleges and universities in the nation. Amherst is the only liberal arts college among the top 10 on this list, which is led (in order) by Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Cal Tech and MIT.

Published in September by the National Bureau of Economic Research, the study tracked the college preferences of 3,240 high-achieving high school graduates from the Class of 2000, relying on a statistical model similar to that used for ranking players in chess or tennis tournaments. Each of the high school students had applied to and been accepted at several colleges or universities. By asking each student which school she or he ultimately chose to attend, the researchers were able to determine a “win-loss” record for each college. They then ranked the colleges according to this record.

The study’s authors contend that this methodology is more reliable than that used by other college ranking systems, as it allows for less manipulation of data.

The top 20 institutions in the NBER Revealed Preference Rankings are:

  1. Harvard
  2. Yale
  3. Stanford
  4. Cal Tech
  5. MIT
  6. Princeton
  7. Brown
  8. Columbia
  9. Amherst
  10. Dartmouth
  11. Wellesley
  12. University of Pennsylvania
  13. University of Notre Dame
  14. Swarthmore
  15. Cornell
  16. Georgetown
  17. Rice
  18. Williams
  19. Duke
  20. University of Virginia

The full study is available online (PDF).

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