The top 5 rankings in key categories from the 2023 Princeton Review

Vanderbilt University nearly sweeps three of the best measures voted on by students. But which colleges have the top dorms, food and career services?

The Princeton Review annually releases its guide of its best colleges but is still bucking the trend to proclaim an overall national champion. It doesn’t. Simply stated, the 388 that appear are better than the rest.

But within that pool–and on the pages of its large book set to be released on Tuesday for 25 bucks–are lots of individual lists where the 160,000 students they polled get the opportunity to vote on which ones are in the top 50 among undergraduate programs and top 25 of graduate schools. It is a wide-ranging collection, punctuated by 16 academic categories and seven apiece for best social scene, quality of life, and extracurricular activities. There are also six lists devoted to demographics, all of them not from the Review editors themselves.

“Our ranking lists are not based on our opinions of the colleges,” said Rob Franek, Editor-in-Chief of The Princeton Review. They’re entirely based on what the schools’ own students have told us about their experiences at them.”

Three of those lists highlight student satisfaction and affordability, key metrics given concerns over return on investment and inflation. Vanderbilt University nearly pulled off a trifecta, placing No. 1 in the “Their Students Love These Colleges” and “Great Financial Aid”, while finishing second to Rice University in “Best Run Colleges”.

All of the Top 10 in the “Great Financial Aid” category were private institutions with enrollments less than 10,000, from No. 3 Washington University in St. Louis (8,400 students) to No. 10 College of the Atlantic in Maine (366). Earlier this year, the Review had released its Best Value Colleges–with Princeton University coming in No. 1 on the private side and UC Berkeley tops among public schools. The happiest students on the 2023 Best Colleges list attend Tulane University in New Orleans, according to students themselves.

More from UB: Best in state: How does your college or university rank in 10 unbiased categories

Another institution having success in more than one category included the tiny Thomas Aquinas College in California, which hit No. 7 on “Great Financial Aid” and No. 3 on “Their Students Love These Colleges”. (The rest of that last top five on the list included Kansas State University, Brown University and William & Mary). It also placed fourth on “Best Classroom Experience” behind Reed College in Oregon, Sarah Lawrence College in New York and the U.S. Military Academy.

Reed College also placed No. 3 among campuses that are “Most LGBTQ-Friendly”, with Mount Holyoke College and Bryn Mawr earning the top two spots, respectively. On the flip side, and a necessity in a polarized national political environment, were the University of Tennessee, Brigham Young and College of the Ozarks as having the “Most LGBTQ-Unfreindly” campuses.

Tennessee also featured prominently in another cringeworthy category – “Little Race/Class Interaction” – at No. 3 behind the University of Notre Dame and Providence College. Those with the “Most Race/Class Interaction” were Rice, the USMA, and again, Thomas Aquinas College in Calif.

Notably absent from this year’s iteration are lists of the top Party Schools and Stone-Cold Sober Schools. The Review also gave the ax to these bizarre and now time-worn categories – Birkenstock-Wearing, Tree-Hugging, Clove-Smoking Vegetarians, and Future Rotarians and Daughters of the American Revolution. However, there are still some eyebrow raisers, with 2023 leaders in these categories: Lots of Beer (University of Wisconsin-Madison); Lots of Hard Liquor (Syracuse University); Reefer Madness (Skidmore College); Scotch and Soda, Hold the Scotch (BYU); and College Dorms Not So Fancy (Simmons University).

Here are some of the top 5 in other featured categories, ranked by students:

Best Student Support and Counseling

  1. U.S. Military Academy
  2. U.S. Air Force Academy
  3. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
  4. Texas Christian University
  5. Vanderbilt University

Best Career Services

  1. Clemson University
  2. Bentley University
  3. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
  4. Grove City College
  5. Wabash College

Most Accessible Professors

  1. Williams College
  2. U.S. Military Academy
  3. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
  4. Whitman College
  5. Webb Institute

Professors Not So Accessible

  1. Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge
  2. Pace University
  3. City University of New York-Hunter College
  4. University of Louisville
  5. California State University at Stanislaus

Best Science Lab Facilities

  1. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
  2. California Institute of Technology
  3. U.S. Military Academy
  4. Lake Forest College
  5. Union College

Best College Library

  1. University of Denver
  2. Brigham Young University
  3. Columbia University
  4. U.S. Military Academy
  5. Hampden-Sydney College

Best Campus Food

  1. University of Massachusetts-Amherst
  2. Bowdoin College
  3. Washington University in St. Louis
  4. Cornell University
  5. Pitzer College

Most Beautiful Campus

  1. University of San Diego
  2. Bryn Mawr College
  3. University of Richmond
  4. Loyola Marymount University
  5. Vanderbilt University

Best College Dorms

  1. Washington University in St. Louis
  2. Texas Christian University
  3. Emory University
  4. High Point University
  5. Rose-Hulman University

Best Athletic Facilities

  1. Auburn University
  2. Vanderbilt University
  3. University of Utah
  4. University of Alabama
  5. University of Richmond

Most Liberal Students

  1. Bennington University
  2. Reed College
  3. Lang College of Liberal Arts at the New School
  4. Grinnell College
  5. College of the Atlantic

Most Conservative Students

  1. College of the Ozarks
  2. Thomas Aquinas College (CA)
  3. Hillsdale College
  4. Grove City College
  5. Hampden-Sydney College

Green Matters, Everyone Cares About Conservation

  1. College of the Atlantic
  2. SUNY-College of Environmental Science and Forestry
  3. Pitzer College
  4. Dickinson College
  5. University of Vermont
Chris Burt
Chris Burt
Chris is a reporter and associate editor for University Business and District Administration magazines, covering the entirety of higher education and K-12 schools. Prior to coming to LRP, Chris had a distinguished career as a multifaceted editor, designer and reporter for some of the top newspapers and media outlets in the country, including the Palm Beach Post, Sun-Sentinel, Albany Times-Union and The Boston Globe. He is a graduate of Northeastern University.

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