Princeton, Harvard, Yale, and Stanford: these schools were among the top four universities in this week's Best College rankings from U.S. News -- and, albeit in a different order, they were the top-ranked universities in 1983, the first year the list was released. But that doesn't mean that U.S. News (or any other source) is reviewing universities and colleges the same way they were 30 years ago.
What makes a school great? Every publication that ranks colleges and universities has its own methodology, usually a combination of test scores prior to entering school and starting salary after graduation. Business Insider, which debuted its seventh annual ranking this week, uses SAT scores per College Board, median starting salary for grads according to PayScale, and feedback from a survey of over 1,000 readers. Their list might not contain many surprises, but it does provide insight into what makes a top school in 2015.
Every year, media outlets run their lists of the top colleges and universities in the country, and every year, prospective students read them and scratch their heads, wondering why this list says that Princeton is the nation's top university, while that list says it's Stanford, and so on. The answer is that every list-maker has its own set of criteria for determining the best institutions. To find the best school for you, start by learning what goes into these rankings.