Ranking: Wall Street Journal’s 2024 Best Colleges In America

Princeton University was ranked the No. 1 university in the U.S. by Wall Street Journal/College Pulse’s 2024 ranking.

When it comes to ranking universities, the usual players are almost always going to come out on top: The Princetons, the Stanfords, the Yales, the Harvards. They will jockey for those first few spots on whatever ranking you happen to be looking, provided the ranking is at least somewhat reputable and not focused on any particular major or specialization.

Wall Street Journal/College Pulse’s 2024 Best Colleges in the U.S. has all the schools you’d expect at the very top: Princeton University at No. 1, followed closely by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (No. 2), and Yale University (No. 3). Stanford, Columbia and Harvard universities round out the top six. (See table of the top 10 WSJ ranked colleges in the table below.)

Rank School State Score
1 Princeton NJ 91.6
2 MIT MA 90.4
3 Yale CT 90.3
4 Stanford CA 90.1
5 Columbia NY 89.7
6 Harvard MA 89.5
7 University of Pennsylvania PA 89.4
8 Amherst College MA 88.4
9 Claremont McKenna College CA 88
10 Babson College MA 87.9

But, after changing up its methodology this year, WSJ’s ranking strives to look beyond the big name reputation of the Ivies and the Ivy-Pluses. It gives room for smaller, less endowed schools the chance to rise through its ranks and be measured on the impact they actually have on student success.


Take Babson College, a small private college near Boston. It ranked No. 10 of the best U.S. colleges after ranking No. 126 a year earlier. The large jump is the result of the WSJ putting more focus on value added to student success as a result of their college of choice. 

Babson – a longtime powerhouse for entrepreneurship, No. 4 in P&Q’s latest MBA entrepreneurship ranking – was rewarded for its strong salary impact on its graduates’ careers. It ranked No. 10 in the Salary Impact category and had the fourth highest earnings above a high school grad’s yearly salary at $81,604. In fact, the Class of 2022 set a record for Babson undergraduates, earning $71,385 at their first jobs – a 14% increase over the previous class. 

“This top-10 ranking is a clear validation of Babson’s strength in the market, not just in entrepreneurship and business education, but across all of higher education,” says Babson President Stephen Spinelli Jr. in a press school press release on the WSJ ranking. “This comes at a time when many colleges and universities are facing steep enrollment challenges and broader questioning of the value of a college degree. It is validating to see that the strategic vision that we created together as a community is yielding clear and definitive results for Babson.”

The new methodology also allows room for some public ranked schools to rise to the top 20. University of Florida landed at No. 15 while the New Jersey Institute of Technology ranked No. 19. While public colleges are generally considered more of a deal for students, especially those that offer in-state tuition and generous aid packages – the big brand private institutions, like the Ivies, still wield outsized power in the marketplace.


WSJ has published its college rankings since 2016 along with its research partners College Pulse and Statista. This year, it made some significant changes to its methodology.

For one, it eliminated the academic survey on schools’ reputations which rewards big brand schools superior name recognition. It also no longer rewards schools for the amount of money it spends on instruction. 

Instead, it puts more weight on student outcomes such as graduation rates and graduate salaries while measuring the impact schools actually have on student success. “Some colleges doing great things for students who would otherwise struggle have previously received relatively low marks in our rankings. By contrast, some colleges doing less for students who would do well regardless of where they went to school have previously been lauded,” writes rankings editor Harry Carr in WSJ’s ranking methodology.

“For students, we believe this ranking will help them identify which colleges will do the most to help them graduate and make more money.”

As such, the rankings are divided into four categories: The full college rankings, Student Experience, Salary Impact and Social Mobility. 

See the full ranking methodology here. 


WSJ evaluated 400 U.S. private and public universities. For its full, overall ranking, it scored each school on student outcomes (70% weight), learning environment (20%) and diversity (10%).

It employed one of the largest independent student surveys and combined it with a “rigorous statistical analysis” of government data to calculate its school scores. It also factors cost of attendance (average net price) against student outcomes. 

“As an example, consider our top performer on this metric, Baruch College, where the estimated average net price across four years is $7,744,” Carr writes. 

“The additional median annual salary its graduates enjoy over and above that of high-school graduates in New York state is $45,078—so an education at Baruch pays for itself in just two months by this measure.”

Baruch College, a public school in New York, ranked No. 47 in WSJ’s overall ranking. Interestingly, it is one of just 10 public institutions in the top 50 colleges on the list. The first 14 are all private institutions which are typically more expensive, sometimes much more expensive, than public schools. 

The full list of WSJ’s 2024 Best Colleges in the U.S. are shown in the table below. The full list is available here.

Rank School State Score Type
1 Princeton NJ 91.6 Private
2 MIT MA 90.4 Private
3 Yale CT 90.3 Private
4 Stanford CA 90.1 Private
5 Columbia NY 89.7 Private
6 Harvard MA 89.5 Private
7 University of Pennsylvania PA 89.4 Private
8 Amherst College MA 88.4 Private
9 Claremont McKenna College CA 88 Private
10 Babson College MA 87.9 Private
11 Swarthmore College PA 85.9 Private
12 Georgetown University DC 84.6 Private
13 Vanderbilt TN 84.3 Private
14 Lehigh University PA 84.3 Private
15 University of Florida FL 84.2 Public
16 Duke University NC 84.1 Private
17 Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology IN 84 Private
18 California Institute of Technology CA 83.8 Private
19 New Jersey Institute of Technology NJ 83.5 Public
20 Brigham Young University UT 83.4 Private
21 Dartmouth College NH 83.4 Private
22 University of Southern California CA 83.4 Private
23 Illinois Institute of Technology IL 83.3 Private
24 Cornell University NY 82.7 Private
25 Northwestern University IL 82.6 Private
26 Washington University in St. Louis MO 82.1 Private
27 Lake Forest College IL 81.9 Private
28 University of Michigan – Ann Arbor MI 81.6 Public
29 Florida International University FL 81.3 Public
30 Davidson College NC 81.2 Private
31 Williams College MA 81.2 Private
32 University of Notre Dame IN 81.1 Private
33 University of La Verne CA 80.9 Private
34 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute NY 80.4 Private
35 University of Illinois Urbana – Champaign IL 80.3 Public
36 Stevens Institute of Technology NJ 80.1 Private
37 The University of Chicago IL 80 Private
38 Texas A & M University – College Station TX 79.9 Public
39 Georgia Institute of Technology – Main Campus GA 79.7 Public
40 Colgate University NY 79.6 Private
41 Haverford College PA 79.4 Private
42 Emory University GA 79.4 Private
43 The University of Utah UT 79.3 Public
44 Washington & Lee University VA 79.2 Private
45 Boston College MA 79.2 Private
46 University of Connecticut CT 79.2 Public
47 Baruch College NY 79.2 Public
48 Thomas Jefferson University PA 78.9 Private
49 Pomona College CA 78.8 Private
50 Colby College ME 78.7 Private

NEXT PAGE: How colleges rank on salary impact, school experience, and social mobility

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