College Rankings: Jumpstart Your College Search

U.S. News, others, release new college rankings

September 26, 2022


It’s college rankings season again — and no, this story isn’t about football.

For almost four decades, Grinnell College has consistently placed among the top-20 best small liberal arts colleges in the United States. In 1983, U.S. News and World Report released its first ranking of America’s Best Colleges, placing Grinnell at #13.

Today, several organizations publish annual college rankings, which typically get a lot of attention from prospective college students and their families. And while Grinnellians are proud the College is noted as one of the best, it’s important to know what’s behind the rankings and what they really mean for prospective students.

Spoiler Alert: Don’t let the rankings make your decision for you — it’s just not that simple.

How Important Are the Rankings?

Because each organization uses a different ranking methodology, it’s best to read the fine print to understand exactly how each list is derived.

The truth is, there is so much more to a college, its people, and its culture — it can’t be fully expressed in just one number.

Each college is a complex community with its own unique characteristics, geography, and “personality.” It comprises many diverse people, ideas, and cultural qualities. You may find that the perfect college for you is nowhere near the top of the rankings, and that’s fine.

There is no one perfect college for everyone — you’re unique, and so are the colleges you’re considering. What matters most is your best fit. It might be Grinnell, or it might be somewhere else.

Use the rankings as a starting point and look for a school that gets high marks in the areas that you care about most. Keep an open mind and visit your top choices in person if possible. Be sure to consider all your options and listen to your gut. You might just know more than you think you do!

That said, here’s a sample of Grinnell’s most recent rankings, grouped thematically:

Best Liberal Arts College

Grinnell consistently ranks among the very best liberal arts colleges in the country:

Best Academics

Students at Grinnell can chart their own academic path, with the guidance of a faculty adviser who knows them well. Classes are small (most with fewer than 20 students), and faculty are engaged and dedicated to the success of their students.

U.S. News and World Report:

  • #6 — Best Undergraduate Teaching
  • #7 — Most Innovative
  • #20 — Undergraduate Research/Creative Projects


  • A+ — Academics
  • A+ — Diversity
  • A+ — Professors

Princeton Review:

  • #10 — Best Classroom Experience
  • #12 — Professors Get High Marks
  • #15 — Best Science Labs

Best Value

Grinnell commits to meet 100% of your demonstrated need without loans — only a handful of colleges and universities among more than 4,000 in the United States can say that (domestic applicants only):

Best Students

Grinnell is highly selective, which means our students are among the very best academically. But there is no cookie-cutter “Grinnell type.” Our students come from many different backgrounds, places, and cultures. You’ll be free to be yourself, whoever you are, and explore what you might someday become.

  • A+ — (Niche) Diversity
  • #7 — (Princeton Review) Most Politically Active Students
  • #6 — (Princeton Review) Best College Newspaper

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