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College Rankings

Find the Right Match

What to look for when selecting a college.

All the schools on our lists offer great value, but you’ll get the most out of the rankings if you look for the features that match your circumstances. Here’s how to find the right school for your student and maybe get some help paying for it.

You have a good student and don’t expect to qualify for need-based financial aid. Look for schools that offer a high percentage of non-need-based aid, then aim for those where the test scores of incoming freshmen are equal to or slightly below the scores of your student.

Your kid has been a star from Day one, but you don’t have much money. Start at the top of the lists, where need-based financial aid is typically the most generous. Focus on schools that meet full need and don’t offer non-need-based assistance.

You might qualify for financial aid, but you don’t want to bet on it. Find at least one school that offers a low sticker price, such as Thomas Aquinas College, in Santa Paula, Cal., or Bradley University, in Peoria, Ill.


You have just enough money to cover the college bills. Schools with the highest four-year graduation rate will help you stay on budget.

You don’t want your child to be overwhelmed with student loans. Find the schools that offer a high percentage of grants in financial-aid packages, and check out their average debt on graduation.

You can foot the full cost and want the best bang for your buck. A school with a low number of students per faculty member means your student will get lots of attention.