U.S. News calculates its ranking based on six categories which are each weighted differently: student outcomes (40%), faculty resources (20%), expert opinion (20%), financial resources (10%), student excellence (7%) and alumni giving (3%).
U.S. News made a slight change to its methodology this year to account for changes in standardized testing requirements. Previously, if less than 75% of entering students at a given school submitted standardized testing scores, U.S. News would discount the significance of standardized testing scores in the overall ranking of the school by 15%. This year, because so many schools adopted test-optional policies in response to the coronavirus pandemic, U.S. News lowered the threshold to 50%.
This year’s top liberal arts colleges all boast small classroom sizes, including top-ranking Williams College, where 84% of classes have fewer than 20 students and just 1% of classes have 50 or more students. At Pomona College and Wellesley College, which earned the fourth and fifth spots on U.S. News’ list respectively, just 0.2% of classes have 50 or more students.
Getting into one of these schools isn’t easy. Admitted students boast strong high school records and high standardized test scores. However, many of these prestigious liberal arts schools have higher acceptance rates than similarly top-ranking universities.
For instance, while the top-ranked national university, Princeton, accepts just 6% of students, Williams accepts closer to 15% of applicants. Wellesley College has an acceptance rate of 20%.
The top-ranking liberal arts colleges also tended to score better than the top-ranked national universities on comparative measures of social mobility, which are designed to represent a school’s likelihood of helping students improve their circumstances by considering the graduation rates and post-graduation performances of students who qualify for federal Pell Grants.
Here are the top 5 liberal arts colleges of 2022, according to U.S. News — and what it takes to get in.