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Wall Street Journal College Rankings: The Full List and Rating Criteria

Updated on September 22, 2011

For many years, the gospel of college rankings was the U.S. News and World Report's annual list. Yet in the past decade, the venerable magazine has faced some criticism for both its results and elusive rating formula. Some schools who had traditionally fared well on the list even boycotted the annual event, refusing to return surveys and requests for information.

In the wake of the U.S. News controversy, other media sources like Forbes Magazine and Newsweek began compiling their own lists. In 2010, the Wall Street Journal emerged with its own list of the nations top schools. The rankings focused on the best "feeder" schools, to reflect the belief that the top colleges and universities were those that would have the highest placement rates in prestigious graduate programs around the country.

The Wall Street Journal's list of feeder colleges covers a total of 50 colleges from around the country.
The Wall Street Journal's list of feeder colleges covers a total of 50 colleges from around the country.

Wall Street Journal Ranking Criteria

In order to compile the list, the Wall Street Journal collected information on over 5,000 students starting at the nation's most prestigious graduate schools in business, medicine, and law programs. The data was collected through interviews with school personnel and examining school listings. The information was then analyzed and then subjected to a formula which would not penalize smaller institutions, in order figure out just which schools were seeing the best placement levels for students seeking graduate level education.

Pros and Cons

One of the best attributes of the Wall Street Journal's approach to the rankings is the fact that it gives recognition to many excellent smaller colleges that tend to be overlooked on the "big" sites like U.S. News. The omission of these smaller schools from the rankings has been one of the many criticisms of college rankings for years, and there is no denying the fact that smaller schools often reach the same quality standards as their larger peers. In addition, in today's job market, many students start out at a four-year school already knowing that they will be applying for a graduate degree rather than entering the workforce post-graduate.

However, the downside of staking the rankings solely on the discretion of the biggest and best graduate schools simply perpetuates some of elitism found in other ranking systems. Admissions counselors at prestigious graduate schools like Harvard and Yale are often more likely to admit those candidates from a similar alma mater. So in many cases, the feeder school designation does not actually reflect such criteria as quality of education, but potentially just the name recognition of the school within the admissions office.

Schools Providing Data

The following schools provided data regarding their admission demographics:

  • Columbia (Medicine, Law)
  • Harvard (Medicine, MBA, Law)
  • Johns Hopkins (Medicine)
  • University of California, San Francisco (Medicine)
  • Yale (Medicine, Law)
  • University of Chicago (MBA, Law)
  • Dartmouth (Tuck School)
  • MIT (Sloan School)
  • Penn (Wharton School)
  • University of Michigan (Law)

Wall Street Journal's Top 50 Feeder Schools

  1. Harvard University
  2. Yale University
  3. Princeton University
  4. Stanford University
  5. Williams College
  6. Duke University
  7. Dartmouth College
  8. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
  9. Amherst College
  10. Swarthmore College
  11. Columbia University
  12. Brown University
  13. Pomona College
  14. University of Chicago
  15. Wellesley College
  16. University of Philadelphia
  17. Georgetown University
  18. Haverford College
  19. Bowdoin College
  20. Rice University
  21. Northwestern University
  22. Claremont McKenna College
  23. Middlebury College
  24. Johns Hopkins University
  25. Cornell University
  26. Bryn Mawr College
  27. Wesleyan University
  28. California Institute of Technology
  29. Morehouse College
  30. University of Michigan
  31. New College of Florida
  32. Vassar College
  33. University of Virginia
  34. United States Military Academy
  35. University of Notre Dame
  36. Emory University
  37. United States Naval Academy
  38. Macalester College
  39. Brandeis University
  40. Bates College
  41. University of California, Berkely
  42. Barnard College
  43. Trinity College
  44. Grinnell College
  45. Tufts University
  46. Colby College
  47. Washington University
  48. Washington and Lee
  49. Case Western Reserve University
  50. Reed College



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    • collegeplanner profile image

      Susie Watts 

      7 years ago from Denver, Colorado

      Don't you mean the University of Pennsylvania, not the University of Philadelphia?

      College Direction

      Denver, Colorado

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Note that this data is is from 2003.

    • FloraBreenRobison profile image


      8 years ago

      We have a magazine that ranks the universities in Canada. the university I attended is ranked very high, despite it not being in a large city. The ranking system doesn't base criteria on living in Vancouver, Montreal, and Toronto vs. living everywhere else. In the US, you get the feeling that you have the Ivy League, then you have universities in major cities elsewhere, then you have everyone else, regardless of the quality of the institution.

    • A.A. Zavala profile image

      Augustine A Zavala 

      8 years ago from Texas

      I have been saying the same thing about the college ranking system for years. I attended a state school with rigorous academic standards. It is never listed in the college ranking system, even though it is a good school. Thank you for sharing.


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