For Institutions

Colleges of Distinction connects individual students to information that empowers them to make confident choices from among the best colleges in our nation.

  • Here at Colleges of Distinction, we believe in the power of education. We are advocates for the American educational system and champions for great colleges.

  • We think that the true measure of a college is found in its people and ideas, not in its numbers and rankings.

  • We know that the best colleges provide innovative, engaging experiences that prepare students for successful careers, active citizenship, and lifelong learning.

Colleges of Distinction was founded on the premise that there are hundreds of remarkable colleges across the United States, each with a unique strength to offer the next generation of college-bound students. We connect these colleges to curious, talented students who are “right fits” for them. Our member colleges are the perfect size to ensure that each student is seen as an important member of the community, both academically and in the day-to-day life on campus. These high-performing colleges cover the full range of academic offerings—from the arts, sciences, and humanities to excellent engineering programs and opportunities for research. You won’t find many of our colleges in the commercial rankings, as those lists rely heavily on an impersonal, quantitative evaluation process that overlooks great teaching and successful outcomes.

Our Mission

Our mission is simple: to help parents and students find not just the “best college,” but the right college.

Our Evaluation Process

In evaluating schools, Colleges of Distinction asks the question “What colleges are the best places to learn, to grow, and to succeed?”

In doing so, we go beyond traditional ranking models that assess colleges based on things like historic prestige, selectivity, athletic prowess, and the size of its endowment. These ranking systems also tend to focus on the perceived “top” schools, despite the fact that the vast majority of students do not attend the small, exclusive selection of “big-name” schools.

Instead, Colleges of Distinction honors and recognizes the hundreds of teaching-centered colleges that make up the fabric of the American educational system, schools that deliver well our four overarching distinctions—Engagement, Teaching, Community, and Outcomes—which are the fundamental elements of an effective undergraduate education.

Another way that Colleges of Distinction stands apart from other college ranking systems is that we are not “one size fits all.” Traditional ranking systems are based on the assumption that all students are alike, all degrees are equal, and the goal of all students is to go to a highly selective school. This, of course, isn’t true. There are all kinds of colleges, just as there are all kinds of students. We take into account school type and regional considerations as well as do peer assessments within a school’s category in order to paint a true profile of each institution’s distinctive qualities.

To be designated a “college of distinction,” a school’s curriculum must emphasize such core competencies as critical thinking, writing, oral skills, research, and global perspectives. They must also offer dynamic out-of-classroom learning and study abroad programs. Our process is objective, in-depth, and qualitative; however, we also take into account such quantitative data as class-size statistics, faculty-to-student ratio, plus retention and four-year graduation rates.

Once a school is deemed qualified to be among Colleges of Distinction, an in-depth profile of the school is published on our website. Additionally, the institution is given a set of Colleges of Distinction badges to be displayed on their website and social media venues.

Helpful Content

Looking to build a better experience for your school’s undergraduate degree students? Join our Community of Practice, and get the advice you need from peers and industry experts to help build programs that set your students on a path to success.


Colleges and universities are awarded Colleges of Distinction’s recognition after being nominated by graduates, school faculty and administrators, current students, and even members of our own team. We ask that a school receive 2 nominations before we vet them according to our selection criteria.

Help us help the next generation of college students—nominate a school today! Fill out this nomination form or pass it along to fellow colleagues, students, or alumni. With your nomination, we can help connect students with the right school for them.

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