What is Colleges of Distinction?

With Colleges of Distinction, you can key in on the most important aspects of a school, avoid the rankings trap, and make a confident choice in the college that is right for you.

Among the clamor of college rankings, Colleges of Distinction stands apart by getting past the statistics and popularity polls in order to listen to the heartbeat of a university’s effectiveness. Colleges of Distinction sets the right standard by which every university should be evaluated.
— Dr. Roger Parrott, Belhaven University President

Giving You the Tools for Success

A great undergraduate experience is more than just graduating and getting your first job.

Colleges of Distinction graduates are prepared for anything. They are strong writers, speakers, and thinkers because their professors have encouraged and challenged them one-on-one. They have meaningful professional experience from internships and advanced research. And they know how to work together with people different than themselves because they have been active on campus, traveled abroad, and pursued service opportunities.

In other words, when you graduate from a College of Distinction you will be equipped to find better solutions in the workplace, your community, and the world at large.

Helping You Find the Right Fit

Colleges of Distinction was created in 2000 to help students and their parents navigate the overwhelming process of selecting the right school. We aim to help parents and students find not just the “best” college, but the right one.

Over the last 23 years, our staff and advisory group have visited hundreds of colleges and talked to thousands of students, professors, and graduates.

Colleges of Distinction recognizes schools that deliver on four overarching distinctions: Student Engagement, Teaching, Community, and Outcomes.

2023-2024 Colleges of Distinction badgeOur honored list of 2023-2024 Colleges of Distinction vary in size, cost, location, academic offerings, and more, but they are all distinguished by their commitment to the undergraduate experience.

Learn more about how we select schools »

At last we have a college resource that evaluates colleges on what matters — how the college actually engages its students. Student engagement is the clarion call for higher education in this new century. Each of these colleges distinguishes themselves through their own unique ways to accomplish just that. This is an essential resource for anyone wanting to explore the landscape of effective colleges.
— Dr. Jim Overton, College Consultants of South Carolina

students, parents, and counselors visiting Colleges of Distinction annually


colleges and universities recognized annually

25 years

changing the conversation about how schools are evaluated