In its second annual college ranking list, Forbes Magazine ranked Williams #4, ahead of Harvard (#5), Yale (#9) and Amherst (#8). Here is how the Forbes rankings are calculated, according to an article on the Forbes web site:

To our way of thinking, a good college is one that meets student needs. While some college rankings are based partly on school reputation as evaluated by college administrators and on the amount of money spent, we focus on things which directly concern incoming students: Will my courses be interesting and rewarding? Will I get a good job after I graduate? Is it likely I will graduate in four years? Will I incur a ton of debt getting my degree?

To answer these questions, the staff at CCAP gathered data from a variety of sources. They based 25% of the rankings on 4 million student evaluations of courses and instructors, as recorded on the Web site RateMyProfessors.com. Another 25% is based on post-graduate success, equally determined by enrollment-adjusted entries in Who’s Who in America, and by a new metric, the average salaries of graduates reported by Payscale.com. An additional 20% is based on the estimated average student debt after four years. One-sixth of the rankings are based on four-year college graduation rates–half of that is the actual graduation rate, the other half the gap between the average rate and a predicted rate based on characteristics of the school. The last component is based on the number of students or faculty, adjusted for enrollment, who have won nationally competitive awards like Rhodes Scholarships or Nobel Prizes.

When I read the readers’ comments about Williams, I was very impressed to see a Princeton grad conceding Williams’ superiority:

Posted by MathTrader | 08/13/09 12:53 PM EDT
One more misconception that I’d like to point out: the “elitist jock school that’s easier to get into than the Ivies.” Read: “New England Safety School.”

The elitism comment is off by about 20 years. Like every other school in the North East, Williams used to be a country club school. Like every other top school, that’s not really even an argument these days. Every well respected school has a very diverse student body (I know Williams takes a higher proportion of Questbridge minority scholars than almost any other participant school), and about 50% of students on full financial aid. Get real.

Yes Williams has a large proportion of student athletes, but there’s a big difference between “football meathead” and “insanely disciplined Division 3 Crew/Track athlete.” From what I can tell, so many Williams kids play sports because their motivated personality, which also led to their academic success, influences their extracurricular discipline.

The best one is admissions. I’ll be honest, I was on the Williams waiting list after getting into H/P/Y regular decision. The acceptance rate is misleading until you consider how self selected the Williams applicant pool must be. No one applies to Williams for the name, they apply because they did their research and want an unmatched undergraduate challenge that’s hidden in the middle of the mountains. In short, they want to be unparalleled thinkers, not Ivy League graduates.

As my name suggests, I’m a trader with an advanced degree in Math. Without fail, a Williams grad has been everywhere I’ve studied or worked. In every case, they’ve been the person of most envy and respect for their knowledge, ability to learn, and drive. When we discussed this ranking yesterday at work, one of the other traders on my algorithmic desk looked up and said “I’m pretty convinced that Williams(/Amherst) is the only school that’s actually worth the respect it gets.” Even having turned it down, I gotta agree (but still..go Pri

Any thoughts?

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