College Calculator: Objective, Data-Driven College Rankings

Ranking for Students

Mission Statement:

The Ranking System at Successful Student is oriented around providing guidance for students. Finding the right school and degree can be daunting when there are so many from which to choose. In addition, there are many publications and websites that rank schools, which doesn’t always add clarity. It can be difficult to make sense of what degree program and school are the right choice.

Successful Student’s design is to help students navigate education by providing educational resources, which includes ranking degree programs and schools.

The approach to ranking schools at Successful Student is unique, because it is designed from the student’s point-of-view, and takes into consideration things that are important and beneficial to students specifically, such as degree significance and college considerations. This is a bottom-up approach to education ranking.


Ranking Methodology:

At Successful Student, we place each school within rank order by comparison with other schools.

Online College Rankings:

The rankings are done behind-the-scenes using an algorithm. This algorithm calculates data from the U.S. Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (or IPEDS). After extensive research, we have created a database of all online programs offered at all colleges and universities in the United States. Using this online degree database, and the corresponding IPEDS data of the colleges that offer the online degrees, we can formulate the rankings. The criteria and their weights are listed in the tables below, which inform our undergraduate and graduate degree and college rankings.

Academic Influence is also a ranking factor.

Academic Influence is a proprietary metric developed at We incorporate their findings as an important factor into our rankings. calculates the amount of influence that an institution has in academia, and in the broader society, in degree subjects.

The overarching topology of the ranking is a convergence of these two factors:

Online College Score is the rest of the ranking equation. The Online College Score is formulated to include data points that are important in evaluating online colleges for students. These data points include: acceptance rate, graduation rate, tuition rate, and online enrollment percentage.

The Academic Influence Score determines the academic significance or salience of degree programs, and the Online College Score determines the best colleges from a student’s perspective. The combination of these factors develop rankings that incorporate the best of both worlds: salient degrees and the best choices for college.

These ranking tools and methodology provide transparent and objective rankings without specious methods. We do not accept any payments or other types of compensation in return for placement in our rankings.

Online Undergraduate College | Ranking CriteriaWeight
Acceptance Rate15%
Graduation Rate25%
Undergraduate Tuition15%
First Time Undergraduates Awarded Aid15%
Undergraduate Fully Online Enrollment Percentage15%
Academic Influence15%
Online Graduate College | Ranking CriteriaWeight
Retention Rate20%
Desirability (Number of Applicants)20%
Graduate Fully Online Enrollment10%
In-District Average Tuition Full Time Graduates10%
In-State Average Graduate Tuition10%
Academic Influence30%

On Campus College Rankings:

Academic Influence is a primary tool that we use for guidance, and then look at each individual program for making relevant rankings. For example, if a college has a high influence score in Law, but they don’t actually have a law school, obviously they won’t be included in an article that ranks the best law schools. The academic influence tool is very helpful and informative for the salience and significance of the education students will receive.

However, there is a remaining need for the respective programs to be evaluated further, and a list of colleges produced which includes schools that do indeed offer a relevant degree in the subject at hand that is being ranked. It wouldn’t be maximally beneficial to students to know which schools have a high influential rank in Law if the school doesn’t offer a degree in law.

Once the list is generated using Academic influence and the colleges have been sorted for relevant degrees, then each degree program is evaluated. This means that the program is examined on a granular level, looking at the departments and classes involved in the degree, and making sure there is continuity and relevance to the program being ranked.

For example, we evaluate whether a degree is in the subject, or whether the college offer’s a related degree with a specialization in that subject. For example, an Industrial Organizational Psychology degree can be within a Business Administration program, and not within a Psychology program.

Degrees that are in the subject are compared to the academic influence and a value judgment is made as to where to put the college in the ranking. Pride of placement is given to degrees that are in the subject.

For technical and medical programs, such as Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, or Drug Design, we also look at available labs, facilities and related clubs that may enhance a student’s learning.

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