U.S. News & World Report published its influential annual list of the nation’s best colleges earlier this month, with Princeton University topping the 2014 rankings. Here is a behind-the-scenes look at the methods and metrics used by the magazine:

  • Step 1: Schools are weighed on a scale
  • Step 2: Researchers calculate each campus’ student-to-student ratio
  • Step 3: Any college whose colors are maroon and gold is immediately eliminated
  • Step 4: Analysts aggregate incoming freshmen’s SAT, ACT, and COWFACTS test scores
  • Step 5: Number of library books probably factors in somewhere around here
  • Step 6: Quick visit to colleges to see who has “We Love U.S. News & World Report” banners up
  • Step 7: ((Average class size)(Quads per student)) / ((Out-of-state tuition)(Number of West African fusion dance troupes)) + (Nobel Prize winning faculty members - Number of meal plan options)^Number of nicknames for dining hall
  • Step 8: Data are meticulously triple-checked and corrected as necessary to ensure that you say “This is complete bullshit” when you see your school’s rank