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The 50 best colleges in the US

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Harvard campus

What makes a college great? They provide a quality education and graduate students on time, they set graduates up to earn well-paying jobs early in their career, and they provide a memorable and enjoyable campus experience that instills pride and loyalty for decades to come.

Business Insider's 2016 ranking uses a formula that relies very little on glamour statistics, like reputation and selectivity, that are featured in many college rankings. Instead, we primarily leaned on data available from the government, weighting early-career earnings and graduation rate the highest.

College years are formative for young adults, so we also gave significant credit to schools that provide a top-notch student-life experience, as measured by Niche, a company that compiles research on schools. Niche assessed the social and community life of universities and provided letter grades based on metrics like campus quality, diversity, party scene, student retention, safety, and athletics.

Other factors that counted for less and rounded out each school's score: full-time retention rate, average annual cost (after accounting for scholarships and financial aid), average SAT score of incoming students, and admittance rate. Read more about our methodology

Read on to see the full list of the best colleges in the US.

SEE ALSO: The 50 best law schools in America

DON'T MISS: The 24 smartest law schools in the US

50. Babson College

Location: Wellesley, Massachusetts

Median salary 10 years after enrolling: $85,500

Average SAT score: 1258

Student life score: B+

A leader in entrepreneurial education, Babson College equips students with the skills to innovate, experiment, and lead in the business world and beyond. The private college has produced numerous successful entrepreneurs in its nearly 100-year history, including Arthur Blank, the cofounder and former president of Home Depot who is the eponym of the college's on-campus entrepreneurship hub.



49. Hamilton College

Location: Clinton, New York

Median salary 10 years after enrolling: $57,300

Average SAT score: 1384

Student life score: A

Hamilton College takes its name from founding father Alexander Hamilton, who served as one of the school's original trustees in 1793 when he was the US secretary of the Treasury. More than 200 years later, Hamilton is still going strong: One year after graduation, at least 91% of the class of 2014 had secured a full-time job or internship or were enrolled in graduate school. For those who entered the workforce, employers included companies such as General Electric, Amazon, and The New York Times.



48. George Washington University

Location: Washington, D.C.

Median salary 10 years after enrolling:$64,500

Average SAT score: 1297

Student life score: A

Located right in the US capital, George Washington University offers more than 2,000 undergraduate courses and more than 70 majors. More than 1,400 students choose to study abroad each year at GW's study centers and partner institutions in more than 40 countries. The school also has some distinguished alumni— former US Secretary of State Colin Powell, former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and actress Kerry Washington all attended the university.



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