WILLIAMSTOWN -- Williams College, no stranger to being ranked among the best schools in the nation, is sharing the stage now with some unfamiliar faces.
TheBestSchools.org’s list, titled "Not the Usual Suspects," rated Williams the fifth best college in the country. Absent from this list are many prestigious schools found on similar lists, such as Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In a Feb. 5 press release, James Barham, lead editor at TheBest Schools.org, explained large research institutions were intentionally kept off of the list.
"In compiling the list, we kept asking ourselves, ‘What schools provide undergraduates with the best springboard to a full, rich life upon graduation?' We didn't think the major research universities fit that bill," he said.
The list highlighted Williams' rigorous academic curriculum and many opportunities to learn outside of a classroom in the form of fieldwork, summer research, placement in community organizations and enrollment in one of 150 off-campus programs worldwide.
It also took into consideration the diversity of degrees, record of achievement and the amount of available scholarships.
The highest rated school, California's Deep Springs College, describes itself as having a non-traditional program of study for students. In addition to their classes, students work at least 20 hours a week on the school's farm or in positions in the college or local community.
The student body contains 26 students, with a student-teacher ratio of four to one. Acceptance rates have varied between six and 15 percent over the past few years.
Williams has been ranked number one by Forbes magazine as the best undergraduate institution in the country, and has placed in the top three in other lists from publications like Newsweek and The Wall Street Journal. But Williams officials have always downplayed these rankings.
"It's always great to be considered one of the best colleges in the country," said James Kolesar, assistant to the president for public affairs. "But there's no methodology in ranking schools numerically."
Kolesar said students should choose a college that best fits them. Williams is a good fit for those interested in learning outside of the classroom, he said, especially those interested in summer science research.
"To our knowledge, no other college has the amount of research opportunities on campus," Kolesar said. "We have in the summer a couple hundred students on campus doing research with faculty."
Many students are able to be co-authors of journal articles along with their professors, he said. This, along with being able to see precisely how research is done, gives students an edge if they decide to apply to graduate school, Kolesar said.
To see the complete list, visit TheBestSchools.org.
To reach Edward Damon, email