Princeton University is the top-ranked university in America, according to U.S. News and World Report's 2015 ranking of national universities. Harvard University is second, Yale University is third and Columbia University is fourth.
Some of the other top universities include Stanford University, the University of Chicago, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Duke University and the University of Pennsylvania. All of these schools are known for their rigorous academic programs, large endowments and intense research programs.
Another feature that these schools share is their low acceptance rates. For example, Princeton only accepts 7.4 percent of applicants, while Harvard accepts 5.8 percent. They also have very high graduation rates, with 96 percent or more of students graduating within six years. Typically tuition is expensive, with most of the top schools charging upwards of $45,000 a year.
Due to the large volume of applicants, those who are accepted usually scored in the top percentiles of the SAT and achieved excellent grades in high school while participating in relevant extracurricular activities. Students hoping to apply should begin preparing themselves as early as possible by looking at the school's website to see the requirements for admission. Many top universities require supplemental materials in addition to a standard application, such as a personal statement or interview with an admissions officer.