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Private not-for-profit- 4-year or above
Carnegie Classification Research Universities (very high research activity)
Total Student Population (Graduate + Undergraduate) 7,330
Undergraduate Population 4,878
Student to Faculty Ratio1 5:1
Graduation Rates2 90.0%
Click Here for More Academic Data3
Total Cost4 $49,830
In-State Tuition and Fees $34,290
Out-of-State Tuition and Fees $34,290
Click Here for More Tuition Data5
Percent of Student Body Receiving Any Financial Aid 56.0%
Percent of Student Body Receiving Pell Grants 9.0%
Click Here More Financial Aid Data6
Percent Admitted 10.0%
Percent Admitted Who Enrolled 59.0%
SAT Composite Range7 1390-1580
ACT Composite Range 31-34
Click Here for More Admissions Data8
Athletic Division NCAA Division I-AA
Percent of Student Body that is Varsity Athlete10 19.7%
Michelle Obama, 1985, First Lady of the United States; Sonia Sotomayor, 1976, U.S. Supreme Court Justice; Gen. David Petraeus, 1985 and 1987, U.S. Army General and Commander of the U.S. Central Command; Jeff Bezos, 1986, founder and CEO of; Wendy Kopp, 1989, president, CEO and Founder of Teach for America; Charles Gibson, 1965, broadcast journalist and former anchor of ABC's World News; Meg Whitman, 1977, retired president and CEO of eBay Inc. and candidate for governor of California.
Total FTE (full-time equivalent) undergraduate students divided by total FTE instructional staff not teaching in graduate or professional programs.
Percentage of students who began their studies in fall 2002 and completed their degree program within 4 years
Academic data refer to fall 2008. Enrollment and attendance data refer to entire undergraduate student body. Graduation, transfer rate, and retention rate data refer to full-time, first-time students pursuing bachelor's degrees.
For out-of-state students living on campus
Tuition data refer to estimated expenses for full-time, first-time degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students for the year 2008-2009, unless otherwise noted. The output is only an estimate and not a guarantee of the actual amount the student may be charged.
Financial aid data refer to full-time, first-time degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students in 2007-2008.
SAT composite includes only Critical Reading and Math.
Admissions data refer to first-time, degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students applying to enter in fall 2008.
Student life data refer to undergraduate student body in 2008-2009 unless otherwise noted.
The unduplicated headcount of varsity athletics participants divided by the total undergraduate population, multiplied by 100.
Athletic data refer to 2008.

The best public and private colleges and universities, from the student's point of view.The best college in America isn't in Cambridge or Princeton, West Point or Annapolis. It's nestled in the Berkshire Mountains. Williams College, a 217-year-old private liberal arts school, tops our third annual ranking of America's Best Colleges. Our list of more than 600 undergraduate institutions is based on the quality of the education they provide, the experiences of the students and how much they achieve.

Williams rose to the top spot on our rankings, which are compiled with research from the Center for College Affordability & Productivity, after placing fourth last year and fifth in 2008. It's a small school (just over 2,000 undergrads) with a 7-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio, affording students the chance to really get to know their teachers and have a unique college experience.

One of the things that we really embrace is that we are tiny and very aware of where we are in the world. This fosters an incredible sense of community," says Amanda Esteves-Kraus, a double-major in art history and biology in the class of 2012. "It takes a very specific type of student to go to Williams, and there is a quirkiness here that you can't find anywhere else. This all makes the fact that we are in the middle of nowhere totally irrelevant because you don't actually want to be anywhere else."

See The Top 50: America's Best Colleges

While Williams' tuition is relatively high at $37,640 a year, the school tries very hard to help its students financially. This spring Williams replaced all its loans with grants. And the school has one of the lowest average student debt loads in the country: $9,296.

Some of Williams' prominent alumni include Steve Case, cofounder of America Online; Edgar Bronfman, CEO of Seagram ( SGCYP.PK - news - people ); Elia Kazan, the Oscar-winning director of films including On The Waterfront and A Streetcar Named Desire; Jay McInerney, author of Bright Lights, Big City; and James A. Garfield, 20th president of the United States.

Last year's No. 1 school, the United States Military Academy (West Point), fell slightly to No. 4 on the list. The U.S. service academies, which offer high-quality education at zero tuition, all do well on our list: the United States Air Force Academy (No. 11), the United States Naval Academy (No. 29), United States Coast Guard Academy (No. 105), and the United States Merchant Marine Academy (No. 165).

Princeton University (No. 2), Amherst College (No. 3), and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (No. 5) round out the top five. Super-selective schools like Stanford (No. 6), Harvard (No. 8) and Yale (No. 10) also rank highly.

Whether they're in the top 10 or near the end of the list, all 610 schools in this ranking count among the best in the country: We review just 9% of the 6,600 accredited postsecondary institutions in the U.S., so appearing on our list at all is an indication that a school meets a high standard.