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12 NC Colleges Make Princeton Review’s 2021 ‘Best’ List

NORTH CAROLINA — The Princeton Review this week released its annual list of the country’s best colleges. This year’s list, which features 386 schools, includes 12 in North Carolina.

The 2021 Best 386 Colleges were selected based on “our high opinion of their academics,” the Princeton Review said in announcing its newest list. The organization said it monitors colleges “continuously and annually” to collect data on more than 2,000 schools.

In determining the “best,” The Princeton Review said it also visits schools and communicates with hundreds of college administrators in compiling its assessment.

“We pay close attention to the feedback we get about colleges from students, parents, educators, and our own staff at The Princeton Review locations across the country,” the organization said.

Here are the North Carolina colleges named among the country’s best by Princeton Review:

Warren Wilson College, Asheville; 706 full-time enrollment University of North Carolina at Asheville, Asheville; 3,587 full-time enrollment University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill; 19,355 full-time enrollment Davidson College, Davidson; 1,810 full-time enrollment Duke University, Durham; 6,682 full-time enrollment Elon University, Elon; 6,277 full-time enrollment University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro; 16,581 full-time enrollment Guilford College, Greensboro; 1,674 full-time enrollment East Carolina University, Greenville; 23,081 full-time enrollment North Carolina State University, Raleigh; 25,973 full-time enrollment Catawba College, Salisbury; 1,331 Full-time enrollment Wake Forest University, Winston Salem; 5,102 full-time enrollment

Princeton Review also announced which of the “Best” schools earned a place in its 29th annual college rankings, as well as what priorities administrators are focusing on this academic year.

Not surprisingly, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is top of mind.

This year’s administrator survey polled 179 college leaders by asking a series of questions on their outlook for this year amid COVID-19-related challenges. In their responses, college officials said social distancing and maintaining health and safety on campus remain their biggest priorities. The issue administrators ranked financial aid as likely to be the greatest concern among students.

Here are the key findings from this year’s administrator survey:

Nearly 4 of 10 respondents (39 percent) reported their projected fall enrollment is down from 2019, while 19 percent reported an increase; 42 percent said it is about the same. Just over 1 in 8 respondents (14 percent) reported the percentage of in-state students in their school’s incoming first-year class is higher than it was in 2019, while 6 percent reported it is lower than it was in 2019. More than 9 out of 10 (93 percent) reported their schools were making COVID-19–related modifications in classrooms, labs, residence halls and dining halls. Two-thirds (67 percent) anticipated the majority of their fall courses would be principally hybrid (part in-person, part online) classes; 21 percent said in-person and 12 percent said online.

“COVID-19 has presented sobering challenges for school administrators and educators, as well as daunting decisions for students and their parents,” Robert Franek, editor-in-chief at Princeton Review, said in a news release. “What impressed us in our administrator survey findings is the flexibility many colleges built into their reopening plans, especially those giving students options to study remotely or on campus with health and safety protocols in place.”

Finally, Princeton Review determined 2021 college rankings based on surveys taken by students attending this year’s “Best” colleges. Surveys are available year-round on Princeton Review’s website.

In the survey, students are asked to rate their schools on dozens of topics and report on their campus experiences. The top 20 schools are then compiled and ranked in 62 different categories.

Rankings cover everything from academics, to administrative services, financial aid, campus amenities, alcohol use, the student body’s political leanings, race/class interaction, LGBTQ community acceptance, and more. The ranking lists are based on surveys of 143,000 students at the colleges.

See the full list of each highest-ranked college, according to category. Other rankings are available online.

Patch Regional Managing Editor Kara Seymour contributed to this report.

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