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The top 5 national universities of 2021, according to U.S. News—and what it takes to get in

Princeton University
Barry Winiker | Photolibrary | Getty Images

On Monday, U.S. News & World Report released its annual ranking of the best colleges and universities in the country. 

U.S. News calculates its ranking based on six categories which are each weighted differently: student outcomes (40%), faculty resources (20%), expert opinion (20%), financial resources (10%), student excellence (7%) and alumni giving (3%).

And for the first time, U.S. News considered student debt in their ranking. The student outcomes category now takes into account the average amount of accumulated federal loan debt among full-time undergraduate borrowers at graduation and the percentage of full-time undergraduates in a graduating class who borrowed federal loans.

This year's top universities share many things in common. They are all prestigious schools with large endowments and four of the top 5 are members of the Ivy League. 

They are all also incredibly difficult to get into, with admitted students boasting strong high school records and high standardized test scores, though many schools, including all eight Ivy League institutions, have opted to not require standardized testing for the 2020-21 application cycle in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Princeton University maintained its spot as the highest-ranked university in the country due in part to a student-to-faculty-ratio of just five students for every one faculty member as well as a strong student retention rate. An estimated 98% of Princeton students graduate within six years. 

Here are the top 5 universities of 2021, according to U.S. News — and what it takes to get in. 

1. Princeton University 

Blair Hall at Princeton University
Loop Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Average SAT score: 1460-1570

Share of first-year students in the top 10% of their high school class: 91%

Acceptance rate: 6%

2. Harvard University 

Widener Library at Harvard University
Jeffrey Greenberg/UIG via Getty Images

Average SAT score: 1460-1570

Share of first-year students in the top 10% of their high school class: 93%

Acceptance rate: 5%

3. Columbia University

Columbia University
Getty Images

Average SAT score: 1450-1570

Share of first-year students in the top 10% of their high school class: 96%

Acceptance rate: 5%

4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (tie)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts
(Photo: Bloomberg / Getty Images)

Average SAT score: 1510-1570

Share of first-year students in the top 10% of their high school class: 95%

Acceptance rate: 7%

4. Yale University (tie)

Yale University campus, New Haven, CT
Craig Warga | Bloomberg | Getty Images
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