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College rankings

This is the annual ritual of ranking U.S. colleges and universities based on certain criteria such as SAT scores, selectivity, graduation and retention rates, alumni giving, peer reputation and high-school counselors' opinions.

The U.S. News & World Report produces one of the most closely watched lists that students and their families use to sort through the complex college selection process.

The college rankings lists are often criticised for being too arbitrary and pressuring colleges to boost scores at the expense of improving teaching.

In the 2010 edition of the U.S. News & World Report university rankings, Harvard gained the top spot, outperforming Ivy League rival Princeton. The nation's oldest university and traditionally one of its most selective, Harvard has topped the list two of the last three years. In 2009, Harvard and Princeton shared the top ranking.

Yale was the No. 3-ranked university this year, followed by Columbia, and Stanford.

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