U.S. News & World Report’s Shocker-Free 2012 College Rankings

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Memorial Church at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass.

U.S. News & World Report released its annual list of America’s Best Colleges today and the news is, well, not exactly surprising.

Like most every year, the Ivies are at the head of the pack, holding all four of the top spots, closely followed by the four other Ivy League schools, which all place in the top 20.

While there wasn’t too much movement at the top, there were an overwhelming number of ties on the list this year. There are two universities in the No. 1 spot, five schools tied for fifth, six colleges in 62nd place, seven vying for 72nd and 10 colleges tied for 101st place, among many, many other ties.

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The number of ties further calls into question the usefulness of the college ranking system, which though it is U.S. News‘ bread and butter, has been questioned in the past for using dubious statistics and fueling crazed competition among colleges hungry for prestige.

Nevertheless, here are this year’s 10 Best Colleges in the Nation:

1. Harvard University
1. Princeton University
3. Yale University
4. Columbia University
5. California Institute of Technology
5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
5. Stanford University
5. University of Chicago
5. University of Pennsylvania
10. Duke University

The next five are: Dartmouth College, Northwestern University, Johns Hopkins University, Washington University in St. Louis and Brown University. (See the full list here.)

This year’s list isn’t much different from the past. Last year, Harvard took the top honors, followed by Princeton, Yale, Columbia, Stanford and the University of Pennsylvania (in a two-way tie for fifth), the California Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (tied for seventh) and Dartmouth and Duke (tied for ninth; the University of Chicago also tied for ninth, making it the 11th school on the list).

Sound familiar? It should. The most major change at the top this year is that the University of Chicago was bumped up from its ninth place finish last year to tie for fifth with four other schools. That move bumped Ivy League school Dartmouth out of the top 10, to an eleventh place finish.

Excluding the Ivies and other private schools, the top-ranking state schools are as follows: the University of California-Berkeley, the University of California-Los Angeles and the University of Virginia (tied for 2nd), the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, the College of William and Mary, the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of California-San Diego, the University of California-Davis and finally, in a three-way tie for 10th, the University of California-Santa Barbara, the University of Washington and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Other than the national rankings, U.S. News breaks their data into several other lists that may be especially useful for high school students and their families when it comes to select a college. Among them are a list, which you can find over on TIME’s Moneyland site, of the schools that saddle their students with the most (and least) amount of loan debt.

Another is called A+ Schools for B Students, which provides a list of colleges where students with slightly lower grades still stand a fair shot at getting in. That list features states schools like the University of Connecticut and the University of Oregon, as well as smaller, private schools such as Baylor University in Waco, Texas and Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. Among the other lists are Best Black Colleges, which ranks the nation’s historically black colleges and the best national liberal arts colleges.

See the full 2012 Best Colleges rankings here.

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Kayla Webley is a Writer-Reporter at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @kaylawebley or on Facebook at facebook.com/kaylalwebley. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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