Rankings & Reviews
The Denison Difference
Denison University is nationally recognized for the deep value of its prestigious academic programs and the warmth of its community. Denison is a place where the people are smart and engaged, where learning is infused with global perspectives, where relationships run deep, and where professors, staff, and coaches are both tough critics and passionate mentors.
At Denison, students explore their interests while discovering new passions. The college is rich with friendships, experiences, and opportunities. And with access to the gold standard in career exploration, meaningful internships, and a powerful alumni network, students develop the skills, values, and habits that help build a life of success. Denison unlocks potential.
A Denison education helps students develop confidence and excel. This process starts during orientations before the first day of classes and continues well after graduation.
With a brand-new performing arts center on the way, a host of new and unique areas of study, a state-of-the-art athletics facility, and a charming location at the edges of one of the country’s largest cities, Denison stands out among its top-tier liberal arts peers. The endorsements listed here offer just a sampling of the buzz that Denison has created with its culture of mentorship, global curriculum, breadth of co-curricular activities, and leadership opportunities.
Here’s what others are saying about Denison:
“These colleges emphasize undergraduate studies in the arts, humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences. Most are small, with class sizes typically under 20 students, which fuels learning and forges close relationships with peers and professors.“
Business Insider has ranked what it calls the “Smartest Liberal Arts Colleges in America,” listing Denison as No. 43. BI’s methodology analyzes the average standardized test scores of the 242 top national liberal arts colleges as ranked by U.S. News & World Report, and Denison’s average SAT scores tie it with Bucknell University. In the ranking, Denison places ahead of Centre College, Gettysburg College, the U.S. Military Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy, Dickinson College, Lafayette College, Bard College, and University of the South. Students agree that academics are at the center of the Denison experience and have gone on record — “The faculty and staff at this institution genuinely care about the well-being and scholastic excellence of each student.” A recent national study notes that Denison professors are scholars in their fields but also are masters in the crafts of teaching and advising. Seniors here rated the quality of their interactions with their faculty advisor significantly higher than students at other Carnegie peer classified institutions.
“Ralph Waldo Emerson said an institution is the lengthening shadow of one person. What has happened and is happening at Denison proves it. The change in ambience and ethos is palpable. It is a place where good things are happening, and a new spirit is in the air … It is first rate.”
In his quintessential book defining the true value of higher education and lauding the select group of colleges that get it right, Lauren Pope gives Denison high marks for its curriculum, its faculty, its approach to student development and the success of its alumni. Pope, a retired New York Times education editor, journalist, and highly respected student advocate, points out that Denison’s unique summer research opportunities for students and its creative approach to career preparation add value to an already top-notch academic program. The book praises Denison’s faculty and administrators for their hand-crafted approach to student development, as they fill the roles of teachers, mentors, and counselors with aplomb.
“Students say that the environment is more collaborative than competitive, and the key to success is effective time management.”
“Classes are small, individual attention is the norm,” says Fiske’s Guide to Colleges about Denison. Fiske also holds up Denison’s internship and off-campus programs, and it praises the college’s generous financial aid, pointing out that “the average non-need-based scholarship award is more than $20,000.” Fiske also notes that some of the more interesting courses of study, such as the major offered in “Philosophy, Political Science and Economics,” are unique to Denison. Fiske also remarks about the quality of the physical sciences and modern languages, programs that offer loads of experiential learning and close collaboration with faculty at Denison. Fiske also gives Denison superior ratings for its selectivity, its highly effective career development, and its setting in Granville, including the beautiful campus and the expansive biological reserve.
“Denison is a standardized test-optional school, giving applicants the choice of whether or not to submit test scores as part of their application.”
In its list of “America’s Top Colleges,” Forbes Magazine has placed Denison among the very best. Along with the school’s quality of teaching and learning, Forbes places special emphasis on the return on a family’s investment in the college education, asking such questions as: “Will my classes be interesting?”; “Is it likely I will graduate in four years?”; “Will I incur a ton of debt getting my degree?”; “And once I get out of school, will I get a good job and be a leader in my chosen profession?” In ranking Denison, Forbes notes the college’s history and some folklore that has been passed down by generations of students, and it also notes Denison’s celebrated successes in intercollegiate athletics. Forbes recently has added a more focused ranking of “America’s Most Entrepreneurial Colleges.” Denison again is listed among the best colleges in the nation that are “reinventing themselves as modern-day startup incubators.” The ranking recognizes an institution’s entrepreneurial outcomes by analyzing its alumni and students who are founders and owners of successful businesses and other enterprises. In this prestigious list, Denison ranks right behind Williams College, and ahead of schools such as DePauw, Occidental, Oberlin, Hamilton, Trinity, Kenyon, Bowdoin, Villanova, Swarthmore, and Davidson.
“Our list ranks the top 100 universities and top 100 liberal arts colleges. The rankings measure academic quality and affordability.”
Denison fares particularly well in Kiplinger’s highly regarded annual ranking of its “Best College Values.” Used in Kiplinger’s methodology are measures of competitiveness, graduation rates, academic support, cost, financial aid, and student indebtedness. When this comprehensive standard is applied to form Kiplinger’s “Best Values in Liberal Arts Colleges” ranking, Denison emerges among the nation’s top 50 liberal arts colleges, surpassing such schools as Connecticut College, Trinity College, Franklin & Marshall College, Dickinson College, Gettysburg College, Occidental College, and St. Lawrence University.
“This education gap is a problem not only for the teenagers on the wrong end of it. It’s a problem for the American economy. The economic differences between college graduates and everyone else have reached record levels.”
In the New York Times' most recent ranking of the nation's “Most Economically Diverse Top Colleges,” which measures efforts to enroll lower-income students, Denison is ranked 11th among all top colleges in the country, tied with Columbia, and just ahead of Stanford, Brown and Williams. This high ranking by the Times reflects Denison’s earnest and persistent efforts to recruit, enroll, and retain the kind of talented students who have traditionally excelled in secondary school but have not gone on to top colleges because of financial obstacles. Denison’s dedication to these individuals is supported by a high percentage of students who receive Pell Grants, which are awarded to families with lower incomes. Denison’s substantial and well-managed endowment allows the college to support these economically disadvantaged students even further. The net price for these students is among the very lowest nationwide, and their graduation rate is among the highest.
“The President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll has announced that Denison University has been recognized for its estimable community service.”
The college is one of only 61 institutions of higher education nationwide that has earned the designation of Honor Roll with Distinction for “the extraordinary and exemplary community service contributions of its students, faculty, and staff in meeting critical community and national needs.” In addition, Denison is the only independent college or university in Ohio to gain the “With Distinction” honor. The prestigious designation is based on the community service of students in the Denison Community Association, service learning courses, athletic teams, Greek organizations and Community Service Interns America Reads literacy tutors. Eighty-six percent of Denison students perform some form of service each year, during which they contribute some 45,000 hours of service. Denison has been acknowledged every year since 2009 for its support of community service programs as a member of the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor, and this is the second time that the college’s recognition has been elevated to the exclusive “With Distinction” classification.
“Professors are even helpful when connecting students to professionals in fields related to their majors, and alumni are a great boon to the school.”
The Princeton Review bases its ratings of America’s “Best Colleges” on institutional data and extensive on-campus interviews with students, presidents, deans, and staff. The publication gives Denison high marks for its academics, quality of student life, and selectivity.
Students say, “one will find professors who are completely committed to their job: teaching their students.” Small classes mean students “really get to know their professors and can learn a lot outside of a traditional classroom setting,” and students are “bound to form a great relationship, if not a friendship,” with many professors during their education at Denison.
The guide notes the new Austin E. Knowlton Center for Career Exploration offers “a variety of help with career decisions: practice interviews, career coaching, resume building, and more. The alumni network is 'very diverse in occupation and found all around the world,' and alumni “love Denison and are willing to help any graduate seeking advice, internships, or any job-related detail.”
Academically, students “often are involved in multiple departments” either though double majors, minors, or concentrations, and “conducting research is very common for undergraduate students…during the school year or over the summer.” All classes are taught by “intelligent, thought-provoking professors,” and there are “a multitude of unique class options.”
In addition to being on the Princeton Review's list of the best colleges in the U.S., Denison has earned accolades on the publication's more focused lists. Denison is included in the Princeton Review's “Colleges That Pay You Back.” Recognized for its ROI, it is one of “the most exceptional in the nation at delivering great academics, affordable cost, and great career foundations.”
“Denison has signed the Presidents’ Climate Commitment, awarded grants to student sustainability projects, and made efforts to reduce dining hall waste.”
In its latest College Sustainability Report Card, the Sustainable Endowments Institute has commended Denison as not only a school that’s already employing cutting-edge sustainability strategies, but also one that is serious about striving to further improve its efforts in this realm. Denison gets A’s in six of nine discrete categories of green practices, those being administration; climate change and energy; food and recycling; student involvement; and investment priorities. In addition, Denison earned B’s in the report’s green building and transportation categories. Student groups earn particular kudos, having “worked on initiatives such as a bike-sharing program, clothing swap events, and an on-campus garden.” The report also notes, “To reduce energy use the university has taken a variety of measures, including installing energy management systems in 81 percent of buildings and steam line insulation in all buildings. Timers and motion sensors for temperature control and electric metering are utilized in nearly all buildings.”
“If you combine the information in U.S. News Best Colleges with college visits, interviews and your own intuition, our rankings can be a powerful tool in your quest for the right college.”
Possibly the best-known magazine that engages in the college rankings game, U.S. News and World Report, consistently places Denison in the top tier of its Best National Liberal Arts Colleges list. U.S. News claims to put high value on retention rates, average class size and financial resources — all areas in which Denison excels. The signature of the U.S. News rankings is its “reputation index,” an assessment of one school’s academic status as rated by senior administrators from other schools, and Denison’s academic reputation is another major factor that strengthens its position as national leader in the overall U.S. News rankings. In addition, important measures such as the quality of professors, selectivity for admission, and total financial resources give Denison a big boost among the elite schools in the U.S. News Best Colleges list.
More recently, U.S. News has ranked the nation’s top colleges on how successful they are at graduating their low-income students compared with their overall student bodies. On this important list, Denison again rises to the top and is called an “overperformer” by the study. This indicates that Denison actually is graduating its students from economically disadvantaged settings at a rate even higher than its exceptional overall graduation rate. Denison prides itself in being accessible and affordable to high-achieving students from all backgrounds, and equal attention is given to supporting their academic journey, regardless of means.
“Denison’s commitment to rigorous academics, meaningful mentorship and the gold standard in career exploration results in fantastic outcomes for our alumni.”
In a prestigious new national ranking developed jointly by the Wall Street Journal and the Times Higher Education, Denison is listed among the top 30 liberal arts colleges in America. This innovative ranking is focused on student success and learning, evaluating resources, outcomes, engagement, and the learning environment. In addition, the Wall Street Journal places Denison University among the top five liberal arts colleges in the Midwest. WSJ's ranking specifically measures teaching and faculty resources, student engagement, outcomes and a strong learning environment. Denison received especially high marks for its 9-to-1 student-faculty ratio and the resources the college puts toward making its liberal arts and sciences education affordable to middle and working-class families.
Academics are the bedrock of the Denison education, powered by exceptional faculty mentorship in the arts, sciences and athletics that focuses on individual student learning goals of academic competencies, autonomous thinking, active engagement and personal transformation. The result is a culture of doers who have the vision, skills and persistence to achieve their goals.
The university is unique in being able to quantify the outcomes for students via the Denison Difference, a statistical analysis of the overall education experience and the impressive post-graduation outcomes of our alumni. Within six months of graduation, almost 90 percent of alumni are employed, in graduate school or working with a service organization, such as Teach for America. At five years post-graduation, 96 percent of alumni report that they are working in their desired field or position or are on their way to achieving what they hope to accomplish professionally. And 92 percent of respondents indicate that Denison contributed to their ability to lead a rich and fulfilling life.
“The Washington Monthly rankings have always rejected the idea that expense, luxury and exclusivity should be held up as the highest values to which colleges and students aspire. Instead, this ranking asks a different question: ‘What are colleges and their graduates doing to make the country better?’“
Washington Monthly digs deep into what colleges are doing in response to social inequalities. Schools are rated based on their contribution to the public good in three broad categories: social mobility, research and service. Denison, with 19 percent of its students receiving Pell Grants and a graduation rate of almost 85 percent, ranks high for social mobility, which encompasses recruiting, retaining and graduating low-income students. Just after graduation, about 20 percent of our students attend graduate school and Denison’s acceptance rates to law and medical schools stand well above national averages. Denison also ranks highly in national surveys of undergraduate service community hours as well as postgraduate service opportunities with Peace Corps, Teach for America and City Year.