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How U.S. News Collects Its Data: Common Data Set

Find out the sources used to compile our college survey questions.

By Robert Morse
September 12, 2011

U.S. News strongly believes in the transparency of the data collection and ranking process. As part of these efforts, we want to discuss the source of some of the data questions we use on the annual U.S. News statistical survey sent to colleges. U.S. News uses almost all the questions from the Common Data Set as part of our survey. We also ask other questions in additional to those on the Common Data Set. U.S. News is one of the three publishers that manage the Common Data Set initiative.

The 2011-2012 Common Data Set (CDS) has been finalized and is now ready for use on the 2011-2012 college and university surveys conducted by participating publishers. It should be noted that all three of the participating CDS publishers ask many additional questions from colleges besides what is covered in the CDS. These additional data questions and profile information are used on each publisher’s website and print products. In the case of U.S.News & World Report, some of the additional questions we ask are used as indicators in the methodology to compute the Best Colleges rankings.

The 2011-2012 Common Data Set can be downloaded or printed out at the CDS website ( Publishers participating in the CDS initiative include:

  • The College Board
  • Peterson’s
  • U.S.News & World Report

You can be an active participant in the CDS initiative by joining the CDS electronic discussion group. Join the CDS forums or read current messages on the forums.

You can also monitor the activities of the initiative via the CDS website. The most current CDS will always be posted there, along with information on activities related to the CDS. Additionally, you can contact members of the CDS team.

Thank you for your ongoing interest and support.

The College Board


U.S.News & World Report