What Are Peer Colleges?

Campus of Emory College with a statue of a horse in the foreground.

What Are Peer Colleges?

Published July 18, 2023

Campus of Emory College with a statue of a horse in the foreground.

Peer colleges are institutions of higher education that are deemed comparable to each other based on specific criteria. These criteria may include factors such as mission, size, academic programs, public or private, student demographics, faculty profile, research output, or geographical location. 

By identifying peer institutions, schools can establish connections with others that face similar challenges and have similar aspirations. Peer networks can include a wide range of schools, from small liberal arts colleges to large universities.

What are the Benefits of Peer College Networks?

Peer colleges collaborate on various initiatives, including joint research projects, faculty exchanges, or shared academic programs. These collaborations help to improve the educational experiences for students.

Colleges can evaluate their strengths and weaknesses by comparing themselves to similar schools. This helps institutions identify areas for improvement, set realistic goals, and make informed decisions about resource allocation and strategic planning.

Peer networks also allow schools to share best practices in areas such as teaching methods, student support services, diversity and inclusion initiatives, or sustainability efforts.

How Colleges Choose Peer Schools

The process of selecting peer colleges involves careful consideration and evaluation. While the selection process may vary by school, here are some key steps that schools take.

  1. Colleges begin by completing a self-assessment to understand their own characteristics, strengths, and weaknesses. 
  2. Once colleges have a clear understanding of their own identity, they decide what criteria are most important for selecting their peer institutions.
  3. Colleges then research potential peer institutions by examining publicly available data, rankings, and reports. They also consider input from faculty, administrators, and students.

Peer colleges play an important role in higher education by fostering collaboration, benchmarking, and the sharing of best practices. By carefully selecting peer institutions based on specific criteria, colleges create relationships that contribute to their own growth. Through these networks, institutions can work together to tackle common challenges, exchange expertise, and provide a better educational experience for their students.


Use College Insights to help find merit aid and schools that fit the criteria most important to your student. You’ll not only save precious time, but your student will avoid the heartache of applying to schools they aren’t likely to get into or can’t afford to attend.  

Other Articles You Might Like:

Can You Find Ivy League Quality at Non-Ivy League Schools?

What to Know about the NESCAC and the Little Ivies

10 Reasons to Consider Smaller Schools with High Acceptance Rates




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