The University of Florida’s latest appearance in the Niche college rankings gives a first-place nod to its athletics. UF sits above SEC powerhouses, No. 2 University of Alabama and No. 3 LSU.
Sources that Niche used to determine rankings include the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), the Office of Post-Secondary Education, The Center for Measuring University Performance, College Scorecard Data, the Brookings Institute, the National Science Foundation and the Niche College Student Survey.
A significant piece of the Niche ranking process, however, are responses that students themselves sent in about the school. For the athletics category, anonymous student responses were critical in setting apart UF from similarly dominant programs. Responses remain anonymous per website regulations.
“Our sports teams are amazing and sporting events are loads of fun,” one UF senior wrote to Nicheniche.com. “Nothing beats the Swamp.”
Niche is a company made up of data scientists, engineers, parents, students and alumni of various colleges in the U.S. The website is known for its extensive research on colleges throughout the U.S., which it uses to create rankings each year for various categories. This information is intended to help prospective students choose and compare colleges based on what is important to them.
Niche determines its rankings for each college by comparing statistics, diversity and other demographics and student-submitted surveys. From this aggregation of data, the Niche team produces a standardized score for each factor at each college, according to their website. It then weighs each factor and calculates a final, standardized score for each college.
UF and the Gator Nation have been known for their passion for athletics for generations. UF athletics has established itself as a staple on campus.
“Athletics are a huge part of the Gator lifestyle,” wrote a UF sophomore. “Without them, UF wouldn’t be the same.”
The top-ranked athletics at UF did not have a completely positive effect on every student that responded, though.
“I am not a big sports fan, but athletics are a big part of life here,” a UF freshman wrote accompanied by a three-star rating.
Another student was frustrated by the lack of attention given to less popular sports.
“It’s not too thrilling that almost no attention is given to the University of Florida soccer team,” the freshman wrote.
This No. 1 ranking for Florida athletics follows a successful, but short 2019-20 year for Gators athletics. UF football finished with an overall record of 11-2, including an Orange Bowl victory over Virginia. Volleyball finished 27-5 on the season with a loss in the NCAA tournament semifinal. Gymnastics was surging forward with an undefeated regular season before being cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Florida also ranked No. 5 in Best Colleges for Student Athletes in America on Niche’s website. In this list, UF remained the highest-ranked SEC school as well as one of only two SEC schools that made the top 10. Vanderbilt University was ranked No. 7.
According to niche.com, UF earned an A+ grade for athletics, which helped to boost the university to an A+ overall Niche grade.
Contact Sara Kate Dyson at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @sarakatedyson.
Florida earned the title "Best College Athletics in America" for 2021 from Niche college rankings following a short, but successful 2019-2020 athletic year.