Western Carolina University once again is ranked among the best universities in the South in two categories in the 2016 edition of the U.S. News & World Report “Best Colleges” guidebook released today (Wednesday, Sept. 9).

BestCollegesUSNewsThe guidebook lists WCU as 13th among “top public regional universities” in the South, up two places from last year’s spot at 15th. The publication also has WCU tied with two other schools at No. 32 on a list of the “best regional universities” in the South, five places above last year’s ranking at No. 37 in that category.

The category in which WCU appears includes 618 higher education institutions that offer a wide range of bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and that tend to attract most of their students from surrounding states.

In addition, Western Carolina ranked at No. 27 among institutions in the South for “best colleges for veterans” and at No. 90 nationally in the category of “best online programs.”

The annual rankings are based on a variety of indicators, including assessment by administrators at peer institutions, graduation rates, retention of students, faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources and alumni giving.

The best universities recognition comes as WCU is celebrating an all-time high in the percentage of first-time, full-time undergraduate students who have returned for their sophomore year with 80 percent of last year’s freshman class back in school this fall semester, and as more than 3,000 applications for admission to next year’s freshman class already are being processed.

Although rankings guidebooks can provide some guidance in the college search process, prospective students should concentrate on finding the school that is the right fit for them personally, said Phil Cauley, director of student recruitment and transitions at WCU.

“A great way to learn more about Western Carolina and to see if it is a good fit is to visit during Open House, which allows students to get a feel for the campus by taking a tour, talking with faculty and staff, and learning about academic programs, extracurricular activities, student support programs and financial aid,” Cauley said.

WCU has four Open House events scheduled for this academic year. The first one is Saturday, Oct. 31, and others are scheduled for Nov. 14, Feb. 20 and March 12. Registration and more information are available at the website openhouse.wcu.edu.

Students who cannot attend an Open House have the alternative of participating in a weekday campus tour, Cauley said. More information is available by emailing admiss@wcu.edu or calling 828-227-7317.