This makes Business Insider's third annual colleges list more relevant than ever.

Click here to see the 50 best schools >

Our list focuses on the one thing that matters: how much a college will help you have a successful career. A good college should (1) teach students to be independent thinkers who know how to express themselves; (2) grant an impressive degree; and (3) connect students to an influential alumni network.

We asked our readers -- a diverse group that represents your future peers, colleagues and recruiters -- to rate colleges based on these criteria.

Our readers say the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is the best school in the country. They responded with an overwhelming endorsement of the Ivy League and a few select universities -- MIT, Stanford, the California Institute of Technology and the University of Chicago.

We also asked readers to comment on the value of college these days: 80% said it was worth it.

This question generated hundreds of comments on both sides:

  • "Unless you are one hell of an entrepreneur, you're getting nowhere in this country without a college degree. The piece of paper is absurdly overpriced (except maybe in state at University of Florida) but it is a necessary evil."
  • "Absolutely [worth it]. As it currently stands, the present value of future benefits vastly outweighs the current costs of attending college."
  • "At this point, I think it still is, but I don't know how much longer that will last. If you get a marketable degree in science, engineering, or tech it is still worth it. But for most of the others, the bachelor's at this point gives you a chance at landing a crappy job over the non-educated, rather than getting a good job like it used to. Whether that is worth it depends on how much debt you went into in the process."
  • "As far as life experiences are concerned, those 4+ years are a very concentrated dose of trial, tribulation, self-reflection, and group and individual development. Not to mention a potentially life-changing education."

Click here to see the 50 best schools >

View the ranking on a single page. Read our methodology and interview with recruiters.