According to its website, these colleges are honored for being:
- Nationally recognized by education professionals as an excellent school
- Strongly focused on teaching undergraduates
- Home to a wide variety of innovative learning experiences
- An active campus with many opportunities for personal development
- Highly valued by graduate schools and employers for its outstanding preparation
Institutions are nominated by guidance counselors, college administrative members and the Colleges of Distinction selection team. The selection methodology is both quantitative and qualitative. Data such as graduation rates and class size play a part, as do campus visits, interviews and feedback from administration, faculty, alumni and students at the college as well as other colleges and high schools.