U.S. News & World Report released its annual rankings Tuesday for 2017, comparing more than 1,800 institutions to determine the best national universities, best value schools and best liberal arts colleges, among others. 

U.S. News' national universities list, which is widely considered to be one of the most credible college rankings, has a familiar name in first place: Princeton University. Princeton has topped the list since 2013. In second place is Harvard University, followed by the University of Chicago and Yale University tied for No. 3.

The rankings were based on academic excellence. They included factors like class size, student-to-faculty ratio, graduation rate, student services, expert opinions, incoming student SAT/ACT scores and alumni giving.

As noted by CBS a few years ago, you shouldn't take any college rankings at face value. Institutions tend to cheat, the metrics can be sketchy and the lists drive up college costs. But that doesn't mean they're not useful.

"I encourage parents and students to use the wealth of data and information in Best Colleges to identify schools that suit their specific needs," U.S. News editor Brian Kelly said in a news release.

Here are the top 20 schools on U.S. News' 2017 Best National Universities list:

1. Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey

2. Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts

3 University of Chicago in Chicago and Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut

5. Columbia University in New York City and Stanford University in Stanford, California

7. Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts

8 (tie). Duke University in Durham, North Carolina and University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia

10. Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore

11. Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire

12 (tie). California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California and Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois

14. Brown University in Providence

15 (tie). Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, Rice University in Houston, University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana and Vanderbilt University in Nashville

19. Washington University in St. Louis

20 (tie). Emory University in Atlanta, Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and the University of California in Berkeley, California