Yale and Harvard fall short of Princeton, if only in the eyes of U.S. News and World Report.

The magazine’s rankings of national universities, which were released yesterday, bind Yale and Harvard together in the No. 2 slot for the third year in a row. Princeton, once again, is No. 1.

Yale President Richard Levin said the rankings, which are based on a wide variety of factors, paint a picture of three relatively equal institutions.

“I think that when you look at the kind of objective measures they use, the striking thing is that it is really hard to tell a difference from Yale, Harvard and Princeton,” Levin said. “If you look at the actual raw scores, there’s a big gap after the top three.”

But Levin also hinted at Yale being superior.

“But we all know that when we get to the immeasurable, the human qualities, we know,” he said.

Jessica He ’05 reacted to the news less enthusiastically.

“I don’t understand it — I’m very disappointed,” He said. “Globally, Yale and Harvard are definitely more recognized [than Princeton].”

Particularly troubling, He said, was the fact that the rankings did not consider abstracts that had important effects on students.

Princeton’s “elite” and “oppressive social atmosphere,” is just not conducive to an enjoyable, healthy college experience, He said.

“They include things like facilities, faculty resources — Princeton is primarily undergraduate, which may be good for statistics, but it doesn’t mean it is a better learning environment for students.” He said. “Their standards are deviating from the general public’s.”

Whitney Gratrix ’06 agreed that the calculations on which the rankings are based do not necessarily add up to show how strong the college is.

“I think a lot of it’s based on funding,” Gratrix said, referring to Princeton’s policy of giving out grants instead of loans in their financial aid packages. “I don’t think U.S. News has the basis to judge the differences in schools on sound principles.”

And Gratrix said the rankings certainly did not come into play when she made her college decision.

“Yale had a big enough name already,” Gratrix said. “It didn’t matter if it was ranked No. 2, 3 or 4.”

Gabriel Borrud ’06 said he thought the rankings were unimportant, but thought he was one of a few.

“I wanted to go to Yale because the campus was cool. I was going to go to Fletcher instead of Yale — that shows you how much I care about rankings,” Borrud said. “My friends are all obsessed with [the rankings], but whatever.”

As far as how the top three turned out, however, Borrud had a completely different view.

“I’m pretty honored to be at the second best college in the nation. Harvard, well, I’m pretty [mad] about that — Princeton, they’re dorks,” Borrud said.