It's the most wonderful time of the year for elite institutions of higher education: the release of college rankings. And Harvard has much to be jolly about as top accolades roll in once again.

Third parties assess colleges on a variety of factors, such as quality of faculty, freshman retention, and graduation rate, ultimately boiling down the intangibles of the college experience into succinct lists for eager high school students and parents to pore over.

U.S. News and World Report, for many the ultimate Santa Claus of college rankings, granted both Harvard and Princeton the gift of sharing first place in the National University category of its annual ranking, released today.

Harvard also received a little international good cheer from the QS World University Rankings, released this week, which rated Harvard third. The University of Cambridge made second and MIT first. Seems like the cities of Cambridge on both sides of the pond are doing something right.

It's lonely at the top, though. The Chronicle of Higher Education released an interactive graphic on Monday, which visually represents "comparison groups," lists of peer institutions that universities submit to the U.S. Department of Education for comparison. While 25 colleges, including Stevens Institute of Technology and University of Phoenix, Jersey City, consider Harvard to be a peer, Harvard only chose to list three: Princeton, Stanford, and Yale.

Maybe Harvard is a Scrooge after all.