In 2002, the Policy Center on the First Year of College (supported by The Pew Charitable Trusts, The Atlantic Philanthropies, and Lumina Foundation for Education) sponsored a project to recognize colleges and universities as "Institutions of Excellence" in their design and execution of the first year. Thirteen colleges and universities representing a broad spectrum of campus types were selected as exceptional institutions that place a high priority on the first--year experience. Achieving and Sustaining Excellence in the First Year of College includes case studies of each of the thirteen exemplary institutions. These studies illustrate and analyze the colleges' best practices in teaching, assessing, and retaining first--year college students. The individual case studies offer lessons learned and have broad potential application beyond the particular type of institution represented.