privateUnlike public colleges—which are funded by local and state governments—private colleges and universities are funded by private sources—like tuition and fees. Many assume that private colleges are too expensive, however students who attend private colleges rarely pay the entirety of the “sticker
price”, instead having significant financial aid pay for a good portion of their cost of attendance.

Many of the greatest and most prestigious institutions in America are private colleges—in fact, each one of the schools on the following list were also featured in our Top 50 Best Colleges in the United States in 2017 list!

25. Rice University

Flickr user Ed Schipul

Flickr user Ed Schipul

Location: Houston, TX

Student Enrollment: 6,621

College Type: Private, nonprofit, 4 year or above

Sporting the colors blue and grey, the students at Rice are nicknamed the Owls, and their mascot is Sammy the Owl. Science and mathematics are highly regarded at this school, the most common majors being: Biochemistry, Psychology, Chemical Engineering, Kinesiology, and Mechanical Engineering.

Learn more about Rice University

24. Cornell University

Flickr user Robert Thompson

Flickr user Robert Thompson

Location: Ithaca, NY

Student Enrollment: 21,679

College Type: Private, nonprofit, 4 year or above

Nearly 42,000 applications are sent in to this school, and with an acceptance rate of 15% only about 6,300 of those applicants are chosen. Cornell boasts a 97% first-year retention rate and a student-faculty ratio of 9:1. They have a total of about 1,086 athletes on campus and are considered a NCAA Division I-AA school.

Learn more about Cornell University

23. Vanderbilt University

Flickr user Brent Moore

Flickr user Brent Moore

Location: Nashville, TN

Student Enrollment: 12,686

College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

Nicknamed “Vandy”, this school is also a nationally recognized arboretum, with an abundance of trees and shrubs throughout the campus. The two most popular majors are economics and social sciences. The average ACT composite score for incoming first-year students is between 32 and 35, and the average SAT combined score is between 1,424 and 1, 572.

Learn more about Vanderbilt University

22. Dartmouth College

Flickr user Dennis Yang

Flickr user Dennis Yang

Location: Hanover, NH

Student Enrollment: 6,298

College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

Founded in 1769, Dartmouth is the smallest of all Ivy League schools. Theodore Geisel, also known as Dr. Seuss, was a 1925 graduate of the college and worked for the school’s humor magazine during his years there.

Learn more about Dartmouth College

21. The Juilliard School

Flickr user Brian Lauer

Flickr user Brian Lauer

Location: New York City, NY

Student Enrollment: 926

College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

Juilliard is a performing arts conservatory, with programs in music, drama, and dance. The school has a 5:1 student to faculty ratio, and a 98% first-year retention rate. Notable alumni include Yo-Yo Ma, Sara Ramirez, and Robin Williams.

Learn more about The Juilliard School

20. Washington University in St. Louis

Flickr user jayo128

Flickr user jayo128

Location: St. Louis, MO

Student Enrollment: 14,348

College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

Psychology and Biology are the most popular majors at this university, where incoming ACT composite scores are between 32 and 34, and SAT combined scores are between 14,12 and 1,526. The university offers classes on campus and through distance learning, for both undergraduate and graduate students.

Learn more about Washington University in St. Louis

19. Northwestern University

Flickr user Allan Tokuda

Flickr user Allan Tokuda

Location: Evanston, IL

Student Enrollment: 21,554

College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

Settled near the city of Chicago, Northwestern University offers more than 120 majors for undergraduate students to choose from. The school is a NCAA Division-I university, with close to 500 student-athletes.

Learn more about Northwestern University

18. Duke University

Flickr user Alex Wheatley

Flickr user Alex Wheatley

Location: Durham, NC

Student Enrollment: 15,856

College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

Duke has produced an impressive number of Rhodes, Fulbright, Marshall, Truman, Goldwater, and Udall Scholars. The most popular degrees are public policy analysis and economics, and the university has a first-year retention rate of 97%.

Learn more about Duke University

17. Williams College

Flickr user SERSeanCrane

Flickr user SERSeanCrane

Location: Williamstown, MA

Student Enrollment: 2,126

College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

The average ACT composite for incoming first-year students ranges between 30 and 34, and the average SAT combined score ranges between 1,349 and 1,535. Williams College also boasts a delightful purple cow as their mascot, nicknamed Ephelia.

Learn more about Williams College

16. Notre Dame University

R.S. Photo

Flickr user R.S. Photo

Location: Notre Dame, IN

Student Enrollment: 12,179

College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

At the University of Notre Dame, students can live in one of 29 single-sex residence halls on campus. The most popular majors are finance and accounting, followed closely by accounting. Condoleezza Rice received her master’s degree in political science from the university in 1975.

Learn more about the University of Notre Dame

15. Brown University

Flickr user Matt

Flickr user Matt

Location: Providence, RI

Student Enrollment: 9,181

College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

Home to Bruno the Bear, Brown University has graduated a wealth of notable alumni. This research university was the first to accept students regardless of their religious affiliation, and has a 9:1 student to faculty ratio.

Learn more about Brown University

14. Swarthmore College

Flickr user Simon

Flickr user Simon

Location: Swarthmore, PA

Student Enrollment: 1,542

College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

This college is well-known for having an impressive first-year retention rate of 98%. Notable alumni Alice Paul, popular for her work with the women’s rights movement, graduated from Swarthmore College in 1905 with a bachelor’s degree in biology.

Learn more about Swarthmore College

13. Jewish Theological Seminary of America

Flickr user Wally Gobetz

Flickr user Wally Gobetz

Location: New York City, NY

Student Enrollment: 405

College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

This school has a 5:1 student to faculty ratio, and a 100% first-year retention rate. The school was the first institution of Conservative Judaism in the United States.

Learn more about the Jewish Theological Seminary of America

12. Amherst College

Flickr user lookcatalog

Flickr user lookcatalog

Location: Amherst, MA

Student Enrollment: 1,792

College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

Amherst College has students from around the country and the globe, including noteworthy alum Uhuru Kenyatta, the current President of Kenya. The most popular majors are Economics and English Language and Literature, followed closely by history.

Learn more about Amherst College

11. Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering

Flickr user Sean Munson

Flickr user Sean Munson

Location: Needham, MA

Student Enrollment: 350

College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

The average ACT composite for this school is between 32 and 36, and the average SAT combined score is between 1,431 and 1,581. The student body is about 52% male students and 48% female.

Learn more about Franklin W Olin College of Engineering

10. Columbia University in New York

Flickr user Mike Steele

Flickr user Mike Steele

Location: New York City, NY

Student Enrollment: 27,589

College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

Columbia was founded before the Declaration of Independence was signed, and was the first school to in America to grant an M.D. degree. Columbia has a 6:1 student to faculty rate. Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg are all graduates of Columbia Law.

Learn more about Columbia University in the City of New York

9. University of Pennsylvania

Flickr user Rob Pettengill

Flickr user Rob Pettengill

Location: Philadelphia, PA

Student Enrollment: 24,806

College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

Nicknamed “Penn”, the university was founded by Benjamin Franklin, and has an acceptance rate of 10%, admitting a little more than 3,700 students each year. Distinguished alumni include Warren Buffett, John Legend, Noam Chomsky, and John Heisman.

Learn more about the University of Pennsylvania

8. Pomona College

Location: Claremont, CA

Student Enrollment: 1,650

College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

Pomona is well-known for its career preparation programs, with on-campus internships and research opportunities for students. The college has a 93% four year graduation rate, and a 7:1 student to faculty rate.

Learn more about Pomona College

7. California Institute of Technology

Flickr user Flora Tsai

Flickr user Flora Tsai

Location: Pasadena, CA

Student Enrollment: 2,209

College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

The average ACT composite score for incoming students ranges from 34 to 36, and the average SAT combined score ranges from 1,504 to 1,584. “The truth shall make you free” as the CalTech motto states, and while the school is well-known for academics and alumni, it is also known for the pranks that happen on campus.

Learn more about the California Institute of Technology

6. University of Chicago

Flickr user Don Burkett

Flickr user Don Burkett

Location: Chicago, IL

Student Enrollment: 15,097

College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

The University of Chicago boasts a 100% first-year retention rate, and a 6:1 student to faculty ratio. Founded by John D. Rockefeller in 1890, UChicago has since given birth to 89 Nobel Prize winners, 5 of whom currently still teach at the institution.

Learn more about University of Chicago

5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Flickr user Stacey Kizer

Flickr user Stacey Kizer

Location: Cambridge, MA

Student Enrollment: 11,319

College Type: Private, not-for-profit, 4 year or above

Also known as MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is well known for its science, technology and engineering programs as well economics and management. Alumni are responsible for creating 4.6 million jobs among 30,000 companies. The overall revenue of these companies comes to approximately $1.9 trillion which equates MIT alumni with the 10th largest economy in the world.  

Learn more about the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

4. Stanford University

Flickr user Robbie Shade

Flickr user Robbie Shade

Location: Stanford, CA

Student Enrollment: 16,963

College Type: Private, not-for-profit, 4 year or above

Stanford University has a 4:1 student to faculty ratio and an average ACT score of 33. Of the nearly 17,000 enrolled students, 97% live on central campus which is primarily located in Silicon Valley. Its location fosters an innovative, entrepreneurial mindset and culturally diverse student population.

Learn more about Stanford University

3. Yale University

Flickr user m01229

Flickr user m01229

Location: New Haven, CT

Student Enrollment: 12,336

College Type: Private, not-for-profit, 4 year or above

Founded in 1701, Yale is the third oldest higher education institution in the country. It is also home to the third largest University library collection in the country with 15 million volumes. Furthermore, Yale is the alma mater of 5 U.S presidents, 19 supreme court justices and 13 living billionaires.

Learn more about Yale University

2. Harvard University

Flicker user Yu-Jen Shih

Flicker user Yu-Jen Shih

Location: Cambridge, MA

Student Enrollment: 28,791

College Type: Private, not-for-profit, 4 year or above

Harvard University is the oldest and one one of the most reputable institutions of higher education in the United States. With $37.6 billion in financial endowment, it is also the largest academic institution in the country.

Learn More about Harvard University

1. Princeton University

Flickr user Harshil Shah

Flickr user Harshil Shah

Location: Princeton, NJ

Student Enrollment: 8,088

College Type: Private, not-for-profit, 4 year or above

Princeton was established prior to the American Revolution as one of the nine colonial colleges. Today, it offers highly esteemed programs in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences and engineering. Notable Princeton alumni include Michelle Obama, John Adams, Woodrow Wilson, Scott Fitzgerald, Steve Forbes, Meg Whitman, and Brooke Shields.

Learn More about Princeton University

About our methodology

Colleges are ranked based on a combination of factors, including graduation rates, campus diversity, endowment per student, and other data as reported via the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) for the most recently-available enrollment year. Some colleges may have been excluded from rankings based on certain criteria, including specialization and classification. Learn about our full methodology.