The Northeast region of the United States is home to many colleges with rich histories, and some that even predate the founding of the nation itself.

Although a handful of these schools have been around since the Revolutionary War, they have adapted well and made many technological advancements. In fact, a number of northeastern schools have become state-of-the-art research institutions. As demonstrated by this list, the Northeast is certainly known for prestigious universities for a reason.

For the purposes of our rankings, we’ve included the following states in the Northeast: Maine, New Hampshire,  Vermont, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, and DC. 

25. New York University

Flickr user jpellgen

  • Location: New York, NY
  • Student Enrollment: 50,027
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

This international university has campuses in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai as well as centers in Accra, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Florence, London, Madrid, Paris, Prague, Sydney, and Washington D.C. NYU also has an impressive list of notable alumni that includes heads of state, royalty, CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, Olympic medalists and astronauts.

24. Boston College

  • Location: Chestnut Hill, MA
  • Student Enrollment: 14,354
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

This Jesuit Catholic research university receives more than 29,000 applications per year. Of these applications, only 8,400 students are admitted on average. Accepted students score an average of 1,300–1,470 on the SAT and 29–33 on the ACT. The official Boston College colors are maroon and gold, and its mascot is Baldwin the Eagle.

23. Middlebury College

Flickr user daiji

  • Location: Middlebury, VT
  • Student Enrollment: 2,558
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

This liberal arts school sees nearly 9,000 applications sent its way every year, and has a 17.4% acceptance rate. Middlebury College has a 8:1 student to faculty ratio, and a first year retention rate of 97%. Some popular sports on campus include the following: ice hockey, lacrosse, swimming and diving, soccer, track, and football.

22. Bucknell University

Flickr user Michael Caruso

  • Location: Lewisburg, PA
  • Student Enrollment: 3,625
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

This diverse institution offers nearly 50 majors and over 60 minors, all while experiencing an impressive first year retention rate of 93%. Of its many majors, the Bucknell’s most popular are Economics, Political Science, Accounting, Finance and Biology. Bucknell’s colors are orange and blue, and its mascot is the bison.

21. Vassar College

Flickr user Yibo Yu

  • Location: Poughkeepsie, NY
  • Student Enrollment: 2,436
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

Fencing, lacrosse, soccer, squash, and track are popular sports on this campus. Fans wear burgundy and grey to cheer on the Brewers. They have 12 resident halls on campus, and students are required to live in them. Vassar has  a solid 90% four year graduation rate, and an equally impressive 94% first year retention rate.

20. United States Military Academy

Flickr user mikek7890

  • Location: West Point, VA
  • Student Enrollment: 4,348
  • College Type: Public, 4-year or above

The United States Military Academy (or USMA) attracts students from all around the country, though most come from California, Texas, Florida, New York, and of course, Virginia. Here the students follow a code: “a cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do.” There is a 7:1 student to faculty ratio and a 93% first-year retention rate.

19. Wellesley College

  • Location: Wellesley, MA
  • Student Enrollment: 2,510
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

One of the original Seven Sisters Colleges, Wellesley is perhaps one of the most famous women’s colleges in the world. Notable alumni include: screenwriter Nora Ephron, professor/songwriter Katharine Lee Bates, journalist Diane Sawyer, and politician Hillary Clinton. The most popular major on campus is Economics.

18. Haverford College

Flickr user Roger W

  • Location: Haverford, PA
  • Student Enrollment: 1,233
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

Founded by Quakers in 1833, Haverford College offers 31 majors, the most popular of which are Psychology, Biology, Chemistry, Economics, and English. The average ACT and SAT scores for this school are 30–34 and 1,350–1,530 respectively. The campus is a national arboretum, the oldest in the country.

17. Tufts University

Flickr user Steve McFarland

  • Location: Medford, MA
  • Student Enrollment: 11,137
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

Of the 19,000 plus applications that get sent into Tufts every year, only about 3,000 are accepted—giving this school a 16.1% acceptance rate. There is a 9:1 student to faculty ratio at this university, giving it a close-knit feel. Their mascot, Jumbo the Elephant, has quite a unique history and sports the school colors of blue and brown.

16. Johns Hopkins University

Flickr user Let Ideas Compete

  • Location: Baltimore, MD
  • Student Enrollment: 22,686
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

This founding member of the American Association of Universities was established in 1876 and named after the entrepreneur, philanthropist, and abolitionist Johns Hopkins. The fame Hopkins has garnered for its medical school is reflected in its three most popular undergraduate majors: Nursing, Public Health, and Biomedical Engineering.

15. Georgetown University

Flickr user Josh

  • Location: Washington, DC
  • Student Enrollment: 18,459
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

This historic university is comprised of nine undergraduate and graduate schools. It offers over 48 college majors, the most popular of which are: International Relations and Affairs, Political Science, Finance, Economics, and Psychology. Their school’s motto—Ultraque Unum—means Both into One.

14. Cornell University

Flickr user J. Maughn

  • Location: Ithaca, NY
  • Student Enrollment: 21,904
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

Cornell University, founded in 1865, is unique among its Ivy League counterparts in that it is a land grant institution.  With programs spread across New York City, and even in Qatar, this research university is consistently ranked among the top in the world.  Research is a central element to the University and it spent $671 million in 2009 on science and engineering research and development.

13. Dartmouth College

Flickr user Dennis Yang

  • Location: Hanover, NH
  • Student Enrollment: 6,350
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or more

Founded as a Congregationalist school to educate Native Americans in Christian theology and the English way of life, Dartmouth now provides 57 majors in 40 academic departments. The most popular of these are Economics, Political Science, and History. Students also follow the D Plan, a unique quarter plan that provides greater opportunities for internships and research.

12. Amherst College

Flickr user Henry

  • Location: Amherst, MA
  • Student Enrollment: 1,849
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4 years

Located in a town of 35,000, Amherst College offers a scenic campus where students interact with a 500 acre wildlife sanctuary.  This highly selective liberal arts college has a long history dating back to 1821 and is a member of the Five Colleges Consortium.  Regularly regarded as one of the best liberal arts colleges in the country, students receive a dynamic education on its residential campus.

11. Brown University

Flickr user thurdl01

  • Location: Providence, RI
  • Student Enrollment: 9,458
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4 year or above

This well-known university was the first school in the Ivy League. It is the 7th oldest college in the country, and the first to admit students regardless of their religious affiliation. Economics, Biology, Computer Science, Neuroscience, and Applied Mathematics are the most common majors on this campus.

10. Swarthmore College

Flickr user Simon

  • Location: Swarthmore, PA
  • Student Enrollment: 1,581
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

Founded by Quakers in 1864, Swarthmore was one of the first coeducational schools in the US. It has an 89% four year graduation rate and a student-to-faculty ratio of 8:1. Their school colors are garnet and grey, and their mascot is named Phineas the Phoenix. Most of Swarthmore’s students come from California, Pennsylvania, and New York.

9. Williams College

Flickr user Peter Rintel

  • Location: Williamstown, MA
  • Student Enrollment: 2,171
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

As one of the oldest colleges in the U.S., founded in 1793, Williams College offers forty-four undergraduate and two graduate majors.  It is consistently ranked as one of the top colleges in the country and meets 100% of admitted students’ financial need.  Their Purple Cow mascot supports their athletic teams which are called the Ephs.

8. Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering

Flickr user Sean Munson

  • Location: Needham, MA
  • Student Enrollment: 370
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

This college offers three majors: Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Electrical / Electronics Engineering. Their phoenix mascot is unofficially named Frank, and represents the school’s willingness to change itself and adapt. Olin only has two competitive sports on campus: soccer and ultimate frisbee.

7. Columbia University in the City of New York

Flickr user Andreas Komodromos

  • Location: New York City, NY
  • Student Enrollment: 28,086
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

There are a host of famous and influential alumni that have graduated from this university, including: 3 U.S. Presidents, 9 Supreme Court Justices, and 123 Pulitzer Prize winners. Incoming freshman score an average of 31–35 on the ACT and 1,380–1,570 on the SAT. Nearly 37,000 applications are sent to this school annually.

6. United States Naval Academy

Flickr user Butch Dalisay

  • Location: Annapolis, MD
  • Student Enrollment: 4,525
  • College Type: Public, 4-year or above

Built atop the former Fort Severn, the United States Naval Academy is 33 miles away from Washington D.C. They have an impressive 98% first-year retention rate, and an 8:1 student-to-faculty ratio. “Anchors Aweigh” is their well-known fight song played at sporting events, where they show off the colors navy blue and gold.

5. University of Pennsylvania

Flickr user Rob Pettengill

  • Location: Philadelphia, PA
  • Student Enrollment: 24,876
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

UPenn’s coat of arms was specifically designed to mirror Benjamin Franklin’s. It features a dolphin and two books. The motto “Leges sine moribus vanae” means “Laws without morals are useless.” Located in the City of Brotherly Love, this university receives well over 37,000 applications each year, and accepts about 3,800 of them.

4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Flickr user Stacey Kizer

  • Location: Cambridge, MA
  • Student Enrollment: 11,311
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

This institute was technically founded in 1861, but did not open to students until 1865 due to the start of the Civil War. Nowadays, however, MIT is a worldwide leader in physical sciences, engineering, economics, biology, and much more. They have cardinal red and silver grey as their official school colors.

3. Yale University

  • Location: New Haven, CT
  • Student Enrollment: 12,385
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

Yale University receives over 30,000 each year, and is well-known for being highly selective. In 1861, Yale awarded the country’s first ever Ph.D. Students sport the unique color “Yale Blue” at Bulldogs games. Among its notable alumni are 5 U.S. Presidents, 19 Supreme Court Justices, 20 living billionaires, and 57 Nobel laureates.

2. Harvard University

Flickr user Paul Geffen

  • Location: Cambridge, MA
  • Student Enrollment: 29,652
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

Easily one of the most recognizable universities, Harvard is actually the oldest institute of higher learning in the country. It’s latin motto of “Veritas” means truth—a fitting motto for a university well-known for its law, political science, and social science programs. Harvard also boasts an impressive graduation rate, at 87% for four years, and 97% for six.

1. Princeton University

Flickr user Kah-Wai Lin

  • Location: Princeton, NJ
  • Student Enrollment: 8,143
  • College Type: Private, not-for-profit, 4-year or above

Founded in 1746, this prestigious university didn’t earn the name Princeton until 1896—originally called the College of New Jersey. Of the nearly 30,000 applications that were sent in last year, only 1,948 were selected, giving Princeton an acceptance rate of 7.1%. Due to its excellent financial aid program, 83% of recent students graduated without any debt.

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.

Interested in any of these schools? Check out College Raptor’s free match tool to see if they’re a good fit for you!


9/22/17 Note: Due to an error in the US Government’s IPEDS database, some data for Williams College was reported incorrectly. Our rankings have been updated accordingly.