Top 25 Colleges with the Highest Graduation Rate: 2018 Rankings

College Raptor Rankings star badge that says "Top 25 with Highest Grad Rate 2018".According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average college undergraduate graduation rate is 59%. This means that on average, about 59% of all college students complete a bachelor’s degree at the same institution where the started in four years.

Soaring above and beyond this average of 59% is this selection of colleges with the best graduation rates in the country. From small private colleges to larger research universities, students at these schools are truly committed to graduate on time.

Though there are 25 colleges on this list you’ll notice that some schools are “tied” with each other in terms of ranks. That’s because these colleges share the same graduation rate percentage.

5. Yale University (87%)

Yale University architectural alley inside campus.

Flickr user Francisco Anzola

  • 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.

4. United States Coast Guard Academy (88%)

United States Coast Guard Academy Students tossing their hats in the air.

Flickr user Coast Guard News

  • Location: New London, CT
  • Student Enrollment: 898
  • College Type: Public, 4-year or above

The most popular majors on this campus include: Business Administration, Political Science and Government, Oceanography, and Civil Engineering. Nearly 2,000 students apply to this small college each year, though only about 400 are accepted. Objee the Bear is the mascot of this academy.

4. Lafayette College (88%)

Autumn trees inside Lafayette College campus.

Flickr user drewbee

  • Location: Easton, PA
  • Student Enrollment: 2,533
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

Overlooking the Delaware River, the campus of Lafayette College focuses on community.  Providing 37 majors, the most prominent are social science, engineering, and biology.  With an admission rate of 30%, the Lafayette community is selected to create a true belonging.  In competition with nearby Lehigh University, their 152 meetings on the gridiron make it the longest football rivalry in college football history.

4. Boston College (88%)

  • 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.

4. Vassar College (88%)

Jewett House in Vassar College Campus.

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.

4. Haverford College (88%)

Old Barclay Hall dormitory at Haverford College campus.

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.

4. Tufts University (88%)

Tufts University campus on a fall season.

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.

4. Dartmouth College (88%)

Dartmouth College campus building with snow-covered lawn.

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.

4. Vanderbilt University (88%)

Students gather outside at the Vanderbilt University campus.

Flickr user Tom Hart

  • Location: Nashville, TN
  • Student Enrollment: 12,567
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit

Named in honor of rail and shipping magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt, the academically rigorous school accepts students with average ACT scores between 32–36 and average SAT scores between 1,430–1,580. Although the university is in the middle of urban Nashville, the campus is a designated national arboretum and has over 300 species of plants.

4. Columbia University in the City of New York (88%)

College Walk and Butler library at the Morningside campus of Columbia University.

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.

4. United States Naval Academy (88%)

Students walking outside at the United States Naval Academy campus.

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.

4. Williams College (88%)

Griffin Hall in Williams College campus.

Flickr user Peter Rintels

  • 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.  

3. Kenyon College (89%)

Olin Library at the Kenyon College campus.

Flickr user Larry Miller

  • Location: Gambier, OH
  • Student Enrollment: 1,711
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

Close interaction between professors and students is the rule here where instructors become mentors and friends.  The Kenyon Review and the Kenyon Institute have supported the College’s distinguished literary history since 1939.  While English is the largest major on campus, economics and international/global studies are not far behind.  Having won 31 national championships, the Kenyon Lords and Ladies swimming program is the most successful in NCAA history.

3. Middlebury College (89%)

Llibrary building at the Middlebury College campus.

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.

3. Swarthmore College (89%)

Swarthmore College campus building surrounded by trees.

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.

2. College of the Holy Cross (90%)

Red brick building at the College of the Holy Cross campus.

Flickr user Jack Donahue

  • Location: Worcester, MA
  • Student Enrollment: 2,729
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

Opened as a school for boys in 1843 under the Jesuit Society of Jesus, Holy Cross is New England’s oldest Catholic college. The school’s mascot, Iggy the Crusader, cheers on its 27 athletic teams in NCAA Division I sports. The most popular majors at Holy Cross are Economics, Psychology, and Political Science.

2. Colgate University (90%)

Entrance to Colgate University campus.

Flickr user Mike Bash

  • Location: Hamilton, NY
  • Student Enrollment: 2,861
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

Through its liberal arts curriculum, Colgate has been providing its students small class sizes emphasizing student-faculty interaction since 1819.  In addition to its 55 majors, the Upstate Institute was established to give back economically and socially to the surrounding community.  Campus is also heated with biomass producing net zero carbon emissions.  With these characteristics, Colgate prepares its students to have a social and environmental conscious.  

2. Washington University in St. Louis (90%)

Washington University of St Louis Brookings Hall.

Flickr user grabadonut

  • Location: St. Louis, MO
  • Student Enrollment: 14,688
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

Of the nearly 15,000 students on campus, the ratio between graduates and undergraduates is relatively even. Top majors at the institution include Psychology, Biology, Finance and Mechanical Engineering. The private research university has also been affiliated with 25 Nobel laureates, nine of which completed the majority of their research at Wash U.

2. Pomona College (90%)

Students enjoying sunny day on the Pomona College campus.

Flickr user Dave & Margie Hill

  • Location: Claremont, CA
  • Student Enrollment: 1,663
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

With a small class size and a 7:1 student-to-faculty ratio, Pomona College puts an emphasis on community. The top 5 most popular majors on this campus are: Economics, Mathematics, Biology/Biological Sciences, Neuroscience, and Computer Science. Academics are priority, with the average ACT scores ranging between 30-34, and SAT 1,350-1,520.

2. Princeton University (90%)

East Pyne Hall in Princeton University campus.

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.

1. Pontifical College Josephinum (91%)

Large Pontifical College Josephinum campus building.

Flickr user OZinOH

  • Location: Columbus, OH
  • Student Enrollment: 223
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

This liberal arts and theology school was founded by Monsignor Joseph Jessing in 1848. Its name means “House of Joseph,” and the main portion of its students come from international dioceses and U.S. dioceses that do not have their own seminaries. The school’s Latin motto translates to “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

1. Davidson College (91%)

  • Davidson College campus chamber building.

    Flickr user melystu

    Location: Davidson, NC

  • Student Enrollment: 1,784
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

This liberal arts college has an average incoming freshman ACT score of 28-32 and an average SAT score of 1,280–1,430. Their latin motto is “Alenda Lux Ubi Orta Libertas” which translates to: “Let learning be cherished where liberty has arisen.” Their mascot is known as Will E. Wildcat.

1. Carleton College (91%)

  • Red brick building at the Carleton College campus.

    Flickr user Willy Lee

    Location: Northfield, MN

  • Student Enrollment: 2,014
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

Average ACT and SAT scores for this college are between 29–34 and 1,310–1,490 respectively. Nearly 7,000 applications come in each year, and of that almost 1,400 are accepted. They wear an eye-catching blue and gold (or maize) colors to cheer on the Knights at their sporting events.

1. Georgetown University (91%)

  • Staiway towards Georgetown University campus building.

    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.

1. University of Notre Dame (91%)

  • Golden Dome in University of Notre Dame campus.

    Flickr user Dan Dzurisin

    Location: Notre Dame, IN

  • Student Enrollment: 12,292
  • College Type: Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above

Founded in 1842 by a priest of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, the University of Notre Dame is a widely recognized catholic research university.  The most popular majors on campus are finance, accounting, and marketing.  With 80% of their students living on campus, most students flock to the athletic stadiums to cheer on their Fighting Irish sporting the famous gold and dark blue uniforms.  

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.

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