Top 25 Best Colleges in the Southeast | 2019 Rankings

The Southeastern United States offers a wide variety of colleges and universities. Known for its beautiful weather and rich cultural history, this diverse area has a higher education experience for every kind of student.

For this list, the following states are considered in the Southeast region: Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, and Kentucky.

Here are College Raptor’s picks for the top 25 best colleges in the Southeast.

25. Wofford College

  • Flickr user Lorianne DiSabato

    Location: Spartanburg, SC

  • Student Enrollment: 1,683
  • College Type: Private

69% of students who apply to Wofford College are accepted into the school.  They have a 77% four year graduation rate that jumps up to 81% in six years. Wofford’s school colors are old gold and black, and they compete athletically as the Terriers in NCAA Division I sports, including football, soccer, tennis, basketball, and more.

24. Furman

  • Flickr user Matt Bateman

    Location: Greenville, SC

  • Student Enrollment: 3,003
  • College Type: Private

Founded in 1826, Furman is the oldest private university in South Carolina. Furman competes in 20 varsity sports as the Paladins, with purple and white as their school colors. Business is the most popular major on campus, followed by Health, and Political Science. The Bell Tower is the icon of the university, featured on its official seal.

23. North Carolina State University at Raleigh

  • Flickr user Suzie Tremmel

    Location: Raleigh, NC

  • Student Enrollment: 33,755
  • College Type: Public

Known locally simply as “State,” North Carolina State University prides itself on being an academic powerhouse, especially in STEM fields, education, business, and medicine. Nearly 27,000 applications were sent into NCSUR last year, and 51% of them were accepted. Over 80% of students hail from North Carolina, but other students come from all over the country.

22. Elon University

  • Flickr user Kevin Oliver

    Location: Elon, NC

  • Student Enrollment: 6,739
  • College Type: Private

Located in the bustling Triad Region of North Carolina, Elon University has a student-to-faculty ratio of 12:1, making this a great choice for students who prefer a more intimate classroom setting. 67% of applicants are accepted into Elon. Elon’s mascot is a phoenix, chosen because the school survived a devastating fire in 1923.

21. James Madison University

  • Flickr user raymondclarkimages

    Location: Harrisonburg, VA

  • Student Enrollment: 21,270
  • College Type: Public

James Madison University was initially founded as a women’s college in 1908, but became coeducational in 1966. However, there are still more women on campus—59% of undergraduates are women, as are 70% of the graduate scholars. Their school colors are purple and gold.

20. University of Miami

  • Flickr user Jaine

    Location: Coral Gables, FL

  • Student Enrollment: 16,744
  • College Type: Private

This is a highly selective school with an acceptance rate of around 36%. Registered Nursing, Finance, Psychology, Biology, and Economics are the most popular majors on campus. “Magna est veritas” is the Latin motto of UM, translating to mean “Great is the truth.” 64% of all students on campus study at the undergraduate level.

19. Rhodes College

  • Flickr user David Siu

    Location: Memphis, TN

  • Student Enrollment: 2,029
  • College Type: Private

There is no application fee at Rhodes, and students score an average ACT score ranging from 27–32 or an SAT score ranging from 1280-1460. Students from 48 states and 44 countries study on a small, cozy campus with a student/faculty ratio of 10:1. The school’s motto is “Truth, Loyalty, Service.”

18. Florida State University

  • Flickr user Jackson Myers

    Location: Tallahassee, FL

  • Student Enrollment: 41,173
  • College Type: Public

Florida State University is relatively selective when it comes to accepting students, having a 49% acceptance rate. They have the best 4-year graduation rate in the state of Florida—62%. Florida State is an elite research school, and it is the largest and oldest institution of higher learning in the state of Florida.

17. Clemson University

  • Flickr user Let Ideas Compete

    Location: Clemson, SC

  • Student Enrollment: 23,406
  • College Type: Public

Clemson has over 80 undergraduate and 110 graduate degree programs to choose from. A majority of students on campus (79%, in fact) study at the undergraduate level. In terms of entrance exams, between a 26 and 31 is the average ACT score for incoming freshman, or 1270 — 1420 on the SAT.

16. Centre College

  • Flickr user AIKCU

    Location: Danville, KY

  • Student Enrollment: 1,430
  • College Type: Private

Centre College offers all students study abroad, internship, or researching opportunities.They have an 11:1 student-to-faculty ratio and a 4-year graduation rate of 83%. Nearly 50% of all students on campus hail from Kentucky, but others come from all over the country. Economics is the most popular major.

15. Georgia Institute of Technology – Main Campus

  • Georgie Tech

    Flickr user Wally Gobetz

    Location: Atlanta, GA

  • Student Enrollment: 26,839
  • College Type: Public

More commonly known as Georgia Tech, this school actually has two sets of school colors: Buzz Gold and white for academics, and Tech gold and white for athletics. They also have two mascots, one is a yellowjacket named Buzz, and the second is known as the Ramblin’ Wreck, a 1930 Ford Model A sport coupe.

14. Wake Forest University

  • Wikimedia Commons user Jijithecat

    Location: Winston-Salem, NC

  • Student Enrollment: 7,968
  • College Type: Private

Wake Forest’s motto, “Pro Humanitate” (For humanity), is reflected in many of their notable alumni and their work to better improve the overall human condition. One notable graduate is golfer Arnold Palmer. Poet Maya Angelou served in the English faculty for a time. The school has a test-optional policy for accepting undergraduate students.

13. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

  • Flickr user Christopher Bowns

    Location: Blacksburg, VA

  • Student Enrollment: 33,170
  • College Type: Public

More commonly known as Virginia Tech, or simply Tech to its students, alumni, and faculty, this school was once known as a farming and agricultural school. The beautiful campus has a strong and well-known ROTC Cadet program. Tech’s mascot is a Hokie, and their colors are Chicago maroon and burnt orange. It is the state’s third-largest university.

12. Tulane University of Louisiana

  • Flickr user Brock Tice

    Location: New Orleans, LA

  • Student Enrollment: 12,581
  • College Type: Private

Located not far off the Mississippi River, Tulane University has an acceptance rate of 21%. The school has many alumni who have contributed not only to the arts, but also to business, medicine, law, and American history. Tulane’s colors are sky blue and olive green. Their mascot is Riptide the Pelican.

11. University of Georgia

  • Flicker user Patrice M Christian

    Location: Athens, GA

  • Student Enrollment: 36,574
  • College Type: Public

The University of Georgia was chartered in 1785 and is located in historic Athens. The school’s mascot is the Bulldog, and their colors are crimson (also known as “Good Old Georgia Red”) and black. Finance, Psychology, Biology, Marketing, and Management Information Systems are the five most popular majors on campus.

10. University of Florida

  • Flickr user Todd Van Hoosear

    Location: Gainesville, FL

  • Student Enrollment: 52,367
  • College Type: Public

Located in Gainesville, University of Florida boasts one of the largest and most diverse campuses in the United States, welcoming students from all over the world. Home of the Florida Gators (which is where the sports drink Gatorade gets its name), UF competes in NCAA Division I sports.

9. University of Richmond

  • Flickr user Rob Pongsajapan

    Location: Richmond, VA

  • Student Enrollment: 4,131
  • College Type: Private

At this university, a majority of the students are at the undergraduate level–81% to be precise. 33% of students who apply are accepted into Richmond. Business Administration is by far and away the most studied major on campus. The University of Richmond has a very unique mascot for their sports teams—a spider named Webstur.

8. Emory University

  • Flickr user Georgia Popplewell

    Location: Atlanta, GA

  • Student Enrollment: 14,067
  • College Type: Private

Incoming Emory freshmen score an average between 30–33 on the ACT and 1380–1510 on the SAT. This university has a 22% acceptance rate, and had nearly 24,000 applications sent in last year. “Cor prudentis possidebit scientiam” is the school motto, and translates to mean “The wise heart seeks knowledge.”

7. Davidson College

  • Flickr user Melinda Stuart

    Location: Davidson, NC

  • Student Enrollment: 1,796
  • College Type: Private

“Alenda Lux Ubi Orta Libertas” is the motto of Davidson, meaning “Let learning be cherished where liberty has arisen.” The school has a 90% 4 year graduation rate and an acceptance rate of 20%. There is a 10:1 student-to-faculty ratio. Davidson College’s school colors are black and red.

6. College of William and Mary

  • Flickr user benuski

    Location: Williamsburg, VA

  • Student Enrollment: 8,617
  • College Type: Public

Founded in 1693 by King William III and Queen Mary II, this college also the very first to have a Greek society—Phi Beta Kappa. Business, Political Science, Health and Fitness education, Biology, and Psychology are the five most popular majors on campus. W&M sports the colors green and gold.

5. Washington and Lee University

  • Flickr user Robert of Fairfax

    Location: Lexington, VA

  • Student Enrollment: 2,160
  • College Type: Private

The motto Non Incautus Futuri” translates to “Not unmindful of the future,” an apt phrase since the school was partially named after a very forward thinking historical figure: George Washington. The second part of this school’s name comes from Robert E. Lee, who was president of the school for 5 years.

4. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

  • Location: Chapel Hill, NC

  • Student Enrollment: 29,468
  • College Type: Public

Regarded as a “Public Ivy,” UNC Chapel Hill receives nearly 40,000 applications a year. With an acceptance rate of 24%, around 9,500 students are admitted annually. There’s a total of 890 athletes on campus, with basketball, soccer, and field hockey being some of the most popular sports.

3. Vanderbilt University

  • Flickr user Tom Hart

    Location: Nashville, TN

  • Student Enrollment: 12,587
  • College Type: Private

Though it has a respected reputation for music programs (especially given its location of Nashville), the most popular majors on campus is Economics. Black and gold are the school colors, and the mascot is named Mr. Commodore. Vanderbilt, affectionately called Vandy, has a student-to-faculty ratio of 8:1.

2. Duke University

  • Flickr user Chris Lawrence

    Location: Durham, NC

  • Student Enrollment: 15,735
  • College Type: Private

Given the university’s Methodists affiliation and motto of “Eruditio et Religio” (Knowledge and Faith) it’s a little ironic that their sporting teams are known as the Blue Devils. Duke has a 7 to 1 student-to-faculty ratio and an excellent 97% freshman retention rate. Their acceptance rate is 10%

1. University of Virginia – Main Campus

  • Flickr user Rex Hammock

    Location: Charlottesville, VA

  • Student Enrollment: 23,898
  • College Type: Public

Founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819, this flagship university has been the university of impressive alumni, including 8 NASA astronauts / launch directors, 8 Pulitzer Prize winners, and widely recognizable names like Edgar Allen Poe, Georgia O’Keefe, Robert and Ted Kennedy, and Tina Fey, among others.

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!

College Raptor Staff

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