Top 25 Best Small Colleges | 2019 Rankings

These colleges are the definition of small but mighty. Though they have a much smaller student body than most schools in the US, some of the nation’s top schools are featured here.

For the purposes of this list, we have defined a small college as a school that has 2,000 or fewer total enrolled students.

Here are College Raptor’s top 25 best small colleges!

25. Thomas Aquinas College

  • Flickr user Alex Begin

    Location: Santa Paula, CA

  • Student Enrollment: 386
  • College Type: Private

Thomas Aquinas is a private school affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church. The school’s motto is “The True • The Good • The Beautiful.” The students are split nearly 50% / 50% in terms of men and women on campus. Thomas Aquinas has a 72% acceptance rate, and an 89% six year graduation rate.

24. 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.

23. Bates College

  • Flickr user Jay Collier

    Location: Lewiston, ME

  • Student Enrollment: 1,780
  • College Type: Private

“Amore Ac Studio” is the Latin motto of Bates College, and it translates to mean “With Ardor and Devotion.” The college has a 22% acceptance rate. Economics, Political Science, Psychology, Environmental Science, and Biology are the most popular majors on campus. Bates has been featured in many hit TV shows, such as the Sopranos, Ally McBeal, and the Simpsons.

22. Pitzer College

  • Flickr user Charles Wohlers

    Location: Claremont, CA

  • Student Enrollment: 1,062
  • College Type: Private

Pitzer College is part of the Claremont Colleges system. It is a private institution that prides itself on rigorous yet invigorating academics, a small, cozy campus, and a student-to-faculty ratio of 11:1. Pitzer’s school colors are orange and white. Their mascot is Cecil the Sagehen. Their motto of “Provida Futuri” means “Mindful of the Future.”

21. Whitman College

  • Flickr user Chuck Taylor

    Location: Walla Walla, WA

  • Student Enrollment: 1,493
  • College Type: Private

“Per ardua surgo”is the motto of this college, translating to mean “Through adversities I rise.” Whitman accepts just over half of all the applications they receive. On average, incoming freshmen score between 26 and 31 on the ACT, or between 1240 and 1430 on the SAT. Whitman has a cozy 8:1 student-to-faculty ratio.

20. Kenyon College

  • Flickr user Larry Miller

    Location: Gambier, OH

  • Student Enrollment: 1,708
  • College Type: Private

There are over 1,000 acres on Kenyon College, with just under 400 acres hosting the Brown Family Environmental Center. The center includes seven ecosystems along with academic opportunities. Alumni include Bill Watterson (creator of Calvin and Hobbes), Rutherford B. Hayes, and Paul Newman. Kenyon tends to be selective with an acceptance rate of 34%, with 91% of freshman continuing their education at the school after their first year.

19. Occidental College

  • Wikimedia Commons user Crewfan94

    Location: Los Angeles, CA

  • Student Enrollment: 1,969
  • College Type: Private

Occidental College, known affectionately as “Oxy” by its students, staff and alumni, is a small school but offers over 30 major programs, the most popular of which is Economics. Oxy has been featured as a set in a number of television shows and films, including  Clueless, The West Wing, Charmed, and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.

18. Bryn Mawr College

  • Flickr user Meagan

    Location: Bryn Mawr, PA

  • Student Enrollment: 1,708
  • College Type: Private

A liberal arts college, Bryn Mawr was the first women’s school to offer Ph.D’s. Even though the undergraduate college is all women, the school is actually one of the most diverse in the state. Students come from all over the country and the world to attend. Bryn Mawr college also has an amazing 8 to 1 student to faculty ratio.

17. Bowdoin College

  • Flickr user Mark Goebel

    Location: Brunswick, ME

  • Student Enrollment: 1,806
  • College Type: Private

Bowdoin College was established in 1794, and is technically older than the state it resides in, as Maine became an official state in 1820. Incoming Bowdoin freshmen, on average, score between 1380 and 1510 on the SAT, and between 30 and 33 on the ACT. Bowdoin’s colors are a classic black and white, and their mascot is a polar bear.

16. Scripps College

  • Flickr user CampusGrotto

    Location: Claremont, CA

  • Student Enrollment: 1,057
  • College Type: Private

Scripps College is a women’s liberal arts institute founded in 1926. This is a highly selective private institution. Scripps College focuses on helping women with both professional career potential and personal growth. Their motto is “Incipit Vita Nova,” which translates to, “Here begins new life.”

15. Grinnell College

  • Flickr user Ron Cogswell

    Location: Grinnell, IA

  • Student Enrollment: 1,699
  • College Type: Private

Grinnell’s school motto is “Veritas et Humanitas”—”Truth and Humanity.” The five most popular majors on campus are Biology, Computer Science, Economics, Political Science, and English. The school colors are scarlet and black, and the athletic teams are known as the Pioneers. A few famous alumni include Gary Cooper, Robert Noyce, and Kumail Nanjiani.

14. Claremont McKenna College

  • Flickr user Daniel Crowley

    Location: Claremont, CA

  • Student Enrollment: 1,347
  • College Type: Private

“Crescit cum commercio civitas” is the Latin motto of Claremont McKenna, and it translates to mean “Civilization prospers with commerce.” With a phrase like that, it comes as no surprise that the most popular major on campus is Economics. The four year graduation rate is 77% but jumps up to 92% at six years.

13. The Juilliard School

  • Flickr user Shinya Suzuki

    Location: New York, NY

  • Student Enrollment: 939
  • College Type: Private

Located in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Juilliard is world-renowned for its drama, dance, and music programs. Given its prestigious reputation, it’s no surprise that Juilliard’s acceptance rate is just 6%. The most popular major the school offers is Stringed Instruments, followed by Dance and Keyboard Instruments.

12. Haverford College

  • Flickr user Roger W

    Location: Haverford, PA

  • Student Enrollment: 1,268
  • College Type: Private

“Non doctior, sed meliore doctrina imbutus” is the official school motto of Haverford, meaning “Not more learned, but steeped in a higher learning.” The average ACT score of incoming freshmen is between 30 and 34; for the SAT between 1410 and 1540. Haverford has a six year graduation rate of 90%.

11. Hamilton College

  • Hamilton College

    Source: Flickr user chuckthewriter

    Location: Clinton, NY

  • Student Enrollment: 1,883
  • College Type: Private

Named for trustee Alexander Hamilton in 1812, this college is exclusive to undergraduate students. There’s a 9:1 student-to-faculty ratio and the most popular major on campus is Economics. Nearly 6,000 applications are sent in every year. Continental blue and buff are the official school colors.

10. 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.

9. Colby College

  • Flickr user Roman Boed

    Location: Waterville, ME

  • Student Enrollment: 1,879
  • College Type: Private

Of the over 11,000 applications sent in, Colby will accept around 1,800 of them given the 16% acceptance rate. There is a 91% four year graduation rate. Colby has two unique official school colors, Colby blue and priscilla. The athletic teams are known as the Mules. The most popular major on campus is Economics.

8. Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art

  • Flickr user Dan DeLuca

    Location: New York, NY

  • Student Enrollment: 964
  • College Type: Private

With its small student body and prestigious art program, it’s no surprise that Cooper Union’s acceptance rate is quite selective–13%. The most popular majors are Fine / Studio Arts, Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Architecture. For every 9 students, there’s 1 faculty member.

7. United States Coast Guard Academy

  • Flickr user Coast Guard News

    Location: New London, CT

  • Student Enrollment: 986
  • College Type: Public

The USCGA offers 8 possible majors to their cadets: Business, Mechanical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Oceanography, Political Science, Operations Research, Naval Architecture / Marine Engineering, and Electrical Engineering. They have an 84% four year graduation rate and an impressive 97% first year retention rate.

6. Soka University of America

  • Flickr user Mark Weston

    Location: Aliso Viejo, CA

  • Student Enrollment: 430
  • College Type: Private

SUA has quite the noble school motto: “Be philosophers of a renaissance of life; Be world citizens in solidarity for peace; Be the pioneers of a global civilization.” Soka has an elder sister school in Tokyo, Japan. With a small student body, this university has a 8:1 student-to-faculty ratio.

5. Harvey Mudd College

  • Flickr user CampusGrotto

    Location: Claremont, CA

  • Student Enrollment: 842
  • College Type: Private

Though small in size, Harvey Mudd has a strong reputation for academic excellence. They have a 92% six year graduation rate, and a first year retention rate of 98%. Engineering, Computer Science, and Mathematics are the top three most popular majors on campus. Black and gold are the colors worn by the Stags and Athenas—the men’s and women’s sports teams.

4. Franklin W Olin College of Engineering

  • Flickr user Sean Munson

    Location: Needham, MA

  • Student Enrollment: 378
  • College Type: Private

This college is truly unique. Known for its relatively young status (founded in 1997) and incredibly small student body, Olin has high standards for its applicants–a score of 32–35 on the ACT or a 1480–1570 on the SAT is the average. Olin has three majors available to study: Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering.

3. Amherst College

  • Flickr user Henry C

    Location: Amherst, MA

  • Student Enrollment: 1,849
  • College Type: Private

Established initially as a men’s college, Amherst opened its doors to women in 1975. Nowadays there’s a nearly even split between men and women, at 49.9% and 50.1% respectively. Incoming freshman score, on average, 32–34 on the ACT and 1450–1550 on the SAT. Amherst sports purple and white as their school colors.

2. Swarthmore College

  • Flickr user Simon

    Location: Swarthmore, PA

  • Student Enrollment: 1,543
  • College Type: Private

“Mind the Light” is the motto of Swarthmore, where the school colors are garnet and grey. While a small school, this college sees nearly 9,500 applications a year, though just over 1,000 are accepted. Economics, Biology, and Engineering are among the most popular majors on campus, followed by Computer Science and Experimental Psychology.

1. Pomona College

  • Flickr user Dave & Margie Hill

    Location: Claremont, CA

  • Student Enrollment: 1,563
  • College Type: Private

Over 9,000 applications are sent in each year to Pomona College, and with an acceptance rate of just 8%, only about 720 apps are accepted. Pomona’s sports teams wear blue and gold and are cheered on by mascot Cecil Sagehen. This prestigious college has an impressive 4 year graduation rate of 91%.

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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