Top 25 Best Colleges in the Northeast | 2020 Rankings

Best Northeast Colleges BadgeNot only does the Northeast have a long and rich history, there are some colleges in the region that existed before the US was officially founded! Today, the Northeast is known for its prestigious and state-of-the-art colleges.

We’re considering the following states as part of the Northeast: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, and Washington DC. 

Below are the best of the best colleges in the Northeast. Many of them are true powerhouses, and are known throughout the nation and even internationally. For good reason! The Northeast is filled with spectacular schools; take a look at them below. 

Best Colleges in the Northeast

Founded back in 1746, Princeton University (initially known as the College of New Jersey) is older than the United States itself. As such, its history is rich and colorful. During the American revolution, a battle took place at Princeton and British soldiers even occupied Nassau Hall. It is a proud member of the Ivy League, as well. The school colors are orange and black.
Location Princeton, NJ
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 8,374
Harvard is the oldest institute of higher learning in the United States of America. It was founded in 1636, and has seen countless famous faces pass through its historic halls. Notable alumni include: Teddy Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Benazir Bhutto, Bill Gates, and both Barack and Michelle Obama, among many others. Their motto “Veritas” means “Truth.”
Location Cambridge, MA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 31,566
In 1861, Yale awarded the very first PhD within the United States. At the time, however, it was known as Yale College. This university is a member of the esteemed Ivy League. Each year, Yale receives well over 35,000 college applications, though it has a low acceptance rate of just 6%. Their mascot is a Bulldog named Handsome Dan.
Location New Haven, CT
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 13,433
With their Latin motto meaning “Mind and Hand,” this institute emphasizes hands-on learning. MIT has played pivotal roles of assistance during impactful times in world history, developing technology during the Cold War and WWII. Incoming students score on average between 34 and a perfect 36 on the ACT, and between 1500 and 1570 on the SAT.
Location Cambridge, MA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 11,574
Columbia University was founded by King George II of England in 1754. The university is the second most selective college of the Ivy League, with an acceptance rate of 6%. The school is the founding place of many historic events, being the first place in North America to witness the splitting of uranium and is where FM radio was created.
Location New York, NY
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 31,077
The University of Pennsylvania is associated with a number of successful people, including scholars and dozens of Fortune 500 CEOS. UPenn is a trendsetter, housing the very first medical school, first collegiate business school, and the first student union building. The university witnessed the founding of America, with eight of the signers of the Declaration of Independence graduating from the school.
Location Philadelphia, PA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 25,860
Williams College is the second oldest college of Massachusetts. One of the school’s traditions involves a mountain. On a Friday in October, the college’s president declares the day to be Mountain Day and cancels all classes. Students will then go to Stony Ledge and enjoy snacks and singing performances.
Location Williamstown, MA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,149
Unlike many schools, the U.S. Naval Academy does not possess an admission fee. Instead, prospective students need to be nominated by certain public officials. Students also need to pass a physical exam to gain admittance into the academy. The selectivity of this school may be due to the fact that the U.S. government pays for tuition and room & board.
Location Annapolis, MD
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 4,512
Brown University is one of the nine colonial colleges built before the American Revolution. Over time, Brown has set itself apart from the other universities in its academic structure. The school lets students decide their own curriculum surrounding their concentrations, and abolished general education requirements in 1969.
Location Providence, RI
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 10,257
Dartmouth’s school color is known as Dartmouth green. The school has many famous alumni, including Mindy Kaling, Robert Frost, and Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel). Outside of academics, Dartmouth has a number of athletic varsity teams nicknamed the Big Green. Interestingly, Dartmouth has never had an official mascot.
Location Hanover, NH
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 6,572
Founded in 1864 and as one of the first coeducational schools in the country, Swarthmore is used to setting an example. The school even played a role in the formation of American football. Today, the school is home to nearly 430 varsity athletes. Common varsity sports include soccer, lacrosse, and basketball.
Location Swarthmore, PA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,559
Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering is a small but impressive school. It is known for its focus on STEM-based academics and project-based curriculum. Olin only offers Bachelor’s degrees, and does not possess any graduate programs. The school’s mascot is a Phoenix named Frank. The original school colors, before changing to a gradient of bright tones, were blue and silver.
Location Needham, MA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 390
“I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study,” said founder Ezra Cornell in 1868. Cornell does in fact have a plethora of programs, the most popular of which are Biology, Labor and Industrial Relations, Computer Science, Hotel Administration, and Agricultural Economics.
Location Ithaca, NY
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 23,600
Amherst College is a strictly undergraduate institution, located in Massachusetts. The college is a part of the Five College Consortium, giving students the chance to attend class at any one of the five colleges included in the group. Amherst has a historic rivalry with both Williams College and Wesleyan University.
Location Amherst, MA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,855
The private university is known for its research facilities. Approximately 58% of students receive grant aid. The most popular majors include Public Health, Registered Nursing, and Biomedical Engineering. Unlike many universities, Johns Hopkins has a higher population of graduate students than undergraduate, with over 20,000 grad and over 6,050 undergrad students.
Location Baltimore, MD
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 26,152
Georgetown University is home to the country’s largest student-run business and one of the oldest debating societies. The campus is located just north of the mighty Potomac River. The average ACT and SAT scores of accepted students is between 31--34 and 1,370--1,530 respectively. Their school motto is “Both into One.”
Location Washington, DC
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 19,204
This women’s college, located just north of Lake Wabash, is regarded as having the largest network of women alumni in the world. Notable alumni include: Nora Ephron, Hillary Clinton, and Diane Sawyer. The college does not impose an application fee. It’s a very selective school, with only 20% of applicants admitted in.
Location Wellesley, MA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,534
Tufts University is home to the Jumbos, their nickname paying homage to an elephant once owned by P.T. Barnum. The average ACT and SAT scores of incoming students is 31--34 and 1,380--1,530 respectively. At Tufts, 37% of students receive grant aid. The school’s most popular major is Computer Science.
Location Medford, MA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 11,586
Applying to the US Military Academy is free. The motto of the school is three words: “Duty, Honor, Country.” Students can be nominated for admission by congressmen, senators, and even the President of the United States, among other officials. Students in the academy are called “cadets” during their time in training.
Location West Point, NY
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 4,589
On average, Haverford College has 8 students to 1 faculty member on campus. Incoming freshmen score, on average, between 32 and 34 on the ACT, and for the SAT between 1370 and 1530. Biology, Economics, English, Political Science, and Psychology are the top five most popular majors. The college has an acceptance rate of 19%.
Location Haverford, PA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,310
The United States Merchant Marine Academy is one of the five service academies in the US. Its motto is “Deeds not Words” and the official school colors are blue and gray. There is no undergraduate application fee and the academy is on a trimester calendar. The US Merchant Marine Academy offers six residence halls, and students are required to live on campus.
Location Kings Point, NY
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 1,015
Founded in 1793, Hamilton College became co-educational in 1978. The college is named after Alexander Hamilton, who was a member of the Board of Trustees. Hamilton has graduated some influential names---like B.F. Skinner. Bernie Sanders lectured Political Science at Hamilton.
Location Clinton, NY
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,005
Vassar College was founded as a women’s college---the second of its kind in the US. It became coeducational in 1969. Vassar’s school colors are rose and gray. Student athletes are known as the Brewers. The most popular majors at Vassar include Economics, Political Science, and Biology.
Location Poughkeepsie, NY
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,456
Carnegie Mellon’s mascot is Scotty the Scottie Dog. The institution is quite selective, accepting only 17% of all students who applied. Carnegie Mellon also boasts a 10 to 1 student-to faculty ratio, and 97% of freshmen students return for their sophomore year there. CMU has four official school colors---cardinal, black, grey, and white.
Location Pittsburgh, PA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 14,029
In addition to the college’s location in Brunswick, Bowdoin also possesses a coastal studies center near Casco Bay. The college stresses a well-rounded academic plan, with requirements in various subjects, including a heavy writing course required during a student’s first year. They have a highly selective acceptance rate of 10%.
Location Brunswick, ME
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,828

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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.