Top 25 Best Colleges in the Southeast US | 2021 Rankings

Best southeast colleges badgeDelicious southern food, heart-warming southern hospitality, and quality southern education, the southeast region is known for that and plenty more.

For the purposes of this list, we’re considering the following states as part of the southeast: Alabama, Arkansas, Flordia, Georgia, Kentucky, Lousiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia.

It’s a large region with numerous colleges, but here are the best 25!

Top 25 Best Colleges in the Southeast

Founded in 1838, Duke University went through many names before settling on its current title. Because of its rich history and beautiful campus, it’s not surprising to see that almost 36,000 students apply to Duke every year, though only 9% of them are accepted. On average, incoming freshmen score between 32 and 35 on the ACT and between 1,480 and 1,570 on the SAT.
Location Durham, NC
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 16,606
The University of Virginia was founded by Thomas Jefferson with James Madison and James Monroe sitting on the Board of Visitors. The school is also the oldest serving research university in the South. Some popular majors at the University of Virginia include Liberal Arts and Sciences, Business, and Biology.
Location Charlottesville, VA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 24,639
Vanderbilt University is a well-known research institution. Unsurprisingly, many students are drawn toward Vanderbilt -- over 34,000 students apply annually and less than 10% of them are accepted. Popular majors at Vanderbilt include Economics, Social Science, and Interdisciplinary Studies. The student-to-faculty ratio is 7:1.
Location Nashville, TN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 12,824
Washington and Lee University was founded in 1749, making it the country’s ninth-oldest university. The university has a rich history, from the inception of one of America’s oldest collegiate secret societies in 1880 to the university adopting their famous student-run honor system in 1905. The most popular major is Business.
Location Lexington, VA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,223
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is one of the oldest public universities in the US and considered a Public Ivy. Today, over 30,000 students attend the university and almost 42,000 hopeful students apply there every year. Only 22% of them are admitted -- the incoming class has an average score between 28 to 33 on the ACT and 1,330 to 1,500 on the SAT.
Location Chapel Hill, NC
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 30,011
The College of William and Mary is the second-oldest university in America and is nicknamed the “Alma Mater of the Nation” because so many important characters in American history graduated from there. The college also established one of the first law and medical schools in the country. Today, almost 9,000 students attend the school, 72% of which are undergraduates.
Location Williamsburg, VA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 8,817
Emory University is a dedicated research university with divisions and facilities around America and the world. It also provides the largest healthcare network in Georgia. Unsurprisingly, the most popular majors at Emory include Registered Nursing, Biology, and Neuroscience. Students at Emory University can expect a typical class size of nine students for every one faculty member.
Location Atlanta, GA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 14,458
In the 1850’s, Davidson College created the Scholarship Plan, which allowed people to buy a scholarship for $100 and redeem it to cover their tuition until the 1870’s. Today, 63% of students receive some form of grant aid and 63% receive some form of institutional aid. Davidson College has a 95% first-year retention rate.
Location Davidson, NC
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,843
As the only Floridian school to be a part of the Association of American Universities, the University of Florida is known for its research -- in fact, it’s a land-, sea-, and space-grant school! The University of Florida has a student population of 52,000 and over 80% of the first-year class is from Florida. The school also boasts a 97% first-year retention rate.
Location Gainesville, FL
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 52,218
The University of Richmond is a liberal arts school committed to giving its students a well-rounded education. Beyond gen-ed courses, students have a wide variety of majors to choose from or can opt for an interdisciplinary major. Some popular fields of study include Business Administration and Management, Biology, and Accounting.
Location Richmond, VA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 4,002
When the Georgia Institute of Technology was first founded, the school only offered mechanical engineering. However, the school quickly expanded and now offers over 30 different programs for students to choose from. Some of the more popular majors offered at Georgia Tech include Computer and Information Science, Mechanical Engineering, and Business.
Location Atlanta, GA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 32,723
Tulane University was originally a medical school before becoming a full university -- in fact, it’s one of the oldest medical schools in the US. It’s no wonder that one of the most popular majors at the university is Health Professions and Related Clinical Sciences. Almost 40,000 students send in an application every year, but only 17% of them are accepted.
Location New Orleans, LA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 12,646
Beyond being a research university, the University of Georgia is known for its study abroad opportunities -- in fact, they have at least one study abroad program on every continent. While not abroad, students can expect an average class size of 17 students to 1 faculty member and the school boasts a 95% first-year retention rate.
Location Athens, GA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 38,652
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, more commonly referred to as Virginia Tech, has the second-largest student body in Virginia. Of the 34,000 students attending, 45% of them receive some form of grant aid and 41% of them receive some form of institutional aid. Popular majors at Virginia Tech include Mechanical Engineering, Management Science, and Finance.
Location Blacksburg, VA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 34,683
North Carolina State University has the largest student body in both North and South Carolina. The university is also part of the Research Triangle. Over 30,000 students apply to the university every year and only 47% of them are accepted. Those that choose to attend the university have an average ACT score between 27 to 31 and an SAT score between 1,280 to 1,420.
Location Raleigh, NC
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 35,479
Wake Forest University has a lot to offer to its students, from its multitude of majors to hundreds of student organizations. The university is extremely selective, accepting only 29% of its 13,000 annual applicants. Students should expect an average class size of 10 students to every 1 faculty member, and Wake Forest University has an impressive 96% first-year retention rate.
Location Winston-Salem, NC
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 8,401
As one of the oldest universities in Florida, Florida State University is known for its focus on research and its renowned honors program. FSU is highly selective, accepting only 37% of all applicants. Popular majors at the university include Psychology, Finance, and Criminal Justice. Students can expect slightly larger class sizes, with student-to-faculty ratio of 21:1.
Location Tallahassee, FL
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 41,005
Clemson’s student athletes are known as the Tigers and there are multiple tiger paws located on and near the campus. The average student-to-faculty ratio at Clemson University is 16 to 1 and the university boasts a 93% first-year retention rate. The most popular majors are Business Administration and Management, followed closely by Biology and Psychology.
Location Clemson, SC
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 24,951
Beyond giving over 100 different majors for students to choose from, the university has multiple student organizations and Greek life available, such as a student-run newspaper that started in 1929 and honor societies. Some popular majors at the university include Finance, Registered Nursing, and Biology.
Location Coral Gables, FL
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 17,331
Furman University was established in 1826, making it the oldest private university in South Carolina. Around 700 students enroll in the university every year and 94% of them receive some form of grant or institutional aid. The average student-to-faculty ratio at Furman is 10 to 1 and over a quarter of the freshman class is from South Carolina.
Location Greenville, SC
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,947
Centre College was named because it was in the “centre” of the Commonwealth when it was first established. Today, 1,400 students attend this private liberal arts college and 2,400 prospective students apply to the school every year. Incoming students have an average ACT score of 27 to 32 and an SAT score of 1,280 to 1,470.
Location Danville, KY
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,434
Named in honor of the 4th president of the United States, James Madison University is also known as JMU, Madison, or simply “the U.” The students on campus predominately study at the undergraduate level, with only 8% of the population being graduate students. The student-to-faculty ratio of JMU 16:1.
Location Harrisonburg, VA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 21,751
As the flagship university of South Carolina, the University of South Carolina is truly impressive. It has seven satellite campuses across the state and even houses the world’s largest Ernest Hemingway collection and Scottish literature collection outside of Scotland. Popular majors for students at this university include Finance, Exercise Physiology, and Biology.
Location Columbia, SC
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 34,795
Elon University was founded in 1889 -- since then, it has established a long-standing tradition where new students receive an acorn and graduating students receive an oak sapling. Incoming students have a typical ACT score between 24 to 29 and an SAT score between 1,180 to 1,360. Around 66% of all students receive some form of a grant or institutional aid from the school.
Location Elon, NC
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 6,991
Wofford College’s motto -- “Intaminatis Fulget Honoribus” -- means “Shines with unsullied honors.” Biology, Finance, Psychology, English, and Accounting are the top 5 most popular majors at Wofford. The school has an 88% first-year retention rate and a 4-year graduation rate of 82%. 55% of the incoming class comes from South Carolina.
Location Spartanburg, SC
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,666

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

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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