Top 25 Best Small Colleges in the US | 2022 Rankings

Small but mighty defines the colleges on this list well. A small college means a tight-knit community and plenty of chances for your voice to be heard. Some of the nation’s best schools are considered small!

For the purpose of this ranking list, we counted any college with fewer than 2,000 undergraduate students as small.

If you prefer close communities to huge crowds, then a small college might be for you. The colleges featured on this list are ones to consider.

Top 25 Best Small Colleges

Also known as Caltech, the California Institute of Technology’s motto is, “The truth shall make you free.” Science and Engineering are top choices among students and there have been 76 Nobel laureates that have been associated with Caltech (including 40 alumni and faculty members). Just over 2,200 students attend the school today.
Location Pasadena, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,237
With just under 1,600 undergraduate students, Swarthmore College is a smaller school. It was one of the first coeducational colleges in the country. The college is associated with the University of Pennsylvania through the Quaker Consortium, which means students can take classes at the four schools within the arrangement.
Location Swarthmore, PA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,594
A smaller school, Pomona College has about 1,640 students. The school receives around 10,400 applications and accepts 7.4% of them. The four commonly chosen majors are Econometrics, Computer Science, Mathematics, and Neuroscience. The school was created when the founders wanted to recreate a “college of the New England type.” Their mascot is Cecil the Sagehen.
Location Claremont, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,637
With an acceptance rate of 11%, Amherst College is a fairly selective school. A majority of their first-year students come from Massachusetts, New York, and California. The third oldest institution of higher education in the state, it was originally a men’s college. It became coeducational in 1975. Amherst College’s motto is “Terras Irradient,” which means “Let them enlighten the lands.”
Location Amherst, MA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,839
Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering was established fairly recently in 1997. Half of a student’s tuition is actually covered by the Olin Scholarship. Currently, just under 400 students attend. Majors include General Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering. With a 99% first year retention rate, the college also has an 8 to 1 student to faculty ratio.
Location Needham, MA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 386
Originally known as the Augusta Academy and established in 1749, it would later be named after George Washington and Robert E. Lee, the latter of which was the president of the school for five years. With blue and white colors, students and athletes go by the nickname The Generals.
Location Lexington, VA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,264
Harvey Mudd College has under 1,000 students and offers programs only in science and engineering. It has a 14% acceptance rate, 97% first year graduation rate, and an 8 to 1 student to faculty ratio. Part of the Claremont Colleges, their colors are black and gold. The men’s teams are known as the Stags and the women are known as the Athenas.
Location Claremont, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 904
"Scientiæ Cedit Mare," or “the sea yields to knowledge,” is the motto of the United States Coast Guard Academy. It was founded in 1876 and is the smallest of the five academies for service in the United States. The most popular major is political science and government, but business management, civil engineering, and oceanography are also top choices.
Location New Haven, CT
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 1,069
With around 400 students, Soka University of America is an extremely small school. It has an acceptance rate of about 40%. A fairly new school (founded in 2001), the private university focuses on pacifism, human rights, and the creative coexistence of nature and humanity. It was founded by the founder of the Soka Gakkai International Buddhist movement, Daisaku Ikeda.
Location Aliso Viejo, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 419
Around 1,350 students attend Claremont McKenna College, which has a 10% acceptance rate and 84% four-year graduation rate. The most commonly chosen major is econometrics and quantitative economics. With an 8 to 1 student to faculty ratio, 96% of students will stay after their freshman year.
Location Claremont, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,346
Hillsdale’s motto is “Virtus Tentamine Gaudet” or “Strength Rejoices in the Challenge.” The school has a 96% first year retention rate and a 9 to 1 student to faculty ratio. All students who attend are required to take courses on the “Great Books,” the United States Constitution, and science courses. 88% of students will graduate within 6 years.
Location Hillsdale, MI
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,526
Bowdoin College is a very selective school with an acceptance rate of 9%. 91% of students will graduate within four years, and 95% within six. With a 9 to 1 student to faculty ratio, the college also has a 98% first year retention rate. Bowdoin College offers 34 different majors, including joint engineering programs with Columbia, Dartmouth, Caltech, and the University of Maine.
Location Brunswick, ME
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,835
Davidson College was founded in 1837 and already started trying to reduce the cost of college for students by the 1850’s. Today, the school meets the financial needs of students through grants, student employment, and more, and doesn’t require their students to take out loans. 18% of applicants are accepted. Davidson has a 95% first year retention rate.
Location Davidson, NC
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,837
Haverford College is a liberal arts school founded in 1833 by the Religious Society of Friends, also known as Quakers. It’s part of the Tri-College Consortium which means students can attend classes at nearby schools Bryn Mawr and Swarthmore. “Non doctior, sed meliore doctrina imbutus,” or "Not more learned, but steeped in a higher learning" is the school’s motto.
Location Haveford, PA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,317
The two most popular majors at Grinnell College are Computer Science or Biology/Biological Sciences. Part of the Midwest Conference and NCAA Division III, the Pioneers, wearing scarlet and black, have a wide variety of sports to choose from including football, swimming, diving, golf, and soccer. They currently have just under 400 athletes and their unofficial mascot is a squirrel.
Location Grinnell, IA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,733
The Juilliard School is a performing arts conservatory. Students learn dance, drama, and music, with stringed instruments and dance being the most popular majors. Some famous alumni are Robin Williams, Ving Rhames, Val Kilmer, and Viola Davis. The institution is extremely competitive, with 7% of applicants accepted.
Location New York, NY
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 960
Also known simply as JTS, the seminary accepts about 57% of students who apply. It’s main building is located along the Hudson River. There are slightly more graduate students at JTS than undergraduates, at 57% and 43% respectively. Though many alumni have gone onto careers in theology, many have also had notable careers in music, academia, and politics.
Location New York, NY
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 335
A member of the Claremont Colleges, Scripps College is a private liberal arts women’s school. It’s known for its historic campus as well as its extensive curriculum. The campus is currently listed in the National Register of Historic Places and often gets mentioned for its beautiful grounds. Biology, Psychology, and Political Science and Government are common majors.
Location Claremont, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,109
The United States Merchant Marine Academy’s motto is Acta Non Verba in Latin, or “Deeds not Words” in English. The Academy accepts just under 25% of applicants and the only available majors to students are Marine Science/Merchant Marine Officer, Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering, and Systems Engineering.
Location Kings Point, NY
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 1,025
Bates College was founded in 1855 and was the first coeducational college in New England. It also began admitting minority students before the Emancipation Proclamation. Highly selective, Bates College only accepts 14% of applicants. The school has a 94% first year retention rate, 90% four year graduation rate, and a 10 to 1 student to faculty ratio.
Location Lewiston, ME
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,820
Kenyon College has produced Rhodes Scholars, Truman Scholarship winners, Fulbright recipients, and Marshall Scholarship winners. Famous alumni have included former United States President Rutherford B. Hayes, actor Paul Newman, and Calvin and Hobbes creator, Bill Watterson. The school has a 37% acceptance rate.
Location Gambier, OH
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,750
The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, also known as Cooper Union, has under 1,000 students and only a 15.5% acceptance rate. Cooper Union only offers a few majors including Fine/Studio Arts, Engineering Studies, and Architecture. The school also boasts a high first year retention rate of 91% and has an 8 to 1 student to faculty ratio.
Location New York, NY
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 952
Occidental College is extremely close to Hollywood, so a number of movies and television shows have been filmed on its campus. Some examples include: Clueless, Arrested Development, the Good Place, and Star Trek III: the Search for Spock. Also known as Oxy, the school accepts 41% of out of just under 7,000 applications annually.
Location Los Angeles, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,985
Located on the Thames River, the Connecticut College is just upstream from the United States Coast Guard Academy. Psychology is the most popular major, very closely followed by Economics. Connecticut College is a fairly selective school, only accepting 38% of applications sent in. It does not charge for these applications, however.
Location New London, CT
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,861
Thomas Aquinas College is an extremely small liberal arts college in California. The only major the school offers is Liberal Arts and Sciences. The college has a 94% first year retention rate, 80% four year graduation rate, and an 11 to 1 student to faculty ratio. Thomas Aquinas College’s motto is “Fides Quaerens Intellectum” or “Faith Seeking Understanding.”
Location Santa Paula, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 439

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.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *