Top 50 Best Colleges in the United States | 2022 Rankings

The Top 50 Best Colleges in the United States is the most prestigious rankings list College Raptor releases annually. Schools featured on this list are the best of the best when it comes to higher education. With rich histories, gorgeous campuses, and incredible academic programs, these schools are phenomenal institutions.

After thoroughly analyzing every college in the country, Raptor selected the top 50 four-year schools around the United States.

Below you’ll find a mixture of public and private, big and small, household names and schools you maybe haven’t even heard about. Check out the list and learn more about America’s very best colleges.

Top 50 Best Colleges in the United States

A private Ivy League research university, Princeton University was founded in 1746 and originally known as the College of New Jersey. This makes it the fourth-oldest institution of higher education in the country. The school receives around 32,500 applications annually and has an acceptance rate of only 5.8%, making it highly competitive.
Location Princeton, NJ
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 8,419
Harvard University has turned out some amazing alumni. In fact, the school has more alumni, researchers, and faculty that have won Nobel Prizes and Field Medals than any other school in the world. Alumni also include eight U.S. presidents, 188 living billionaires, and 108 Olympic medalists. The most common majors include econometrics and quantitative economics, social sciences, and computer science.
Location Cambridge, MA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 31,655
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT, currently has about 11,500 students attending. They offer up to a doctorate degree with many students focusing on computer science and mechanical engineering. Mathematics and physics are also common majors. Alumni have gone on to found companies like Intel, Koch Industries, Dropbox, and Campbell Soup.
Location Cambridge, MA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 11,520
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
Yale University got its start in 1701 under the name Collegiate School, getting its current name in 1718. Their motto Lux et veritas means “Light and truth” in Latin. The university is made up of fourteen schools including the undergraduate college, twelve professional schools, and the Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Students have a 6% chance of getting accepted to Yale.
Location New Haven, CT
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 13,609
The University of Chicago receives over 34,600 applications though only about 2,000 were accepted. Therefore, the school has a 6% acceptance rate. The school is made up of their undergraduate college and five graduate research divisions. They also have campuses all over the world from Hong Kong to Paris.
Location Chicago, IL
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 17,452
Stanford University has a 4% acceptance rate and a 99% first year retention rate. Their student to faculty ratio is only 5 to 1. Herbert Hoover was a graduate of Stanford and other alumni have included Fulbright Scholars, members of Congress, astronauts, and billionaires. Known as the Stanford Cardinals, their colors are cardinal and white.
Location Stanford, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 17,249
The University of Pennsylvania was founded in 1740, primarily by Benjamin Franklin, who was also their first president. Franklin Field, where the Quakers play in the NCAA Division I – Ivy League, is named after the founder. With a 98% first year retention rate, 86% of students will go on to graduate in four years. 96% will graduate in six.
Location Philadelphia, PA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 26,675
Columbia has a very low selective acceptance rate of 5.5%, accepting only about 2,300 students out of 42,900 applicants. Top choices in regards to majors include Econometrics, Computer Science, and Political Science. It’s the oldest institution of higher education in the state. Columbia is one of the nine colonial colleges founded before the Declaration of Independence.
Location New York City, NY
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 31,456
Methodists and Quakers founded Duke University in 1838. The school has produced 50 Rhodes Scholars, 3 Turing Award winners, and 15 Noble laureates. Known as the Blue Devils, the university’s colors are Duke blue and white. The top majors among students include Econometrics, Computer Science, Public Policy Analysis, Biology, and Nursing.
Location Durham, NC
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 16,686
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
Edward Sorin founded the University of Notre Dame in 1842 as a private Catholic research University. Their motto is “Vita Dulcedo Spes” or “Life, Sweetness, Hope” – referencing the Virgin Mary. The school’s teams are known as the Fighting Irish, and wear the colors blue and gold. Their mascot is the very iconic leprechaun. Currently, just over 12,500 students attend.
Location Notre Dame, IN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 12,683
Although it was originally founded as a men’s college in 1793, the school now has 2,150 students with about half men and half women. It was created out of the funds of Ephraim Williams, who died in the French and Indian War. The college gets just under 10,000 applications each year and accepts 13% of students.
Location Williamstown, MA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,150
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
A selective school, fewer than 9% of applicants are accepted into Rice. The school has 11 residential colleges and eight schools of academic study. Rice University was established in 1912 and named after William Marsh Rice. He had requested a free-tuition educational institute be opened after his death. Today, about 4,000 undergraduates and 3,300 graduates attend.
Location Houston, TX
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 7,282
A private Ivy League research university, Dartmouth was founded before the Declaration of Independence was signed. Three famous alumni were Daniel Webster, Robert Frost, and Thaddeus Stevens. The school also graduated several members of the Senate and House of Representatives in the United States, Nobel Prize laureates, and more.
Location Hanover, NH
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 6,606
Top majors at Northwestern University are econometrics and quantitative economics, journalism, psychology, drama, and neuroscience. A founding member of the Big Ten Conference, top sports for the Wildcats include football, basketball, baseball, and cross country/track. Willie the Wildcat cheers them on and the colors are purple and white.
Location Evanston, IL
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 22,448
A public undergraduate school, the United States Naval Academy’s motto, in Latin, is “Ex Scientia Tridens”, or “From Knowledge, Seapower.” It was established in 1845 and saw disruption and riots during the Civil War that almost caused the government to move the school. Today, just over 4,500 students attend.
Location Annapolis, MD
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 4,538
Washington University in St. Louis was named after George Washington and founded in 1853. A private research university, the school receives over 24,000 applications a year and accepts around 3,500 students. Commonly chosen majors are computer science, biology, and experimental psychology. Top sports on campus include track, football, and baseball.
Location St. Louis, MO
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 16,191
Thomas Jefferson founded The University of Virginia. The school had a Board of Visitors that included Jefferson, James Monroe, and James Madison. Well known for its secret societies, the school is also known for their sporting accomplishments. The Cavaliers, who wear orange and blue, have 21 championship wins. Over 25,000 students are currently attending.
Location Charlottesville, VA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 25,012
Popular majors at Brown University include computer science, biology, entrepreneurship, and history. Founded in 1764, it was the first school in North America that accepted students regardless of their religion. Their women’s institution (Pembroke College) was merged into Brown in 1971. Alumni have gone on to create famous companies including ZipRecruiter, Cards Against Humanity, and CNN.
Location Providence, RI
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 10,333
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
Vanderbilt University has over 13,000 students. Many students major in economics and social sciences. Other common majors are computer science, neuroscience, and mechanical engineering. The university was named in honor of Cornelius Vanderbilt, a shipping and rail magnate, due to his gift of $1 million. Their sports teams are known as the Commodores.
Location Nashville, TN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 13,131
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
Cornell University is made up of seven undergraduate colleges and seven graduate divisions. Some famous alumni have been Christopher Reeve, Bill Nye, E.B. White, and Anthony Fauci. 97% of students stay on after the first year, with 93% graduating within six years. Computer Science is the most popular major.
Location Ithaca, NY
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 24,027
The University of California in Los Angeles is a very large school with over 44,000 students. A public land-grant research university, it’s the second-oldest branch of the school system. Its motto is Fiat lux, or “Let there be Light.” Famous alumni have included Sean Astin, Francis Ford Coppola, Michael Morhaime, Jim Morrison, and Troy Aikman. It has an acceptance rate of 12%.
Location Los Angeles, CA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 44,371
John Hopkins University was founded in 1876 and named for its first benefactor. Known as the first research university in the country, its motto in Latin is "Veritas vos liberabit," or “The truth will set you free.” The Blue Jays men’s lacrosse team plays in the Big Ten Conference and has 44 national titles. The two most popular majors are general public health and neuroscience.
Location Baltimore, MD
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 27,079
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
A fairly large school, the University of Michigan has over 48,000 students attending, which includes about 31,300 undergraduate students. The two most commonly chosen majors are Computer and Information Sciences and Business Administration. However, economics, mechanical engineering, and experimental psychology are also popular.
Location Ann Arbor, MI
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 48,090
The University of California – Berkeley has over 43,000 students, with over 31,000 undergraduates and just under 12,000 graduates. It was the state’s first land-grant university and the first campus in the school system. The California Golden Bears, competing in the Pac-12 conference, have won over 100 national championships.
Location Berkeley, CA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 43,185
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
Wellesley College is a private women’s liberal arts college going back to 1870. It is the largest out of all women’s colleges and has seen famous alumni including Hillary Clinton, Madeleine Albright, and Katharine Lee Bates. Economics is the most commonly chosen major, but other popular choices include Biology, Computer and Information Sciences, and Political Science.
Location Wellesley, MA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,519
The University of North at Chapel Hill goes by several different names including UNC, Chapel Hill, and Carolina. It’s a public research university and the flagship of the school system. Enrolling students in 1795, it’s one of the oldest public schools in the country. UNC became coeducational in 1877 and began admitting African-American graduate students in 1951.
Location Chapel Hill, NC
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 29,877
Carnegie Mellon University has over 14,000 students currently attending, with more graduates than undergraduates. Some popular majors include Electrical Engineering, Computer Science, and Mechanical Engineering. A merger between Carnegie Institute of Technology and the Mellon Institute of Industrial Research in 1900 created the school we know today.
Location Pittsburgh, PA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 14,180
A private Jesuit research university, Georgetown University was founded as the Georgetown College in 1789 by Bishop John Carroll. It’s the oldest Catholic institution of higher education in the country and offers 48 different programs. Past graduates include Bill Clinton, Lyndon B. Johnson, senators, representatives, and other leading politicians.
Location Washington, DC
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 19,593
The second-oldest institution of higher education in the United States, King William III and Queen Mary II founded the aptly named College of William & Mary in 1693. A public research university, alumni have included Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, John Tyler, James Comey, and Jon Stewart. The mascot is the Griffin.
Location Williamsburg, VA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 8,773
Tufts University receives nearly 22,800 applications a year and accepts 15% of students. Today, about 11,900 students attend, half of which are undergraduates. It got its start as Tufts College and was a small liberal arts college. In the 1970s, it became a research university. The university offers over 90 undergraduate programs and 160 graduate programs.
Location Medford, MA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 11,878
"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
Emory University receives over 30,000 applications annually and has an acceptance rate of just below 16%. It has a 95% first year retention rate, 82% four year graduation rate, and a 9 to 1 student to faculty ratio. There are nine academic divisions in this school including Emory College of Arts and Sciences, Laney Graduate School, Rollins School of Public Health, and others.
Location Atlanta, GA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 14,415
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
The United States Military Academy is also known as West Point or the Academy. Only 12% of applicants will receive acceptance letters, but 83.4% of these students will go on to attend. Their motto is Duty • Honor • Country. The entire site of the school is a national landmark and includes historic sites, a museum, and more.
Location West Point, NY
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 4,457
A small school, Colby College is very selective with only a 9.7% acceptance rate. Due to their small size though, they have a high student to faculty ratio of 9 to 1 and a 94% first year retention rate. 89% of students will go on to graduate within 4 years, and 92% within six. Economics is the most popular major with Political Science and Government not far behind.
Location Waterville, ME
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,003
Boston College is a private Jesuit research university. Αἰὲν ἀριστεύειν, or “Ever to Excel,” is the school’s motto. Their athletic teams are known as the Eagles (with a mascot known as Baldwin the Eagle) and they wear maroon and gold. Past students have included John F. Kerry, Leonard Nimoy, Chris O’Donnell, and Amy Poehler.
Location Chestnut Hill, MA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 14,747
With 57 areas of study, a majority of Hamilton students opt for economics as their major, but mathematics, political science, and general literature are also popular choices. Their motto is in Ancient Greek: Γνῶθι Σεαυτόν, which is “Know thyself.” The school has been coeducational since 1978 after merging with its sister school, Kirkland College.
Location Clinton, NY
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,012
Babson College began as an all-male school in 1919, originally known as Babson Institute. It would become coeducational in 1969. The school has an astounding 95% first year retention rate and 92% four year graduation rate. The only major available is Business Administration and Management. Athletes compete in the NCAA Division III and are known as the Beavers.
Location Wellesley, MA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 3,325
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

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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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