Top 25 Best Southeast Colleges in the US | 2023 Rankings

Top Southeast Colleges 2023 badge.The south is known for a lot of things. Delicious southern food, heart-warming southern hospitality, and quality southern education. Some of the best US colleges are found in the southeast region.

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

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

Top 25 Best Southeast Colleges

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 16,172
Vanderbilt University has over 13,500 students. Many students major in Economics and Social Sciences. Other common majors are Computer Science, Neuroscience, and Engineering Science. 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 13,537
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 over 30 championship wins. Over 25,000 students are currently attending.
Location Charlottesville, VA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 25,628
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 2,183
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 8,939
Emory University receives over 28,000 applications annually and has an acceptance rate of just over 19%. It has a 93% first year retention rate, 82% four-year graduation rate, and a 9:1 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 13,997
A very large school, the University of Florida has over 53,000 students, with about 34,900 undergraduates and 18,400 graduates. Part of the Southeastern Conference, they offer a wide variety of sports from football to gymnastics and have over 500 athletes. The team members are known as the Gators and wear orange and blue uniforms.
Location Gainesville, FL
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 53,372
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. 20% of applicants are accepted. Davidson has a 93% first year retention rate.
Location Davidson, NC
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,983
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 30,092
“Verbum Vitae et Lumen Scientiae” or “Word of Life and the Light of Knowledge” is the motto of the University of Richmond. About 31% of applying students are accepted. 82% of the student body are undergraduates, the remaining 18% are graduate students. The school has an interesting mascot - WebstUR the Spider.
Location Richmond, VA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 4,056
Also referred to as Georgia Tech, this public research university was founded in 1885 as part of the Reconstruction plans post Civil War. At first, it only offered degrees in Mechanical Engineering. In 1901, it would also offer Chemical, Civil, and Electrical engineering. Today, the top two majors are Computer and Information Sciences and Mechanical Engineering.
Location Atlanta, GA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 39,771
Tulane University of Louisiana got its start in 1834 as a public medical college, then known as the Medical College of Louisiana. It became a full university in 1847 and went private in 1884. Today it is the 15th oldest medical school in the country. Tulane University is very selective, accepting about 11% of students who apply.
Location New Orleans, LA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 13,927
The University of Georgia has an acceptance rate of just over 48% and many students will go on to major in Finance, Psychology, and Biology. It’s one of the oldest public schools in the United States (founded in 1785). This Public Ivy university has quite a few famous alumni graduates including state governors, football players, scientists, Pulitzer Prize winners, and more.
Location Athens, GA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 39,147
The North Carolina State University at Raleigh is part of the largest university system in the Carolinas: the Research Triangle with Duke University and University of North Carolina. Also known as NC State, the school has a 14:1 student-to-faculty ratio and 94% first year retention rate. A whopping 87% of the incoming class calls North Carolina home.
Location Raleigh, NC
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 36,042
The Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University is more commonly known as Virginia Tech. Students and athletes are known as Hokies wear Chicago Maroon and Burnt Orange to show off their school spirit. Virginia Tech accepts about 66% of students who apply. 81% of the students studying at Virginia Tech are undergraduates.
Location Blacksburg, VA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 37,024
Economics, Finance, Business/Commerce, Political Science and Government, and Communication are popular majors at Wake Forest. The school has produced astounding alumni, including 15 Rhodes Scholars, 15 Truman Scholars, and 92 Fulbright recipients. A founding member of the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Demon Deacons wear old gold and black.
Location Winston-Salem, NC
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 8,789
Clemson University boasts a large campus, spanning 1,400 acres at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains alongside Lake Hartwell, making for a stunning sight. The school also has the Clemson Experimental Forest which can be used for recreation as well as education and research. Clemon’s most popular major is Business Administration and Management.
Location Clemson, SC
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 26,406
The University of Miami is fairly selective, accepting just over 33% of 44,133 applicants. Finance and Registered Nursing are the two most popular majors on campus, but Biology, Psychology, and Economics are also common among students. Nearly 64% of students at the University of Miami are undergraduates.
Location Coral Gables, FL
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 17,809
Florida State University was founded in 1851 and today is well known for its sports programs. Athletes are known as the Seminoles and the team has won 20 national athletic championships. The athletes themselves have won 78 individual NCAA national championships. Florida State has a 95% first year retention rate and a majority of first-time students come from its home state.
Location Tallahassee, FL
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 43,569
Centre College’s motto is “Doctrina Lux Mentis,” or “Learning is the Light of the Mind.” The college accepts over 72% of applicants and 82% will graduate within 4 years. The highest degree offered is the bachelor’s, so you’ll only find undergraduate students on campus. Centre College does not charge an application fee for any students interested in attending.
Location Danville, KY
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,333
Did you know that only 2% of the students at Rhodes College study at the graduate level? The student body is primarily undergraduate. The school has an acceptance rate just over 51%. “Truth, Loyalty, Service” is the motto of Rhodes. Red and black are the colors for the Lynx sports teams, who compete in events like lacrosse, soccer, tennis, and track.
Location Memphis, TN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,875
Public Health is a popular major among students at USC Columbia. Other commonly chosen studies include Finance, Biology, Experimental Psychology, and Biology. The school has an impressive 90% first-year retention rate and 78% of students will graduate within six years. Track, swimming, basketball, and soccer are a few popular sports on campus.
Location Columbia, SC
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 35,470
The University of North Carolina School of the Arts only accepted about 36% of students. 50% of those accepted will go on to attend the following fall. The university has a whopping 6 to 1 student to faculty ratio and a 91% first year retention rate. There are only five available majors, with many students choosing Cinematography and Film as well as Technical Theatre.
Location Winston Salem, NC
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 1,070
A member of the SEC and Alabama's second largest university, Auburn has both Rhodes Scholars and Truman scholars as alumni. The of the over 30,000 students, just under 80% are undergraduates while another almost 20% are graduate students. The most popular college majors students pursue are Business Administration and Management, Biomedical Sciences, and Finance.
Location Auburn, AL
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 30,737
Furman is the oldest private institution of higher learning in the state of South Carolina. 81% of freshmen decide to stay at the school after their first year. Psychology, Speech Communication and Rhetoric, Health Professions and Related Clinical Sciences, and Political Science and Government are the most popular majors at Furman. Purple and white are the school colors and the students are known as the Paladins.
Location Greenville, SC
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,567

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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.