Top 25 Best Private Colleges in the US | 2023 Rankings

Top private colleges 2023.Many of the best colleges in America are private; many are even household names. Rich with history, the best private colleges can go on to produce equally historic alumni.

Private colleges tend to be nonprofit institutions that are funded internally through endowments and donations. Because of this, private colleges offer some of the highest financial aid packages and might just be more affordable than you’d imagine.

The 25 schools featured here are the best of all private colleges. These rankings are a jumping-off point for you to create your own personalized rankings using our college match tool. Not only are they academic powerhouses, but these schools also have beautiful campuses, amazing student resources, and colorful traditions.

Top 25 Best Private Colleges

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT, currently has about 11,250 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 11,254
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 32,800 applications annually and has an acceptance rate of only 5.6%, making it highly competitive.
Location Princeton, NJ
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 7,853
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 over 75 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 2,240
The University of Chicago receives over 34,300 applications though only about 2,500 are accepted each year. Therefore, the school has a 7.3% 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 17,834
Stanford University has a 5.2% acceptance rate and an 86% first year retention rate. Their student-to-faculty ratio is only 4 to 1. The 31st president of the United States, Herbert Hoover, was a graduate of Stanford. 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 15,953
Columbia has a very low selective acceptance rate of 6.7%, accepting only about 2,700 students out of 45,000 applicants. Top choices in regard 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 30,135
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 110 Olympic medalists. The most common majors include econometrics and quantitative economics, social sciences, and computer science.
Location Cambridge, MA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 30,391
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 95% 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 26,552
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
Top majors at Northwestern University are Econometrics and Quantitative Economics, Journalism, Radio and Television, Speech Communication and Rhetoric, and Neuroscience. A founding member of the Big Ten Conference, top sports for the Wildcats include football, basketball, baseball, and soccer. Willie the Wildcat cheers them on and their colors are purple and white.
Location Evanston, IL
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 22,603
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 6,292
A selective school, fewer than 11% 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 undergraduate and 3,500 graduate students attend.
Location Houston, TX
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 7,643
Popular majors at Brown University include Computer Science, Biology, Applied Mathematics, and Econometrics and Quantitative Economics. 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 9,948
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
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 12,800 students attend.
Location Notre Dame, IN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 12,809
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. 96% of students stay on after the first year, with 95% graduating within six years. Computer Science is the most popular major.
Location Ithaca, NY
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 23,620
Johns 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 28,890
Washington University in St. Louis was named after George Washington and founded in 1853. A private research university, the school receives just under 28,000 applications a year and accepts around 4,500 students. Commonly chosen majors are Computer Science, Biology, and Experimental Psychology. Top sports on campus include track, football, and soccer.
Location St. Louis, MO
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 15,449
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
A smaller school, Pomona College has about 1,475 students. The school receives around 10,400 applications and accepts 8.6% of them. The four commonly chosen majors are Econometrics, Computer Science, Mathematics, and International Relations and Affairs. 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 1,475
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 6.5% chance of getting accepted to Yale.
Location New Haven, CT
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 12,060
With an acceptance rate of 11.8%, 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 1,745
Harvey Mudd College has a little under 900 students and offers programs only related to Science and Engineering. It has an 18% acceptance rate, 92% first year retention rate, and an 8:1 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 854
With just over 1,400 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 1,437
Carnegie Mellon University has over 13,000 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 13,519

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


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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