Top 50 Best Colleges in the United States | 2023 Rankings

Top 50 Colleges 2023.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. Notably, MIT Massachusetts Institute of Technology makes the top spot this year! Plus, 5 new colleges make the Top 50 Best Colleges for 2023. These include:

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

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 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 under 4,600 students attend.
Location Annapolis, MD
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 4,594
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
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
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 Saint 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
“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 Business Administration and Management, but Operations Research, Political Science and Government, and Oceanography are also top choices.
Location New Haven, CT
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 1,056
A fairly large school, the University of Michigan has over 47,000 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, Physiological Psychology/Psychobiology, and Experimental Psychology are also popular.
Location Ann Arbor, MI
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 47,907
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
The University of California – Berkeley has over 42,000 students, with over 30,000 undergraduates and just under 12,000 graduate students. 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 42,327
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
The United States Military Academy is also known as West Point or the Academy. Only 8.6% of applicants will receive acceptance letters, but 81.6% 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 4,536
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 19,371
Hillsdale’s motto is “Virtus Tentamine Gaudet” or “Strength Rejoices in the Challenge.” The school has a 97% first year retention rate and a 9:1 student-to-faculty ratio. All students who attend are required to take courses on the “Great Books,” the United States Constitution, and Science courses. 78% of students will graduate within 6 years.
Location Hillsdale, MI
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,543
With around 400 students, Soka University of America is an extremely small school. It has an acceptance rate of about 52%. 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 403
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 Research and Experimental Psychology.
Location Wellesley, MA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,280
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
The University of California in Los Angeles is a very large school with over 44,500 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 14.3%.
Location Los Angeles, CA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 44,589
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
Tufts University receives over 23,100 applications a year and accepts 16.3% of students. Today, about 12,200 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 12,219
Barnard College is a private women’s liberal arts college located on the banks of the Hudson River. The school was actually founded in response to Columbia University not admitting women. Today, it’s part of the Seven Sisters, an association of women’s liberal arts colleges in the country. Their motto is “Hepomene toi logismoi” (Greek) or “Following the Way of Reason.”
Location New York City, NY
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,744
With 57 areas of study, a majority of Hamilton students opt for Economics as their major, but Mathematics, Political Science, and Biology are also popular choices. Their motto is in Ancient Greek: Γνῶθι Σεαυτόν, which translates to “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 1,902
Vassar offers 50 majors with the most popular being Biology and Biological Sciences, Economics, and Neuroscience. They have an acceptance rate of 24.5%. A few people who have graduated or attended Vassar include Anne Hathaway, Jane Fonda, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and Anthony Bourdain.
Location Poughkeepsie, NY
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,435
Around 1,260 students attend Claremont McKenna College, which has a 13.3% acceptance rate and 81% four-year graduation rate. The most commonly chosen major is Econometrics and Quantitative Economics. With an 8:1 student-to-faculty ratio, 87% of students will stay after their freshman year.
Location Claremont, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,264
Part of the Midwest Conference, the most popular sports at Carleton College include football, basketball, baseball, and cross country/track, soccer, and swimming and diving. They’re known as the Knights and wear blue and maize for school colors. Biology is a common major, with Computer Science, International Relations and Affairs, and Economics also being popular.
Location Northfield, MN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,940
Although it was originally founded as a men’s college in 1793, the school now has 1,987 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 9,000applications each year and accepts 15.1% of students.
Location Williamstown, MA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,987
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 14,934
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 92% 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 3,340
The University of Southern California is a large school. It has over 48,000 students, including around 19,000 undergraduates and 26,500 graduates. The most popular major by far for undergraduates at the school is business administration and management. Some notable alumni include LeVar Burton, Neil Armstrong, Will Ferrell, and George Lucas.
Location Los Angeles, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 46,287
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 over 300 students attend. Majors include General Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering. With an 81% first year retention rate, the college also has a 6:1 student-to-faculty ratio.
Location Needham, MA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 310
Colgate University is known as a “Hidden Ivy” and a “Little Ivy.” The school regularly makes lists naming the most beautiful campuses in the United States. 99% of the students at Colgate study at the undergraduate level. However, the school offers up to the master’s degree level of Education. Maroon and white are the official school colors.
Location Hamilton, NY
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 3,045

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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