Top 25 Best D3 Colleges in the US (2024)

Almost all colleges and universities in the United States offer some sort of athletic program. Division III, or D3 is a division of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). These are colleges and universities that do not offer athletic scholarships to their student-athletes. 

For students who are interested in participating in sports at a high level but want to focus more on their studies and other extracurriculars rather than spending most of their time on the field, D3 colleges offer a fantastic opportunity. We’ve ranked the colleges that are classified as Division 3 in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) from our top rankings list.

Top 25 Best D3 Colleges | 2024

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT, offers up to a doctorate degree with many undergraduate 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 11,934
Also known as Caltech, the California Institute of Technology’s motto is, “the truth shall make you free.” Computer Science and Mechanical Engineering are top majors among students, and there have been over 75 Nobel laureates that have been associated with Caltech (including 40 alumni and faculty members).
Location Pasadena, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,397
The University of Chicago receives over 37,900 applications though only about 2,400 were accepted. Therefore, the school has a 6.5% 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 18,832
Although it was originally founded as a men’s college in 1793, the school is composed of 48% and 52% women. It was created out of the funds of Ephraim Williams, who died in the French and Indian War. The college gets just under 12,500 applications each year and accepts 9% of students.
Location Williamstown, MA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,224
With an acceptance rate of 9%, 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 1,971
Swarthmore College was one of the first coeducational colleges in the country. It is associated with the University of Pennsylvania through the Quaker Consortium, which means students can take classes at the four schools within the arrangement. 54% of students receive institutional grant aid to attend, $51,790 on average.
Location Swarthmore, PA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,651
Bowdoin College is a very selective school with an acceptance rate of 9%. 89% of students will graduate within four years, and 94% within six. With a 9:1 student-to-faculty ratio, the college also has a 97% 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 1,951
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 over 40 national titles. The two most popular majors are Cell/Cellular and Molecular Biology and Neuroscience.
Location Baltimore, MD
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 32,049
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. The university has a 96% first year retention rate and an 8:1 student-to-faculty ratio.
Location Lexington, VA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,238
Tufts University receives over 31,100 applications a year and accepts 11.4% of students. 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 70 undergraduate programs; Econometrics and Quantitative Economics and Computer Science are the most popular.
Location Medford, MA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 13,293
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 2,461
Carnegie Mellon University has more graduate students than undergraduate students. Some popular majors include Electrical Engineering, Computer Science, and Business Administration and Management. 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 15,057
Emory University receives over 28,000 applications annually and has an acceptance rate of just 13%. It has a 95% first year retention rate, 83% 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 14,779
With 57 areas of study, a majority of Hamilton students opt for Economics as their major, but Mathematics, Research and Experimental Psychology, and Political Science and Government 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 2,055
The first operating college or university in Vermont was Middlebury College, founded in 1800. It was also the first American institution of higher education that gave a bachelor’s degree to an African-American in 1823. Although it was originally all-male, the school would begin to admit women in 1883. It has an acceptance rate of 13.3%.
Location Middlebury, CT
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,937
Vassar offers 50 majors with the most popular being Biology and Biological Sciences, Economics, and Political Science. The school has an acceptance rate of 20.1%. 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 2,516
A smaller school, Colby College is very selective with only a 9% acceptance rate, boasts a strong student-to-faculty ratio of 9:1, and has a 95% first year retention rate. 81% of students will go on to graduate within 4 years, and 87% within six. Political Science and Government and Econometrics and Quantitative Economics are the two most popular majors.
Location Waterville, ME
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,262
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 top major, with Computer Science, International Relations and Affairs, and Research and Mathematics also being popular choices.
Location Northfield, MN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,044
The two most popular majors at Grinnell College are Computer Science and 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 exactly 400 athletes and their unofficial mascot is a squirrel.
Location Grinnell, IA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,748
An all-female school, Smith College is the largest of the Seven Sisters colleges. The school has an open curriculum, which means it doesn’t have scheduled finals or course requirements. Smith College accepts almost 30% of students who apply. Margaret Mitchell, Nancy Reagan, Sylvia Plath, and Barbara Bush all attended the college.
Location Northampton, MA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,924
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 94% first year retention rate and 90% 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 3,684
Commonly called NYU, you can find this university in the heart of Manhattan. They have a relatively low acceptance rate of 13%. Liberal Arts and Sciences is the top major, but Econometrics and Quantitative Economics and Registered Nursing are not far behind. The school has produced a number of famous alumni including Martin Scorsese, Jack Dorsey, Robert Muller III, and Alec Baldwin.
Location New York City, NY
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 58,226
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 1,420
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 17.5% of applicants. The school has a 92% first year retention rate, 88% four year graduation rate, and a 10:1 student-to-faculty ratio.
Location Lewiston, ME
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,821
“Scientia et disciplina'' is the Latin motto of Colorado College which means “knowledge and skill.” Today, the school has over 80 majors and sits on a 90 acre campus. The college is highly selective – only 14.4% of applicants will receive acceptance letters. The master’s degree is the highest level of education offered by Colorado College.
Location Colorado Springs, CO
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,266

What Does D3 Mean?

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is an organization that regulates student athletics throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, and Canada. There are several divisions under the NCAA, including Division III or D3. 

D3 in particular refers to colleges and universities that do not offer their student-athletes athletic scholarships if they attend. These schools are required to have at least three team sports for each gender, cannot delay a first year’s participation in order to lengthen eligibility periods, and do not receive revenue from their athletic programs. D3 schools can also not ask students for a National Letter of Intent.

Some D3 schools do have one or two Division I programs, however. In these cases, athletic scholarships can be offered to students participating in those specific programs.

Around 450 schools are considered D3 today.

Is a D3 College Right for You?

For many students, especially those who don’t play sports, athletics programs at colleges and universities may seem like an afterthought. However, if you love the field, attending a school with a strong athletic program may be a priority.

Division III colleges may not offer athletic scholarships to their student-athletes, but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth considering if you want to play sports while you earn your degree. 

One concern students may have is the level of competition. Athletes who attend D3 schools are still among some of the best out there, so you’ll still be playing the game at a high level. While most students who go on to play professionally come from Division I, some do graduate from D3 schools, too. The myth that students who play at D3 schools aren’t as good as D1 students is just false!

And while these schools may not offer financial aid directly tied to your athletic ability, they may offer other scholarships that can be granted for your leadership skills, grades, and demonstrated financial need.

A major benefit of attending a D3 school is the flexibility it brings to your education. You can continue playing your sport of choice at a high level while being able to dedicate ample time to your degree and any other extracurriculars that are important to you. 

If you think attending a school with a strong focus on sports is right for you, start making your list of top D3 colleges with our College Match Tool.


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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