Top 25 Best Mid-East Colleges in the US (2024)

From New York to DC, there are plenty of amazing schools, colleges, and universities in the mid-East. Some of the country’s oldest and best schools can be found here. The area itself is known for its history, vibrant cities, cultural diversity, and educational and professional opportunities.

The top 25 best colleges in the mid-East rankings include schools from New York, Delaware, DC, Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

Top 25 Best Mid-East Colleges | 2024

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 37,600 applications annually and has an acceptance rate of only 4.5%, making it highly competitive.
Location Princeton, NJ
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 8,478
Columbia has a very selective acceptance rate of 4.4%, accepting only about 2,700 students out of over 61,000 applicants. Top choices in regard to majors include Econometrics and Quantitative Economics, Computer Science, and Political Science and Government. It’s the oldest institution of higher education in the state, founded before the Declaration of Independence.
Location New York City, NY
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 33,776
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, 89% of students will go on to graduate in four years. 96% will graduate in six.
Location Philadelphia, PA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 28,038
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 94% graduating within six years. Computer Science is the most popular major.
Location Ithaca, NY
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 25,582
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
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
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 over 40 different majors. Past graduates include Bill Clinton, Lyndon B. Johnson, senators, representatives, and other leading politicians.
Location Washington, DC
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 20,935
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, which is Greek, is “hepomene toi logismoi” or “following the way of reason.”
Location New York City, NY
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 3,043
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
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
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 majority of incoming students attending University of Maryland at College Park are from Maryland, New York, and New Jersey. It’s often called a “Public Ivy,” because of its comparable education to Ivy League schools, and has extremely high research activity. Computer Science is the most popular major.
Location College Park, MD
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 41,272
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
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. 99.6% 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 3,176
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
The Webb Institute in New York is a small private college solely focused on Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering. Students who attend receive full-tuition scholarships. Students are also lucky enough to learn via guaranteed internships each year and 100% job placement after graduation. Over 73% of the student population are male.
Location Glen Cove, NY
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 105
Villanova University is the oldest Catholic university in Pennsylvania. It’s also the only Augustinian university in the country. The school still has deep religious roots and the administration is led by priests. Their motto is “Veritas, Unitas, Caritas” or “Truth, Unity, Charity.” Jill Biden and Howie Long are two famous alumni who have attended Villanova.
Location Villanova, PA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 10,870
Lehigh University’s motto in Latin is “homo minister et interpres naturae,” which means “man, the servant and interpreter of nature.” Known as the Mountain Hawks, the athletes at Lehigh University compete in track, football, lacrosse, soccer, and other sports. Clutch the Mountain Hawk is their mascot.
Location West Bethlehem, PA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 7,263
New Brunswick is one of the regional campuses of Rutgers University, and the oldest of the three. The school has 19 undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools, with a high number of undergraduates majoring in Psychology, Computer and Information Sciences, Biology, and Information Science. They have a 68.1% acceptance rate.
Location New Brunswick, NJ
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 50,804
Also known simply as JTS, the seminary accepts about 49.6% of students who apply. Its main building is located along the Hudson River. There are more graduate students at JTS than undergraduates, at 58.6% and 41.4% respectively. Though many alumni have gone onto careers in theology, many have also had notable careers in music, academia, and politics.
Location New York, NY
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 348
The University of Rochester is a private research university that was founded in 1850. Alumni and faculty have gone on to win Nobel Prizes, Grammy Awards, Pulitzer Prizes, and more. Today, the school has a 10:1 student-to-faculty ratio, 91% first year retention rate, and an 86% six year graduation rate. The campus is tucked in the bends of the Genesee River.
Location Rochester, NY
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 12,039
Lafayette College is known as a “Hidden Ivy” or a “Little Ivy”. The college sets itself apart with a unique approach to engineering and the liberal arts as well as Division I athletics. The school is named after General Lafayette, a hero of the American Revolution. Lafayette’s campus is located on the historic Delaware River.
Location Easton, PA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,725
The College of New Jersey, founded in 1855, was originally located in Trenton. It moved to Ewing Township in the 1930s and has gone under several name changes, finally arriving at its current one in 1996. The college has a 62% acceptance rate and a first year retention rate of 92%. Part of the New Jersey Athletic Conference, the school has athletes in football, lacrosse, soccer, and more.
Location Ewing, NJ
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 7,589
Part of the State University of New York (SUNY) system, Binghamton University sees most of its incoming students come from the home state, though many will also come from New Jersey. The Bearcats compete in sports such as soccer, lacrosse, swimming, and track. Baxter the Bearcat is their mascot.
Location Vestal, NY
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 18,055
This private research university was chartered by the United States Congress in 1821. George Washington personally advocated for a national university in the U.S. capital until his death. Alumni include J. Edgar Hoover, Belva Ann Lockwood, J. William Fulbright, and several foreign leaders. International Affairs and Relations, Registered Nursing, and Political Science and Government are the most popular majors.
Location Washington, DC
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 26,457

Why is the Mid-East a Great Place to Go to School?

The Mid-east states play host to some of the most important cities in the history of the United States. Except for most of upstate New York, you can easily get around these states by using mass transportation, too! So even if you’re going to school in New York City, it’s easy to get down to a sightseeing opportunity in Washington D.C.

These states are home to not only the best colleges in the mid-East but also some of the most amazing museums in the country (and the world.) The mid-east is home to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Air Mobility Command Museum, and the Smithsonian Museums. There are also several theme parks that are scattered throughout the area if you need a weekend of fun!

When it comes to the outdoors, New York has some amazing trails to take advantage of, including part of the Appalachian Trail. And New Jersey’s beaches, from Seaside Heights to Atlantic City, are great for the warmer weeks in the spring and fall. And for history fans, Pennsylvania has roots in the American Revolution (Philadelphia) and the Civil War (Gettysburg) which are must-visits.

Students interested in attending school in the mid-east should note that this area gets a fair amount of snow, which could be off-putting to those who love warmer weather. However, if you’re able to weather the cold, this region can be an educational and fun place to earn your college degree!

State Grant Aid in the Mid-East US

Schools and organizations can offer scholarships and grants to help offset the cost of college, but states can also assist. The states in the mid-east United States all have outstanding state grant programs to help make degrees more affordable. If you’re interested in learning more about these opportunities, start with our State Grants Guide.

Interested in any of these top mid-East colleges? 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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