Top 25 Best Southeast Colleges in the US (2024)

The Southeast is often what people think of when they say “The South.” Schools in these states are some of the oldest in the country, dating back to the Civil War and even before in many cases. In addition to its history, the South is also known for its delicious Southern food, heart-warming Southern hospitality, and quality education.

For our top 25 best colleges in the Southeast United States rankings, we’ve included Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.

The Southeast is a large region with numerous colleges, but here are the top 25!

Top 25 Best Southeast Colleges | 2024

Methodists and Quakers founded Duke University in 1838. The school has produced 50 Rhodes Scholars, three 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 Computer Science, Public Policy Analysis, and Biology.
Location Durham, NC
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 17,620
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.
Location Charlottesville, VA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 26,005
Many students at Vanderbilt University major in Social Sciences, but others choose to pursue degrees in Multi-/Interdisciplinary Studies. Other common majors are Computer Science, Neuroscience, and Economics. The university was named in honor of Cornelius Vanderbilt, a shipping and rail magnate, due to his gift of $1 million.
Location Nashville, TN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 13,796
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 31,641
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
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 9,517
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
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 64% of students receive institutional grant aid. 18% of applicants are accepted to Davidson which has a 95% first year retention rate.
Location Davidson, NC
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,973
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 43,859
Part of the Southeastern Conference, the University of Florida has a wide variety of sports from football to gymnastics and has over 500 athletes. The team members are known as the Gators and wear orange and blue uniforms. Just over 30% of students are accepted, 44% of which will go on to attend the following fall.
Location Gainesville, FL
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 55,781
“Verbum Vitae et Lumen Scientiae” or “Word of Life and the Light of Knowledge” is the motto of the University of Richmond. About 29% of applying students are accepted. 81.4% of the student body are undergraduates, the remaining 18.6% are graduate students. The school has an interesting mascot - WebstUR the Spider.
Location Richmond, VA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 3,890
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 10% of students who apply.
Location New Orleans, LA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 14,047
The University of Georgia has an acceptance rate of just over 40% 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 40,118
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 15:1 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 36,831
The Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University is more commonly known as Virginia Tech. Students are known as Hokies and wear Chicago Maroon and Burnt Orange to show off their school spirit. Virginia Tech accepts about 56% of students who apply. 79.8% of the students studying at Virginia Tech are undergraduates.
Location Blacksburg, VA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 37,279
The University of North Carolina School of the Arts only accepts 30% of students; 50% of those accepted will go on to attend the following fall. The university has a whopping 6:1 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 1,119
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 21 national athletic championships. Florida State has a 94% first year retention rate and a majority of first-time students come from its home state.
Location Tallahassee, FL
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 45,130
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 27,341
The University of Miami is fairly selective, accepting just over 28% of more than 42,000 applicants. Finance and Registered Nursing are the two most popular majors on campus, but Marketing, Psychology, and Economics are also common among students. 63.3% of students at the University of Miami are undergraduates.
Location Coral Gables, FL
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 19,096
Getting its start in the mid-1830’s with the Montgomery Academy, today’s student body of Rhodes College is primarily undergraduate (98.9%) and has an acceptance rate just over 57%. “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 2,073
Furman is the oldest private institution of higher learning in the state of South Carolina. 91% of students decide to stay at the school after their first year. 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 2,463
Centre College’s motto is “Doctrina Lux Mentis,” or “Learning is the Light of the Mind.” The college accepts 68%% of applicants and 85% 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 1,320
Biology, 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 8,947
More commonly known as Sewanee, The University of the South sits on 13,000 acres. These grounds are more commonly known as “The Domain” or “The Mountain.” Many of the stunning buildings are done in a Gothic style including the many chapels. The university also founded the Sewanee Review in 1892, which is the oldest continuous literary magazine in the country.
Location Sewanee, TN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,820
A member of the SEC and Alabama's second largest university, Auburn has both Rhodes Scholars and Truman scholars as alumni. 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 Marketing.
Location Auburn, AL
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 31,526

8 Reasons to Go to One of the Top Southeast Colleges?

  1. Warm weather
  2. Unique cities
  3. World-class zoos and aquariums
  4. Historic cities
  5. Amazing food
  6. Beautiful beaches
  7. Disney World
  8. Unique state parks

State Grant Aid in the Southeast US

Affording college can be a scary prospect for students and their families, but there are options available. Many states, including those in the Southeast United States, offer financial aid in the form of grants and scholarships to their students. You may have to currently live in the state to qualify, but if you’re interested in learning more about these opportunities that could save you thousands, start with our State Grants Guide here.

Interested in any of these top colleges of the Southeast? 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.