The 25 Best Colleges in the Northeast – 2016 University Rankings

list of colleges in the northeastThe Northeast is home to some of the most historic and well-respected institutions of higher learning in the country, as well as around the world.

From the well-known Ivy League schools such as Harvard and Yale, to the possibly lesser-known (but still incredibly selective and rigorous) colleges like Brandeis University and Vassar College, this section of the country is jam-packed full of top-tier institutions.

Many of these schools, both large and small, are rooted in colonial and pre-Revolutionary history, with grand displays or architecture and ancient, looming buildings scattered throughout campus.

But, don’t let some of these old facades fool you. Many of the colleges on this list are also some of the wealthiest in the world, and inside the brick and mortar exteriors lie advanced technology and groundbreaking research facilities.

If you’re looking for a tradition-rich college experience somewhere near the upper east coast, then one of these schools may be for you.

Here is our list of the 25 best colleges in the Northeastern U.S.:


25. Brandeis University

Brandeis University is one of the best colleges in the Northeast.

Source: Flickr user khargrav.

Watham, MA

Undergraduate enrollment: 3,614

One of just many top-caliber colleges near Boston, Brandeis stands alone in both having a castle on campus, and also for its nationally-recognized Heller School, which researches and drives public policy on mental health, substance abuse, and many other social issues and offers numerous graduate programs in these areas. For the 3,600 undergrads on campus, there are a total of 47 majors available from 24 unique academic departments as well as 22 interdepartmental programs.

Learn more about Brandeis University


24. Boston College

Boston College - Best Colleges in the Northeast

Source: Flickr user masstransit.

Chestnut Hill, MA

Undergraduate enrollment: 9,698

BC, although not technically within Boston city limits, is located just 6 miles west of the city. Boston College enrolls more than 9,500 undergrads and the school’s undergraduate business programs at the Carroll School of Management are consistently ranked as top 5 in the country.

Learn more about Boston College


23. Hamilton College

Hamilton College - Best Colleges in the Northeast

Source: Flickr user chuckthewriter.

Clinton, NY

Undergraduate enrollment: 1,926

“College on the Hill”, or Hamilton College, is a small, private liberal arts school located in rural New York. The campus enrolls just under 2,000 undergrads each year. Hamilton’s May Day Music Festival was started in 2004 and has drawn a number of national acts, including Chromeo, The Pharcyde, Eve 6, and more.

Learn more about Hamilton College


22. Colgate University

Colgate University - Best Colleges in the Northeast

Colgate University Across Taylor Lake” by Balon GreyjoyOwn work. Licensed under CC0 via Commons.

Hamilton, NY

Undergraduate enrollment: 2,890

Colgate University is a medium-sized, private liberal arts college located in rural New York state. The campus sits lakeside and is surrounded mostly by forested area, of which the college owns an additional 1,100 acres of undeveloped land.

Learn more about Colgate University


21. Barnard College

Barnard College - Best Colleges in the Northeast

2014 Barnard College Lehman Hall” by Beyond My KenOwn work. Licensed under GFDL via Commons.

New York, NY

Undergraduate enrollment: 2,489

Barnard College was established to be an Ivy League equivalent for women when many colleges were still all-men’s schools. This private liberal arts college in Manhattan enrolls just less than 2,500 undergrads.

Learn more about Barnard College


20. Wesleyan University

Wesleyan University - Best Colleges in the Northeast

Wesolin” by Original uploader was Ychennay at en.wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

Middletown, CT

Undergraduate enrollment: 2,906

Wesleyan University is a private liberal arts college with more than 2,900 undergraduates. This school offers 47 majors in 40 academic departments, and students have the ability to well as the create a custom major.

Learn more about Wesleyan University


19. Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins University - Best Colleges in the Northeast

View from Levering Plaza” by Iracaz – iPhone photo. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikipedia.

Baltimore, MD

Undergraduate enrollment: 6,117

Johns Hopkins University enrolls over 6,100 undergraduate students each year, with Biomedical Engineering being on of the most popular majors. JHU is America’s oldest research university and offers degrees in a number of engineering, science, and art fields.

Learn more about Johns Hopkins University


18. Tufts University

Tufts University - Best Colleges in the Northeast

Tufts Tisch library entrance” by HereToHelpOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

Medford, MA

Undergraduate enrollment: 5,180

After spending decades as a small, liberal arts college, Tufts has since transformed itself into a medium-sized, private research university that regularly earns top accolades. Its campus outside of Boston enrolls nearly 5,200 undergraduate students each year.

Learn more about Tufts University


17. Vassar College

Vassar College - Best Colleges in the Northeast

Thompson Library (Vassar College)” by Noteremote. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

Poughkeepsie, NY

Undergraduate enrollment: 2,477

Of the 2,400 undergraduate students enrolled at Vassar, the most common majors are English, Political Science, Psychology, Economics, and Biology. The medium-sized campus is about half-way between NYC and Albany.

Learn more about Vassar College


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16. Haverford College

Haverford, Pennsylvania

Undergraduate enrollment: 1,187

The most popular majors among Haverford College’s 1,200 undergraduate students: Biology, Psychology, and English. The small, liberal arts college is one of many well-respected schools nestled in the suburbs of Philadelphia.

Learn more about Haverford College


15. Georgetown University

Georgetown University - Best Colleges in the Northeast

Georgetown Riverview” by PatrickneilOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

Washington, D.C.

Undergraduate enrollment: 7,636

Located in Washington, D.C., GU is a private research university with more than 7,600 undergrads enrolled. Its Law and Public Policy programs are among the top in the nation, and President Bill Clinton is just one of the many notable alumni to study at this top-tier institution.

Learn more about Georgetown University


14. Cornell University

Cornell University - Best Colleges in the Northeast

Matt Hintsa via Flickr

Ithaca, NY

Undergraduate enrollment: 14,393

Cornell is a private, Ivy League research university that enrolls more than 14,000 undergraduates each year, with students studying in such programs at Biology, Hotel Administration, and Labor and Industrial Relations. The historic campus is both scenic and surrounded by natural beauty in the Finger Lakes region of New York. It sits just near Cayuga Lake.

Learn more about Cornell University


13. Bowdoin College

Brunswick, ME

Undergraduate enrollment: 1,795

Nearly 1,800 undergraduates are enrolled at Bowdoin, a private liberal arts school that is often given the distinction of being a “New Ivy League” college. Students at this college in Maine can choose from any number of majors, although it may be best known for its top-notch Government and Legal Studies programs.

Learn more about Bowdoin College


12. Wellesley College

Wellesley, MA

Undergraduate enrollment: 2,474

Wellesley University, a private liberal arts college, is often regarded as the top women’s college in the U.S. Along with offering excellent educational opportunities from 32 academic departments, Wellesley also allows students to take advantage of educational partnership programs with other top-tier colleges, such as Harvard, Olin, MIT, Babson, and more.

Learn more about Wellesley College


11. Brown University

Brown University - Best Colleges in the Northeast

Brown university robinson hall 2009a” by chensiyuan – chensiyuan. Licensed under GFDL via Commons.

Providence, RI

Undergraduate enrollment: 6,455

Brown University is well known for its unique “New Curriculum”, which has no general education course requirements and instead allows students to build a class schedule entirely of their own choosing. Students at this Ivy League college are then graded as simply having completed the course in a “satisfactory” manor or receive a mark of “unrecorded no-credit”.

Learn more about Brown University


10. Amherst College

Amherst College - Best Colleges in the Northeast

Source: Flickr user David Brooks.

Amherst, MA

Undergraduate enrollment: 1,785

Approximately 1,800 undergrads call Amherst College home. The small, private liberal arts college allows students to create a curriculum of their own choosing from numerous interdisciplinary programs. Each student is paired with a faculty advisor, who works with the student to guide their curriculum selection process. The student-to-advisor ratio is just 5:1.

Learn more about Amherst College


9. Dartmouth College

Dartmouth College - Best Colleges in the Northeast

Dartmouth College campus 2007-10-20 09” by Kane5187Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

Hanover, NH

Undergraduate enrollment: 4,267

The smallest college in the Ivy League, Dartmouth is home to about 4,200 undergraduate students. The Dartmouth Plan, or the “D-Plan” as it’s often known, is an unconventional academic calendar practiced at Dartmouth, which has classes run in four, 10-week blocks.

Learn more about Darthmouth College


8. Swarthmore College

Swarthmore, PA

Undergraduate enrollment: 1,534

Swarthmore is a small, liberal arts college just outside of Philadelphia. Political Science, Biology, and Economics are three of the most popular majors for the college’s 1,500 undergrads. Swarthmore is a member of “Tri-College Consortium” along with Bryn Mawr and Haverford. Students at each of these schools share library facilities and are able to cross-register for courses offered at any of the three.

Learn more about Swarthmore College


7. Williams College

Williams College - Best Colleges in the Northeast

Ephtowers” by SERSeanCrane – Flickr. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons.

Williamstown, MA

Undergraduate enrollment: 2,046

Williams College is a private liberal arts school with approximately 2,000 undergraduate students. There are four separate “Neighborhoods” around campus, where undergraduate students of all levels live together. First-year students live in groups of 20, alongside two juniors.

Learn more about Williams College


6. Columbia University in the City of New York

New York, NY

Undergraduate enrollment: 7,970

Columbia is one of the oldest colleges in the United States, originally named King’s College before the Revolutionary War took place. The Manhattan campus houses more than 7,900 undergraduate students from around the country and around the world.

Learn more about Columbia University in the City of New York


5. University of Pennsylvania

University of Pennsylvania - Best Colleges in the Northeast

Bryan Y.W. Shin via Wikimedia Commons

Philadelphia, PA

Undergraduate enrollment: 11,525

The three most popular undergrad majors among UPenn’s 11,500 undergraduate students are Finance, Nursing, and Economics. Penn boasts the highest graduation rate of any college in Pennsylvania, with 87% of all students obtaining a degree within 4 years. The campus is located in Philly proper.

Learn more about University of Pennsylvania


4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Massachusetts Institute of Technology - Best Colleges in the Northeast

MIT Main Campus Aerial” by DrKennethOwn work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons.

Cambridge, MA

Undergraduate enrollment: 4,357

The MIT Engineers–their sports teams, as well as many of their students–count more than 4,300 undergraduates among their ranks. Located near Boston, this college is one of the most highly-regarding scientific and engineering research universities in the world.

Learn more about Massachusetts Institute of Technology


3. Yale University

Yale University - Best Colleges in the Northeast

Yale Peabody Museum 2“. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

New Haven, CT

Undergraduate enrollment: 5,430

Approximately 5,400 undergraduate students are enrolled at Yale, which is one of the world’s most famous institutions of higher education with and endowment over $25 billion. Well known for academic excellence in nearly all areas, Yale University is especially known for producing a huge number of U.S. politicians, including five former Presidents and hundreds of members of Congress.

Learn more about Yale University


2. Harvard University

Harvard University - Best Colleges in the Northeast

Chensiyuan via Wikimedia Commons

Cambridge, MA

Undergraduate enrollment: 10,534

Harvard enrolls about 10,500 undergrads on its campus in the greater Boston area. It neighbors many other prestigious and well-known colleges, including MIT and Boston University. As one of the nation’s best and most well-respected colleges, Harvard also boasts the largest endowment (more than $36 billion) of any college in the U.S.

Learn more about Harvard University


1. Princeton University

Princeton University - Best Colleges in the Northeast

Princeton (6035183309)” by popejon2 from Paddington, Australia – PrincetonUploaded by russavia. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons.

Princeton, NJ

Undergraduate population: 5,323

Among the 5,300 undergraduate students at Princeton University, Economics, Political Science, and Public Policy are some of the top majors. Princeton is one of the oldest colleges in the U.S. and once housed the United States government for a short period of time in the oldest campus building, Nassau Hall.

Learn more about Princeton University

About our 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

View all of the 2016 Best Colleges rankings from College Raptor

Tyler Hakes

4 thoughts on “The 25 Best Colleges in the Northeast – 2016 University Rankings”

  1. Christine Carrington says:

    outstanding descriptions of schools in the Northeast. Would love to get additional info on diversity, financial aid, application process. Thank you

    1. Allison Wignall Allison Wignall says:

      Christine, you can visit each college’s page by clicking the link that says “Learn more about this college”, where you’ll find a lot more information about each school!

  2. Bobby G says:

    Great list. What happened to Middlebury?

    1. Allison Wignall Allison Wignall says:

      Hi Bobby! Though Middlebury didn’t rank on this list in 2016, it did rank on our 2017 list of Best Colleges in the Northeast!

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