Somewhere between the huge classes found at large colleges and the intimate, sometimes-quaint feeling of a small college, there are the schools that offer a bit of both worlds.
Many students seek out medium-sized colleges as a way to feel like they’re moving on from high school, without feeling totally overwhelmed by a 40,000 person university.
For those students, these colleges, with enrollment between 2,000 and 10,000 students, may offer just the experience they’re looking for–small enough for personal attention, but large enough to break out of their comfort zone.
Here are the 25 best medium-sized colleges in the U.S.
25. Barnard College
New York, NY
Undergraduate enrollment: 2,489
Barnard College is a private, women’s liberal arts college located in Manhattan. Originally founded when Columbia College of Columbia University was an all-men’s school, Barnard was established to provide women with access to a quality education equal to Columbia and the rest of the Ivy League.
24. Wesleyan University
Undergraduate enrollment: 2,906
Wesleyan University offers 40 academic departments and 47 major concentrations, as well as the ability for undergraduates to build and complete a custom major. The private, liberal arts college enrolls just less than 3,000 undergraduate students.
23. Middlebury College
Undergraduate enrollment: 2,495
Drawing nearly 2,500 undergraduate students to rural Vermont, Middlebury College is a private liberal arts college that offers 44 different majors. Middlebury was founded in 1800, which makes it one of the oldest liberal arts schools in the country. It was also the first college in the U.S. to offer an environmental studies program, starting in 1965.
22. Johns Hopkins University
Undergraduate enrollment: 6,117
Johns Hopkins University is America’s oldest research university and enrolls more than 6,100 undergraduate students each year. Although probably best known for its medical research and graduate programs, JHU offers undergraduate degrees for a wide array of engineering, science, and art majors. Biomedical engineering is one of their most popular areas of study for undergrads.
21. Tufts University
Undergraduate enrollment: 5,180
Tufts University is a private research university near Boston, which attracts more than 5,100 undergraduate students. Until the late 1970’s, Tufts was a small, liberal arts college. It was later transformed into what is now a world-renowned research university that is regularly regarded as one of the best in the country.
20. Vassar College
Undergraduate enrollment: 2,477
With just under 2,500 undergraduate students, Vassar College is a private liberal arts college located between Albany and New York City. The most popular majors for undergrads are English, political science, psychology, economics, and biology.
19. Carleton College
Undergraduate enrollment: 2,045
Carleton College is a private liberal arts college in Minnesota, which attracts just more than 2,000 undergraduate students. They are known for having some unique course requirements. All undergrads are required to take a first-year argument & inquiry seminar, as well as courses in writing, language, international studies, intercultural domestic studies, arts practice, formal or statistical reasoning, physical education, and other subjects.
18. College of William and Mary
Undergraduate enrollment: 6,271
W&M is a public research university that enrolls more than 6,200 undergraduate students. It’s recognized as a so-called “public Ivy”, offering an education comparable to the Ivy League at a public institution. Notable alumni include Presidents Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and John Tyler.
17. Georgetown University
Undergraduate enrollment: 7,636
Probably best known for its prestigious Law and Public Policy programs, Georgetown University is a private research university that enrolls over 7,500 undergraduates in the nation’s capital, just above the Potomac River. They offer 48 majors across four undergraduate schools and colleges. President Bill Clinton graduated from Georgetown.
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16. Wellesley College
Undergraduate enrollment: 2,474
Wellesley is a private, women’s liberal arts college. It offers 32 academic department majors and 22 additional interdisciplinary majors. Wellesley is also known for its numerous cross-enrollment agreements with colleges such as Harvard, Olin, MIT, Bowdoin, Babson, and others. It’s home to nearly 2,500 undergraduate women.
15. Rice University
Undergraduate enrollment: 3,965
Rice is a private research university located in downtown Houston. The school boasts a student-to-faculty ratio of just 5:1–one of the lowest in the nation–as well as a $5.5 billion endowment. Its 3,965 undergraduate students study in a range of areas, with Biochemistry, Bioengineering, and Mechanical Engineering being the most popular majors.
14. Vanderbilt University
Undergraduate enrollment: 6,835
Vanderbilt University enrolls nearly 7,000 undergraduate students. Its undergraduate programs comprise 70+ academic majors, including the option for students to create their own, offered by one of 4 schools: the College of Arts and Science, the School of Engineering, Peabody College of Education and Human Development, and Blair School of Music. It’s a private research university.
13. Washington University in St. Louis
St. Louis, MO
Undergraduate enrollment: 7,336
Psychology, Finance, and Biology are the three most popular majors among the more than 7,300 undergraduate students attending Washington University in St. Louis. Wash U is heavily involved in research, with more than 60% of undergrads participating in research across all areas.
12. Brown University
Undergraduate enrollment: 6,455
Brown University is a private research university, and one of the eight Ivy League schools. Brown’s “New Curriculum”, established in 1965, eliminated the requirement of general education courses, instead allowing students to take any classes they choose and receive a grade of either “satisfactory” or “unrecorded no-credit”.
11. University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame, IN
Undergraduate enrollment: 8,477
ND is a private research university located in northern Indiana. Of its nearly 8,500 undergraduate students, approximately 8,000 live on campus in one of 29 residence halls. The three most popular undergrad majors at Notre Dame: Finance, Accounting, Political Science.
10. Duke University
Undergraduate enrollment: 6,646
Duke University’s sprawling campus in Durham, NC is home to over 6,600 undergraduate students, contains more than 250 campus buildings, and spans over 8,500 acres of land. Duke offers 46 arts and sciences majors, 4 engineering majors, and the IDEAS program, which allows students to create their own major within the engineering field.
9. Northwestern University
Undergraduate enrollment: 9,283
Touted for their Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern offers a whopping 124 undergraduate majors. Their campus attracts just over 9,000 undergrads.
8. Dartmouth College
Undergraduate enrollment: 4,267
Dartmouth is the smallest college in the Ivy League, enrolling just under 4,300 undergraduate students. Its academic schedule operates on the “D-Plan”, which is made up of four, 10-week terms that run the course of the year.
7. Williams College
Undergraduate enrollment: 2,046
With just over 2,000 undergraduate students, Williams College is a private liberal arts school with an endowment of more than $2 billion. Undergrads living on campus are organized into four geographically separate “Neighborhoods”, where they live among a mix of lower- and upperclassmen.
6. Columbia University in the City of New York
New York, NY
Undergraduate enrollment: 7,970
Just under 8,000 undergraduate students attend Columbia located in Upper Manhattan. As one of the nation’s oldest colleges, Columbia was originally founded as King’s College in 1754 but was renamed after the end of the Revolutionary War.
5. University of Chicago
Undergraduate enrollment: 5,703
More than 5,700 undergrads attend the University of Chicago campus just north of downtown. This private research university is known for many breakthroughs and awards, including Fermi’s creating of the first man-made, self-sustained nuclear reaction and the creation of radiocarbon dating.
4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Undergraduate enrollment: 4,357
As one of the most highly-regarding scientific and engineering research universities in the world, MIT enrolls approximately 4,300 undergrads each year on its campus just outside of Boston. Although their sports mascot is a beaver, MIT’s sports teams are even named The Engineers.
3. Stanford University
Undergraduate enrollment: 7,274
One of the world’s foremost private research universities, Stanford has a long history of alumni entrepreneurs and technology tycoons. Among their ranks, 30 living billionaires call Stanford their alma mater and businesses founded by Cardinal alum generate $2.7 trillion in annual revenue.
2. Yale University
New Haven, CT
Undergraduate enrollment: 5,430
An iconic college known all over the world, Yale’s undergraduate population is just more than 5,400 students. Although lauded in all academic pursuits, Yale is especially notable for having graduated five U.S. Presidents and hundreds of members of the U.S. Congress. Its endowment is more than $25 billion.
1. Princeton University
Undergraduate population: 5,323
Our #1 overall ranked college, Princeton University is one of the oldest and most ubiquitous institutions in the U.S. Nassau Hall, the college’s oldest building, served as the nation’s capital in the summer of 1793. Economics, Political Science, and Public Policy are the three most popular majors for undergraduates.
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