Small colleges can be great for students who are looking for a more personal feel around campus. Not only are you likely to get more one-on-one time with your professors, but you could easily know just about everyone on campus.
In our Best Small Colleges rankings, we looked at colleges of all types that enroll fewer than 2,000 undergraduate students. The schools that made our top 25 are diverse–from all-women’s colleges on the east coast, to California schools nestled among the urban sprawl, and quaint midwestern college-town campuses.
These rankings are based on factors including graduation rate, student-to-faculty ratio, endowment size, diversity on campus, and selectivity. This information is gathered from the latest available data submitted to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).
These are the 25 best small colleges in the U.S.:
25. Pitzer College
Undergraduate enrollment: 1,081
Pitzer, the youngest of the Claremont Colleges, is located in southern California. Its enrollment is just under 1,100 undergraduates and stresses the importance of environmental and social responsibility. Popular majors at Pitzer include Psychology, Environmental Science, and Political Science.
24. Connecticut College
New London, CT
Undergraduate enrollment: 1,915
Nestled near the Long Island Sound and Thames River, Connecticut College offers a breathtaking campus where natural beauty abound. Programs and majors include a mix of offerings–everything from Dance and Classics to Computer Science and Environmental Studies.
23. Centre College
Undergraduate enrollment: 1,381
Centre is a liberal arts college located in a small town in central Kentucky. Enrolling only undergraduates, Centre’s total enrollment is about 1,400 students. Its most popular majors are Economics, History, and Biology.
22. Reed College
Undergraduate enrollment: 1,395
Reed is a liberal arts college located just southeast of downtown Portland. The college enrolls about 1,400 undergraduates who commonly choose to study Psychology, Biology and/or English. Reed leads U.S. colleges in the percent of instructors who are full time.
21. St Mary’s College of Maryland
St. Mary’s City, MD
Undergraduate enrollment: 1,819
Waterfront views await students at St Mary’s College of Maryland, which marks the place of St. Mary’s City, Maryland’s first capital in the 17th century. As a “public honors” college, St Mary’s boasts the academic excellence found at private institutions, from a small, public institution.
20. Sewanee – The University of the South
Undergraduate enrollment: 1,620
The University of the South is known for its history of excellence as an intentionally-small, liberal arts college. There are more than 30 available majors, and the school also offers pre-medicine, pre-law, pre-business, and pre-nursing programs.
19. Whitman College
Walla Walla, WA
Undergraduate enrollment: 1,541
Whitman is a liberal arts college located in a small city in southeastern Washington. Its most popular majors are Biology, Psychology, and English, and its total enrollment is around 1,500 undergraduates. Interestingly, the popular card game Magic: The Gathering was invented by students at Whitman.
18. Bates College
Undergraduate enrollment: 1,791
A private liberal arts college located near central Maine, Bates College is known for its world-class educational offerings. Along with offering 35 majors including Neuroscience and American Cultural Studies, Bates also partners with many top-tier engineering colleges to offer a Dual Degree Engineering Program, where student spend 3 years at Bates and 2 years at a college such as Case Western, Dartmouth, or Columbia.
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17. Bryn Mawr College
Bryn Mawr, PA
Undergraduate enrollment: 1,328
Bryn Mawr is a women’s liberal arts college located in the suburbs of Philadelphia. The college enrolls just over 1,300 undergraduates, who make up the most ethnically diverse student body in Pennsylvania. The college’s most popular undergrad major is Mathematics, with English and Psychology in close second and third.
16. Kenyon College
Undergraduate enrollment: 1,705
Known for its remarkable architectural style, Kenyon College is the oldest private college in the state of Ohio. The school offers a wide assortment of majors and concentrations, and requires students to take classes from each of four academic divisions (Natural Sciences, Fine Art, Humanities, Social Sciences). Author John Green (The Fault of Our Stars) graduated from Kenyon College in 2000.
15. Scripps College
Undergraduate enrollment: 990
Located in southern California, Scripps is a liberal arts college and member of the Claremont Colleges. At the undergraduate level, it enrolls about 1,000 students who are (nearly) all women. Popular majors include Biology, Political Science, and Psychology.
14. Colby College
Undergraduate enrollment: 1,820
Colby College is a small, private liberal arts college that enrolls about 1,800 undergraduates each year. Although the enrollment is fairly small, the school boasts students from nearly every state and 70 countries worldwide.
13. Grinnell College
Undergraduate enrollment: 1,721
Grinnell College enrolls more than 1,700 students each year. The small, private liberal arts college is located in central Iowa, but offers a unique mix of classic and modern architecture throughout campus. Grinnell’s endowment of nearly $2 billion and small enrollment makes it one of the wealthiest colleges in the country on a per-student basis.
12. Hamilton College
Undergraduate enrollment: 1,926
Often hailed for its “open” curriculum, Hamilton College is known for giving students almost complete freedom in their course selection as well being on the first schools to support making the SAT an optional part of the admissions process. This private, liberal arts college is located in upstate New York and enrolls just under 2,000 undergraduate students per year.
11. Davidson College
Undergraduate enrollment: 1,788
This private liberal arts college is settled in a lakeside college town that shares its name. Davidson College enrolls more than 1,700 undergrads and boasts a unique College Farm area, which provides fresh, naturally-grown produce used in the dining facilities.
10. Harvey Mudd College
Undergraduate enrollment: 807
Harvey Mudd is an undergraduate-only college of science and engineering located in southern California. The college enrolls about 800 students, and, like Claremont McKenna, is a part of the Claremont Colleges consortium. The most popular major among Harvey Mudd students is General Engineering, followed by Computer Science and Math.
9. Soka University of America
Aliso Viejo, CA
Undergraduate enrollment: 412
Soka is located between Los Angeles and San Diego in southern California. The picturesque campus is home to just over 400 undergraduates, all of whom major in Liberal Studies. The college has the highest endowment per student of any U.S. college or university.
8. Haverford College
Undergraduate enrollment: 1,187
Haverford is a liberal arts college located in the suburbs of Philadelphia. The college has a total enrollment of around 1,200 undergraduates, whose most popular major choice is Biology, followed closely by Psychology and then English.
7. Claremont McKenna College
Undergraduate enrollment: 1,316
Claremont McKenna is part of the seven-member Claremont Colleges Consortium located on a shared campus in southern California. While its 1,300 undergraduate students have a wide range of arts and sciences majors to choose from, it is known for its business and social sciences focus.
6. Washington and Lee University
Undergraduate enrollment: 1,855
Washington and Lee University is a private liberal arts college in Virginia that enrolls just under 2,000 students. The school is continuously recognized as one of the most prestigious and academically rigorous in the country.
5. Bowdoin College
Undergraduate enrollment: 1,795
Named as one of the “New Ivies” by Newsweek in 2006, Bowdoin is known for a diverse range of majors, including a world-renowned Government and Legal Studies undergraduate program, which was the most popular among all graduating classes from 2000 to 2009. The private, liberal arts college is located in Maine and enrolls about 1,800 undergraduates.
4. Amherst College
Undergraduate enrollment: 1,785
Amherst College is a private, liberal arts college that enrolls about 1,800 undergraduate students. Students have the freedom to build their own curriculum of interdisciplinary studies. Faculty advisors work with no more than 5 freshmen students each year to help guide them through the process of creating a major.
3. Swarthmore College
Undergraduate enrollment: 1,534
Swarthmore is a liberal arts college located in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Swarthmore’s approximately 1,500 undergraduates have many majors to choose from, but common choices include Political Science, Biology, and Economics.
2. California Institute of Technology
Undergraduate enrollment: 977
CalTech is primarily a science and engineering university located in southern California. The school serves both undergraduates and graduate students and has a total undergraduate enrollment of around 1,000. Popular majors at CalTech include Mechanical Engineering, Computer Science, and Chemical Engineering.
1. Pomona College
Undergraduate enrollment: 1,610
Pomona College, one of the Claremont Colleges, is an exclusively-undergraduate, private, liberal arts school that enrolls about 1,600 students per year. Students are required to take at least one class from each of 5 areas: Creative Expression; Social Institutions and Human Behavior; History, Values, Ethics and Cultural Studies; Physical and Biological Sciences; and Mathematical Reasoning.
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