The 25 Best Small Colleges – 2016 University Rankings

A gold star badge that says "College Raptor Top 25 Small College 2016."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 best 25 small colleges in the U.S.:


25. Pitzer College

Cactuses in front of the stone Pitzer College entrance sign.

Source: Flickr user CampusGrotto.

Claremont, CA

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.

Learn more about Pitzer College


24. Connecticut College

Harkness Chapel on the campus of Connecticut College during autumn.

Source: Flickr user slack12.

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.

Learn more about Connecticut College


23. Centre College

Centre College red brick building with white columns.

Arwcheek via Wikimedia Commons

Danville, KY

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.

Learn more about Centre College


22. Reed College

Portland, OR

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.

Learn more about Reed College


21. St Mary’s College of Maryland

Calvert Hall of St. Mary's College of Maryland on a late fall evening.

Source: Flickr user Rebecca.

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.

Learn more about St Mary’s College of Maryland

20. Sewanee – The University of the South

Sewanee old stone chapel building covered in green ivy.

Source: Flickr user auvet.

Sewanee, TN

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.

Learn more about Sewanee – The University of the South


19. Whitman College

Campus lawn of Whitman College during early spring with building in the distance.

Adamsofen via Wikimedia Commons

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.

Learn more about Whitman College


18. Bates College

Students walking through a snow covered campus at Bates College.

Source: Flickr user davidgalestudios.

Lewiston, ME

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 students spend 3 years at Bates and 2 years at a college such as Case Western, Dartmouth, or Columbia.

Learn more about Bates College


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17. Bryn Mawr College

A student hiking through the snow in front of a Bryn Mawr College building.

Alex Brey via Flickr

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.

Learn more about Bryn Mawr College

16. Kenyon College

Leaves scattered around the lawn of Ransom Hall in Kenyon College.

Source: Flickr user curtsm.

Gambier, OH

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.

Learn more about Kenyon College


15. Scripps College

Tree-filled Balch Hall courtyard at Scripps College.

Source: Wikipedia, public domain

Claremont, California

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.

Learn more about Scripps College

14. Colby College

Miller Library on a sunny day at Colby College.

Source: Flickr user metimbers2009.

Waterville, ME

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.

Learn more about Colby College

13. Grinnell College

Grinnell, IA

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.

Learn more about Grinnell College


12. Hamilton College

Chapel building in the Hamilton College campus.

Source: Flickr user chuckthewriter.

Clinton, NY

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.

Learn more about Hamilton College


11. Davidson College

Student sitting on the lawn at the east side of Chambers in Davidson College.

Source: Flickr user melystu.

Davidson, NC

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.

Learn more about Davidson College


10. Harvey Mudd College

Harvey Mudd College entrance sign and building on a sunny day.

CampusGrotto via Flickr

Claremont, CA

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.

Learn more about Harvey Mudd College


9. Soka University of America

Student Center Building at Soka University of America.

Bobak Ha’Eri via Wikimedia Commons

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.

Learn more about Soka University of America


8. Haverford College

Haverford, Pennsylvania

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.

Learn more about Haverford College


7. Claremont McKenna College

Kravis Center at Claremont McKenna College panoramic view.

“View of CMC’s campus from the Kravis Center” by Source (WP:NFCC#4). Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia

Claremont, California

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.

Learn more about Claremont McKenna College


6. Washington and Lee University

Lexington, VA

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.

Learn more about Washington and Lee University


5. Bowdoin College

Brunswick, ME

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.

Learn more about Bowdoin College


4. Amherst College

Red brick and white columns of a Amherst College building at a low angle.

Source: Flickr user David Brooks.

Amherst, MA

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.

Learn more about Amherst College


3. Swarthmore College

Swarthmore, PA

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.

Learn more about Swarthmore College


2. California Institute of Technology

The Walter and Leonore Annenberg Center at California Institute of Technology.

Source: Flickr user joebehr.

Pasadena, CA

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.

Learn more about California Institute of Technology


1. Pomona College

Pomona College Campus Center and water fountain at dusk.

Source: Flickr user wlcarchitectsphotography.

Claremont, CA

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.

Learn more about Pomona College

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

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