Hidden Gems in the City | 2020 Rankings

Hidden gems - colleges in citiesSometimes the very best things are hidden away in plain sight. That sentiment applies to certain colleges as well. While many students are drawn to attend schools in larger cities, it is great to have a smaller community to call home. And that’s why we wanted to highlight some truly special schools that are located in cities.

For this list, we highlight Hidden Gem schools whose campuses are located in mid-sized and large cities. 

To qualify as a College Raptor Hidden Gem, a school must meet the following requirements:

  • Receive fewer than 5,000 applications a year
  • Have fewer than 7,000 undergraduate students enrolled

If you favor big city living, you’ll want to consider these colleges and universities. Check them out!

Hidden Gems in the City

The renowned music school is highly competitive when it comes to admissions---with an 8% acceptance rate. Along with test scores and recommendations, an audition required component when applying to Juilliard. The school has extremely small class sizes, with 5 students for every 1 faculty member.
Location New York, NY
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 942
The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art is more commonly called Cooper Union. It’s located on Manhattan Island, and their official school colors are maroon and gold. Cooper Union offers seven total majors: Fine Arts, Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Architecture, Chemical Engineering, Civil Engineering, and General Engineering.
Location New York, NY
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 952
Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) is well known for their artistic programs. They’ve graduated many notable alumni, including actor James Franco, animator Michael Dante DiMartino, writer/illustrator Bryan Konietzko, and comedian Seth McFarlane. Illustration is the most popular major on campus.
Location Providence, RI
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,467
Yeshiva has small class sizes of approximately 7 students for every 1 faculty member. Popular majors studied in these classrooms include Biology, Accounting, and Psychology. The school has four campuses located in New York City, and also has affiliated high schools from which over 1,000 students later enroll.
Location New York, NY
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 6,479
Muhlenberg College was founded in 1848 and moved to its current location in Allentown in 1905. The college is fairly selective, with a 62% acceptance rate. Muhlenberg College’s most popular majors and programs include Business Administration and Management, Psychology, and Drama.
Location Allentown, PA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,340
UNSCA is a truly unique school. It’s a coeducational conservatory that offers degrees to high school, undergraduate, and graduate students. It has a total of 5 professional schools---the Schools of Dance, Design & Production, Drama, Filmmaking, and Music. UNSCA is one of the younger universities in the US---founded only in 1963.
Location Winston-Salem, NC
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 1,042
Students at this college go by the nickname of the Mighty Oaks, with their mascot being Oakie the Acorn. The nickname and mascot are fitting considering the college’s focus on the “management and sustainability of the environment and natural resources.” SUNY ESF accepts approximately 61% of its applicants.
Location Syracuse, NY
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 2,220
The New England Conservatory of Music is renowned for its music programs, and it’s also a National Historic Landmark. Students at the conservatory can get up to a doctoral degree. The school is very selective, as only 36% of applicants are accepted. A large part of the acceptance process is a live audition.
Location Boston, MA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 838
“Macte virtute sic itur ad astra” is the official school motto of the Manhattan School of Music, meaning “Those who excel, thus reach the stars.” A number of notable musicians have graduated from the school, including Harry Connick Jr, Charlie Puth, and Herbie Hancock among others.
Location New York, NY
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,008
Point Loma Nazarene University has undergone seven name changes before settling on its current title in 1998. Their campus is located right next to the Pacific Ocean. Though 75% of incoming students come from California, PLNU has students from all over the country. Green and gold are the school colors.
Location San Diego, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 4,592
While it’s undergraduate program is for women, Simmons does run a coeducational graduate program. Students compete as the Sharks on the athletic fields, playing basketball, crew, field hockey, volleyball, and plenty more. Simmons has a six-year graduation rate of 80%.
Location Boston, MA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 6,082
“Nosse haec omnia salus est” or “To know all this is health” is the official school motto of the University of the Sciences. True to its name, USciences offers up to the doctoral degree level in health-related sciences. They also compete athletically as the Devils, and maroon and slate are the official school colors.
Location Philadelphia, PA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,231
Count Dracula would certainly approve of this university’s name, color (crimson), and mascot (Raf the Bat). Though he might not appreciate their motto---In Lumine Illo Tradimus Lumen---“In That Light, We Pass On The Light.” Transylvania University has a 75% six year graduation rate, and an 82% freshman retention rate.
Location Lexington, KY
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 987
Fashion is the passion at FIDM. Los Angeles is the home of the main campus, and has been featured in a number of Project Runway shows. FIDM boasts a first year retention rate of 91%. Business Management & Marketing is by far and away the most popular major on the LA campus.
Location Los Angeles, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,221
Maroon and gold are the official school colors of Calvin. On the athletic fields, students compete as the Knights. Popular sports include track, lacrosse, soccer, and swimming, among others. Engineering is the most popular major, followed by Business and Registered Nursing.
Location Grand Rapids, MI
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 3,732
The Cleveland Institute of Music may be small, but their graduates go on to become skilled musicians, composers, and performers. They offer only one major---Music Performance. CIM is a relatively selective school, with a 37% acceptance rate. They have a very close-knit 5:1 student-to-faculty ratio.
Location Cleveland, OH
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 402
The School of Visual Arts offers 11 undergraduate, and 22 graduate programs, all centering around the arts. The most popular majors include Graphic Design, Illustration, and Photography. SVA has buildings in the Gramercy Park and Chelsea neighborhoods. Notable alumni include Steve Ditko, Rebecca Sugar, Gerard Way, and Michael Giacchino.
Location New York, NY
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 4,390
Located near the Ashley River, the Citadel Military College---often simply called the Citadel---is one of 6 US senior military colleges. 21 Fulbright scholars graduated from the Citadel. Business Administration, Criminal Justice / Law Enforcement, and Civil Engineering are the most popular majors.
Location Charleston, SC
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 3,763
The University of Minnesota -- Rochester, also known as UMR, is one of the youngest college campuses in the US---established in 2006. Of the 1,080 applications UMR receives, the school will accept half of them. They have an 80% freshman acceptance rate.
Location Rochester, MN
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 533
Maryland Institute College of Art is one of the first art colleges founded in the U.S. The college offers up to a Master’s degree. It’s a somewhat selective school, with 64% of applicants accepted. The most popular majors and programs offered are Graphic Design, Illustration, and Painting.
Location Baltimore, MD
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,178
The Purple Aces call the University of Evansville home. Their official school colors are purple, white, and orange. Basketball, swimming & diving, track, and soccer are popular sports to play. For every 11 students on campus, Evansville has 1 faculty member. Their school motto is “Civic Mission...Sacred Trust.”
Location Evansville, IN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,443
Massachusetts College of Art and Design is more often called simply MassArt. While 66% of the incoming class come from Massachusetts, many others come from the surrounding New England area. Illustration, Graphic Design, Film, Fashion Design, and Photography are the most popular majors.
Location Boston, MA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 2,087
Students at the Milwaukee School of Engineering---also known as MSOE---wear red and white to cheer on mascot Roscoe the Raider during sports competitions. Their campus is located not far from Milwaukee Bay on the mighty Lake Michigan. Mechanical Engineering is by far and away the most popular major at MSOE.
Location Milwaukee, WI
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,820
Rockhurst University’s motto is “Sapientia Aedificavit Sibi Domum,” which translates to “Wisdom has built herself a home.” The university accepts around 66% of all applicants, and most freshmen return to the school for their sophomore year. Over 66% of first-year students attending Rockhurst University are from Missouri.
Location Kansas City, MO
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 3,145
The Illinois Institute of Technology is more commonly called Illinois Tech or IIT. Their inspirational school motto is: “Transforming Lives. Inventing the Future.” Incoming students score, on average, between 26 and 31 on the ACT, and between 1120 and 1400 on the SAT. IIT’s most popular major is Architecture.
Location Chicago, IL
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 6,753

Interested in any of these schools? Check out College Raptor’s free match tool to see if they’re a good fit for you!

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.

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