Hidden Gems in the Southeast | 2020 Rankings

Hidden gems - schools in the southeast

The Southeast portion of the US is known for a great many things—history, great food, and hospitality among them. But what doesn’t get quite as much attention are the great schools in the Southeast. So we wanted to highlight those schools that might be overlooked at first glance, but deserve recognition. 

For the purposes of this list, we’ve included the following states as part of the Southeast: Alabama, Arkansas,  Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi,  North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. 

To qualify as a College Raptor Hidden Gem, schools must meet the following criteria:

  • Receive 5,000 or fewer applications
  • Have 7,000 or fewer undergraduate students

We’ve included the top three highest ranking gem schools for each state; but if you see only one or two, it just means those were the only schools to meet our criteria. 

Call the Southeast home? Considering some schools in the Southeast? Then you’ll want to check out these Southeast Hidden Gems.

Hidden Gems in the Southeast

Alabama

Most incoming students at Samford University come from either Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, or Florida. Graduates of Samford include Emmy and Grammy award-winning artists, Nobel Peace Prize winners, sports legends, and notable politicians, among many other successful careers.
Location Birmingham, AL
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 5,619
The highest degree offered at Birmingham Southern College is the bachelor’s, which is why the campus is populated by 100% undergraduate students. The top 5 most popular majors at BSC are Business, Biology, Psychology, Mathematics, and Teacher Education. Sports teams compete as the Panthers.
Location Birmingham, AL
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,268
The University of Montevallo is the only public liberal arts college in Alabama. Interestingly, there are far more women on campus than men. 67% of the undergraduate class are women, and so are 77% of the graduate students. Health and Physical Education is the most popular major on campus.
Location Montevallo, AL
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 2,612

Arkansas

Hendrix College awards up to the Master’s degree level, though almost all current students are undergraduates. Hendrix College’s motto is written in Ancient Greek. Translated, it reads “Unto the whole person.” The school offers multiple majors and programs, with the most popular ones being Biology, Psychology, and Economics.
Location Conway, AR
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,208
While the highest concentration of incoming students come from Arkansas (37%, in fact), other students come from all over the country---including 41 different states. Both undergraduate and graduate students study on JBU’s campus, though there are far more undergrads. Incoming freshmen score an average of 23--30 on the ACT, and 1110--1365 on the SAT.
Location Siloam Springs, AR
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,516
Ouachita Baptist University’s motto is “Vision. Integrity. Service.” At this liberal arts school, the most popular majors include Biology, Elementary Education and Teaching, and Psychology. Students attending the university will find a number of on-campus residences to live in, though they can opt to live off campus instead. Around 60% of all students are from Arkansas.
Location Arkadelphia, AR
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,660

Florida

The majority of students currently enrolled at the New College of Florida as undergrads are women---62%, to be precise. Class sizes are approximately 8 students for every 1 faculty member. The campus is located right on Sarasota Bay. 81% of the incoming class is from Florida.
Location Sarasota, FL
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 837
Much about Eckerd is nautical themed---from its logo (a seashell), its colors (teal, navy, and black) and its sports teams (the Tritons). It makes sense, as Eckerd is located between Boca Ciega Bay and Tampa Bay. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the two most popular majors at Eckerd are Environmental Studies and Marine Biology.
Location St. Petersburg, FL
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,006
Located right off Sarasota Bay, the Ringling College of Art and Design offers BA and BFA degrees. They’ve undergone several name changes before landing on the current one---an earlier version was quite the mouthful: The School of Fine and Applied Art of the John and Mable Ringling Art Museum. Their most popular major is Illustration.
Location Sarasota, FL
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,561

Georgia

The average ACT and SAT scores of students accepted into Covenant College range from 23--30 and 1,120--1,350 respectively. Popular majors at the school include English, Biology, and Psychology. Outside the classroom, Covenant college competes as the Scots. They have nearly 230 student athletes.
Location Lookout Mountain, GA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,046
Berry College has one of the largest campuses in the US, with over 27,000 acres of land. However, there are only over 2,000 students attending this spacious campus. Students can expect an average class to have 11 students to every 1 faculty member. Some popular majors offered at Berry College include Zoology, Psychology, and Kinesiology and Exercise Science.
Location Mount Berry, GA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,014
Georgia College & State University has undergone 5 different name changes before settling on this one in 1996---though many still refer to it as just Georgia College. GC’s mascot is the Bobcat, and their school colors are blue and green. Registered Nursing is the most popular major, followed quickly by Marketing and Business Administration.
Location Milledgeville, GA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 6,989

Kentucky

This college’s motto, translated from Latin, means “Learning is the Light of the Mind.” It’s fitting, then, that their official school colors are white and yellow. Since the bachelor’s is the highest degree offered, you’ll find only undergraduate students on campus. They have 510 student athletes competing at the college.
Location Danville, KY
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,434
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
Founded in 1855, Berea College was the very first coeducational, non-segregated college that admitted both white and black students in the South. Of the nearly 1,580 applications sent in, Berea College accepts about 600 of them---giving them an acceptance rate of 38%.
Location Berea, KY
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,673

Louisiana

At Loyola University’s New Orleans branch, 99% of the student body receives grant aid. Popular majors include Psychology, Music Management, Business and Public Relations. The student to faculty ratio is 12 students for every 1 faculty member. Their mascot is Havoc T. Wolf, and students compete as the Wolf Pack.
Location New Orleans, LA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 4,261
Students can earn up to a master’s degree at Centenary College of Louisiana. Basketball, soccer, swimming, are popular sports on campus. Centenary was the first college established in Louisiana. For every 9 students, there is 1 faculty member at Centenary. A whopping 94% of the student body studies at the undergraduate level.
Location Shreveport, LA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 585
Most students attending McNeese State University come from either Louisiana or Texas. Registered Nursing is the most popular major, followed closely by General Studies and Business Administration. MSU students compete as the Cowboys or Cowgirls, wearing royal blue and sunflower gold. Their mascot is named Rowdy.
Location Lake Charles, LA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 7,647

Mississippi

Ad Excellentiam---in pursuit of excellence---is a great motto for any school, but is the official phrase for Millsaps College. Business Administration, Biology, Psychology, Accounting, and Biochemistry are the top five most popular majors on campus. They have a 9:1 student-to-faculty ratio.
Location Jackson, MS
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 865
Mississippi College receives around 2,220 applications each year, but only accepts 38% of them. Most of the incoming students come from Mississippi, many others come from the neighboring states of Alabama and Louisiana. MC’s school colors are blue and gold, and they compete at the NCAA Division II with football.
Location Cliton, MS
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 5,103
Red, black, and white are the school colors of William Carey University. Their nickname is the Crusaders, and their logo features a knight with a shield. The school underwent several name changes over the years, before settling on William Carey University in 2006. The most popular major on campus is Registered Nursing.
Location Hattiesburg, MS
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 5,042

North Carolina

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
UNC Asheville’s school motto Levo Oculos Meos In Montes---I Lift My Eyes to the Mountains---is appropriate considering the campus has a great view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Additionally, their school seal features an image of three peaks. UNC Asheville has a rather high acceptance rate at 94%.
Location Asheville, NC
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 3,762
Meredith College is a women’s liberal arts school. While all of the undergraduate students are women, Meredith College does allow men to study at the graduate level. 87% of first-year Meredith students come from North Carolina. They have a very unique team name for their athletics programs---the Avenging Angels.
Location Raleigh, NC
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,905

South Carolina

Wofford College’s latin motto is Intaminatis fulget honoribus, translating to mean “Shines with unsullied honors.” 100% of the students on campus study at the undergraduate level, as the bachelor’s is the highest degree offered. On average, incoming freshmen score between 27--30 on the ACT 1180---1350 on the SAT.
Location Spartanburg, SC
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,666
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
Petimus Credimus---We seek, we trust---is the motto of Bob Jones University. 89% of the student body studies at the undergraduate level. BJU accepts a majority of the applications sent in to them---86% to be precise. Only about 28% of the incoming students on campus come from South Carolina, the rest mainly come from the eastern portion of the US.
Location Greenville, SC
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 3,005

Tennessee

Sewanee’s school motto may be long, but it is powerful. Ecce quam bonum et quam iucundum habitare fratres in unum: “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” Economics, Psychology, English, International Studies, and History are the most popular major on this campus.
Location Sewanee, TN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,785
Registered Nursing, Organizational Leadership, Social Work, Psychology, and Business Administration are the five most popular majors at Union University. Union has an 88% first year retention rate. Known as the Bulldogs, Union athletes compete in NCAA Division II sports---including baseball, basketball, and soccer among others.
Location Jackson, TN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 3,247
Located on Buffalo Creek, Milligan College students compete as the Buffaloes in their athletics programs. A majority of their students (67% to be precise) study at the undergraduate level. Registered Nursing is the most popular major on campus, followed by Business Administration.
Location Milligan College, TN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,225

Virginia

The Virginia Military Institute certainly has an interesting mascot---Moe the Kangaroo. VMI also has a total of three school colors: red, yellow, and white. The Institute has a 51% acceptance rate, and a first year retention rate of 89%. While about 60% of the first-year students do come from Virginia, many come across the country as well.
Location Lexington, VA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 1,685
Black and lemon are the school colors of Randolph-Macon College; suiting colors for the Yellowjacket athletics teams. Communication, Business, and Biology are the three most popular majors on campus. 86% of incoming students return for a second year of study. Nearly 74% of RMC’s first-year student body come from Virginia.
Location Ashland, VA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,488
Founded in late 1775, Hampden-Sydney College was the last college founded before the Declaration of Independence was written. It’s also one of the last remaining all-men’s colleges in the United States. Their motto, fittingly, is Huc venite iuvenes ut exeatis viri---“Come here as boys so you may leave as men.”
Location Hampden-Sydney, VA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,072

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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