Hidden Gems Colleges in the Southeast | 2022 Rankings

What do you think about when you hear “the Southeast?” Many think about southern hospitality, comfort food, warm weather, and history. You should add amazing colleges to that list. While there are powerhouse colleges in the Southeast, there are also a bunch of great schools that fly a more under the radar. That’s why we wanted to put them in the spotlight.

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

  • Receive fewer than 5,000 applications per year
  • Have fewer than 7,000 undergraduate students
  • Offer 5 or more unique majors
  • Have a 10% acceptance rate or higher

The Southeast consists of the following states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Hidden Gems in the Southeast

ALABAMA

Samford University accepts about 84% of students. Many will go on to major in Pharmaceutical Sciences, Registered Nursing, and Journalism. Originally known as Howard College, it was founded in 1841. It is affiliated with Christianity and was converted to a military hospital during the Civil War. 63% of the student body study at the undergraduate level.
Location Birmingham, AL
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 5,692
Birmingham – Southern College is affiliated with the United Methodist Church. The college has a first year retention rate of 80% and student to faculty ratio of 11 to 1. Business Administration and Management is the most popular major, followed by Biology, Health Services, and Psychology. Athletes are known as the Panthers and wear black and gold.
Location Birmingham, AL
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,209
The University of Montevallo accepts 61% of applicants and has a 13 to 1 student to faculty ratio. It is Alabama’s only public liberal arts college. Their motto is “You Belong at Montevallo.” Part of the NCAA Division II, the Falcons participate in the Gulf South Conference in track, baseball, basketball, and more.
Location Montevallo, AL
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 2,553

ARKANSAS

Almost all students who attend Hendrix College are undergraduates, with Psychology, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Biology, and Economics being the most popular majors. The school’s motto is “εἰς ἄνδρα τέλειον” which is Ancient Greek for “Unto the whole person.” Known as The Warriors, students compete in the Southern Athletic Association.
Location Conway, AR
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,121
Harding University is the largest private university in the state of Arkansas. Popular majors include Accounting, Registered Nursing, and Elementary Education and Teaching. The Bisons wear black and gold competing in the Great American Conference. The school has a 15 to 1 student to faculty ratio.
Location Searcy, AR
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 4,879
John Brown University’s campus is on 200 acres. The university has a 14 to 1 student to faculty ratio, 82% first year retention rate, and a 59% acceptance rate. Psychology is the most commonly chosen major, followed up by Registered Nursing and Graphic Design. 96% of students receive institutional financial aid.
Location Siloam Springs, AR
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,319

FLORIDA

The New College of Florida is a liberal arts school that’s part of the State University System of Florida. The school has a contract system – instead of grades, students are given written evaluations and semester-long contracts, agreeing to pass a certain number of classes each semester. The idea behind this is that it encourages academic experimentation and curiosity for other topics.
Location Sarasota, FL
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 726
Located on Sarasota Bay, the Ringling College of Art and Design is a small school that offers up to the bachelor’s degree. 95% of students receive institutional financial aid to help cover college costs. Animation is the most popular major, followed by Illustration and Art Studies. It’s name is often shortened to RCAD.
Location Sarasota, FL
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,658
93% of students at Hobe Sound Bible College study at the undergraduate level, though the school offers up to the master’s level. Hobe Sound Bible College has an 11:1 student to faculty ratio and a 75% 4-year graduation rate. It was founded in 1960 and became accredited in 1986 by the The Association for Biblical Higher Education.
Location Hobe Sound, FL
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 177

GEORGIA

One of the Seven Sisters, Agnes Scott College is a women’s undergraduate school, but offers co-educational graduate programs as well. The school underwent many name changes since it was founded in 1889, starting with the Decatur Female Seminary. The school has a number of interesting long standing traditions including Class Colors, Pestle Board, and Black Cat.
Location Decatur, GA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,067
Blue and Silver are the colors of the Berry College Vikings. Keeping in theme, their stadium is even known as Valhalla. Popular sports include basketball, lacrosse, soccer, diving, and track. 60% of the undergraduate class are women. The school does not charge students application fees. 73% of the incoming class call Georgia home.
Location Mount Berry, GA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,034
Kinesiology, Registered Nursing, Business, Marketing, and Experimental Psychology are the top 5 most popular majors at Georgia College and State University. Originally a vocational college for women, it became coeducational in 1967. One of Georgia College & State University’s most notable alumni is famed writer Flannery O’Connor.
Location Milledgeville, GA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 7,031

KENTUCKY 

Centre College’s motto is “Doctrina Lux Mentis,” or “Learning is the Light of the Mind.” The college accepts over 75% of applicants and 80% will graduate within 4 years. The highest degree offered is the bachelor’s, so you’ll only find undergraduate students on campus. Centre College does not charge an application fee for any students interested in attending.
Location Danville, KY
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,411
It may not surprise you that Transylvania University’s school color is crimson, or that its mascot is a bat. Additionally, Halloween is a big deal at this school ending in a tradition called Pumpkinmania. This liberal arts college has a Latin motto, “In Lumine Illo Tradimus Lumen” which means “In That Light, We Pass on the Light.”
Location Lexington, KY
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 946
A selective school, Berea College has an acceptance rate of only 33%. Berea has a 10:1 student-to-faculty ratio and a first year retention rate of 84%. Biology, Computer Science, Health and Physical Education, Mass Communication, and Business are the top 5 most popular majors. The school colors are blue and white.
Location Berea, KY
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,688

LOUISIANA 

The Centenary College of Louisiana is the oldest chartered liberal arts college west of the Mississippi River, having been founded in 1825 originally as the College of Louisiana. Students can benefit from a 9 to 1 student to faculty ratio and experience the 65 acre campus which has over 300 species of plant life. Quite a few students will go on to major in Biology.
Location Shreveport, LA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 574
“Excellence With A Personal Touch” is McNeese State University’s official motto. 91% of students on campus study at the undergraduate level, though the school offers up to the doctor’s degree. There are 389 student-athletes at McNeese who compete in a variety of sports including track, football, and golf. Their teams are known as the Cowboys and Cowgirls.
Location Lake Charles, LA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 7,295
Located along the Bayou Lafourche, Nicholls State University was founded in 1948. A whopping 96% of incoming students are from Louisiana. Alumni of NSU have gone on to become notable professional athletes, politicians, entertainers, and academics. Red and gray are the official colors of the NSU Colonels sports teams.
Location Thibodaux, LA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 6,491

MISSISSIPPI

A very small school, Millsaps College was founded in 1890. The college has produced several notable alumni including Johnny Carson, Vic Roby, and Gary Burghoff, among others. They accept 70% of applicants, with 75% staying after their first year at the school. The most commonly chosen major is Business, followed by Biology and Psychology.
Location Jackson, MS
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 820
William Carey University has a 15:1 student-to-faculty ratio. Registered Nursing is the most popular major at the school. This liberal arts university was founded in 1892. The original campus was in Poplarville, but a disastrous fire in 1905 forced the school to relocate to its current location in Hattiesburg.
Location Hattiesburg, MS
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 5,040
“Veritas et Virtus” is the motto of Mississippi College, meaning “Truth and Virtue.” Blue and gold are the colors of MC. 62% of the students on campus study at the undergraduate level, meaning the remaining 38% are graduate students. The school is rather selective, with only a 29% acceptance rate.
Location Clinton, MS
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 5,103

NORTH CAROLINA

The University of North Carolina School of the Arts, or UNCSA, was the first public arts conservatory in the country. They have five professional schools which are the School of Dance, School of Design & Production, School of Filmmaking, School of Drama, and School of Music. Cinematography and Film Production and Technical Theatre are common majors.
Location Winston-Salem, NC
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 1,086
A women’s college, Meredith offers nearly 40 different majors. Psychology, Biology, Business, Child Development, and Marketing are the most popular of them. The sports teams are known as the Avenging Angels. Maroon and white are the official school colors. 85% of the incoming class call North Carolina home.
Location Raleigh, NC
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,810
The oldest women’s college in the south, Salem College was founded in 1772, four years before America’s independence in 1776. Salem is a liberal arts school that offers institutional financial aid to 98% of its students. There is an 11:1 student to faculty ratio and a 76% first-year retention rate. Business is the most popular major.
Location Winston-Salem, NC
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 709

SOUTH CAROLINA

Founded in 1854, Wofford College is one of the few southeastern schools that was founded prior to the American Civil War that still exists today. The school has an 11:1 student-to-faculty ratio and an impressive 92% freshman retention rate. Wofford has a rather unique mascot - a terrier. Old gold and black are the school colors.
Location Spartanburg, SC
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,720
Often referred to as simply the Citadel, this school has a patriotic motto of “Honor, Duty, Respect.” It’s campus is located on the Ashley River. Though a military college, the most popular majors include Business, Mechanical Engineering, and Criminal Justice. The school colors are Citadel blue, navy, and white.
Location Charleston, SC
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 3,767
“Petimus Credimus” is the Latin motto of Bob Jones University, which means “We Seek, We Trust.” The school offers up to the doctor’s degree, though 88% of the students study at the undergraduate level. Blue and white are the colors of the BJU Bruins, whose mascot is a bear named Brody.
Location Greenville, SC
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 3,008

TENNESSEE

More commonly known as Sewanee, The University of the South sits on 13,000 acres. These grounds are more commonly known as “The Domain” or “The Mountain.” They accept 56% of applications and have a 10 to 1 student to faculty ratio. Economics is the most popular major among students, followed by English, International Studies, and Psychology.
Location Sewanee, TN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,768
Purple and gold are the colors of the Lipscomb Bisons sports teams. Their mascot is named LU the Bison. Lipscomb’s most anticipated sporting event is their basketball match with rival Belmont University known as the Battle of the Boulevard. Academically, Lipscomb’s most popular major is Business followed very closely by Nursing.
Location Nashville, TN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 4,595
In addition to cardinal and cream being the colors of the Union University Bulldogs, it serves as the name of the campus paper too. Registered Nursing is by far and away the most popular major at Union. Organizational Leadership, Social Work, and Marketing are also very popular. Though students come from all over the country to attend Union, 64% come from Tennessee.
Location Jackson, TN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 3,172

VIRIGNIA

Originally known as the Augusta Academy and established in 1749, it would later be named after George Washington and Robert E. Lee, the latter of which was the president of the school for five years. With blue and white colors, students and athletes go by the nickname The Generals.
Location Lexington, VA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,264
Abraham Lincoln once called VMI the “West Point of the South.” This military college is located on the Maury River in the Shenandoah Valley. Red, yellow, and white make up the official colors of the VMI Keydets sports teams. VMI has an acceptance rate of 60%, a first year retention rate of 83%, and a six year graduation rate of 85%.
Location Lexington, VA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 1,698
“Levavi Oculos'' is the Latin motto of Hollins University, and it means “Life thine eyes.” Though classified as a women’s college, men are accepted into the graduate programs. Notable alum of Hollins include Pulitzer-prize winning writer Annie Dillard, physicist Mary K. Galliard who helped discover the Higgs boson particle, and photographer Sally Mann.
Location Roanoke, VA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 798

WEST VIRIGNIA 

The most popular majors at West Liberty University include Business, General Studies, and Dental Hygiene. Today, the school offers over 70 undergraduate programs. It is the oldest institution of higher education in West Virginia – founded in 1837. Black and gold are the colors of the WLU Hilltoppers.
Location West Liberty, WV
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 2,496
With a campus located in the bends of the Buckhannon River, West Virginia Wesleyan College is a liberal arts school. It offers up to a doctor’s degree, though 92% are undergraduates. The school has over 520 student athletes known as the Bobcats and Lady Bobcats. Popular sports include track, basketball, baseball, swimming, and soccer.
Location Buckhannon, WV
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,226
Blue and gold are the color of the Shepherd University Rams. There are 300 student athletes. Located on the Potomac River, this school has a 14 to 1 student to faculty ratio. 68% of the first year class comes from West Virginia, with many others coming from Maryland and Virginia. 67% of students receive institutional financial aid to help cover costs.
Location Shepherdstown, WV
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 3,554

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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