Hidden Gem Colleges in the US | 2023 Rankings

The best treasures are worth looking for and may even be hidden right beneath your nose. That’s true for colleges as well. With our 2023 Hidden Gem Colleges, we highlight colleges and universities that students may not have heard of before. These are all amazing schools and are worth exploring for academic, financial, and social fit.

For this list, we’ve found the top Hidden Gem school in each state — including DC!

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

Curious about the top Hidden Gem Colleges for your state? Check out our map and our list below of schools that deserve more attention!

Hidden Gem Colleges in the US | 2023

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. About 63% of the student body study at the undergraduate level.
Location Birmingham, AL
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 5,729

ALASKA

Known as UAF or simply “Alaska,” is a flagship, land grant, space grant, and sea grant school. Blue and gold are the official colors of UAF and the mascot is Nanook, a mighty polar bear of Inuit legend. With over 100 athletes competing in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, ice hockey, skiing, track, and volleyball are popular sports for the Nanooks.
Location Fairbanks, AK
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 6,813

ARIZONA

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Prescott campus is located just north of a wildlife sanctuary and the Willow Creek Reservoir. Alumni of the school have gone on to have impressive careers as astronauts, scientists, military members, authors, athletes, and politicians. Embry-Riddle has an acceptance rate of 74%.
Location Prescott, AZ
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 3,004

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 1,077

CALIFORNIA

Harvey Mudd College has a little under 900 students and offers programs only related to Science and Engineering. It has an 18% acceptance rate, 92% first year retention rate, and an 8:1 student-to-faculty ratio. Part of the Claremont Colleges, their colors are black and gold. The men’s teams are known as the Stags and the women are known as the Athenas.
Location Claremont, CA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 854

COLORADO

Competing in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, crimson and slate are the colors of Western Colorado University. The school was established in 1901 and today, 80% of students receive institutional financial aid to help cover costs. The admissions process takes academics, leadership potential, diversity of experience, and more into account when admitting students.
Location Gunnison, CO
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 3,203

CONNECTICUT

Eastern Connecticut State University sits on 184 beautiful acres of land and is made up of over 60 buildings. Currently just over 4,600 students are enrolled. With a 76% first year retention rate, the university also has a 14 to 1 student-to-faculty ratio. Their mascot is Willi the Warrior, who wears the school’s colors, navy blue and burgundy.
Location Willimantic, CT
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 4,644

DC

Gallaudet University was originally founded in 1864 as a grammar school for deaf and blind students. Today, Gallaudet is an official bilingual institution, and the only university in the world where all students who attend live and learn using American Sign Language and English. A small number of hearing students at the graduate and undergraduate level are accepted each year.
Location Washington, DC
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,451

DELAWARE

Goldey-Beacom College was founded in 1886 and is on a 24 acre campus. They accept just over 62% of applicants. Offering 13 varsity teams, athletes are known as Lightning, and they wear blue and gold. They are led by their mascot known as Strike. Business Administration and Management is a popular major for students.
Location Wilmington, DE
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,184

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 675

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 1,080

HAWAII

Chaminade University of Honolulu accepts just about 90% of applicants. With an 81% first year retention rate, the school has a cozy 10:1 student-to-faculty ratio. Top majors include Registered Nursing, Criminal Justice, and Psychology. Total, the school offers 23 fields of study to undergraduates.
Location Honolulu, HI
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,208

IDAHO

Did you know the College of Idaho is the oldest private liberal arts college in the state? The school offers up to a master’s degree. Graduates of the College of Idaho have gone into impressive careers in business, politics, law, and sports. The acceptance rate is just over 56% and the school does not charge students to apply.
Location Caldwell, ID
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,114

ILLINOIS

Wheaton College was founded by evangelical abolitionists in 1860 and would become a stop on the Underground Railroad. Business is by far the most popular major at the school. Athletic teams are known as The Thunder. They wear blue and orange and compete in the NCAA Division III in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin.
Location Wheaton, IL
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,908

INDIANA

Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology focuses on math, science, and engineering. It was originally founded as the Terre Haute School of Industrial Science in 1874 in an effort to teach technical training to assist with railroad construction. It would get its current name in 1971 after financial support from the Hulman family. Of its 21 majors, Mechanical Engineering is the most popular.
Location Terre Haute, IN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,990

IOWA

Luther College got its start as a Lutheran seminary by Norwegian immigrants. The seminary would be closed at the start of the Civil War and college classes would be opened later to only 16 students. Today, the college has a first-year retention rate of 77% and a six year graduation rate of 73%. Over half the student population comes from Iowa and Minnesota.
Location Decorah, IA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,802

KANSAS

Benedictine College’s core values are built into the four “pillars” of the school which are known as Catholic, Benedictine, Liberal Arts, and Residential. The college’s motto is “Forward. Always Forward.” A majority of students decide to major in Finance, Registered Nursing, and Theology. Its campus is located along the bends of the Missouri River.
Location Atchison,KS
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,217

KENTUCKY

Centre College’s motto is “Doctrina Lux Mentis,” or “Learning is the Light of the Mind.” The college accepts about 68% of applicants and 85% 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 1,333

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 9:1 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 563

MAINE

Located on a peninsula in the Bagaduce River and Penobscot Bay, the Maine Maritime Academy is a non-federal maritime training school offering 8 different majors. Students are not required to join the military after graduation. With a 9:1 student to faculty ratio, the school also has a first-year retention rate of 77%.
Location Castine, ME
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 941

MARYLAND

Founded in 1840, St. Mary’s College of Maryland was originally known as St. Mary’s Female Seminary. Today, it shares its campus with Historic St. Mary’s City, which is the state’s first colony and capital. The school has a 9:1 student-to-faculty ratio and an 83% first year retention rate. A majority of students attending today are female, but the school is co-educational and has been since 1949.
Location St. Mary’s City, MD
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 1,508

MASSACHUSETTS

Mount Holyoke College is the oldest member of the Seven Sisters colleges. Their motto is Psalms 144:12 – “That our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace.” The campus features a botanic garden, the art museum, and John Payson Williston Observatory. The school offers over 50 majors, but Computer Science, Biology, and Econometrics are the more popular ones.
Location South Hadley, MA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,040

MICHIGAN

Hillsdale’s motto is “Virtus Tentamine Gaudet” or “Strength Rejoices in the Challenge.” The school has a 97% first year retention rate and a 9:1 student-to-faculty ratio. All students who attend are required to take courses on the “Great Books,” the United States Constitution, and Science courses. 78% of students will graduate within 6 years.
Location Hillsdale, MI
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,543

MINNESOTA

Although they offer 75 majors, popular areas of study at Gustavus Adolphus College include Psychology, Biology, and Business/Commerce. The school does not charge students for applications and 98% of those attending actually receive institutional grant aid. Gus the Lion is the mascot for the school’s sports teams - the Golden Gusties.
Location Saint Peter, MN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,230

MISSISSIPPI

This liberal arts university was founded in 1892 as a boarding school, but today it offers up to doctoral degrees. William Carey University has a 14:1 student-to-faculty ratio, an 84% first year retention rate, and 57.2% acceptance rate. Each year is made up of 3 trimesters that last 11 weeks each. Students can also opt for summer, January, and May terms.
Location Hattiesburg, MS
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 5,472

MISSOURI

This university is named in honor of Harry S. Truman, who was a Missouri native. Popular majors include Business Administration, Kinesiology and Exercise Science, and Biology. Athletes are known as Bulldogs and their mascots are Spike and Simone. Over 94% of students at Truman State study at the undergraduate level.
Location Kirksville, MO
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 4,655

MONTANA

Though the school seal features two lions, Carroll College’s mascot is actually a St. Bernard named Halo. Student athletes compete as the Fighting Saints in sports like track, basketball, and soccer. The campus is located near Mt. Helena. Registered Nursing is the most popular major, followed by Health Services and Biology.
Location Helena, MT
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,108

NEBRASKA

Nebraska Wesleyan University, or NWU, is a private university associated with Methodists. They have over 119 undergraduate majors, minors, and pre-professional programs available to students. Competing in the American Rivers Conference, they are known as the Prairie Wolves and wear black and gold. The school currently has over 530 athletes.
Location Lincoln, NE
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,924

NEVADA*

Located at the foot of Mount Scorpion Mountain, Nevada State College practices sustainable principles on their 511 acre campus. While NSC is a very ethnically diverse school, 99% of students call Nevada their home state. The most popular major by far is Registered Nursing. 95% of students receive grant aid.
Location Henderson, NV
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 7,289

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Saint Anselm College is the third oldest Catholic college in New England, having been founded in 1889. The school has been the site of presidential policy speeches from John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon as well as several national presidential debates. 100% of students receive institutional aid from the school.
Location Manchester, NH
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,019

NEW JERSEY

Drew University goes by the nickname “University of the Forest” due to the fact it is on an 186 acre wooded campus. The school’s motto is “δωρεὰν ἐλάβετε, δωρεὰν δότε”, which is Greek for "Freely ye have received, freely give” from Matthew 10:8. Blue and green are the school colors and the sports teams are known as the Rangers.
Location Madison, NJ
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,229

NEW MEXICO

Also known as New Mexico Tech, the school is focused on science and engineering. Mechanical Engineering is a popular major among students, along with Computer Science and Electrical Engineering. The school has several activities including rock climbing and hiking, a biweekly newspaper (Paydirt), and an 18-hole golf course.
Location Socorro, NM
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 1,686

NEW YORK

Yeshiva University is a research university in Manhattan that has four schools that make up the undergraduate program: Yeshiva College, Stern College for Women, Katz School of Science and Health, and Syms School of Business. Campuses, buildings, and facilities can also be found in other NYC boroughs and in Israel.
Location New York City, NY
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 5,524

NORTH CAROLINA

A women’s college, Meredith offers nearly 40 different majors. Psychology, Biology, Business, Child Development, and Marketing are the most popular of them. Meredith College has a whole range of traditions, mentoring opportunities, and programs including Honor Code, Big Sis, Little Sis and Founder’s Day.
Location Raleigh, NC
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,802

NORTH DAKOTA

Although the University of Mary calls North Dakota its home, campuses can be found all over the world, including in Rome, Italy and Arequipa, Peru. They accept about 79% of applicants. University of Mary has a 11:1 student-to-faculty ratio and 78% first year retention rate. Its campus is located next to the Missouri River.
Location Bismark, ND
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 3,799

OHIO

John Carroll University has over 30 programs available to undergraduates, with Finance, Marketing, and Biology being popular choices. The school was founded in 1886 and became coeducational in 1968. Alumni include Brian P. Cleary, Wade Manning, and Jack Kahl. Just over 84% of the student body are undergraduate students.
Location University Heights, OH
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 3,278

OKLAHOMA

Blue and white are the colors of Oklahoma City University’s Stars. Their mascot is a ram named Starsky. There are undergrad and graduate levels programs available and students study at 58% and 42% respectively in those programs. 98% of all students on campus receive institutional financial aid to help pay for college.
Location Oklahoma City, OK
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,617

OREGON

Willamette University is the oldest university found in the western part of the United States. It was founded in 1842 as the Oregon Institute. Today, the school accepts about 80% of students. There are about 330 athletes known as the Bearcats. Wearing cardinal and old gold, they participate in 20 different varsity sports in the Northwest Conference.
Location Salem, OR
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,866

PENNSYLVANIA

Offering more than 50 majors to undergraduates, Speech Communication, Marketing, Mechanical Engineering, Business, and Accounting are the most popular choices at Grove City College. The school is host to about 150 student organizations, several publications, and a radio station that was one of the first in the country (1920).
Location Grove City, PA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,277

RHODE ISLAND

Often abbreviated to RISD, this school was founded to expand access to design education to women. Nowadays, 66% of the undergraduate class consist of female students. The campus is located on the Providence River. Systems Science and Theory is the most popular major, followed by Illustration and Graphic Design.
Location Providence, RI
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,227

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 a 12:1 student-to-faculty ratio and an impressive 89% 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 1,764

SOUTH DAKOTA

The master’s degree is the highest level of education offered at Augustana University. However, only 14% of the student body studies at that level. The remaining 86% are undergraduates. Augustana, also known as AU, has a 12:1 student-to-faculty ratio. About 48% of incoming students are from South Dakota, though many also come from Minnesota.
Location Sioux Falls, SD
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,019

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 60% of applications and have a 10:1 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 1,800

TEXAS

A small liberal arts school, Southwestern University has a 50% acceptance rate. Additionally, they do not charge students to apply. A whopping 98% of students receive institutional aid to help pay the costs of college. Business / Commerce is the most popular major, followed by Psychology and then Speech Communication.
Location Georgetown, TX
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,511

UTAH

The doctor’s degree is the highest level of education offered at Westminster College. That said, only about 22% of students on campus study at the graduate level. There is a cozy student-to-faculty ratio of 9:1 at this school. Additionally, there’s a first-year retention rate of 71%. Students come from all over the country to attend Westminster, but about 43% of freshmen are Utah natives.
Location Salt Lake City, UT
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,849

VERMONT

Saint Michael’s College has over 30 majors available to students, the most popular of which is Business. A majority of students come from the Northeast in the United States. Athletes are known as the Purple Knights. The school offers 21 Varsity sports including baseball, basketball, ice hockey, and soccer.
Location Colchester, VT
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,724

VIRGINIA

Abraham Lincoln once called VMI the “West Point of the South.” The nickname continues to be earned as the school has resulted in more Army generals than any other ROTC program. Located on the Maury River in the Shenandoah Valley, it was the first state military college in the country.
Location Lexington, VA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 1,698

WASHINGTON

Sharing a campus with Cascadia College, University of Washington's Bothell Campus is actually the largest campus branch in the state. Over 97% of students are from Washington. UW Bothell has over 30 undergraduate degrees, 15 Master’s degrees, study abroad programs, and weekend/evening college classes available.
Location Bothell, WA
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 6,304

WEST VIRGINIA

The most popular majors at West Liberty University include Business Administration, 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 2,481

WISCONSIN

Lawrence University was the second coeducation institution (founded in 1847) in the US. The three most popular majors are Music Performance, Economics, and Biology. Many alumni went into careers in politics, music, and sports. The campus sits along the winding Fox River. The bachelor’s degree is the highest level of education offered.
Location Appleton, WI
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,430

WYOMING*

The University of Wyoming is one of the rare schools that features a live animal mascot - a horse named Cowboy Joe. Another mascot, Pistol Pete, is played by a student in costume. Brown and gold are the official school colors. Also known as UW, the university is a land-grant, space-grant, and public flagship school.
Location Laramie, WY
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 11,829

*Note: While Nevada and Wyoming did not have any colleges that qualified under our Hidden Gems criteria this year, we included the closest match. In the spirit of Hidden Gems, we feel it’s important to include schools from all states so students and families know about the opportunities around them.

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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