Best private colleges in America

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August 19, 2021
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Best private colleges in America

Choosing a college can be one of the most important decisions in a person’s life. The universities that students attend will train them for their future careers, give them the education they need to think critically and solve real-world problems, and connect them to a lifelong social network and community. While invaluable, the benefits of higher education don’t come cheap—especially if the choice is a private school. Tuition and fees at private colleges clocked in at more than $35,000 a year on average in the 2020-2021 school year. That’s nearly four times as much as what a student would typically spend to attend an in-state public college, according to data from U.S. News & World Report. No wonder recent graduates of private nonprofit schools typically shoulder about $33,900 in student debt, according to Matt Carter of Credible.

The only way an investment in private college can potentially pay off is if students do their homework to find a school that fits their academic interests and social needs—which vary significantly from person to person. Some schools, like the University of San Diego and Bryn Mawr College, boast gorgeous campuses and idyllic settings to inspire learning. Other private colleges, like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, offer phenomenal engineering and science programs to help students excel in competitive fields. While other institutions, like Whitman College, promise a well-rounded liberal arts education and endless opportunities to apply it to the issues students care about most.

To help narrow down options, Stacker compiled a list of the best private colleges in America, using data from Niche released in 2021. Niche ranks schools based on a variety of factors including academic, admissions, financial, and student life. Their methodology can be found here. We also used articles from news outlets and college profiles on Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, Money, and The Princeton Review to find out what attracts students to these universities, and how the institutions have been responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Whether you’re shopping around for colleges to potentially attend, or you want to see how your alma mater compares to its competitors, explore this list to see the 100 best private colleges in America.

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#100. Denison University

- Location: Granville, OH
- Students: 2,263
- Acceptance rate: 29%
- Graduation rate: 82%
- Student to faculty ratio: 9:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $48,800
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 95%

Denison University, a leading liberal arts college, is home to a wide range of extracurricular activities, including more than 160 clubs and organizations, 40 club and intramural sports, 24 varsity sports teams, and a student government with a budget of $1 million. Nearly all of its alumni have gotten jobs or continued their education in graduate school.

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#99. Baylor University

- Location: Waco, TX
- Students: 13,906
- Acceptance rate: 45%
- Graduation rate: 78%
- Student to faculty ratio: 13:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $51,600
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 94%

Baylor University is a private Christian University located in Waco, Texas. The university boasts more than 120 undergraduate degree programs, almost 80 masters’ programs, and nearly four dozen doctoral programs. The school is Texas’ oldest continually operating university.

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#98. University of San Diego

- Location: San Diego, CA
- Students: 5,761
- Acceptance rate: 49%
- Graduation rate: 81%
- Student to faculty ratio: 14:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $60,000
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 92%

The University of San Diego is known for its stunning 180-acre campus that overlooks the city of San Diego and the Pacific Ocean, which provide a backdrop for the architecture of its Spanish Renaissance buildings. Despite the picturesque nature of the campus, more than two-thirds of the undergraduate student body participate in study abroad programs.

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#97. Saint Louis University

- Location: Saint Louis, MO
- Students: 6,691
- Acceptance rate: 58%
- Graduation rate: 79%
- Student to faculty ratio: 9:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $56,500
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 94%

One of the oldest Catholic universities in the country, Saint Louis University has built a strong reputation as a research institution. Student research is an essential component for undergraduates and graduate students alike. The university provides opportunities for students to work side-by-side with faculty on important issues; in 2020, that included COVID-19-related research.

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#96. Pepperdine University

- Location: Malibu, CA
- Students: 3,320
- Acceptance rate: 32%
- Graduation rate: 86%
- Student to faculty ratio: 13:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $65,500
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 92%

Pepperdine University combines Christian values with a commitment to academic rigor. It has a beautiful, sustainability-focused campus with more than 500 of its 830 acres preserved in their natural state.

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#95. Rhode Island School of Design

- Location: Providence, RI
- Students: 2,009
- Acceptance rate: 26%
- Graduation rate: 89%
- Student to faculty ratio: 9:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $51,100
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 89%

The creative and curious 2,603 students who attend the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) have access to a liberal arts education and studio-based learning. RISD is one of the first American art and design schools. Four alumni made Forbes' 30 Under 30 list in 2021.

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#94. Furman University

- Location: Greenville, SC
- Students: 2,603
- Acceptance rate: 57%
- Graduation rate: 83%
- Student to faculty ratio: 10:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $51,200
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 94%

Furman University ranks highly for its academics and campus culture. Every student is required to attend a minimum of three dozen school events in order to graduate, as part of Furman’s Campus Life Program. The school is home to numerous Greek organizations and more than 200 clubs.

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#93. Union College - New York

- Location: Schenectady, New York
- Students: 2,173
- Acceptance rate: 43%
- Graduation rate: 82%
- Student to faculty ratio: 10:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $65,400
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 94%

Students pursuing an education in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields may want to consider Union College. It has one of the top undergraduate engineering programs in the county, receives a high amount of National Science Foundation grants, and is one of the top STEM schools for women.

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#92. Loyola Marymount University

- Location: Los Angeles
- Students: 6,548
- Acceptance rate: 44%
- Graduation rate: 80%
- Student to faculty ratio: 10:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $61,300
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 93%

Loyola Marymount University offers a rigorous academic curriculum in the Jesuit tradition, which places a heavy emphasis on community service. As a result, students at this university complete more than 200,000 service hours every year.

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#91. University of Tulsa

- Location: Tulsa, OK
- Students: 3,171
- Acceptance rate: 36%
- Graduation rate: 72%
- Student to faculty ratio: 11:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $48,500
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 91%

The University of Tulsa boasts strong petroleum engineering programs, in which students take classes in a $16 million facility that contains a drilling simulator. Students of all majors can participate in research projects starting in their first year on campus.

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#90. Wheaton College - Illinois

- Location: Wheaton, Illinois
- Students: 2,328
- Acceptance rate: 85%
- Graduation rate: 89%
- Student to faculty ratio: 10:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $48,400
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 91%

Wheaton College in Illinois has a large proportion of graduates who eventually earn doctorates. It’s considered one of the country’s premier Christian institutions.

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#89. Yeshiva University

- Location: New York, NY
- Students: 2,643
- Acceptance rate: 55%
- Graduation rate: 82%
- Student to faculty ratio: 7:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $58,500
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 82%

Yeshiva University is a Jewish school that includes three undergraduate colleges, each of which has its own campus in Manhattan. Students at the university spread their time between preprofessional studies, liberal arts and sciences, and studying the Torah and Jewish heritage.

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#88. Gettysburg College

- Location: Gettysburg, PA
- Students: 2,367
- Acceptance rate: 48%
- Graduation rate: 81%
- Student to faculty ratio: 9:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $56,100
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 95%

Gettysburg College sets itself apart from other schools with its unique programs, like its minor in Civil War Era Studies, which draws on the historic setting of the campus. Its most popular majors range from economics to psychology.

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#87. Stevens Institute of Technology

- Location: Hoboken, NJ
- Students: 3,642
- Acceptance rate: 40%
- Graduation rate: 85%
- Student to faculty ratio: 12:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $89,200
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 94%

Stevens Institute of Technology is a research school with strong programs in engineering, management, and science. Innovation and entrepreneurship are among the university’s most heavily-stressed values.

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#86. Brandeis University

- Location: Waltham, MA
- Students: 3,673
- Acceptance rate: 30%
- Graduation rate: 87%
- Student to faculty ratio: 10:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $57,900
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 93%

Located just outside of Boston, Brandeis University is a nonsectarian research university founded by the American Jewish community in 1948 as a place for marginalized people to pursue higher education without facing discrimination. Extracurriculars are big here, with around two dozen varsity sports teams and more than 260 clubs and organizations.

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#85. Franklin & Marshall College

- Location: Lancaster, PA
- Students: 2,306
- Acceptance rate: 30%
- Graduation rate: 85%
- Student to faculty ratio: 9:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $58,900
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 95%

Franklin & Marshall College has proven that it quickly implements real-world issues into its teachings. In 2020, for example, the school offered two summer courses on the impact of COVID-19 policies. Almost 70% of students participate in research or individual educational opportunities guided by a faculty mentor.

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#84. Whitman College

- Location: Walla Walla, WA
- Students: 1,529
- Acceptance rate: 56%
- Graduation rate: 90%
- Student to faculty ratio: 9:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $51,300
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 86%

Whitman College promises students a traditional liberal arts education and the opportunity to build the skills they need to “become citizens of the world.” While it takes pride in remaining independent from political and sectarian control, the college isn’t afraid to address real-world issues in its programs.

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#83. Occidental College

- Location: Los Angeles
- Students: 1,962
- Acceptance rate: 37%
- Graduation rate: 86%
- Student to faculty ratio: 9:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $50,600
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 89%

Occidental College is among the top schools for producing Fulbright Fellowships over the past decade. It’s the only college in the country that offers students the chance to spend a semester studying at the United Nations. President Barack Obama spent his freshman and sophomore years at Occidental College.

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#82. Skidmore College

- Location: Saratoga Springs, NY
- Students: 2,622
- Acceptance rate: 30%
- Graduation rate: 88%
- Student to faculty ratio: 8:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $49,700
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 95%

Prospective college students put Skidmore high on their list of options for its diverse and supportive community, beautiful campus, and experiential learning opportunities. Around 95% of Skidmore graduates pursue higher education or get a job within one year of earning their degrees.

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#81. Colorado College

- Location: Colorado Springs, CO
- Students: 2,089
- Acceptance rate: 14%
- Graduation rate: 83%
- Student to faculty ratio: 10:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $45,400
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 91%

Colorado College adheres to a unique block plan academic schedule that divides each semester into four blocks with one course each. The school’s president recorded an individual congratulatory video for each of the 539 students who graduated with the class of 2020, despite the canceled commencement ceremony.

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#80. Texas Christian University

- Location: Fort Worth, TX
- Students: 9,219
- Acceptance rate: 47%
- Graduation rate: 83%
- Student to faculty ratio: 13:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $52,800
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 94%

Texas Christian University is the largest higher education institutation associated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) denomination, but it accepts students of any faith. It has a huge Greek life scene on campus, and around 40% of all students participate in the fraternities or sororities.

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#79. St. Olaf College

- Location: Northfield, MN
- Students: 3,050
- Acceptance rate: 48%
- Graduation rate: 86%
- Student to faculty ratio: 12:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $50,400
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 95%

St. Olaf College has a renowned music department along with a wide range of majors. The school is well-known for its mission to be as environmentally sustainable as possible, and gives students the chance to participate in organic farming on campus.

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#78. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

- Location: Terre Haute, IN
- Students: 1,980
- Acceptance rate: 74%
- Graduation rate: 86%
- Student to faculty ratio: 11:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $80,900
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 97%

Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology has earned the distinction of being named the top undergraduate engineering program ranking from U.S. News & World Report for 22 years in a row. It also has well-regarded science lab facilities, career services and placement programs, and college dorms.

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#77. Trinity University

- Location: San Antonio, TX
- Students: 2,399
- Acceptance rate: 29%
- Graduation rate: 76%
- Student to faculty ratio: 9:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $54,900
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 93%

Founded in 1869, Trinity University is based in multicultural San Antonio, Texas and offers students access to liberal arts and sciences as well as pre-professional programs. It was voted #41 in the Best Liberal Arts College by Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education.

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#76. Pitzer College

- Location: Claremont, CA
- Students: 1,062
- Acceptance rate: 14%
- Graduation rate: 85%
- Student to faculty ratio: 10:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $48,700
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 86%

Environmental sustainability, intercultural understanding, and social responsibility are among the core values at Pitzer College, a small liberal arts and sciences school founded in 1963. Its secular studies program was the first of its kind in the country, giving students the chance to study nonreligious people and cultural expressions.

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#75. George Washington University

- Location: Washington, DC
- Students: 11,102
- Acceptance rate: 41%
- Graduation rate: 82%
- Student to faculty ratio: 13:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $69,600
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 92%

George Washington University counts plenty of politicians among the ranks of its alumni, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former Sen. Harry Reid, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and the 14th prime minister of Pakistan, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. With students spending on average more than $70,000 annually to attend, George Washington University is one of the most-expensive institutions in the United States.

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#74. College of the Holy Cross

- Location: Worcester, MA
- Students: 2,931
- Acceptance rate: 34%
- Graduation rate: 90%
- Student to faculty ratio: 10:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $71,000
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 95%

College of the Holy Cross, often referred to simply as “Holy Cross,” is the only Jesuit school in the country devoted exclusively to undergraduates. It has a predominantly Catholic student body, and offers a range of spiritual activities during the academic year. It’s considered one of the top institutions for participation in long-term study abroad programs.

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#73. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

- Location: Troy, NY
- Students: 6,218
- Acceptance rate: 47%
- Graduation rate: 85%
- Student to faculty ratio: 12:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $82,000
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 95%

Founded with a mission to “bring science to everyday life,” Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is a top-choice school for engineering. It has a range of one-of-a-kind accelerated programs, like its bachelor’s to master’s physician-scientist program, that can help students earn advanced degrees more quickly than usual.

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#72. Mount Holyoke College

- Location: South Hadley, MA
- Students: 2,157
- Acceptance rate: 38%
- Graduation rate: 83%
- Student to faculty ratio: 9:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $48,600
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 87%

The most historic of the Seven Sister colleges, Mount Holyoke College is a research and liberal arts school for women, as well as nonbinary and transgender students. It strives to turn women into leaders, and counts poet Emily Dickinson, Rep. Nita M. Lowey, opera star Nancy Gustafson, and Dr. Virginia Apgar, who established a test to assess the health of newborns, among its alumnae.

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#71. Worcester Polytechnic Institute

- Location: Worcester, MA
- Students: 4,642
- Acceptance rate: 49%
- Graduation rate: 89%
- Student to faculty ratio: 14:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $84,900
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 94%

Worcester Polytechnic Institute is a private research university that uses its motto of "theory and practice” to drive hands-on learning opportunities. It focuses primarily on science, technology, math, and engineering, and gives students the chance to pursue project-based education that can make a real-world impact.

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#70. Brigham Young University

- Location: Provo, UT
- Students: 28,288
- Acceptance rate: 67%
- Graduation rate: 78%
- Student to faculty ratio: 20:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $59,700
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 80%

Brigham Young University prides itself on a wholesome environment for academics, cultural experiences, and social growth. The research university is sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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#69. Bryn Mawr College

- Location: Bryn Mawr, PA
- Students: 1,377
- Acceptance rate: 33%
- Graduation rate: 84%
- Student to faculty ratio: 9:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $54,600
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 88%

Bryn Mawr College is a women’s college that sets itself apart with its popular 360-degree course cluster, which allows students to take part in nontraditional classroom experiences, such as job shadowing. The school's social work program focuses on advocacy and social justice.

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#68. Babson College

- Location: Wellesley, MA
- Students: 2,386
- Acceptance rate: 26%
- Graduation rate: 93%
- Student to faculty ratio: 14:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $96,100
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 91%

Babson College regularly ranks among the top undergraduate schools for entrepreneurship. It uses a unique Entrepreneurial Thought and Action methodology in its classes to instill the fundamentals of business and the spirit of experimentation within students.

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#67. Southern Methodist University

- Location: Dallas, TX
- Students: 6,519
- Acceptance rate: 47%
- Graduation rate: 81%
- Student to faculty ratio: 11:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $60,700
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 93%

Southern Methodist University offers more than 100 majors, along with 85 minors, and its graduates rank in the top 5% for pay across a variety of fields. In response to the Black Lives Matter movement, SMU in 2020 pledged to increase its efforts to recruit more Black professors and students.

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#66. Scripps College

- Location: Claremont, CA
- Students: 1,082
- Acceptance rate: 32%
- Graduation rate: 90%
- Student to faculty ratio: 10:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $54,100
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 90%

Scripps College is a women-only institution providing the opportunity for students to major in more than 65 fields of study. Its students tend to focus on building their resumes for future careers, and 85% of the student body completes at least one internship.

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#65. Santa Clara University

- Location: Santa Clara, CA
- Students: 5,586
- Acceptance rate: 49%
- Graduation rate: 91%
- Student to faculty ratio: 10:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $72,600
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 94%

Located in Silicon Valley, Santa Clara University offers a curriculum that’s rooted in Jesuit-Catholic education traditions, but places an emphasis on high-tech innovation. Its undergraduate business education ranks highly, especially in the areas of entrepreneurship, management information systems, and accounting.

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#64. Reed College

- Location: Portland, OR
- Students: 1,420
- Acceptance rate: 39%
- Graduation rate: 76%
- Student to faculty ratio: 9:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $42,200
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 88%

Reed offers students the opportunity to study in 40 different majors. Its small classes lend themselves to individual discussions and mentorships with professors. The school was founded in 1908 and counts multiple celebrities as among its alumni and prior attendees, including Steve Jobs and Gary Snyder.

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#63. Bucknell University

- Location: Lewisburg, PA
- Students: 3,606
- Acceptance rate: 34%
- Graduation rate: 90%
- Student to faculty ratio: 9:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $70,800
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 95%

Bucknell University is home to a highly engaged student body, half of whom study abroad and dozens of whom finish an honors thesis annually. The university is composed of three colleges: the College of Arts and Sciences, Freeman College of Management, and the College of Engineering.

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#62. The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art

- Location: New York, NY
- Students: 854
- Acceptance rate: 15%
- Graduation rate: 91%
- Student to faculty ratio: 8:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $64,900
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 93%

Cooper Union trains students to excel in the fields of art and science. Its most popular majors include architecture, engineering, and fine/studio arts.

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#61. University of Rochester

- Location: Rochester, NY
- Students: 6,410
- Acceptance rate: 30%
- Graduation rate: 87%
- Student to faculty ratio: 10:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $61,200
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 92%

The University of Rochester is home to one of the country’s best medical centers, along with more than 200 academic programs and 12 libraries. The school offers undergraduate and graduate degrees, with more than 6,000 undergraduates and roughly 5,000 graduate students.

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#60. Kenyon College

- Location: Gambier, OH
- Students: 1,734
- Acceptance rate: 34%
- Graduation rate: 91%
- Student to faculty ratio: 10:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $48,700
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 94%

Kenyon College, Ohio’s oldest private college, is a quirky liberal arts school in the Midwest that has an intense focus on writing. While small, the school has a strong campus community and dedicated professors who devote ample time to their students outside the classroom.

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#59. Lafayette College

- Location: Easton, PA
- Students: 2,633
- Acceptance rate: 31%
- Graduation rate: 88%
- Student to faculty ratio: 10:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $68,600
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 93%

Lafayette College has a strong community and relatively small student body, giving students an intimate college experience. More than 60% of first-year students say they frequently discuss their readings and coursework outside of the classroom.

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#58. Smith College

- Location: Northampton, MA
- Students: 2,519
- Acceptance rate: 32%
- Graduation rate: 89%
- Student to faculty ratio: 8:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $46,200
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 88%

Academic excellence and an outstanding liberal arts program draw students to Smith College, a school for women. It offers an open curriculum with courses in the humanities, natural sciences, arts, and social sciences.

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#57. University of Miami

- Location: Coral Gables, FL
- Students: 10,701
- Acceptance rate: 27%
- Graduation rate: 83%
- Student to faculty ratio: 12:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $60,100
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 90%

The University of Miami attracts students with its multimillion-dollar, mission-driven research program. It also has top-ranking programs in ophthalmology, otolaryngology, and nursing.

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#56. Bates College

- Location: Lewiston, ME
- Students: 1,820
- Acceptance rate: 12%
- Graduation rate: 91%
- Student to faculty ratio: 10:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $59,200
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 94%

Students can get a highly personalized educational experience at Bates College, a leading liberal arts school in Maine. Seniors are required to complete a capstone project or thesis, while students at all levels have the chance to dive deeper into their favored interest during a short term each spring.

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#55. Grinnell College

- Location: Grinnell, IA
- Students: 1,700
- Acceptance rate: 23%
- Graduation rate: 89%
- Student to faculty ratio: 9:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $49,100
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 92%

Grinnell College offers students the chance to join a thriving campus community with more than 100 student organizations that serve a variety of interests. Its student body has a strong reputation for social activism and sends a high proportion of students to volunteer with the Peace Corps.

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#54. Vassar College

- Location: Poughkeepsie, NY
- Students: 2,424
- Acceptance rate: 24%
- Graduation rate: 91%
- Student to faculty ratio: 8:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $54,600
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 93%

Situated on a beautiful campus in New York’s Hudson Valley, Vassar College gives students access to more than 100 on-campus organizations and a range of sports. Its newspaper, the Miscellany News, is one of America’s oldest college newspapers.

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#53. Tulane University

- Location: New Orleans, LA
- Students: 7,260
- Acceptance rate: 13%
- Graduation rate: 86%
- Student to faculty ratio: 8:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $61,700
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 91%

While known for its party-focused student body, Tulane University is also an academically challenging school with strong programs in law, public health, and tropical medicine. After falling short on diversity initiatives, the school in 2020 announced a new plan of action to bring more students of color to the campus.

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#52. Macalester College

- Location: Saint Paul, MN
- Students: 2,074
- Acceptance rate: 32%
- Graduation rate: 91%
- Student to faculty ratio: 10:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $47,600
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 91%

Macalester College offers students the advantages of a close-knit community and the opportunities of city life in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. It offers students a variety of multicultural events and international student programs. More than six of every 10 students study abroad.

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#51. Villanova University

- Location: Villanova, PA
- Students: 6,528
- Acceptance rate: 28%
- Graduation rate: 90%
- Student to faculty ratio: 11:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $77,900
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 95%

Villanova stands as the sole Augustinian Catholic university in the nation. The prestigious school is also the oldest Catholic university in Pennsylvania.

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#50. Lehigh University

- Location: Bethlehem, PA
- Students: 5,107
- Acceptance rate: 32%
- Graduation rate: 90%
- Student to faculty ratio: 9:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $81,900
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 95%

While best known for its engineering and business programs, Lehigh University offers more than 100 programs and majors to meet its students’ wide range of interests. The school’s Small Business Development Center in 2020 received more than $515,000 from the federal CARES Act to help businesses around the Lehigh Valley.

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#49. University of Richmond

- Location: Richmond, VA
- Students: 3,004
- Acceptance rate: 28%
- Graduation rate: 89%
- Student to faculty ratio: 8:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $64,500
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 95%

The University of Richmond infuses liberal arts principles into each of its programs, including those in law, leadership studies, and business. The school offers at least 75 study abroad programs, 15 fraternities and sororities, and more than 170 clubs and organizations.

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#48. Case Western Reserve University

- Location: Cleveland, OH
- Students: 5,237
- Acceptance rate: 27%
- Graduation rate: 84%
- Student to faculty ratio: 11:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $74,600
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 94%

Participation in groundbreaking research is part of the experience at Case Western Reserve University. Its research labs and lectures have focused on real-world issues, like reversing Alzheimer’s disease, fighting cancer, and reducing school violence.

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#47. Boston University

- Location: Boston, MA
- Students: 16,978
- Acceptance rate: 19%
- Graduation rate: 88%
- Student to faculty ratio: 10:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $65,300
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 93%

Boston University is a large school with more than 300 majors and programs of study. It has a robust undergraduate research program that allows students to help on faculty-led research projects.  

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#46. Hamilton College

- Location: Clinton, NY
- Students: 1,999
- Acceptance rate: 16%
- Graduation rate: 93%
- Student to faculty ratio: 9:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $60,200
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 91%

One of the oldest colleges in New York, Hamilton brings big-name speakers to campus, including Hillary Clinton, Margaret Thatcher, and Neil deGrasse Tyson, and is home to a number of unique student clubs, such as The Coloring Book Club. It has invested $324 million in its facilities over the past 15 years.

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#45. Wesleyan University

- Location: Middletown, CT
- Students: 2,937
- Acceptance rate: 16%
- Graduation rate: 92%
- Student to faculty ratio: 8:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $54,700
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 90%

Considered part of the “Little Ivies,” Wesleyan University offers more than 1,000 courses. The school aims to make tuition affordable for students of all income levels through need-based scholarships and a Three Year Option, which allows students to take one less year to finish their degree.

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#44. New York University

- Location: New York, NY
- Students: 25,872
- Acceptance rate: 16%
- Graduation rate: 85%
- Student to faculty ratio: 9:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $61,900
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 91%

Students who are interested in creative fields choose New York University for its lively Greenwich Village location and the programs at its famous Tisch School of the Arts. The university is home to more than 300 clubs and organizations, including a student radio station.

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#43. Northeastern University

- Location: Boston, MA
- Students: 14,156
- Acceptance rate: 18%
- Graduation rate: 89%
- Student to faculty ratio: 14:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $67,400
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 95%

Northeastern University pushes the boundaries of undergraduate education, with a heavy emphasis on experiential learning and hybrid degrees that give students the chance to pursue multiple fields. A large private institution, Northeastern has more than 400 clubs and a strong Greek life community.

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#42. Boston College

- Location: Chestnut Hill, MA
- Students: 9,666
- Acceptance rate: 27%
- Graduation rate: 94%
- Student to faculty ratio: 13:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $72,500
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 94%

Boston College was the first higher education facility to open in Boston and offers students a premier education in liberal arts and scientific inquiry. It has a commitment to global engagement and gives students the opportunity to participate in service and immersion programs in the United States and abroad.

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#41. Davidson College

- Location: Davidson, NC
- Students: 1,837
- Acceptance rate: 18%
- Graduation rate: 91%
- Student to faculty ratio: 9:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $58,900
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 88%

If Davidson College’s 29 majors don’t hit the right notes for students, they can create their own major through the school’s Center for Interdisciplinary Studies. The school has more than 200 student clubs and organizations on its campus.

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#40. Colgate University

- Location: Hamilton, NY
- Students: 2,968
- Acceptance rate: 23%
- Graduation rate: 91%
- Student to faculty ratio: 9:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $63,600
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 93%

Colgate University employs world-class professors and is home to 25 NCAA Division I sports teams. Among the most popular career fields are business/management, communications and media, and consulting. Colgate offers more than 20 off-campus study programs guided by its faculty.

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#39. Wake Forest University

- Location: Winston-Salem, NC
- Students: 5,240
- Acceptance rate: 30%
- Graduation rate: 88%
- Student to faculty ratio: 10:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $63,800
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 94%

Wake Forest University draws a diverse student body, which includes people from 49 states and 51 countries. The school was founded in 1834; its North Carolina campus is beautiful, especially in the fall.

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#38. Wellesley College

- Location: Wellesley, MA
- Students: 2,399
- Acceptance rate: 22%
- Graduation rate: 91%
- Student to faculty ratio: 8:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $60,800
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 94%

A women’s college, Wellesley offers a breathtakingly picturesque campus, full-engagement academic philosophy, and an education that empowers women to exceed their own expectations. It offers more than 50 majors, and the majority of students complete an internship during their studies.

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#37. Swarthmore College

- Location: Swarthmore, PA
- Students: 1,591
- Acceptance rate: 9%
- Graduation rate: 94%
- Student to faculty ratio: 8:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $56,700
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 85%

Founded by Quakers, Swarthmore College gives students an intimate learning experience with an impressive student-to-faculty ratio. It has a distinctive honors program that focuses on independent learning, small seminar classes, and oral and written tests proctored by expert third-party examiners.

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#36. Barnard College

- Location: New York, NY
- Students: 2,584
- Acceptance rate: 12%
- Graduation rate: 92%
- Student to faculty ratio: 9:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $57,900
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 90%

A private women’s college focused on liberal arts, Barnard College provides students access to the resources of Columbia University while having the experience of a more-intimate college life. The school is home to 80 student organizations, and its Urban New York program gives freshmen the opportunity to attend events around New York City.

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#35. Emory University

- Location: Atlanta, GA
- Students: 7,012
- Acceptance rate: 16%
- Graduation rate: 90%
- Student to faculty ratio: 9:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $66,000
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 92%

Emory University ranks highly for the number of its graduates who participate in the Peace Corps and Teach for America. The school is committed to preparing students to tackle global problems.

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#34. Claremont McKenna College

- Location: Claremont, CA
- Students: 1,340
- Acceptance rate: 10%
- Graduation rate: 91%
- Student to faculty ratio: 8:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $72,900
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 92%

Part of The Claremont Colleges consortium, Claremont McKenna College gives students the opportunity to take classes at their home campus and any of the other six member colleges. Students can participate in graduate-level research at McKenna’s 10 research institutes.

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#33. Middlebury College

- Location: Middlebury, VT
- Students: 2,556
- Acceptance rate: 15%
- Graduation rate: 93%
- Student to faculty ratio: 8:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $58,200
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 87%

Environmental studies, international studies, and language instruction have helped Middlebury College, a small liberal arts school in Vermont, build a worldwide reputation. Students who love to ski can enjoy 17 trails around the college’s “Snow Bowl” ski area.

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#32. Amherst College

- Location: Amherst, MA
- Students: 1,839
- Acceptance rate: 11%
- Graduation rate: 95%
- Student to faculty ratio: 7:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $65,000
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 90%

Amherst College has a highly diverse student body, comprising roughly 45% people of color and 57% of people receiving financial aid. On-campus, students can take in exhibits at the Emily Dickinson Museum, explore the on-site wildlife sanctuary, and choose from more than 150 clubs.

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#31. Washington & Lee University

- Location: Lexington, VA
- Students: 1,845
- Acceptance rate: 19%
- Graduation rate: 94%
- Student to faculty ratio: 8:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $76,100
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 94%

Founded in 1749 as the Augusta Academy, Washington & Lee University is famous for its mock convention that has accurately predicted presidential nominees in 20 of 27 attempts—since 1948, it's been wrong just three times.

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#30. Colby College

- Location: Waterville, ME
- Students: 2,003
- Acceptance rate: 10%
- Graduation rate: 89%
- Student to faculty ratio: 9:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $58,100
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 92%

Colby College’s 4-1-4 academic calendar allows students to spend the entire month of January on career exploration, cultural activities, or intensive study. Students have their choice of 55 majors and 35 minors. The school also has a bog preserve that’s used for environmental studies.

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#29. Haverford College

- Location: Haverford, PA
- Students: 1,314
- Acceptance rate: 16%
- Graduation rate: 90%
- Student to faculty ratio: 8:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $60,700
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 92%

One of the oldest traditions at Haverford College is its honor code. The student-run code is debated, revised, and re-ratified by the student body each year—a nod to the school's Quaker philosophy. Haverford students can attend classes at other nearby universities, including Swarthmore and the University of Pennsylvania.

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#28. Williams College

- Location: Williamstown, MA
- Students: 2,043
- Acceptance rate: 13%
- Graduation rate: 95%
- Student to faculty ratio: 6:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $59,000
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 90%

Economics, biology, and math are among the most popular of the 35-plus majors available at Williams College. Williams requires students to complete at least three courses from each of its three academic departments, along with a class on quantitative reasoning, two writing courses, and a class on culture and diversity.

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#27. Tufts University

- Location: Medford, MA
- Students: 5,742
- Acceptance rate: 15%
- Graduation rate: 94%
- Student to faculty ratio: 9:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $75,800
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 92%

A student-centered research university, Tufts offers students the choice of more than 90 majors and places an emphasis on foreign language studies and internationalism. Christian universalists founded the school in 1852.

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#26. Carleton College

- Location: Northfield, MN
- Students: 2,093
- Acceptance rate: 19%
- Graduation rate: 92%
- Student to faculty ratio: 9:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $54,200
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 91%

Carleton College is known for having small class sizes and highly accessible professors whose first priority is teaching. The college has a range of quirky extracurricular activities for students, including a juggling group, intramural Quidditch, and a silent dance party in the library just before finals.

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#25. Harvey Mudd College

- Location: Claremont, CA
- Students: 894
- Acceptance rate: 14%
- Graduation rate: 92%
- Student to faculty ratio: 8:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $88,800
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 89%

One of the country’s best undergraduate colleges for math, science, and engineering, Harvey Mudd College gives students a chance to supplement their classroom learning with hands-on research projects. It aims to be a place for forward-thinking scientists to feel at home.

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#24. Bowdoin College

- Location: Brunswick, ME
- Students: 1,834
- Acceptance rate: 9%
- Graduation rate: 95%
- Student to faculty ratio: 9:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $65,500
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 93%

Bowdoin College puts diversity, inclusion, and equality at the center of its curriculum. It connects students with one-of-a-kind research opportunities, such as a 10-day trek around Iceland to study the environment.

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#23. Georgetown University

- Location: Washington, DC
- Students: 7,029
- Acceptance rate: 14%
- Graduation rate: 95%
- Student to faculty ratio: 11:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $93,500
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 92%

Georgetown University is home to celebrated programs in law, medicine, business, nursing and health studies, public policy, and foreign service. It has a large list of famous alumni, including former President Bill Clinton, investor Chris Sacca, and actor Bradley Cooper.

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#22. Carnegie Mellon University

- Location: Pittsburgh, PA
- Students: 6,425
- Acceptance rate: 15%
- Graduation rate: 90%
- Student to faculty ratio: 5:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $83,600
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 91%

Carnegie Mellon University has renowned science and technology programs, along with seven schools and colleges for a well-rounded liberal arts education. A global research university, the school offers opportunities for students to participate in hands-on learning with an award-winning faculty.

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#21. Johns Hopkins University

- Location: Baltimore, MD
- Students: 5,762
- Acceptance rate: 11%
- Graduation rate: 93%
- Student to faculty ratio: 6:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $73,200
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 91%

Johns Hopkins University is famous for its hospital and medicine and public health programs. It is considered America's first research university.

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#20. Pomona College

- Location: Claremont, CA
- Students: 1,617
- Acceptance rate: 7%
- Graduation rate: 93%
- Student to faculty ratio: 7:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $58,100
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 90%

A top liberal arts college, Pomona College brings the New England university experience to a campus just 35 miles from downtown Los Angeles. The school has more than 200 clubs and organizations, including the secret club “Mulfi.”

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#19. University of Southern California

- Location: Los Angeles
- Students: 19,622
- Acceptance rate: 11%
- Graduation rate: 92%
- Student to faculty ratio: 9:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $74,000
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 92%

The University of Southern California made headlines for being at the center of the 2019 college admissions bribery case involving actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman. Despite the drama, some prospective students find themselves drawn to the school’s performing arts, engineering, and business programs.

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#18. Cornell University

- Location: Ithaca, NY
- Students: 15,038
- Acceptance rate: 11%
- Graduation rate: 95%
- Student to faculty ratio: 9:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $77,200
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 93%

An Ivy League institution, Cornell University strongly encourages students in its eight undergraduate schools to get involved in research. Some 50 Nobel laureates have come from the university. It was the first school in the United States to create a major in American studies.

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#17. University of Chicago

- Location: Chicago, IL
- Students: 6,847
- Acceptance rate: 6%
- Graduation rate: 95%
- Student to faculty ratio: 5:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $68,100
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 92%

A prestigious and challenging private school, the University of Chicago guarantees free tuition for accepted applicants whose households earn no more than $125,000 per year. Its faculty and alumni contain more than 90 Nobel Prize winners, along with well-known names such as Sen. Bernie Sanders, astronomer Carl Sagan, and economist Milton Friedman.

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#16. University of Notre Dame

- Location: Notre Dame, IN
- Students: 8,708
- Acceptance rate: 16%
- Graduation rate: 96%
- Student to faculty ratio: 9:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $78,400
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 95%

Accomplished students in need of financial aid can count on the University of Notre Dame to meet 100% of their demonstrated financial need—it’s one of a handful of universities in the United States that adheres to a need-blind admissions policy. While many students are drawn to this university because of its champion football team the Fighting Irish, others are drawn to its respected programs in architecture, engineering, and business.

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#15. Washington University in St. Louis

- Location: Saint Louis, MO
- Students: 7,139
- Acceptance rate: 14%
- Graduation rate: 95%
- Student to faculty ratio: 7:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $70,100
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 94%

Washington University in St. Louis is home to highly regarded medical and law schools, along with an academically-rigorous pre-med program. Students and faculty at the university regularly conduct groundbreaking research in medicine, energy, business, and plant science. The majority of students take part in intramural sports.

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#14. Northwestern University

- Location: Evanston, IL
- Students: 8,284
- Acceptance rate: 9%
- Graduation rate: 94%
- Student to faculty ratio: 6:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $69,000
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 92%

Northwestern University has made a name for itself with its excellent journalism program, its accomplished music school, and its famous Kellogg School of Management. The school was founded in 1851 and today stands among the most well-respected private research and teaching universities.

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#13. Dartmouth College

- Location: Hanover, NH
- Students: 4,401
- Acceptance rate: 8%
- Graduation rate: 95%
- Student to faculty ratio: 7:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $75,500
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 94%

Dartmouth College is an Ivy League school that distinguishes itself with a uniquely flexible study plan. Included in that plan are four 10-week terms every year that offer students the opportunity to customize their experiences with a mix of study, international travel, and work. 

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#12. Columbia University

- Location: New York, NY
- Students: 7,701
- Acceptance rate: 5%
- Graduation rate: 95%
- Student to faculty ratio: 6:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $83,300
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 89%

Located in Manhattan, Columbia University boasts an extremely diverse and accomplished student body. More than 95% of students accepted into the class of 2023 were among the top 10% of their class.

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#11. Vanderbilt University

- Location: Nashville, TN
- Students: 6,833
- Acceptance rate: 9%
- Graduation rate: 93%
- Student to faculty ratio: 7:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $69,000
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 94%

Vanderbilt University, the alma mater of Al Gore, has high-ranking programs in medicine, education, and law, along with more than 500 clubs for students. Professors at the university in 2020 developed a virtual self-screening tool to help people assess their risk of COVID-19.

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#10. University of Pennsylvania

- Location: Philadelphia, PA
- Students: 10,448
- Acceptance rate: 8%
- Graduation rate: 96%
- Student to faculty ratio: 6:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $85,900
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 91%

The University of Pennsylvania gives Ivy League students a mix of challenging academics and a bustling social life, according to Forbes. It’s home to the Wharton School, the world’s first collegiate business school, and three other undergraduate schools, focused on arts and sciences, engineering, and nursing.

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#9. Brown University

- Location: Providence, RI
- Students: 6,826
- Acceptance rate: 7%
- Graduation rate: 96%
- Student to faculty ratio: 6:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $67,500
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 91%

Brown University attracts students who want the academic rigor of an Ivy League institution in an unconventional format. The school has used an open curriculum for decades to give students freedom and flexibility to explore its 80-plus concentrations before deciding on a major. It has a very tight 6-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio, and a freshman retention rate of nearly 100%.

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#8. California Institute of Technology

- Location: Pasadena, CA
- Students: 938
- Acceptance rate: 6%
- Graduation rate: 94%
- Student to faculty ratio: 3:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $85,900
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 89%

The California Institute of Technology attracts students from around the world to its esteemed science and engineering program. Nine out of 10 students get involved with research while at the university. On campus, students will find five NASA facilities, including the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

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#7. Rice University

- Location: Houston, TX
- Students: 3,942
- Acceptance rate: 9%
- Graduation rate: 93%
- Student to faculty ratio: 6:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $65,400
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 92%

Rice University is a no-brainer choice for high-performing students who want sports to be a big part of their college experience. The university has 14 varsity sports teams in NCAA Division I, along with dozens of club and intramural sports.

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#6. Princeton University

- Location: Princeton, NJ
- Students: 5,328
- Acceptance rate: 6%
- Graduation rate: 98%
- Student to faculty ratio: 5:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $74,700
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 87%

The fourth-oldest college in the nation, Princeton University has a competitive student-to-faculty ratio and a robust array of research opportunities for students. Social sciences, computer and information sciences, engineering, public administration, and biological and biomedical sciences are among the most popular majors at the school. It also has a unique set of eating clubs that create a social dining environment for students.

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#5. Duke University

- Location: Durham, NC
- Students: 6,597
- Acceptance rate: 8%
- Graduation rate: 95%
- Student to faculty ratio: 6:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $84,400
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 94%

Duke University has strong programs in computer science, economics, and public policy analysis, and provides research opportunities in all majors. In an effort to increase global awareness, the school requires that students study a foreign language.

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#4. Yale University

- Location: New Haven, CT
- Students: 6,088
- Acceptance rate: 6%
- Graduation rate: 97%
- Student to faculty ratio: 6:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $83,200
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 92%

Superb drama and music programs attract creative and accomplished students to Yale University. An Ivy League school, Yale has a number of secret societies and hundreds of on-campus organizations for students to participate in during their free time.

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#3. Stanford University

- Location: Stanford, CA
- Students: 6,996
- Acceptance rate: 4%
- Graduation rate: 94%
- Student to faculty ratio: 5:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $94,000
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 94%

A top teaching and research university, Stanford offers students a work hard, play hard environment. Its academic programs require a fair amount of study time in order to succeed, but it also has champion athletic teams, quirky traditions, and plenty of organizations to round out students' social lives. It counts a large number of millionaires among its alumni.

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#2. Harvard University

- Location: Cambridge, MA
- Students: 7,148
- Acceptance rate: 5%
- Graduation rate: 97%
- Student to faculty ratio: 7:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $89,700
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 89%

One of the country’s most prestigious universities, Harvard gives the lucky students who are accepted into the university the chance to study just about anything, including a topic as obscure as medieval Icelandic witchcraft, and participate in a huge lineup of extracurricular activities. It has the world’s largest private library system, with 17 million volumes.

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#1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

- Location: Cambridge, MA
- Students: 4,501
- Acceptance rate: 7%
- Graduation rate: 95%
- Student to faculty ratio: 3:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $104,700
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 94%

The engineering and physical sciences programs are standouts among the academic offerings at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It has a major focus on scientific and technological research and spends more than $700 million each year to conduct research projects.

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