Best colleges in America

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August 18, 2021
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Best colleges in America

Thousands of colleges across the country are welcoming both new and returning students back to campus for the fall semester. To coincide with the beginning of another school year, Stacker compiled a list of the best colleges in America using Niche’s 2021 rankings.

Niche ranks colleges using various factors, including academics, admissions, financial, and student life. You can read more about Niche’s methodology here. The list includes schools public and private, from West Coast women's colleges to elite East Coast liberal arts institutions. There’s also a fair share of sprawling state schools, as well as more-privatized, religion-centric universities. These schools offer pioneering programs in sciences, entrepreneurship, and even video games. While some members of the list may be best known for athletic achievements, many so-called football schools are making rapid advancements in educational fields, producing a number of Rhodes scholars and collaborations with tech industry giants. Of course, some schools just have cool perks that few others do, like an on-campus ice cream factory or a nuclear reactor.

Tuition, student-to-faculty ratio, acceptance rate, and graduation rate are factors considered in deciding these rankings. Location is also often a key factor in a school’s appeal, whether it be a beachside location, one full of New England foliage, or proximity to tech hubs and companies like Microsoft, Apple, and Google.

While the Ivy Leagues are normally considered the cream of the crop when it comes to American colleges, that’s not necessarily the case with this list. Click through to see which school grabbed the #1 spot.

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#100. University of California - Irvine

- Location: Irvine, CA
- Undergraduate enrollment: 29,251
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 18:1
- Acceptance rate: 29%
- Graduation rate: 83%
- Six-year median earnings: $58,400
- Two-year employment rate: 90%

University of California-Irvine is consistently one of the top-ranked public universities in the country. Cal-Irvine has been at the forefront of COVID-19 research. In 2020, the school launched an initiative to promote success and well-being among Black students.

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#99. Clemson University

- Location: Clemson, SC
- Undergraduate enrollment: 18,971
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 16:1
- Acceptance rate: 47%
- Graduation rate: 83%
- Six-year median earnings: $52,400
- Two-year employment rate: 94%

Clemson has seen a surge in popularity thanks to two college football national titles since 2016. The school also boasts a renowned center for automotive research and collaborations with tech giants like Siemens.

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#98. College of the Holy Cross

- Location: Worcester, MA
- Undergraduate enrollment: 2,913
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 10:1
- Acceptance rate: 38%
- Graduation rate: 92%
- Six-year median earnings: $71,000
- Two-year employment rate: 95%

Holy Cross has highly recommended study abroad programs (not a bad idea to escape the harsh New England winter). Still, the Worcester campus has plenty of selling points on its own, including being one of the more affordable liberal arts schools in the country. A notable number of graduates go on to work for organizations like Teach for America.

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#97. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

- Location: Troy, NY
- Undergraduate enrollment: 6,607
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 13:1
- Acceptance rate: 43%
- Graduation rate: 86%
- Six-year median earnings: $82,000
- Two-year employment rate: 95%

RPI has long been on the cutting edge of teaching technology, and offerings include a budding game design program. RPI also boasts programs dedicated to energy and the environment, computational science and engineering, and other sciences cultivated on its own unique technology park.

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#96. University of Minnesota Twin Cities

- Location: Minneapolis, MN
- Undergraduate enrollment: 30,001
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 17:1
- Acceptance rate: 52%
- Graduation rate: 80%
- Six-year median earnings: $51,900
- Two-year employment rate: 94%

The University of Minnesota has a sprawling campus in the Twin Cities, known for the Dinkytown neighborhood where Bob Dylan once resided. Scores of alumni have won Nobel and Pulitzer prizes, and others invented GORE-TEX, World War II K rations, and breakthroughs in stem cell research. The school’s Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport is a leading institution for studying the impact of females in sports.

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#95. Mount Holyoke College

- Location: South Hadley, MA
- Undergraduate enrollment: 2,177
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 9:1
- Acceptance rate: 51%
- Graduation rate: 83%
- Six-year median earnings: $48,600
- Two-year employment rate: 87%

Mount Holyoke is one of the Seven Sisters colleges and steeped in tradition. That includes cottage-style housing and its status as one of the oldest women’s colleges in the country. Mount Holyoke has a history of parades and yearly traditions that distinguish it from most college experiences.

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#94. Florida State University

- Location: Tallahassee, FL
- Undergraduate enrollment: 29,040
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 21:1
- Acceptance rate: 37%
- Graduation rate: 83%
- Six-year median earnings: $46,400
- Two-year employment rate: 93%

Long-recognized as a college football powerhouse, Florida State University’s accolades extend beyond the pigskin exploits of Deion Sanders and Bobby Bowden; the public school has taught a number of Rhodes scholars. Bonus: FSU has its own circus.

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#93. University of Washington

- Location: Seattle, WA
- Undergraduate enrollment: 29,496
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 19:1
- Acceptance rate: 49%
- Graduation rate: 84%
- Six-year median earnings: $57,700
- Two-year employment rate: 91%

If the picturesque campus in Seattle isn’t enough to entice you, the University of Washington has strong networks with Amazon, Boeing, and Microsoft. The school is also investing heavily in its health sciences program.

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#92. The Ohio State University

- Location: Columbus, OH
- Undergraduate enrollment: 42,831
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 19:1
- Acceptance rate: 52%
- Graduation rate: 84%
- Six-year median earnings: $46,100
- Two-year employment rate: 94%

Another college with a rich football history, Ohio State is also notable for its business school and its aerospace engineering program. Ohio State students have been at the forefront of electric car technology, and the school maintains a collegiate campus feel within the big city of Columbus.

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#91. Worcester Polytechnic Institute

- Location: Worcester, MA
- Undergraduate enrollment: 4,527
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 13:1
- Acceptance rate: 42%
- Graduation rate: 87%
- Six-year median earnings: $84,900
- Two-year employment rate: 94%

WPI has notable STEM programs in robotics, cybertechnology, and material sciences. The serene campus is nestled within the bustle of the city of Worcester, with traditions like a Winter Carnival and Trivia Tuesdays.

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#90. Brigham Young University

- Location: Provo, UT
- Undergraduate enrollment: 28,253
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 20:1
- Acceptance rate: 64%
- Graduation rate: 86%
- Six-year median earnings: $59,700
- Two-year employment rate: 80%

BYU has long been an appealing educational option for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A big component of student life at BYU is mission work, with 66% of students having served missions. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints pay under $3,000 per semester, while non-members pay under $6,000 per semester.

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#89. North Carolina State University

- Location: Raleigh, NC
- Undergraduate enrollment: 22,317
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 14:1
- Acceptance rate: 47%
- Graduation rate: 81%
- Six-year median earnings: $52,500
- Two-year employment rate: 94%

Located in North Carolina’s research triangle, NC State is a leader in education about textiles, technology, and engineering. The university has helped launch a number of startups and thousands of patents.

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#88. Bryn Mawr College

- Location: Bryn Mawr, PA
- Undergraduate enrollment: 1,350
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 9:1
- Acceptance rate: 34%
- Graduation rate: 87%
- Six-year median earnings: $54,600
- Two-year employment rate: 88%

Bryn Mawr’s legacy as a leading women’s college is evident throughout the world. Bryn Mawr graduates have gone on to found the first women’s college in Japan and become the first women presidents of the University of Chicago and Harvard University. Students are allowed to take classes at the University of Pennsylvania and other schools that are part of the Quaker Consortium.

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#87. Babson College

- Location: Babson Park, MA
- Undergraduate enrollment: 2,361
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 14:1
- Acceptance rate: 24%
- Graduation rate: 91%
- Six-year median earnings: $96,100
- Two-year employment rate: 91%

Babson is big on entrepreneurship. The school offers programs specializing in women’s entrepreneurial leadership, family entrepreneurship, and retail supply chain. Babson has expanded to campuses in Miami and San Francisco.

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#86. Southern Methodist University

- Location: Dallas, TX
- Undergraduate enrollment: 6,273
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 11:1
- Acceptance rate: 51%
- Graduation rate: 78%
- Six-year median earnings: $60,700
- Two-year employment rate: 93%

SMU is another school jumping on the video game bandwagon, offering programs in digital game development. SMU is known for its thriving Greek life and its Tate Lecture Series.

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#85. Scripps College

- Location: Claremont, CA
- Undergraduate enrollment: 1,046
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 10:1
- Acceptance rate: 24%
- Graduation rate: 88%
- Six-year median earnings: $54,100
- Two-year employment rate: 90%

With eight Fulbright scholars during the 2018–19 academic year, Scripps College is a leader in producing scholars who qualify for that program. Ninety-four percent of students at this women’s college live on campus, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

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#84. University of California - Santa Barbara

- Location: Santa Barbara, CA
- Undergraduate enrollment: 22,601
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 22:1
- Acceptance rate: 32%
- Graduation rate: 82%
- Six-year median earnings: $55,300
- Two-year employment rate: 91%

The Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics is a centerpiece of UC-Santa Barbara’s academic offerings. Much of the student body gets around the scenic campus by bike, attending classes in esteemed buildings like the Institute for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Research.

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#83. Santa Clara University

- Location: Santa Clara, CA
- Undergraduate enrollment: 5,440
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 10:1
- Acceptance rate: 50%
- Graduation rate: 91%
- Six-year median earnings: $72,600
- Two-year employment rate: 94%

With a Center for Nanostructures and Center for Social Entrepreneurship as some of the samplings, Santa Clara has a wide variety of academic offerings. Located in Silicon Valley, the university has ties to Google, Facebook, NASA, and Apple. Underdogs have thrived at the small school, including Basketball Hall of Famer Steve Nash.

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#82. Penn State

- Location: University Park, PA
- Undergraduate enrollment: 39,321
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 14:1
- Acceptance rate: 56%
- Graduation rate: 85%
- Six-year median earnings: $50,100
- Two-year employment rate: 94%

Penn State has renowned schools for business, education, and science. On Saturdays in the fall, 100,000 fans pack Beaver Stadium for football games, but students can always mingle and socialize at the famous Berkey Creamery.

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#81. Reed College

- Location: Portland, OR
- Undergraduate enrollment: 1,453
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 9:1
- Acceptance rate: 35%
- Graduation rate: 81%
- Six-year median earnings: $42,200
- Two-year employment rate: 88%

Intimate learning environments allow students to thrive at Reed, with its small student-to-teacher ratio. Greek life is all but absent at Reed, but the college does boast its own nuclear reactor. Students 21 and older are fond of Reed’s Beer Nation club.

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#80. Texas A&M University

- Location: College Station, TX
- Undergraduate enrollment: 47,399
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 20:1
- Acceptance rate: 68%
- Graduation rate: 82%
- Six-year median earnings: $58,000
- Two-year employment rate: 95%

Texas A&M is one of six senior military colleges in the U.S., and the corps of cadets carry on school tradition at events throughout campus. Texas A&M is also host to the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library Center and has maintained a long partnership with NASA.

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#79. Colorado School of Mines

- Location: Golden, CO
- Undergraduate enrollment: 4,709
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 15:1
- Acceptance rate: 49%
- Graduation rate: 80%
- Six-year median earnings: $84,900
- Two-year employment rate: 95%

The Colorado School of Mines boasts strong ties to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Located in the Rocky Mountains, the school provides one of the most intriguing recreational atmospheres for a college, with numerous trails and ski areas nearby. Mining is not the only specialty emphasized here, as the college also has programs in economics, biochemistry, and applied mathematics and statistics.

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#78. Bucknell University

- Location: Lewisburg, PA
- Undergraduate enrollment: 3,581
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 9:1
- Acceptance rate: 33%
- Graduation rate: 88%
- Six-year median earnings: $70,800
- Two-year employment rate: 95%

If you’re looking to see the world, Bucknell could be the school for you—almost half of Bucknell’s students study abroad. The Susquehanna River is a focal point of Bucknell’s campus, offering a unique aesthetic for studies. 

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

- Location: New York, NY
- Undergraduate enrollment: 856
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 6:1
- Acceptance rate: 16%
- Graduation rate: 88%
- Six-year median earnings: $64,900
- Two-year employment rate: 93%

Cooper Union is known for its free tuition and location in Manhattan’s East Village. Programs in engineering and design regularly rank high on annual lists. The School of Art is also well-regarded for its studios, labs, and student exhibitions.

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#76. Purdue University

- Location: West Lafayette, IN
- Undergraduate enrollment: 31,849
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 13:1
- Acceptance rate: 58%
- Graduation rate: 81%
- Six-year median earnings: $55,100
- Two-year employment rate: 95%

Twenty-five astronauts attended Purdue, including Neil Armstrong. Purdue also boasts America’s first university-owned airport. Purdue’s Online Writing Lab has set an industry standard in grammar and style.

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#75. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

- Location: Champaign, IL
- Undergraduate enrollment: 32,757
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 20:1
- Acceptance rate: 62%
- Graduation rate: 84%
- Six-year median earnings: $61,500
- Two-year employment rate: 95%

Illinois boasts one of the biggest college libraries in the country, holding more than 14 million volumes. Alumni from the engineering school went on to create Netscape, JavaScript, Oracle, and YouTube.

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#74. University of Rochester

- Location: Rochester, NY
- Undergraduate enrollment: 6,293
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 10:1
- Acceptance rate: 29%
- Graduation rate: 86%
- Six-year median earnings: $61,200
- Two-year employment rate: 92%

Rochester is home to the storied Institute of Optics, thanks to contributions from Eastman Kodak and Bausch & Lomb. Rochester’s school of music also has an impressive legacy and was named after George Eastman, founder of Eastman Kodak.

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#73. Kenyon College

- Location: Gambier, OH
- Undergraduate enrollment: 1,721
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 10:1
- Acceptance rate: 36%
- Graduation rate: 87%
- Six-year median earnings: $48,700
- Two-year employment rate: 94%

Tiny Kenyon College can boast something many schools with 50,000 students or more cannot—they educated a U.S. president. Rutherford B. Hayes graduated from Kenyon in 1842; since then, the school has become known for the Kenyon Review literary journal and its large-scale sustainability projects.

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#72. Lafayette College

- Location: Easton, PA
- Undergraduate enrollment: 2,603
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 10:1
- Acceptance rate: 29%
- Graduation rate: 87%
- Six-year median earnings: $68,600
- Two-year employment rate: 93%

Lafayette makes up one half of the most-played college football rivalry, against Lehigh University. Among the most notable buildings on this scenic campus is the Kirby Hall of Civil Rights. Lafayette also has a stunning collection of images and art from East Asia.

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#71. Smith College

- Location: Northampton, MA
- Undergraduate enrollment: 2,490
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 9:1
- Acceptance rate: 31%
- Graduation rate: 89%
- Six-year median earnings: $46,200
- Two-year employment rate: 88%

Students at this women’s college live in 41 houses, providing a unique boarding experience. Each fall, classes are canceled for one day, and the students flock to nearby parks and engage in outdoor activities on Mountain Day. In 2004, Smith became the first college to graduate an all-female class of engineers.

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#70. University of Miami

- Location: Coral Gables, FL
- Undergraduate enrollment: 10,484
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 12:1
- Acceptance rate: 32%
- Graduation rate: 82%
- Six-year median earnings: $60,100
- Two-year employment rate: 90%

Don’t let the proximity to South Beach and the stories of partying football teams fool you; the University of Miami is a leading center of academic study. Miami has top-flight programs focusing on oceanography, medicine, and climate change. And yes, the main campus in Coral Gables is located near the beach.

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#69. Bates College

- Location: Lewiston, ME
- Undergraduate enrollment: 1,832
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 10:1
- Acceptance rate: 18%
- Graduation rate: 89%
- Six-year median earnings: $59,200
- Two-year employment rate: 94%

Known for its 19th-century buildings on its historic quad, Bates could be the physical prototype of a small New England college. Students can study in conjunction with schools like Columbia, Dartmouth, and RPI. Those who are inspired by movement can see professional performances at the annual Bates Dance Festival.

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#68. Grinnell College

- Location: Grinnell, IA
- Undergraduate enrollment: 1,679
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 9:1
- Acceptance rate: 24%
- Graduation rate: 84%
- Six-year median earnings: $49,100
- Two-year employment rate: 92%

The school is high on social justice causes, awarding the Grinnell Prize for individuals “effecting positive social change.” With several buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, a bustling downtown, and spaces like the Conard Environmental Research Area, Grinnell is a hidden gem in the middle of Iowa.

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#67. Vassar College

- Location: Poughkeepsie, NY
- Undergraduate enrollment: 2,442
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 8:1
- Acceptance rate: 25%
- Graduation rate: 92%
- Six-year median earnings: $54,600
- Two-year employment rate: 93%

This former women’s college is one of the better-known liberal arts schools on the East Coast. Vassar boasts its own ecological preserve along with several historic buildings. Also appealing, students receive an average financial aid award of $56,000.

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#66. Tulane University

- Location: New Orleans, LA
- Undergraduate enrollment: 6,898
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 8:1
- Acceptance rate: 17%
- Graduation rate: 85%
- Six-year median earnings: $61,700
- Two-year employment rate: 91%

Tulane has a strong bond with the city of New Orleans, particularly after Hurricane Katrina. Tulane’s medical and law schools are some of the oldest in the country. According to The Princeton Review, Tulane’s students are ranked the third happiest in the country.

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#65. Macalester College

- Location: Saint Paul, MN
- Undergraduate enrollment: 2,140
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 10:1
- Acceptance rate: 41%
- Graduation rate: 90%
- Six-year median earnings: $47,600
- Two-year employment rate: 91%

Although the backdrop of the Twin Cities provides plenty of plush scenery, those Minnesota winters can be harsh. The university says 61% of its students study abroad. The college has a strong commitment to sustainability, with the residential Eco House containing its own live-in laboratory.

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#64. Villanova University

- Location: Villanova, PA
- Undergraduate enrollment: 6,565
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 11:1
- Acceptance rate: 29%
- Graduation rate: 91%
- Six-year median earnings: $77,900
- Two-year employment rate: 95%

Located a stone’s throw from Philadelphia, Villanova is centered in Augustinian tradition. Villanova’s business school consistently places near the top of rankings, and their men’s basketball program is accomplished as well, winning national titles in 1985, 2016, and 2018. 

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#63. Lehigh University

- Location: Bethlehem, PA
- Undergraduate enrollment: 4,982
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 9:1
- Acceptance rate: 22%
- Graduation rate: 87%
- Six-year median earnings: $81,900
- Two-year employment rate: 95%

The P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science is a centerpiece of academic study at Lehigh, which is nestled in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, not too far from Philadelphia and New York. Students at the engineering school went on to invent the escalator and make notable advancements in the automobile industry. While the football rivalry with Lafayette grabs most of the athletic headlines, Lehigh also has a storied wrestling program.

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#62. University of Richmond

- Location: Richmond, VA
- Undergraduate enrollment: 3,040
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 8:1
- Acceptance rate: 30%
- Graduation rate: 87%
- Six-year median earnings: $64,500
- Two-year employment rate: 95%

A cappella groups thrive at the University of Richmond, with some gaining national recognition. Educational highlights at the private liberal arts college include its business and law schools.

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#61. University of Wisconsin

- Location: Madison, WI
- Undergraduate enrollment: 29,375
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 17:1
- Acceptance rate: 52%
- Graduation rate: 87%
- Six-year median earnings: $56,200
- Two-year employment rate: 95%

Wisconsin is a hub of innovation where vitamins A and B were discovered. Wisconsin is also known for its embryonic stem cell research. Few college events are as unified as “Jump Around” at Wisconsin football games.

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#60. Virginia Tech

- Location: Blacksburg, VA
- Undergraduate enrollment: 27,180
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 14:1
- Acceptance rate: 65%
- Graduation rate: 84%
- Six-year median earnings: $62,500
- Two-year employment rate: 96%

Virginia Tech has its own power plant and is also a leading center for automotive research, thanks to its Transportation Institute. The school announced plans for its Innovation Campus in November 2018, a 250,000-square-foot space dedicated to startups and corporate facilities.

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#59. University of Georgia

- Location: Athens, GA
- Undergraduate enrollment: 27,947
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 17:1
- Acceptance rate: 49%
- Graduation rate: 86%
- Six-year median earnings: $50,500
- Two-year employment rate: 92%

Georgia’s business school was the first of its kind in the South, and it remains a top institution in the field. Lately, the College of Environment and Design’s landscape architecture program has climbed toward the top of lists. In athletics, Georgia is all about football, and Sanford Stadium is one of the world’s biggest stadiums, seating over 92,000 spectators.

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#58. Case Western Reserve University

- Location: Cleveland, OH
- Undergraduate enrollment: 5,095
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 11:1
- Acceptance rate: 29%
- Graduation rate: 85%
- Six-year median earnings: $74,600
- Two-year employment rate: 94%

Case Western is known for its excellent social work and nursing schools. Located in the heart of Cleveland, Case Western has affiliations with many city businesses, and students can register for courses at the Cleveland Institute of Art and Cleveland Institute of Music.

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#57. University of Texas - Austin

- Location: Austin, TX
- Undergraduate enrollment: 38,097
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 18:1
- Acceptance rate: 39%
- Graduation rate: 83%
- Six-year median earnings: $58,200
- Two-year employment rate: 93%

The stars at night are big and bright deep in the heart of Texas, and students can view them at the McDonald Observatory, one of many prestigious facilities at this state school. The campus has tons of museums, from the LBJ Presidential Library to the Blanton Museum of Art, and you might even catch Matthew McConaughey at a Texas Longhorns game. Outside of campus, students can attend Austin cultural institutions like South by Southwest and Franklin Barbecue.

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#56. University of Florida

- Location: Gainesville, FL
- Undergraduate enrollment: 32,209
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 18:1
- Acceptance rate: 39%
- Graduation rate: 90%
- Six-year median earnings: $56,000
- Two-year employment rate: 92%

Parents, look away now: Florida is regularly anointed as one of the country’s top party schools. But there’s more than just beer pong-filled weekends in Gainesville—Sid Martin Biotech is a rapidly growing bio-business incubator affiliated with the school, and Florida has an institute dedicated to lightning research.

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#55. Boston University

- Location: Boston, MA
- Undergraduate enrollment: 17,396
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 10:1
- Acceptance rate: 22%
- Graduation rate: 88%
- Six-year median earnings: $65,300
- Two-year employment rate: 93%

Located in one of America’s busiest college cities, Boston University offers a mix of big city towers and intimate brownstones for residents. Hockey games at Agganis Arena draw fervent crowds in the winter, while many students take time to relax in the sun on BU Beach in the spring. BU is also home to the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre and easily accessible from most parts of the city by public transportation.

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#54. William & Mary

- Location: Williamsburg, VA
- Undergraduate enrollment: 6,300
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 11:1
- Acceptance rate: 37%
- Graduation rate: 91%
- Six-year median earnings: $58,500
- Two-year employment rate: 94%

William & Mary’s law school is the oldest in the U.S. William & Mary also has several improv comedy groups—and Jon Stewart happens to be an alum of the school. The Christmas season is widely celebrated on campus, with the school president dressing up as Santa Claus at the annual Yule Log Ceremony.

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#53. Hamilton College

- Location: Clinton, NY
- Undergraduate enrollment: 1,991
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 9:1
- Acceptance rate: 21%
- Graduation rate: 93%
- Six-year median earnings: $60,200
- Two-year employment rate: 91%

According to the school, 100% of Hamilton students live in residence halls. On campus, they can take a skate on Sage Rink, one of the oldest hockey rinks in the country, or party at the May Day music festival. Tina Fey, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Hillary Clinton, and B.B. King are some of the recent speakers on campus.

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#52. Wesleyan University

- Location: Middletown, CT
- Undergraduate enrollment: 2,928
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 8:1
- Acceptance rate: 17%
- Graduation rate: 89%
- Six-year median earnings: $54,700
- Two-year employment rate: 90%

Wesleyan’s 316-acre campus in the middle of New England educated the likes of Lin-Manuel Miranda, Bill Belichick, and Michael Bay. For almost 90 years, Wesleyan has had a thriving theater program, and the school recently developed a Freeman Asian Scholars Program, providing full tuition to students from Asia.

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#51. New York University

- Location: New York, NY
- Undergraduate enrollment: 25,725
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 9:1
- Acceptance rate: 20%
- Graduation rate: 85%
- Six-year median earnings: $61,900
- Two-year employment rate: 91%

NYU draws creatives, future tycoons, and filmmakers to their chic campus centered in historic Greenwich Village. During the coronavirus pandemic, the NYU community immersed itself in research and response. The school offers a range of unique courses, from Disability Studies to classes based on Instagram.

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#50. Northeastern University

- Location: Boston, MA
- Undergraduate enrollment: 13,864
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 14:1
- Acceptance rate: 19%
- Graduation rate: 88%
- Six-year median earnings: $67,400
- Two-year employment rate: 95%

Northeastern is regularly considered one of the best colleges for internship experience. The N.U.in program encourages study abroad, even for new students. Research in robotics and chemical imaging are among the budding fields studied at Northeastern.

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#49. Boston College

- Location: Chestnut Hill, MA
- Undergraduate enrollment: 9,696
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 13:1
- Acceptance rate: 28%
- Graduation rate: 92%
- Six-year median earnings: $72,500
- Two-year employment rate: 94%

Continuing our run of Boston schools, Boston College hosts a plethora of arts festivals and dance competitions. Hockey, basketball, and football are all major sports on campus, while the Carroll School of Management is considered a top business school in the U.S. Boston College also has a number of student publications, picking up scoops in the same city as the famed Spotlight team.

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#48. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

- Location: Chapel Hill, NC
- Undergraduate enrollment: 18,526
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 13:1
- Acceptance rate: 23%
- Graduation rate: 89%
- Six-year median earnings: $55,600
- Two-year employment rate: 94%

UNC’s medical programs, particularly dentistry and pharmacy, receive high praise from industry watchers. Men’s and women’s basketball and women’s soccer bring in a bevy of national titles and draw big crowds. Student journalists at The Daily Tar Heel regularly keep alive the spirit of a free press; during the pandemic, they called out campus leaders for lax COVID-19 protocols.

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#47. Davidson College

- Location: Davidson, NC
- Undergraduate enrollment: 1,843
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 9:1
- Acceptance rate: 19%
- Graduation rate: 90%
- Six-year median earnings: $58,900
- Two-year employment rate: 88%

Davidson, just north of Charlotte, is known for its tight-knit campus that comes together at basketball games, creating sports like flickerball, or rallying to denounce hate speech. The school has a Commission on Race and Slavery to continually tackle diversity, and The Farm teaches students about sustainable growth. In 2007, The Davidson Trust replaced loans with grants in all financial aid packages.

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#46. University of California - Berkeley

- Location: Berkeley, CA
- Undergraduate enrollment: 29,570
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 20:1
- Acceptance rate: 15%
- Graduation rate: 91%
- Six-year median earnings: $64,700
- Two-year employment rate: 88%

Considered by some metrics as the top public university in the country, Berkeley has eight Nobel Prize winners on faculty and is #1 all-time in Peace Corps volunteers. Twenty-one percent of students are transfers, making Berkeley a popular choice among two-year college graduates and undergraduates looking to start anew. With many important discoveries emanating from the space sciences laboratory, and a history of entrepreneurship, Berkeley students often become leaders in their field.

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#45. Colgate University

- Location: Hamilton, NY
- Undergraduate enrollment: 2,936
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 9:1
- Acceptance rate: 25%
- Graduation rate: 89%
- Six-year median earnings: $63,600
- Two-year employment rate: 93%

Located in the quaint village of Hamilton in upstate New York, Colgate is an oasis away from the bustle of the big city. Highlights on campus include the Longyear Museum of Anthropology and Picker Art Gallery, with its focus on 20th-century paintings. Despite its small enrollment size, Colgate has over 200 clubs and organizations.

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#44. Wake Forest University

- Location: Winston-Salem, NC
- Undergraduate enrollment: 5,171
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 10:1
- Acceptance rate: 29%
- Graduation rate: 89%
- Six-year median earnings: $63,800
- Two-year employment rate: 94%

Study abroad is a focus at Wake Forest, where 61% of the class of 2018 participated in semesters overseas. The campus has its own charms, too, with it being known for beautiful fall foliage. The Wake Forest Innovation Quarter is becoming a center of student life and collaboration with local and national businesses.

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#43. Wellesley College

- Location: Wellesley, MA
- Undergraduate enrollment: 2,391
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 8:1
- Acceptance rate: 20%
- Graduation rate: 92%
- Six-year median earnings: $60,800
- Two-year employment rate: 94%

Wellesley emphasizes student engagement, and students are involved in major committees of the Board of Trustees. The Albright Institute, the Davis Museum, and Wellesley Centers for Women offer educational and exclusive programming to the Wellesley community. Students can also cross-register for classes at nearby MIT.

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#42. Swarthmore College

- Location: Swarthmore, PA
- Undergraduate enrollment: 1,554
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 8:1
- Acceptance rate: 9%
- Graduation rate: 94%
- Six-year median earnings: $56,700
- Two-year employment rate: 85%

Swarthmore has several sustainability initiatives, aiming to become a zero-waste campus. The Scott Arboretum is a highlight of the 425-acre campus. The Peaslee Debate Society and a slew of literary magazines are among the more popular activities on campus.

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#41. Barnard College

- Location: New York, NY
- Undergraduate enrollment: 2,519
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 9:1
- Acceptance rate: 14%
- Graduation rate: 92%
- Six-year median earnings: $57,900
- Two-year employment rate: 90%

Located across the street from Columbia University’s main campus, Barnard students enjoy mostly all the same privileges as Columbia students. The Barnard Center for Research on Women and Athena Film Festival are two celebrated resources on campus. A center for teaching and learning has given the school its own distinctive hub on the Barnard and Columbia grounds.

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#40. Emory University

- Location: Atlanta, GA
- Undergraduate enrollment: 6,985
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 9:1
- Acceptance rate: 19%
- Graduation rate: 90%
- Six-year median earnings: $66,000
- Two-year employment rate: 92%

The Goizueta Business School is consistently ranked as one of the nation’s best business schools. The Carter Center, a nonprofit created by Jimmy Carter, offers internships and lectures throughout the year. Emory also runs the Confucius Institute in Atlanta, dedicated to the Chinese language and culture.

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#39. Claremont McKenna College

- Location: Claremont, CA
- Undergraduate enrollment: 1,321
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 8:1
- Acceptance rate: 9%
- Graduation rate: 93%
- Six-year median earnings: $72,900
- Two-year employment rate: 92%

Located about 30 miles from Los Angeles, Claremont McKenna, despite encompassing only one square mile, has plenty on campus to keep students busy, like The Athenaeum, which hosts a variety of social and cultural speakers four nights a week. This small school has close faculty-student bonds, as about 75% of students engage in research with faculty.

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#38. Middlebury College

- Location: Middlebury, VT
- Undergraduate enrollment: 2,551
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 8:1
- Acceptance rate: 17%
- Graduation rate: 91%
- Six-year median earnings: $58,200
- Two-year employment rate: 87%

Middlebury is recognized for its environmental studies program. The school committed to tackling climate change over the next decade with its Energy2028 initiative. Middlebury also owns its own ski area, the Middlebury Snow Bowl.

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#37. Amherst College

- Location: Amherst, MA
- Undergraduate enrollment: 1,855
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 7:1
- Acceptance rate: 13%
- Graduation rate: 93%
- Six-year median earnings: $65,000
- Two-year employment rate: 90%

Amherst is repeatedly recognized as the top liberal arts college in the country. Students at Amherst can take advantage of an open curriculum with no core requirements. Amherst is home to the Beneski Museum of Natural History and a wildlife sanctuary.

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#36. Washington & Lee University

- Location: Lexington, VA
- Undergraduate enrollment: 1,825
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 8:1
- Acceptance rate: 21%
- Graduation rate: 95%
- Six-year median earnings: $76,100
- Two-year employment rate: 94%

Located in the Shenandoah Valley and not too far from Washington D.C., Washington & Lee is regarded as a great university for students who enjoy the outdoors, and 75% of students are involved in Greek life. Every four years, the school’s mock convention receives national attention for its accuracy in portraying politics and presidential races.

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#35. Colby College

- Location: Waterville, ME
- Undergraduate enrollment: 2,000
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 10:1
- Acceptance rate: 13%
- Graduation rate: 90%
- Six-year median earnings: $58,100
- Two-year employment rate: 92%

Colby offers a Jan Plan term, allowing students to use the month to explore different experiences like penguin rehabilitation or West African music. Since 2013, Colby has been a carbon-neutral campus, and nearly 100% of students live on the smoke-free campus.

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#34. Haverford College

- Location: Haverford, PA
- Undergraduate enrollment: 1,308
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 8:1
- Acceptance rate: 19%
- Graduation rate: 92%
- Six-year median earnings: $60,700
- Two-year employment rate: 92%

Haverford emphasizes learning outside of the classroom, whether that be in the Alaskan wilderness or exploring tropical ecosystems in Honduras. Music students collaborate with orchestras around the Philadelphia area, while all students can enjoy the sights of the college’s expansive arboretum.

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#33. Williams College

- Location: Williamstown, MA
- Undergraduate enrollment: 2,042
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 6:1
- Acceptance rate: 13%
- Graduation rate: 95%
- Six-year median earnings: $59,000
- Two-year employment rate: 90%

Although fraternities are no longer existent at Williams, more than one-third of the students participate in intercollegiate sports. Ninety-six percent of students engage in extracurricular clubs or activities, and the school has an exclusive program with Oxford. The month of January is dedicated to winter study, where students pursue one single subject on a pass/fail basis.

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#32. United States Military Academy at West Point

- Location: West Point, NY
- Undergraduate enrollment: 4,589
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 7:1
- Acceptance rate: 11%
- Graduation rate: 85%
- Six-year median earnings: data not available
- Two-year employment rate: data not available

West Point has research partnerships with organizations like the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command Research and Analysis Center and the Nuclear Science and Engineering Research Center. All students live together in company areas, with set schedules for chores, meals, and study time. Extracurriculars include a grilling club, a parachute club, and a combat weapons team.

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#31. Tufts University

- Location: Medford, MA
- Undergraduate enrollment: 5,508
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 9:1
- Acceptance rate: 15%
- Graduation rate: 93%
- Six-year median earnings: $75,800
- Two-year employment rate: 92%

Tufts students have a variety of activities at their disposal, like a geological society and popular a cappella groups. Tufts art collections feature work from Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol, and the university has partnerships with Harvard, MIT, and a campus in France.

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#30. Carleton College

- Location: Northfield, MN
- Undergraduate enrollment: 2,077
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 9:1
- Acceptance rate: 20%
- Graduation rate: 93%
- Six-year median earnings: $54,200
- Two-year employment rate: 91%

Carleton, located near the Twin Cities, is regularly cited as the best school in America for undergraduate teaching. Students speak 55 different languages, and all students receive 100% of demonstrated financial need. There’s an expansive arboretum on campus, and the Weitz Center for Creativity includes a theater and dance studios.

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#29. University of Virginia

- Location: Charlottesville, VA
- Undergraduate enrollment: 15,990
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 15:1
- Acceptance rate: 26%
- Graduation rate: 94%
- Six-year median earnings: $61,200
- Two-year employment rate: 94%

The University of Virginia is considered to be a highly valuable public school, earning high marks for its business school and hospital. The school counted $1.94 billion in annual research proposal activity, with the Data Science Institute and Biocomplexity Institute and Initiative anchors of the school’s research. Virginia also boasts powerhouse men’s basketball and lacrosse teams.

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#28. Harvey Mudd College

- Location: Claremont, CA
- Undergraduate enrollment: 887
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 8:1
- Acceptance rate: 14%
- Graduation rate: 92%
- Six-year median earnings: $88,800
- Two-year employment rate: 89%

Harvey Mudd focuses on engineering, sciences, and math, offering real-world experience through its clinic program. Harvey Mudd students regularly engage in a friendly prank rivalry with Caltech. When students have the ability to take a break from studying, ski slopes are less than 30 minutes away, while the scenery of the desert is a 90-minute drive.

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#27. Georgia Institute of Technology

- Location: Atlanta, GA
- Undergraduate enrollment: 14,318
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 18:1
- Acceptance rate: 22%
- Graduation rate: 87%
- Six-year median earnings: $79,100
- Two-year employment rate: 95%

Centered in Atlanta, Georgia Tech has a top-ranked undergraduate engineering program. The new Marcus Nanotechnology Building is one of several facilities cultivating startups on campus. The Georgia Institute of Technology Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines breaks ground in medical robotics, human augmentation, autonomy, and collaborative robotics.

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#26. Bowdoin College

- Location: Brunswick, ME
- Undergraduate enrollment: 1,825
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 9:1
- Acceptance rate: 10%
- Graduation rate: 95%
- Six-year median earnings: $65,500
- Two-year employment rate: 93%

Bowdoin is another school that has replaced loans with grants in student aid packages. Bowdoin graduates are frequently employed by Google, Deloitte, Facebook, and the U.S. government. Another perk: SAT scores are optional for admission to Bowdoin.

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#25. Georgetown University

- Location: Washington, DC
- Undergraduate enrollment: 6,990
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 11:1
- Acceptance rate: 15%
- Graduation rate: 94%
- Six-year median earnings: $93,500
- Two-year employment rate: 92%

Georgetown, the nation’s oldest Catholic and Jesuit university, is home to one of the country’s largest student-run businesses and the oldest continuously running student theatre group. Georgetown’s business school launched a Venture Lab for students to incubate new ideas and startups. Located in Washington D.C., students are connected to a bevy of internship opportunities with private businesses and local, state, and federal governments.

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#24. University of California - Los Angeles

- Location: Los Angeles, CA
- Undergraduate enrollment: 31,009
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 18:1
- Acceptance rate: 14%
- Graduation rate: 91%
- Six-year median earnings: $60,700
- Two-year employment rate: 89%

UCLA offers more than 125 majors, and over the past decade, has been awarded $1 billion annually in competitive research awards and grants. UCLA has won 11 men’s basketball national titles, but their softball, gymnastics, volleyball, and swimming teams also own several national championships. Located in the heart of Los Angeles, the campus is regularly used as a filming location and holds several large gatherings throughout the year, including the annual Jazz Reggae Fest.

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#23. University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

- Location: Ann Arbor, MI
- Undergraduate enrollment: 29,245
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 11:1
- Acceptance rate: 23%
- Graduation rate: 92%
- Six-year median earnings: $63,400
- Two-year employment rate: 94%

In 2020, Michigan produced 503 new inventions and 33 new business startups. Michigan regularly tops research volume among public universities. In athletics, Michigan Stadium seats over 100,000 for football games, making it one of the world’s largest stadiums.

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#22. Carnegie Mellon University

- Location: Pittsburgh, PA
- Undergraduate enrollment: 6,343
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 10:1
- Acceptance rate: 17%
- Graduation rate: 89%
- Six-year median earnings: $83,600
- Two-year employment rate: 91%

Brain science and driverless cars are just some of the topics being studied and tested at Carnegie Mellon. Carnegie Mellon is commonly recognized for its premier computer science and engineering programs and boasts a highly respected drama program. It is one of the only schools to offer a degree in bagpipe performance.

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#21. Johns Hopkins University

- Location: Baltimore, MD
- Undergraduate enrollment: 5,595
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 7:1
- Acceptance rate: 11%
- Graduation rate: 93%
- Six-year median earnings: $73,200
- Two-year employment rate: 91%

Johns Hopkins is recognized as one of the preeminent schools for studying medicine in the country. Johns Hopkins leads U.S. academic institutions in total research and development spending and counts 29 Nobel Prize winners among its associates. The school also has programs run in conjunction with NASA, and the Spring Fair is one of the largest college gatherings in the nation.

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#20. Pomona College

- Location: Claremont, CA
- Undergraduate enrollment: 1,559
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 7:1
- Acceptance rate: 8%
- Graduation rate: 94%
- Six-year median earnings: $58,100
- Two-year employment rate: 90%

Despite its small size, Pomona College has more than 250 clubs and organizations, and 98% of students live on campus, creating a tight-knit atmosphere at the school. Near Los Angeles and next to a bucolic mountain setting, students enjoy skiing and beaches. The school also has an art museum, eight music ensembles, and collaborative partnerships with other colleges in the Claremont area.

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#19. University of Southern California

- Location: Los Angeles, CA
- Undergraduate enrollment: 19,194
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 9:1
- Acceptance rate: 13%
- Graduation rate: 92%
- Six-year median earnings: $74,000
- Two-year employment rate: 92%

Located in downtown Los Angeles, USC has a network of over 437,000 living alumni (as of 2021) for making connections in Hollywood or elsewhere. George Lucas and Robert Zemeckis are just some of the directors to attend the cinematic arts school at USC. On Saturdays in the fall, the Spirit of Troy marching band enlivens crowds at USC football games.

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#18. Cornell University

- Location: Ithaca, NY
- Undergraduate enrollment: 15,175
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 9:1
- Acceptance rate: 11%
- Graduation rate: 95%
- Six-year median earnings: $77,200
- Two-year employment rate: 93%

For decades, Cornell has been vital to space exploration to Mars and advancements in agriculture and farming. Though centered in Ithaca, Cornell has several facilities for study in New York City. Gathering at ice hockey games is a tradition, which can be followed by a trip to the Cornell ice cream dairy.

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#17. University of Chicago

- Location: Chicago, IL
- Undergraduate enrollment: 6,600
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 5:1
- Acceptance rate: 7%
- Graduation rate: 94%
- Six-year median earnings: $68,100
- Two-year employment rate: 92%

The University of Chicago has been instrumental in pioneering hormonal cancer treatment, discovering new dinosaur species, and proposing the existence of black holes. The school hosts the Robie House, a national landmark and UNESCO World Heritage Site. University of Chicago also has a long tradition of nurturing successful improv comedy troupes.

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#16. University of Notre Dame

- Location: Notre Dame, IN
- Undergraduate enrollment: 8,607
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 10:1
- Acceptance rate: 18%
- Graduation rate: 97%
- Six-year median earnings: $78,400
- Two-year employment rate: 95%

Notre Dame Stadium is one of the hallowed landmarks in all of sports and home to a legendary football team. For students not enamored with football, the Snite Museum of Art and DeBartolo Performing Arts Center provide plenty of insightful programming. The campus also has over 50 chapels.

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#15. Washington University in St. Louis

- Location: Saint Louis, MO
- Undergraduate enrollment: 7,146
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 7:1
- Acceptance rate: 15%
- Graduation rate: 95%
- Six-year median earnings: $70,100
- Two-year employment rate: 94%

Almost 90% of Washington University in St. Louis students are from out of state, making this college a melting pot. Washington received almost $866 million in research funds for medicine, energy, plant science, and other fields in 2020. The university also has several libraries and its own art museum.

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#14. Northwestern University

- Location: Evanston, IL
- Undergraduate enrollment: 8,161
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 6:1
- Acceptance rate: 8%
- Graduation rate: 95%
- Six-year median earnings: $69,000
- Two-year employment rate: 92%

Northwestern’s journalism program has a long tradition of producing quality reporters. The business and material engineering programs are also highly regarded, while research remains Northwestern’s backbone—the school accounts for “$2.2 billion in revenue from patents and intellectual property licensing revenue.” Located just outside of Chicago, Northwestern combines suburban tranquility with a big-city feel.

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#13. Dartmouth College

- Location: Hanover, NH
- Undergraduate enrollment: 4,357
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 7:1
- Acceptance rate: 9%
- Graduation rate: 95%
- Six-year median earnings: $75,500
- Two-year employment rate: 94%

The Dartmouth Plan allows students to customize their academic schedules. This Ivy League institution has an abundance of theaters and centers for arts, as well as various technology institutes. Each year, the college hosts a winter carnival and a powwow celebrating Native American history.

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#12. Columbia University

- Location: New York, NY
- Undergraduate enrollment: 7,666
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 6:1
- Acceptance rate: 6%
- Graduation rate: 96%
- Six-year median earnings: $83,300
- Two-year employment rate: 89%

Students from 74 countries come to study at Columbia, which is located in northern Manhattan, near a variety of parks and landmarks. Campus media outlets like the Columbia Daily Spectator, WKCR, and Bwog captivate readers and listeners throughout the city. For decades, students have started protests that have made national headlines for their effectiveness.

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#11. Vanderbilt University

- Location: Nashville, TN
- Undergraduate enrollment: 6,789
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 7:1
- Acceptance rate: 10%
- Graduation rate: 94%
- Six-year median earnings: $69,000
- Two-year employment rate: 94%

Vanderbilt is recognized as one of the world’s most innovative universities. From 2011-2016, Vanderbilt filed 231 patents, and the school continues to expand its Center for Technology Transfer and Commercialization. The Princeton Review ranked Vanderbilt as having the best quality of life for students in 2019.

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#10. University of Pennsylvania

- Location: Philadelphia, PA
- Undergraduate enrollment: 10,605
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 6:1
- Acceptance rate: 8%
- Graduation rate: 95%
- Six-year median earnings: $85,900
- Two-year employment rate: 91%

Researchers at Penn are involved in topical work, like studying police killings and Black mental health, or COVID-19’s impact on people of color. Each year, innovation prizes award $100,000 to graduates working on projects to impact the world positively. Despite its high tuition cost, Penn has instituted an all-grant financial aid program.

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#9. Brown University

- Location: Providence, RI
- Undergraduate enrollment: 6,735
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 6:1
- Acceptance rate: 8%
- Graduation rate: 95%
- Six-year median earnings: $67,500
- Two-year employment rate: 91%

Brown is well known for its open curriculum, allowing students flexibility and input in choosing their courses, with less of a requirement on core classes. The Carney Institute for Brain Science and Institute for Environment and Society provide unique perspectives to important fields of study. The university is working to strengthen its relationship with the city of Providence, with 450 students volunteering every year in public schools.

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#8. California Institute of Technology

- Location: Pasadena, CA
- Undergraduate enrollment: 948
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 3:1
- Acceptance rate: 7%
- Graduation rate: 92%
- Six-year median earnings: $85,900
- Two-year employment rate: 89%

Caltech is the home of a jet propulsion laboratory, the Einstein Papers Project, and an energy innovation hub that develops methods to generate fuel from sunlight. Every Halloween, students combine their interest in sciences with recreation, smashing pumpkins from the top of a library. The student body is notorious for its (good-natured) pranks.

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#7. Rice University

- Location: Houston, TX
- Undergraduate enrollment: 3,899
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 6:1
- Acceptance rate: 11%
- Graduation rate: 95%
- Six-year median earnings: $65,400
- Two-year employment rate: 92%

A tree-lined sanctuary in the middle of bustling Houston, Rice is consistently ranked near the top of lists gauging college quality of life. Rice has been a leader in artificial heart research and other sciences and maintains a close partnership with NASA.

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#6. Princeton University

- Location: Princeton, NJ
- Undergraduate enrollment: 5,321
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 5:1
- Acceptance rate: 5%
- Graduation rate: 96%
- Six-year median earnings: $74,700
- Two-year employment rate: 87%

Ninety-eight percent of students live on campus, right near downtown Princeton and a short train ride to New York and Philadelphia. Noted for its engineering and finance departments, Princeton also thrives in modern sciences like plasma physics, and in 2020, Princeton announced a new $115 million quantum science center. Eating clubs are at an intersection of social life and tradition.

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#5. Duke University

- Location: Durham, NC
- Undergraduate enrollment: 6,659
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 6:1
- Acceptance rate: 9%
- Graduation rate: 96%
- Six-year median earnings: $84,400
- Two-year employment rate: 94%

Duke’s law and medical schools regularly rank near the top of lists, and their men's basketball team frequently tops national polls. A game at Cameron Indoor Stadium is considered one of the world’s premier sporting environments, but the Levine Science Research Center is pretty impressive too; the center is one of the country's largest single-site interdisciplinary research facilities. Duke Chapel is a center for campus events and religious services.

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#4. Yale University

- Location: New Haven, CT
- Undergraduate enrollment: 5,939
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 6:1
- Acceptance rate: 6%
- Graduation rate: 97%
- Six-year median earnings: $83,200
- Two-year employment rate: 92%

Twenty-one percent of Yale’s student body hails from abroad, creating a diverse landscape on the Gothic campus nestled in downtown New Haven. Yale has work to do, though, in scrubbing discrimination from admissions practices, according to the Department of Justice. One of the school’s most storied traditions is hosting “The Game” against Harvard every two years at the Yale Bowl.

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#3. Stanford University

- Location: Stanford, CA
- Undergraduate enrollment: 7,087
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 5:1
- Acceptance rate: 4%
- Graduation rate: 94%
- Six-year median earnings: $94,000
- Two-year employment rate: 94%

Located in Silicon Valley, Stanford has strong bonds with tech giants like Google, which was founded by Stanford students. New technological innovations implemented by Stanford are allowing incoming students to connect in different ways as they study from home. Stanford also has a storied athletic program, as its athletes have won hundreds of Olympic medals.

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#2. Harvard University

- Location: Cambridge, MA
- Undergraduate enrollment: 7,210
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 7:1
- Acceptance rate: 5%
- Graduation rate: 98%
- Six-year median earnings: $89,700
- Two-year employment rate: 89%

The oldest college in America remains a bastion of success as it faces questions about its admissions process. The school counts 49 Nobel Laureates and 48 Pulitzer Prize winners among its alumni, as well as eight U.S. presidents. The Harvard Lampoon humor magazine has been entertaining (and infuriating) students for almost 150 years.

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#1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

- Location: Cambridge, MA
- Undergraduate enrollment: 4,557
- Student-to-faculty ratio: 3:1
- Acceptance rate: 7%
- Graduation rate: 94%
- Six-year median earnings: $104,700
- Two-year employment rate: 94%

Students and researchers at MIT are always on the cutting edge of modern technology—the school created a contact-free robot that might be able to detect patient vital signs related to COVID-19. Among the highlights of this school are the Haystack Observatory, the MIT Media Lab (designed by I.M. Pei), and MIT.nano, which specializes in nanoscale imaging. MIT has acres of stunning scenery, from quiet Cambridge streets to the futuristic layout of Simmons Hall.

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