37 Most Prestigious Universities In America

When it comes to college, the amount available to the American student can be overwhelming. But what if you don’t just want to go to college? What if you want to go to one of the most prestigious schools in the country? Schools ranking vary with a number of factors but by taking these into account, there are those who are better than others. Her are the 37 top schools in the country that you want to be seen at.

Princeton University

In Princeton, New Jersey you can find the private Ivy League school Princeton University. The school was originally founded in 1746 which makes it one of the oldest schools in America. The school was originally called the College of New Jersey and was founded to train ministers. In the early 1800’s the school shifted focus from training minister to training the next generation. One of the reasons that it is considered so prestigious is due to the some of the former alumni. Princeton alumni have been associated top prizes from the Nobel awards and Rhode Scholars. Students who attended Princeton have gone on to become members of the US Congress and foreign heads of state. The acceptance rate for Princeton is 9% making it one of the most difficult universities to get a place in.




Harvard University

Harvard University was founded in 1636 and has a long history of wealth and influence. It is the oldest school in the United States. The school was named after its first benefactor, John Harvard. After the Civil War the school was transformed into the research center that it is known as today. The cost of attending Harvard is very high but Harvard offers different scholarships and grants for students. It has recently started to reduce financial barriers to low income students by offering free places to students with a family income less than $60,000 per year. The acceptance rate for Harvard is only 7% with an average of 2,000 students per year. Former alumni has included eight US Presidents and over 60 living billionaires.




Swarthmore College

This private liberal arts school was established in 1864 in Swarthmore Pennsylvania. It was one of the first co-ed colleges in America. Although it was originally established by Quakers, by the early 1900’s it had drooped any religious affiliations and had become non-sectarian establishment. During World War Two it was one of the colleges which took part in the V-12 Navy College training program. The acceptance rate of Swarthmore College is 16% on average. The prestigious history and nature of the college has earned it the nickname “The Little Ivy”. Notable alumni include Robert Zoellick, the former President of the World Bank, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve and the “mother of the Hubble telescope” Nancy Roman.



Massachusetts Institute of Technology

MIT was founded in 1861 in Cambridge, Massachusetts as the demand of industrial activity in the United States was increasing. The school is famous for its engineering and research but in recent years it has expanded to include biology and management as part of its research and study. MIT is often cited as one of the top schools in America as former students include over 80 Nobel Laureates and over 30 astronauts. The acceptance rate into MIT is only 10%. After being accepted in the Association of American Universities in 1934, the school has remained a research based university. During World War Two the staff and students were heavily involved in designing new technology which would help the war effort.

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The College of William and Mary

This college was founded in 1693 after official letters from King William III and Queen Mary II requested that a school was formed as a place of universal study. The school was then named in their honor in Williamsburg, Virginia. It is the oldest university in the American South and the second oldest in America. Since the early 1900’s the school has been publicly funded and is considered a “public Ivy”. Former students have included the Presidents Thomas Jefferson, John Tyler and James Monroe. When the school first opened it educated the sons of colonists and Native Americans and currently has an acceptable rate of 32%. The school’s commitment to its students ensures that they graduate debt-free with a high level of education to rival the private Ivy League schools.


Williams College

This liberal arts college was established in Williamstown, Massachusetts in 1793. It was originally a men’s college and remained that way until 1970 after the fraternities were phased out in the 1960’s. It has been previously been ranked as the top liberal arts college in America and as one of the best undergraduate colleges in America. The school was founded after Ephraim Williams left a request in his Last Will and Testament that a free school was founded and maintained in his name. Former students have included those who have received prizes for literature and mathematics. The school has a 20% acceptance rate and promises financial aid to suit students from all walks of life.

Amherst College

Established in 1821 in Amherst, Massachusetts, this liberal arts college is an exclusively undergraduate four year institution. Previously the school has been ranked as the second best liberal arts college in America. Amherst College was developed from the secondary school Amherst Academy. The school was a men’s college until the 1960’s when it began admitting female students from other nearby schools on an experimental basis. The acceptable rate of Amherst is 15% and has been cited as one of the selective liberal schools in America. In previous years over 60% of students have received financial aid and replaced its student loans with financial aid in 2007. Former students have received many different prizes in their respective fields including Nobel Laureates and Pulitzer Prize winners.



Stanford University

Stanford University is a private research university in Stanford, California. It has been listed on various lists over the years as one of the most prestigious schools in the United States. The school has an acceptable rate of 7% which makes it one of the most selective universities in America. The school was established in 1891 with the motto “The wind blows freedom”. The school was founded by Leland Stanford and his wife after the death of their only son and declared that “the children of California will be our children”. Stanford has many different fraternities and sororities and is home to 29 Greek organizations. Stanford has a notable amount of living billionaires and a large amount of former students have been CEOs of Fortune 500 companies.




California Institute of Technology

Caltech is a private research university in Pasadena, California. The school was established in 1891 and has gone on to attract some of the most influential scientists of the 20th century. The university has been cited as one of the best schools in America as many former students have been prize winners. There have been over 30 Nobel Prize winners and over 70 have won the National Medal of Science or Technology. Many of the faculty are associated with NASA and The Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Students from Caltech graduate with an average of one of the lowest student debts and the highest salaries. The acceptance rate is around 13% with a small student body.


Yale University

Established in 1701 in New Haven, Connecticut, Yale University is one of America’s premium Ivy League research schools. It was originally founded by the Saybrook Colony in 1701 as the Collegiate School and was renamed in 1718 after Elihu Yale. Since then the university has grown and now has some of the world most notable alumni. These include former presidents of the United States, over 10 living billionaires, hundreds of members of Congress and over 15 US Supreme Court Justices. The acceptable rate of Yale is 8% but it will accept anyone from any walk of life. The university has made a commitment to students’ financial needs and has a need-blind policy for all its admissions.




University of Pennsylvania

Penn or UPenn is a private research Ivy League university in Philadelphia. The school was founded in 1740 by Benjamin Franklin. The school has been ranked on lists for being one of the most prestigious schools in America because of its high level of research. The school has a 14% acceptance rate and has rolled out a no-loan financial aid policy to all students. Former alumni have included heads of state from around the world including presidents of Ghana and Nigeria. Some of the most historic figures include nine signer of the Constitution and eight signers of the Declaration of Independence. Four of the current faculty members are winners of the Nobel Prize in their respective fields.

University of North Carolina

This multi-campus public university is composed of 16 of North Carolina’s universities. It was established in 1789 and is the oldest public university in the United States. It is known as the oldest public Ivy and has a guarantee to low income student that they will graduate debt free. The original campus can be found in Chapel Hill and since 1877 the school has grown to include universities from the surrounding area. The current acceptable rate is 32% and has one of the largest and most active alumni on the planet. Many former alumni have gone on to become CEOs at some of the largest companies in America and there are many more sport stars and actors.


Duke University

Located in Durham, North Carolina, this private research university was founded in 1838 by the Quakers. The school as it is currently known was established in 1924 and named after Washington Duke. The school is one of the wealthiest universities in America with over $11.4 billion being made as investments in 2014. It has been ranked nationally and globally as one of the most prestigious universities. With an acceptable rate of 19% and a need-blind and full-need financial aid policies, the school is now open to anyone who gets the grades to study there. Duke is also known for its ability on the basketball court and has won the NCAA Men’s Division 1 Basketball Championship five times.


Washington and Lee University

Washington and Lee is a private liberal arts university in Lexington, Virginia. It was established in 1749 as the Augusta Academy and has changed names several times until 1870 when it became known as Washington and Lee University. The school is the ninth oldest institution in America after it was founded by Scots-Irish Pioneers. The school was named Washington after the first president of the United States as he was one of the first benefactors when the school was struggling financially. The school is still partially funded by George Washington’s original investment. There has been over 60 US representatives and 27 US senators that have come from the university. The acceptable rate is 19% and has a high student honor code that can be traced back to General Lee.



University of Virginia

This public research university was founded in Charlottesville, Virginia in 1819. The school has a long history with a high honor code and has been known for its secret societies. The university has been classed as a high activity research facility and has received many grants from the Federal Reserve over the years. The first board of visitors included James Madison, James Monroe and Thomas Jefferson. The current acceptable rate is 33% and guarantees full funding and no debt for students. Former students include Edgar Allan Poe and seven NASA astronauts. Many of Virginians governors studied at the university as well as several former US Senators, including Robert F Kennedy.

Vanderbilt University

Vandy was founded in 1873 in Nashville, Tennessee and is a private research university. The school was named after Cornelius Vanderbilt who gave the school an endowment of $1 million. He had hoped that his gift would help to heal the wounds of the civil war even though he had never been to the American South. The current acceptance rate is 18% and the school offers students a debt-free financial aid policy. Despite the campus being in the heart of Nashville, the campus has an amazing amount of greenery and has over 300 specimens of trees. The school mascot is the Commodores after the Cornelius Vanderbilt who was known as the Commodore. The Commodore is a Navy rank and students are often heard saying “Anchor down” as the school motto.

Kirkland Hall. (John Russell/Vanderbilt University)


Colgate University

This private liberal arts college is located in Hamilton village, Hamilton Township, Madison County, New York and was founded in 1819. The school was originally founded by 13 men but was renamed in 1890 after the Colgate family who had given a $1 million endowment to the school. The current acceptable rate is 33% with around 3,000 undergraduates. The town where the university is located is not much bigger in size. Many students of Colgate go on to work with the Peace Corps and in sports. One of the traditions in the school is the number 13. The school sees it as a lucky number as it was founded by 13 men, with 13 dollars and 13 prayers.



Rice University

Located in Houston, Texas, this private research university has been ranked in the top twenty universities in the United States many times of the years. Among the achievements of former students includes Nobel Laureates and is known for its entrepreneurial activity. It was established in 1912 after the death of William Marsh Rice. William Rice had decided to establish a school in his name on is death to provide education for students of the highest standard. The acceptance rate is 21% and the campus is considered a small town on its own. There has been 14 NASA astronauts and three Olympians. The university has produced at 4 living billionaires and has been the focus of several different start-ups.


Brown University

The College in the English Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations was founded in 1764 when three residents of Newport, Rhode Island petitioned the General Assembly of the Colony asking for a school to be built. It is now a small Ivy League research university which caters for many different types of students. The acceptance rate is currently 9% which makes it one of the most selective universities in America. Former alumni include members of the US Congress and US senators. Emma Watson is a former student of Brown as well as Ira Glass. It has a non-loan financial aid policy and families who make less than $60,000 per year are not expected to make any type of financial contribution.


Pomona College

Located in Claremont, California, this private liberal arts college was founded in 1887. Pomona College has ranked on various lists as one of the top five liberal arts colleges in America. The school is exclusively a four year undergraduate college that enrolls around 1,500 each year. The current acceptance rate is 15% and the school has recently began a no-loans financial policy for students. Instead the college now offers grants and scholarships for students. From the very beginning Pomona has been a co-educational environment. All first year students live on the south campus and there are four residential halls. Many students go on to work in education and business. Around 10% of students go on to work in medicine and healthcare.

Pomona College

University of Michigan

Established nearly 200 years ago in 1817, the University of Michigan in located in Ann Arbour in Michigan. The university was founded before Michigan was declared a state and it the oldest university in the area. It is a public research university and is considered one of the original public Ivies. It has a high acceptance rate of 51% and is beginning to change its policies on financial aid for students. The university has produced 26 Rhode Island Scholars and a former president of the United States. Famous actors and actresses are also included in their alumni. Lucy Liu and Selma Blair are only two of a long list of famous women to come from the school, including Madonna.


Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art

This is a privately funded college known simply as Cooper Union which is found in Cooper Square in the East Village of Manhattan in New York. It was established in 1859 and has been one of the few educational institution to offer a full scholarship to every student. The founder of the college, Peter Cooper believed that education should be as free as the air that we breathe. This had led to a high level of applicants and a low acceptance rate of 8%. The college’s main focus is on fine art, architecture and engineering. Former alumni include one winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics and over 30 Fulbright Scholars.


University of California, Berkeley

Berkeley is a major public research university in Berkeley California.  The university is located in one of the most liberal places in America and has been a hot-spot for student activism in the past. It has been ranked highly in the top schools in America on a number of occasions, normally within the top six schools. The current acceptance rate is 22% and the university receives funding from many different sources. Students have access to many different subjects and the large faculty has some of the finest people in their field. There have been over 70 Nobel Prize winners associated with the university and nine Wolf Prize winners.

Dartmouth College

This private Ivy League college is located in Hanover, New Hampshire. It was founded in 1769 by Eleazar Wheelock who had originally planned to start a school to train Native Americans as missionaries. The college is the smallest of the Ivy League schools which has promised to meet the financial needs of all of the students. The current acceptance rate is 13% with just over 4,000 students each year. Over 700 of the students that have graduated from Dartmouth have been Native American. This number is more than all of the other Ivy League schools combined. The sports teams at the university are widely celebrated and mainly who play Varsity sports there go on to have sporting careers.


Claremont McKenna College

Claremont McKenna College is often shortened to CMC and is located in Claremont, California. It is an independent, co-educational, private liberal arts college with an acceptance rate of 17%. When it was founded in 1946 it was originally a men’s college but since 1976 it has adopted a co-educational environment. The students that attend the college have been ranked as the second happiness in America. In recent years the acceptance rate has dropped to as low as 9% making it one of the most selective liberal arts colleges in America. The college hope to raise $600 million by fundraising with $110 million going towards financial aid for students. Robin Williams is among the notable alumni that have attended the college.


Texas A&M University

When the university was established in 1871 it was known as The Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas. It was the first public institution of education in the state of Texas. The university has a no-loans policy and financial aid for students whose families earn less than $60,000 per year. The acceptance rate is high at 69% but has a student body of over 60,000 students studying at various levels. The main campus is one of the largest in the United States as it spreads over 5,000 acres. The university has its roots in the military and many of the students have gone on to have high ranking military careers including those received the Medal of Honour  for service in World War Two.

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University of California, Davis

This school is found just outside Sacramento and is major public research university. Between 1905 and 1922 it was called the University Farm, and then Northern Branch of the College of Agricultural until 1959. Since then it has expanded from its farming roots and offers a wide range of different subjects for students. It is now a world leader in science and engineering. The acceptance rank is 47% and it offers financial aid to students whose families make less than $80,000 per year. The school focuses heavily on creating environmentally sustainable solutions for the world and has updated some of the school buildings to reflect this.


Georgia Institute of Technology

Georgia Tech is one of the most notable engineering schools in the United States. Not only is there the main campus in Atlanta, Georgia, there are several campuses around the world including France and Ireland. It was founded in 1885 as a way to help rebuild the American South and to help compete in the industrial revolution. There is over 50 active chapters of Greek life at Georgia and has been ranked as one of the toughest and difficult schools in America. The acceptance rate for the school is 59%. Former President of the United States Jimmy Carter is one of the former students from the university as well as many different employees for NASA.

Georgia Tech


Davidson College

Since the rankings began for different schools, Davidson has been ranked in the top ten for liberal arts colleges every year. It has also been ranked in the top twenty five for best school in America. It has a no-loan policy for students and an acceptance rate of 29% with just over 2,000 students on campus. Since it was founded in 1837 there have been a number of prize winning students including 23 Rhode Island Scholars. The college has a strict honor code which every student must sign at the beginning of their freshman year. The College Farm offers home grown produce for students to enjoy in the dining halls.


University of Notre Dame

Unlike many universities, Notre Dame has stayed true to its roots and is still a catholic university. It was founded in 1842 by Father Edward Sorin. The university has continued to receive funding from various Catholic organizations from around the world. It is this funding which helps with student finances and funding to help keep student debt as low as possible. There are still many Holy Cross Priests who work for the university in different roles. The university did not admit female students until the 1970’s. The current acceptance rate is around 29% with as many as 12,000 students on campus. Condoleezza Rice is one of the notable alumni that attended the university.


Cornell University

This university is a private Ivy league  and federal land grant research university which was set up to provide forward thinking education for the youth of America in all fields of knowledge. The university provides access to education regardless of a student’s background. Families who earn less than $60,000 per year are not expected to make any financial contribution to the school. The acceptance rate is 18% which makes it one of the easier Ivy League to get in to. Cornell is the only university to have three female unshared Nobel Prize winners among its graduates. There have been many different members of state who have attended and many others who have went on to be CEOs of national businesses.


Harvey Mudd

This private residential liberal arts college was founded in 1955 in Claremont, California. It is one of the institutions under the Claremont college campus. The school has less than 1,000 students and has an acceptance rate of 23%. Over the years the college has gained national exposure as one of the top up and coming school in the fields of math and science. It is currently the highest ranking school in the United States for engineering, science and math. Graduates have been ranked as the some of the highest in America after graduating. It has also been listed as a top school for graduates on various lists since it was founded.


Carleton College

In the historic town of Northfield, Minnesota is the campus of Carleton College. It was founded in 1866 and has been listed and ranked as one of the top liberal arts schools in America. It is home to the oldest student run pub and has a long list of student activities. It has an acceptance rate of 31% and accepts around 2,000 students each year. It has recently become more selective and acceptance rates have dropped to as low as 20%. Over 70% of graduates go on to medical school or law school with the top Ivy League universities. Notable alumni have included a Supreme Court justice and notable journalists.


Bucknell University

This private liberal arts college is located in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. It was founded in 1846 by the White Deer Baptist Church who wanted a school in central Pennsylvania. It is now the largest liberal arts college in America which offers more courses than any other liberal arts college in the country. The acceptance rate is 31% with around 3,500 students being admitted every year. First year students are required to live on campus but the college guarantees housing for students for four years. To ensure the health of the students, every student is required to purchase a meal plan to ensure that they have food to eat.

University of Washington

The University of Washington is the oldest university on the West Coast of America. It is a public research university that was founded in 1861. The school was founded after the Senator of Washington thought that there was a need for a school in Seattle. It has a high acceptance rate of 58% with over 45,000 students. The research budget for the school is one of the highest in the country. Washington has been ranked in the top fifteen universities in the country and in the top thirty worldwide. The student newspaper is the second largest paper in Seattle and is published every day that classes are in session. The campus has been featured in many different movies including “10 things I hate about you”.



University of Florida

The University of Florida is located in North Central Florida. It is an American land-grant, sea-grant, and space-grant research university. It has an acceptance rate of 43% and has taken many steps to help students from different backgrounds. It has been continually ranked in the top fifty best schools in the country in different lists. The university is one of a few schools which has a nationally recognized student honor program. As well as degree programs there is the University of Florida Reserve Officer Training Corps which is the oldest in the country. Former alumni included 10 US Senators and leaders of the Marine Corps. Faculty include prize winners of NASA’s top award for research.


University of Texas Austin

This flagship university is a public research university of the University of Texas System. It is considered one the original public ivies since it was established in 1883. The roots of the school can be traced as far back as 1827 under the Mexican Constitution. The current acceptance rate is 47% with a student body of nearly 40,000 students. It is considered one of America’s best sports colleges with a variety of Varsity sport programs. Former first Lady Laura Bush and Neil deGrasse Tyson are among the notable alumni who attended the university. The Keene Prize for Literature is awarded every year by the university to the best writers and is $50,000.