Picking the right college can be difficult. Whether you’re attending college for the first time, or want to go back to finish a degree, finding the best school can be overwhelming. Most potential students both dread and excitedly anticipate the decision, knowing it’s necessary to give them a leg up in the working world. It’s natural to want to attend one of the best colleges in the USA.
Out of all the possible schools to attend, which will provide for your individual needs the best? Which will provide the best education at the best cost? We’ve done the research for you and have compiled the following list of the very best schools in the entire country based on the factors most important for students. Start your college search right here, with the best information and resources available on the web!
Here are the 33 best colleges in the USA.
Middlebury College has excellent programs in international studies and language amongst 850 courses and 44 majors. Students can enjoy a close relationship with their professors with a 9-1 student-to-faculty ratio. Students can enroll in a summer program where they can study Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, or Spanish.
- Total Annual Cost: $63,456
- Location: Middlebury, Vermont
- Median salary 10 years after enrolling: $53,400
- Total Student Population: 2,533
There is a network of 23,000 living alumni from Amherst College whom students can rely on for one-on-one meetings or on-site job shadowing. There are multiple courses that students can register for, and they can choose to double major. 68 percent of the student body receives financial aid.
- Total Annual Cost: $66,572
- Location: Amherst, Massachusetts
- Median salary 10 years after enrolling: $56,800
- Total Student Population: 1,792
Bowdoin College is one of the best liberal-arts colleges in the USA. There are 35 seminars freshman can attend. On top of that, freshmen have several classes to choose from in five required general subject areas. This is another college that has a group of alumni that serve in a Career Advisory Network. This group helps prepare students for their future careers.
- Total Annual Cost: $63,440
- State: Brunswick, Maine
- Median salary 10 years after enrolling: $54,800
- Total Student Population: 1,805
Williams College sets itself apart as one of the best colleges in the USA due to its focus on civic engagement. The faculty dedicates themselves to teaching students how to improve their communities. Students at Williams College also have the unique opportunity to take part in courses that allow them to teach fourth graders, learn public speaking, and learn Thai silk and cotton weaving.
- Total Annual Cost: $66,240
- Location: Williamstown, Massachusetts
- Median salary 10 years after enrolling: $58,100
- Total Student Population: 2,126
Brown started out as one of the best colleges in the USA in 1764 because it accepted students regardless of religion (which was unheard of at the time). Brown was also the first university to start an undergraduate engineering program. Students may personalize their course study through an open curriculum.
- Total Annual Cost: $65,380
- Location: Providence, Rhode Island
- Median salary 10 years after enrolling: $59,700
- Total Student Population: 9,181
This private college in suburban North Carolina teaches students to be global citizens. Davidson has a top-notch international studies program that offers more than 100 study abroad opportunities. In fact, 76 percent of Davidson’s students study internationally at least once during their college experience.
- Total Annual Cost: $62,894
- Location: Davidson, North Carolina
- Median salary 10 years after enrolling: $58,500
- Total Student Population: 1,770
University of Chicago
The University of Chicago makes the list as one of the best colleges in the USA due to the accomplishments it helps students obtain. More than 15 percent of undergraduates eventually earn a Ph.D. This university also has an established international presence with centers in Beijing, New Delhi, Paris, and Hong Kong.
- Total Annual Cost: $70,100
- Location: Chicago, Illinois
- Median salary 10 years after enrolling: $62,800
- Total Student Population: 15,097
What do former Secretary of State John Kerry and actress Amy Poehler have in common? They both went to Boston College. This college came from humble beginnings as a small commuter college and now has eight schools and colleges. Boston College is dedicated to its mission of “faith and service.”
- Total Annual Cost: $65,620
- Location: Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts
- Median salary 10 years after enrolling: $67,000
- Total Student Population: 14,317
Colgate is one of the best colleges in the USA due to its commitment to become climate neutral by 2019. On top of that, this university has a culture in which students can work closely with their professors. It also offers 20 off-campus study groups where Colgate faculty instruct students at an international institution.
- Total Annual Cost: $64,800
- Location: Hamilton, New York
- Median salary 10 years after enrolling: $61,500
- Total Student Population: 2,888
This university has come a long way since Cornelius Vanderbilt established it in 1873. Students follow in the footsteps of hundreds of distinguished alumni when they enroll at Vanderbilt University. These alumni include best-selling novelist James Patterson, and Ann Moore, the first female CEO of Time Inc.
- Total Annual Cost: $63,532
- Location: Nashville, Tennessee
- Median salary 10 years after enrolling: $60,900
- Total Student Population: 12,686
University of Virginia
This university was founded by the third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, in 1819. Now, the University of Virginia has four undergraduate schools freshmen students can choose from: engineering, nursing, architecture, and arts and sciences. This school isn’t only recognized for its academic excellence, but it also has great student clubs and sports programs.
- Total Annual Cost: $58,745
- Location: Charlottesville, Virginia
- Median salary 10 years after enrolling: $58,600
- Total Student Population: 23,732
University of Michigan
The University of Michigan is home to thousands of business students who have stellar majors in business and economics available to them. Many Michigan students go on to pursue a master’s degree within four years of obtaining a bachelor’s degree.
- Total Annual Cost: $57,432
- Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan
- Median salary 10 years after enrolling: $57,900
- Total Student Population: 43,625
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
There are 78 programs students can choose from at the University of North Carolina. These choices include nutrition, Slavic languages, and political science. The education isn’t restricted to campus, as students can choose to get involved in the community through the Carolina Center for Public Service. This center offers courses like Restoration Ecology and Community Journalism which provide service opportunities to students.
- Total Annual Cost: $49,431
- Location: Chapel Hill, North Carolina
- Median salary 10 years after enrolling: $50,400
- Total Student Population: 29,135
University of California, Los Angeles
UCLA has produced several outstanding men and women including 13 Nobel laureates, 12 MacArthur Fellows, and athletes who have won more than 250 Olympic medals combined. UCLA is also an excellent business college. It has led to 140 companies starting with technology developed at the university.
- Total Annual Cost: $58,099
- Location: Los Angeles, California
- Median salary 10 years after enrolling: $59,200
- Total Student Population: 41,845
Rice University is a great option for aspiring scientists. This college has applied sciences programs, including nationally recognized programs in nanotechnology biomedical engineering. It is a challenging school to get into, with a 15 percent acceptance rate, but a student’s hard work will pay off if he or she is accepted into this university.
- Total Annual Cost: $58,253
- Location: Houston, Texas
- Median salary 10 years after enrolling: $59,900
- Total Student Population: 6,621
Students at Northwestern have a chance to focus on their talents outside of their majors. There are more than 500 clubs and organizations at Northwestern, including a capella groups and a student-run newspaper. There are also opportunities in entrepreneurship at Northwestern including two startup incubators and a certificate program.
- Total Annual Cost: $68,060
- Location: Evanston, Illinois
- Median salary 10 years after enrolling: $64,100
- Total Student Population: 21,554
Claremont McKenna College
Claremont McKenna College has small, close-knit classes as well as an option to take courses across seven different colleges. There are 30 majors available at CMC. This is one of the best colleges in the USA, because of the opportunities following undergraduate education. Graduates move on to graduate schools at Columbia, Harvard, the University of Chicago, and Yale.
- Total Annual Cost: $66,325
- Location: Claremont, California
- Median salary 10 years after enrolling: $63,600
- Total Student Population: 1,324
If a student gets accepted to Yale, then he or she is the cream of the crop. This university has an acceptance rate of six percent. Once a student gets in, they can choose from 70 majors including astronomy, theater studies, and economics. It is the second-oldest Ivy League school and one of the most distinguished schools on this list.
- Total Annual Cost: $66,445
- Location: New Haven, Connecticut
- Median salary 10 years after enrolling: $66,000
- Total Student Population: 12,336
Dartmouth offers a flexible academic calendar to students, giving them the choice of four ten-week terms. This allows students to focus on academics and travel, volunteer work, internships, or research individually, rather than having to balance all of these important aspects of life.
- Total Annual Cost: $67,044
- Location: Hanover, New Hampshire
- Median salary 10 years after enrolling: $67,100
- Total Student Population: 6,298
There are three undergraduate schools at Tufts University: the School of Arts and Sciences, the School of Engineering, and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. Within these schools are 150 majors and minors as well as 341 student organizations. The options are amazing at Tufts, which makes it one of the best colleges in the USA.
- Total Annual Cost: $65,900
- Location: Medford, Massachusetts
- Median salary 10 years after enrolling: $67,800
- Total Student Population: 10,907
Bucknell University focuses on providing undergraduate research opportunities. It is another college with an intimate learning environment with a 10-1 student-to-teacher ratio. It also provides students with a robust liberal-arts curriculum.
- Total Annual Cost: $65,268
- Location: Lewisburg, Pennsylvania
- Median salary 10 years after enrolling: $68,800
- Total Student Population: 3,624
Columbia University is an excellent location not only for students seeking an undergraduate education, but also for students interested in graduate programs in business, law, and journalism. It is the oldest university in New York, and its iconic campus is one of the most recognized campuses in America.
- Total Annual Cost: $69,084
- Location: New York City, New York
- Median salary 10 years after enrolling: $72,900
- Total Student Population: 27,589
University of Notre Dame
Famous alumni from Notre Dame include former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan, and author Nicholas Sparks. There are several traditions at Notre Dame that help students integrate into a storied community. These traditions include pep rallies, homemade boat races, and masses at the chapel.
- Total Annual Cost: $64,775
- Location: South Bend, Indiana
- Median salary 10 years after enrolling: $69,400
- Total Student Population: 12,179
Cornell University was the first university in America to offer an American studies program and a four-year hotel administration school. It also offers almost 80 majors.
- Total Annual Cost: $65,494
- Location: Ithaca, New York
- Median salary 10 years after enrolling: $70,900
- Total Student Population: 21,679
California Institute of Technology
Students at Caltech are part of one of the most respected science and engineering schools in the world. The school manages NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory which led a mission to land the Curiosity rover on Mars in 2012. The school also produces 150 gallons of olive oil per year and is a certified olive oil distributor.
- Total Annual Cost: $63,471
- Location: Pasadena, California
- Median salary 10 years after enrolling: $74,000
- Total Student Population: 2,209
Duke provides multiple grants to students with which they can conduct research. More than half of Duke undergraduates pursue some sort of research during their college careers. Duke was home to alumni such as Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson, Melinda Gates, and former “Nightline” anchor Dan Abrams. The university is also known for its excellent sports programs, particularly its basketball program.
- Total Annual Cost: $66,739
- Location: Durham, North Carolina
- Median salary 10 years after enrolling: $76,700
- Total Student Population: 15,856
University of Pennsylvania
This is another university that is hard to get into, with a 10.2 percent acceptance rate. However, students who are accepted at the University of Pennsylvania have access to vast resources including 6.38 million books, 1.16 million ebooks, and 136 research centers and institutes.
- Total Annual Cost: $66,800
- Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Median salary 10 years after enrolling: $78,200
- Total Student Population: 24,806
Princeton is the alma mater of John F. Kennedy, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, and author F. Scott Fitzgerald. It also produced 15 Nobel Prize winners, 10 National Humanities Medal winners, and 21 National Medal of Science winners. Needless to say, if a student is accepted into Princeton, they are in impressive company.
- Total Annual Cost: $61,160
- State: Princeton, New Jersey
- Median salary 10 years after enrolling: $75,100
- Total Student Population: 8,088
Washington and Lee University
Students accepted into Washington & Lee University agree to the school’s honor code, which holds them to a high standard of integrity. As such, students may schedule their exams and take them without supervision. The school offers 37 majors, including studio art, journalism, and philosophy.
- Total Annual Cost: $61,235
- Location: Lexington, Virginia
- Median salary 10 years after enrolling: $77,600
- Total Student Population: 2,264
Stanford University has a 4-1 student-to-teacher ratio and a top-notch computer science and engineering program. It also offers specialties like atmosphere and energy as well as biomedical computation.
- Total Annual Cost: $64,447
- Location: Stanford, California
- Median salary 10 years after enrolling: $80,900
- Total Student Population: 16,963
Georgetown University is the oldest Catholic and Jesuit college in the United States. It is considered one of the best colleges in the USA for many reasons, including the fact that it accepted the first female students to the Medical Department.
- Total Annual Cost: $66,971
- Location: Washington D.C.
- Median salary 10 years after enrolling: $83,300
- Total Student Population: 17,858
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
MIT offers students the opportunity at the largest average salary ten years after enrolling of any college on this list. It is the most renowned engineering school in the USA. Graduates go on to work at Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Oracle. On top of that, 85 Nobel laureates, 58 National Medal of Science winners, and 29 National Medal of Technology and Innovation winners are alumni at MIT.
- Total Annual Cost: $63,250
- State: Cambridge, Massachusetts
- Median salary 10 years after enrolling: $91,600
- Total Student Population: 11,319
A degree from Harvard University almost guarantees a person success in the real world. It is one of the most respected universities in America. An evidence of this is the school’s $37.6 billion endowment. Nearly 70 percent of students receive financial aid at Harvard, cutting the annual net cost down to just $14,000. Harvard tops this list as the best college in the USA.
- Total Annual Cost: $64,400
- Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts
- Median salary 10 years after enrolling: $87,200
- Total Student Population: 28,791
The Ranking Process
The rankings for this list are based on the average salary student can make about five years after they graduate. The annual cost of each college was also taken into consideration.
We know that finding the best school for your unique situation and interests can be a difficult task. That’s why we’ve evaluated thousands of school based on the factors most important to you. For more information about our evaluation and ranking system, as well as other lists that were ranked by the factors most important to you, see our methodology page.
If you are associated with a college that is not listed in this article, please contact us today! Please also reach out if you would like to update or add information for your school.