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Top 10 Universities in America




Princeton University

Overview

Princeton University is a private institution that was founded in 1746. It has a total undergraduate enrollment of 5,394, its setting is suburban, and the campus size is 600 acres. It utilizes a semester-based academic calendar. Princeton University's ranking in the 2019 edition of Best Colleges is National Universities, 1. Its tuition and fees are $47,140 (2018-19).

Princeton, among the oldest colleges in the U.S., is located in the quiet town of Princeton, New Jersey. Within the walls of its historic ivy-covered campus, Princeton offers a number of events, activities and organizations. The Princeton Tigers, members of the Ivy League, are well known for their consistently strong men's and women's lacrosse teams. Students live in one of six residential colleges that provide a residential community as well as dining services but have the option to join one of more than 10 eating clubs for their junior and senior years. The eating clubs serve as social and dining organizations for the students who join them. Princeton's unofficial motto, "Princeton in the Nation's Service and the Service of Humanity," speaks to the university's commitment to community service.

Princeton includes highly ranked graduate programs through the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and School of Engineering and Applied Science. One unique aspect of Princeton's academic program is that undergraduate students are required to write a senior thesis, or for students in some engineering departments, take on an independent project. Notable alumni include U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, model/actress Brooke Shields and former first lady Michelle Obama. According to Princeton legend, if a student exits campus through FitzRandolph Gate prior to graduation, he or she may be cursed never to graduate.

Harvard University

Overview

Harvard University is a private institution that was founded in 1636. It has a total undergraduate enrollment of 6,766, its setting is urban, and the campus size is 5,076 acres. It utilizes a semester-based academic calendar. Harvard University's ranking in the 2019 edition of Best Colleges is National Universities, 2. Its tuition and fees are $50,420 (2018-19).

Located outside Boston in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard is made up of 13 schools and institutes, including the top-ranked Business School and Medical School and the highly ranked Graduate Education School, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Law School and John F. Kennedy School of Government. Harvard's extensive library system houses the oldest collection in the U.S. and the largest private collection in the world. Beyond books, Harvard's athletic teams compete in the Ivy League, with an annual football matchup against rival Yale. On-campus residential housing is an integral part of student life, where freshmen live at the center of campus and upperclassmen live in 12 undergraduate houses. Eight U.S. presidents graduated from Harvard, including Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy. Other notable alumni include Henry David Thoreau and Helen Keller. Harvard also has the largest endowment of any school in the world.

Questions & Answers

How was Harvard University founded? 

Harvard University was founded in 1636 colonial America by the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The school was initially created to educate members of the clergy, according to the university’s archives. Harvard is named after a Puritan minister – John Harvard – who, in 1638, left his 400-book library and half of his estate to the young school. The first commencement ceremony at Harvard, held in 1642, had nine graduates.

How does Harvard compare to other Ivy League schools? 

Of the eight Ivy League schools – including Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University and Yale University – Harvard is one of the most selective. It is also one of the largest, enrolling more than 20,500 students at the start of the 2017 academic year. By comparison, Dartmouth enrolled about 6,500 students during the same period. For a more robust comparison of the Ivy League schools, explore this article.

Who owns Harvard?

Since it is a private, nonprofit institution, Harvard University doesn’t have an owner like a for-profit company does. In terms of its governance structure, Harvard has two boards – the Harvard Corporation and the Board of Overseers – that govern the university and determine its future policies and plans.

How do I apply to Harvard?

To apply to Harvard College, the university's undergraduate program, freshman applicants can submit The Common Application, the Universal College Application or the Coalition Application. For more information about other required application materials, such as standardized test scores, visit the Applying section of the Harvard University profile page. Early action applications are due Nov. 1, while regular decision applications need to be submitted by Jan. 1.

How hard is it to get into Harvard?

Harvard is one of the most selective institutions out of all the colleges and universities surveyed for the Best Colleges rankings. Prospective students can apply early action to Harvard, though the university’s website states that submitting an early application does not gain students an advantage in the admissions process.

Columbia University

Overview

Columbia University is a private institution that was founded in 1754. It has a total undergraduate enrollment of 6,162, its setting is urban, and the campus size is 36 acres. It utilizes a semester-based academic calendar. Columbia University's ranking in the 2019 edition of Best Colleges is National Universities, 3. Its tuition and fees are $59,430 (2018-19).

Located in New York City, Columbia is comprised of three undergraduate schools – Columbia College, The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science and the School of General Studies – as well as a number of graduate and professional schools, including the highly ranked Business School, Teachers College, Law School and College of Physicians and Surgeons. The university also has a well-regarded College of Dental Medicine and graduate Journalism School. Columbia offers a wide range of student activities, including about 25 Greek chapters, and more than 90 percent of students live on campus. Columbia is affiliated with Barnard College for women, the Union Theological Seminary and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. Distinguished alumni include John Jay, founding father and first Supreme Court chief justice, and former President Barack Obama. Columbia also administers the Pulitzer Prizes.

Questions & Answers

Which borough in New York City is Columbia located in?

Columbia University's main campus is located in the Upper West Side of Manhattan in New York City, situated in the Morningside Heights neighborhood. The Columbia University Medical Center – home to the medical, nursing, dental and public health faculties – is located in northern Manhattan in the Washington Heights neighborhood.

What are the admissions criteria for Columbia?

Prospective first-year students can apply to Columbia using The Common Application or the Coalition Application. For more specific information on application requirements for both domestic and international students, see the Applying section of the Columbia University profile page. According to the university’s website, Columbia takes a holistic approach when reviewing applications. This means admissions officers look at more than just students’ grades and test scores, including their extracurricular involvement, recommendations and other factors, such as family circumstances.

When does Columbia release early decision admissions notifications?

Early decision applications to Columbia are due by Nov. 1, and according to the university’s website, students will receive an admission decision in mid-December. According to U.S. News data, 21 percent of early decision applicants were admitted to Columbia for the 2016-2017 academic year. Regular decision applicants will be notified of their admission status by April 1.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Overview

Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a private institution that was founded in 1861. It has a total undergraduate enrollment of 4,547, its setting is urban, and the campus size is 166 acres. It utilizes a 4-1-4-based academic calendar. Massachusetts Institute of Technology's ranking in the 2019 edition of Best Colleges is National Universities, 3. Its tuition and fees are $51,832 (2018-19).

Located outside Boston in Cambridge, Massachusetts, MIT focuses on scientific and technological research and is divided into five schools. University research expenditures have exceeded $700 million a year, with funding from government agencies such as the Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Defense. MIT’s highly ranked graduate schools include the School of Engineering and Sloan School of Management, in addition to strong programs in economics, psychology, biology, chemistry, earth sciences, physics and mathematics. Freshmen are required to live on campus, and about 70 percent of all undergraduates live on campus. Architect Steven Holl designed one dorm, commonly called "The Sponge." The Independent Activities Program, a four-week term in January, offers special courses, lectures, competitions and projects. Distinguished alumni include Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and former Federal Reserve Bank Chairman Ben Bernanke.

Question & Answers

What does MIT specialize in?

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology offers degree programs in a range of subjects, though its mission statement emphasizes science and technology disciplines. The institution’s largest school by far, in terms of enrollment, is the School of Engineering, according to fall 2016 data from the MIT registrar. More than 5,700 of the university’s more than 11,300 students at that time were in the engineering school. The next largest school at MIT is the School of Science, followed closely by the Sloan School of Management.

Is it hard to get into MIT?

Yes. According to U.S. News data, MIT’s acceptance rate for freshmen for fall 2016 was 8 percent, which means fewer than 1 out of every 10 students who applied was admitted. MIT doesn’t use The Common Application, so prospective undergrads will have to apply through the university’s website. MIT offers both early action and regular action deadlines for freshman applicants, and its website states that applying early will not give applicants an advantage in terms of admission.

When does MIT release admissions decisions?

According to the MIT website, prospective first-year undergraduate students who apply early action will hear back from the admissions office in mid-December. Applicants who opt for the regular action deadline will receive a decision in mid-March. Students must decline or accept their admission offer by May 1.

University of Chicago

Overview

University of Chicago is a private institution that was founded in 1890. It has a total undergraduate enrollment of 6,264, its setting is urban, and the campus size is 217 acres. It utilizes a quarter-based academic calendar. University of Chicago's ranking in the 2019 edition of Best Colleges is National Universities, 3. Its tuition and fees are $57,006 (2018-19).

The University of Chicago, situated in Hyde Park, offers a rich campus life in a big-city setting. In addition to the college, the university has postgraduate offerings that include the highly ranked Booth School of Business, Law School, Pritzker School of Medicine and Harris School of Public Policy Studies. The Chicago Maroons have more than 15 NCAA Division III teams, which compete in the University Athletic Association, and have strong basketball and wrestling programs. Freshmen are required to live on campus, and more than 50 percent of upperclassmen choose to remain on campus. On-campus students are placed in "houses" within their dorm, which serve as tight-knit communities and provide academic and social support. The university offers more than 400 student organizations.

Questions & Answers

Is there in-state tuition for the University of Chicago?

The University of Chicago is a private institution and does not offer in-state tuition. Tuition and fees are just under $55,000 a year, according to U.S. News data.

What is the University of Chicago known for?

The University of Chicago is known for its location as well as its rigorous academic and enrichment programs. The school is located in the Hyde Park neighborhood, former home of past president Barack Obama. Obama taught at the University of Chicago Law School for 12 years.

Students can choose from more than 100 majors and minors – such as history or environmental studies – and have visited Greece, China and France during study abroad experiences. The university has 89 Nobel Prize winners in its ranks.

Is the University of Chicago safe?

Violent crime – such as murder, criminal sexual assault and robbery – increased by 8 percent in 2016, compared with the period from 2011 through 2015, according to the school’s website. The university, however, has several systems in place to keep students safe.

Students can request safety escorts or ride shuttles during the day and night to safely move around campus. The University of Chicago also has hundreds of emergency phones throughout campus and an emergency management division that can quickly share information via text, email, phone calls and social media if there is an actual emergency.

How difficult is it to get accepted into the University of Chicago?

It is very difficult to get accepted into the University of Chicago, because it has an extremely competitive admissions process. Just 8 percent of applicants were accepted for fall 2016, according to U.S. News data. More than 31,000 applied and less than 2,500 were accepted.

Yale University

Overview

Yale University is a private institution that was founded in 1701. It has a total undergraduate enrollment of 5,746, its setting is city, and the campus size is 345 acres. It utilizes a semester-based academic calendar. Yale University's ranking in the 2019 edition of Best Colleges is National Universities, 3. Its tuition and fees are $53,430 (2018-19).

Yale University, located in New Haven, Connecticut, is known for its excellent drama and music programs, which reach outside the classroom with student organizations such as the Yale Whiffenpoofs, a famous a cappella group, and the Yale Dramatic Association. The Yale Bulldogs compete in the Ivy League and are well known for their rivalry with Harvard. Students are assigned to live in one of 14 residential colleges during their time at Yale. Each college has a head and dean who live in the college and eat with students in the dining halls. Cultural centers provide a space for students to build a sense of cultural identity on campus.

Yale is made up of the College, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and 12 professional schools. Included in the professional schools are the top-ranked Law School and highly ranked School of Management, School of Medicine , School of Art and School of Nursing. The School of Drama, School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and Divinity School are also well-regarded graduate programs. The Yale Record is the oldest college humor magazine in the nation. Dwight Hall is an independent umbrella organization that fosters student service and activism in the New Haven community and beyond. Yale is well known for its secret societies, the most famous of which are the Skull and Bones Society, which boasts members such as George W. Bush and John Kerry, and the Scroll and Key Society. Distinguished Yale alumni include actress Meryl Streep, Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward and actor Edward Norton.


Stanford University

Overview

Stanford University is a private institution that was founded in 1885. It has a total undergraduate enrollment of 7,062, its setting is suburban, and the campus size is 8,180 acres. It utilizes a quarter-based academic calendar. Stanford University's ranking in the 2019 edition of Best Colleges is National Universities, 7. Its tuition and fees are $51,354 (2018-19).

Stanford University’s pristine campus is located in California’s Bay Area, about 30 miles from San Francisco. Stanford offers a wide range of student organizations, including the Stanford Pre-Business Association and Stanford Solar Car Project, which designs, builds and races a solar car every two years. The Stanford Cardinal are well known for the traditional "Big Game" against Cal, an annual football competition that awards the Stanford Axe — a sought-after trophy — to the victor. Stanford also has successful programs in tennis and golf. Only freshmen are required to live on campus, but students are guaranteed housing for all four years, and most choose to remain on campus. Greek life at Stanford represents approximately 25 percent of the student body.

Four of Stanford University’s seven schools offer undergraduate and graduate coursework, and the remaining three serve as purely graduate schools. Graduate programs include the highly ranked School of Education, School of Engineering, School of Law, School of Medicine and Graduate School of Business. The Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment oversees collaboration between environmental research, teaching and outreach. Stanford has a number of well-known theatrical and musical groups, including the Ram’s Head Theatrical Society and the Mendicants, an all-male a cappella group. Notable Stanford alumni include former U.S. President Herbert Hoover, Hall of Fame NFL quarterback John Elway, actress Sigourney Weaver and golfer Tiger Woods, who played collegiately at Stanford.

Duke University

Overview

Duke University is a private institution that was founded in 1838. It has a total undergraduate enrollment of 6,692, and the setting is Suburban. It utilizes a semester-based academic calendar. Duke University's ranking in the 2019 edition of Best Colleges is National Universities, 8. Its tuition and fees are $55,960 (2018-19).

Durham, North Carolina, which surrounds Duke's campus, offers a variety of activities including shopping, dining and entertainment. Its "Bull City" nickname comes from the Blackwell Tobacco Company's Bull Durham Tobacco. Students at Duke are required to live on campus for their first three years, and freshmen live together on the East Campus. The Duke Blue Devils maintain a fierce rivalry with the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill Tar Heels and are best known for their outstanding men's basketball program, which is one of the top five most wins all-time college basketball programs in the country. Approximately 30 percent of the student body is affiliated with Greek life, which encompasses almost 40 fraternities and sororities.

Duke University is divided into 10 schools and colleges, many of which serve both undergraduate and graduate students. Its graduate programs include the highly ranked Fuqua School of Business, Pratt School of Engineering, School of Law, School of Medicine, Sanford School of Public Policy and School of Nursing. Duke also offers graduate programs through its well-respected Divinity School and Nicholas School of the Environment. Duke's most esteemed undergraduate scholarship, the Robertson Scholars Leadership Program, is offered to students at both Duke University and the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill. It provides about 18 students from each class with a four-year scholarship and the opportunity for unique academic and extracurricular opportunities at both universities. Notable alumni include Melinda Gates, co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; NBA player Carlos Boozer; and former U.S. Congressman and three-time presidential candidate Ron Paul.

University of Pennsylvania

Overview

University of Pennsylvania is a private institution that was founded in 1740. It has a total undergraduate enrollment of 10,033, its setting is urban, and the campus size is 299 acres. It utilizes a semester-based academic calendar. University of Pennsylvania's ranking in the 2019 edition of Best Colleges is National Universities, 8. Its tuition and fees are $55,584 (2018-19).

The University of Pennsylvania, located in Philadelphia, was founded by Benjamin Franklin. The Penn Quakers have more than 25 NCAA Division I sports that compete in the Ivy League, and are noted for successful basketball and lacrosse teams. Penn offers housing in more than 10 College Houses, but many students live in the numerous off-campus apartments and houses available. More than 25 percent of the student body is involved in Greek life, which encompasses nearly 50 fraternities and sororities. The school also offers a number of clubs and organizations, ranging from performance groups like the Latin & Ballroom Dance club to student publications such as the Penn Political Review. Penn works closely with the West Philadelphia area through community service and advocacy groups.

Penn has 12 schools: Five offer undergraduate and graduate studies, and seven offer only graduate studies. Penn's highly ranked graduate programs include its Wharton School, School of Education, School of Engineering and Applied Science, Law School and School of Medicine. Penn's other notable graduate programs include its School of Design and School of Dental Medicine. Penn, though secular, has a strong religious life with its Hillel for Jewish students, Penn Newman Catholic Center and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. More than 2,500 students each year participate in international study programs offered in more than 50 countries around the world. Notable Penn alumni include singer John Legend, poet William Carlos Williams and President Donald Trump.

Johns Hopkins University

Overview

Johns Hopkins University is a private institution that was founded in 1876. It has a total undergraduate enrollment of 6,109, its setting is urban, and the campus size is 140 acres. It utilizes a semester-based academic calendar. Johns Hopkins University's ranking in the 2019 edition of Best Colleges is National Universities, 10. Its tuition and fees are $53,740 (2018-19).

Johns Hopkins University is divided into nine schools, five of which serve undergraduate and graduate students. Hopkins’ graduate programs include the top-ranked Bloomberg School of Public Health and the highly ranked School of Education, Whiting School of Engineering, School of Medicine and the well-regarded Peabody Institute for music and dance. The Homewood Campus, one of the university’s four campuses in and around Baltimore, is the primary campus for undergraduates. Freshmen and sophomores are required to live on campus. More than 1,400 students participate in the Greek community. Hopkins also has additional campuses for its School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C.; Bologna, Italy; and Nanjing, China. Johns Hopkins Hospital is a top-ranked hospital with highly ranked specialties. 

Questions & Answers

Is Johns Hopkins University expensive?

Johns Hopkins University is more expensive than many private universities, with tuition and fees for the 2017-2018 school year at $52,170, according to U.S. News data. Room and board was $15,410. However, the university met 100 percent of financial need for those who applied.

How difficult is it to get accepted into Johns Hopkins University?

It can be quite difficult to get accepted into Johns Hopkins, since the school has a very competitive admissions process. The school accepted just 12 percent of 27,094 applicants for fall 2016, according to U.S. News data. Applicants are evaluated on such factors as their SAT or ACT scores, transcripts and supplemental essay.

Does Johns Hopkins University offer financial aid?

Johns Hopkins offers need-based scholarships and grants, as well as non-need-based financial aid. The average financial aid package for freshmen in the 2016 academic year was $40,617, according to U.S. News data. Some of the scholarships available at Johns Hopkins include the Hodson Trust Scholarship, which goes to freshmen who have excelled academically and personally; the Charles R. Westgate Scholarship in Engineering; and the Baltimore Scholars Program for students from Baltimore City public high schools.

What is student life like at Johns Hopkins University?

At Johns Hopkins, students can take part in everything from Quidditch – the fictional sport made popular through the “Harry Potter” book series – to an a capella Christian group. Spring Fair, a three-day festival, is a popular campus event. Students also have quick access to downtown Baltimore restaurants and events at the Baltimore Inner Harbor, Baltimore farmers market, shopping enclaves and more.
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