2021 Best of Private Universities and Colleges

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Want to take advantage of smaller classes, a more intimate setting, and outstanding academics? AcademicInfluence.com ranks the 50 best private colleges & universities for you.

Prospective college students face a tough decision: choose to attend a private college or a public one. The advantages of private colleges and universities include smaller student-to-teacher ratios, student-centered communities, and more intimate settings. But which private college to pick?

To address the needs of the more than 400,000 incoming private college students each fall, AcademicInfluence.com releases its ranking of the leading American private higher education institutions:

50 Best Private Colleges and Universities of 2021

“Our ranking of private colleges and universities not only includes some of the most desirable schools in the country, but it also accounts for their influence worldwide,” says Dr. Jed Macosko, academic director of AcademicInfluence.com and professor of physics at Wake Forest University. “The schools featured in our ranking system stand out due to their influential faculty and alumni, and for their many unmatched accomplishments in academics.”

According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, the average annual cost at private universities is nearly $43,000, compared to $20,000 at four-year public universities. However, about one in five students chooses a private, nonprofit higher education over the public option.

“Many students prefer the smaller communities and specialized studies that private schools offer compared to their larger public counterparts, and they are willing to pay for that privilege,” adds Macosko.

Criteria for the schools in this ranking include full accreditation, operation as a nonprofit organization, and a minimum student body of 1,000 students. The following schools are featured in the ranking:

  • Amherst College
  • Bard College
  • Barnard College
  • Brandeis University
  • Brown University
  • Bryn Mawr College
  • California Institute of Technology
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • Case Western Reserve University
  • The Catholic University of America
  • Claremont McKenna College
  • Columbia University
  • Cooper Union
  • Cornell University
  • Dartmouth College
  • Duke University
  • Emory University
  • Georgetown University
  • George Washington University
  • Hampshire College
  • Harvard University
  • Haverford College
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Kenyon College
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Morehouse College
  • New School
  • New York University
  • Northwestern University
  • Oberlin College
  • Pomona College
  • Princeton University
  • Reed College
  • Rice University
  • Sarah Lawrence College
  • Stanford University
  • Swarthmore College
  • Tufts University
  • University of Chicago
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • University of Rochester
  • University of Southern California
  • Vanderbilt University
  • Vassar College
  • Washington University in St Louis
  • Wellesley College
  • Wesleyan University
  • Williams College
  • Yale University
  • Yeshiva University

Click the link above to view the final ranking order, top schools by state, and additional rankings.

Founded in October 2016, with funding assistance from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Influence Networks created the InfluenceRanking Engine, the core technology behind AcademicInfluence.com’s advanced rankings. The InfluenceRanking Engine scans and analyzes the web through machine learning, mapping the impact of a school’s thought leadership across a wide set of disciplines. See the AcademicInfluence.com About page for further details on the unique capabilities and advantages of this advanced ranking system.

“No matter what type of university or college experience you’re looking for, AcademicInfluence.com can help you find schools that fit your needs. We provide rankings of public, private, and grad schools, along with other types of higher ed institutions to help you with the selection process,” says Macosko. “And our College Strategist, Desirability Score, and Custom College Rankings tools provide you with a powerful set of resources to refine your search.”

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