The 50 Best Undergraduate Colleges in the United States for 2017–18

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Rankings of America’s best colleges and universities exist all over the web. Why, then, is TheBestSchools.org offering yet another? Because our ranking is interesting and useful, adding valuable insights into what makes American colleges great!

Most rankings of America’s best colleges list the usual suspects: Harvard, Princeton, Yale, MIT, in the East. In the West, Stanford, Berkeley, Caltech. In the Midwest, the University of Chicago and a few Big Ten schools. In the South, Duke, Vanderbilt, and Emory.

To round out such a list, most rankings also throw in a good number of small, elite, liberal arts colleges. Our list will also include some of these top colleges. But it will go well beyond that. In our ranking, you’ll find some exceptional schools that you won’t see on any other list.

In ranking the 50 best colleges in the United States, we don’t include the big research universities, which invest many more of their resources into graduate rather than undergraduate education. By a “college,” in this article, we mean a school that exists primarily to teach undergraduates.

Thus, in our ranking, we list schools whose main degree is a bachelor’s or even an associate degree (in fact, our top-ranked school offers only a two-year degree).

Besides the usual academic benchmarks such as achievement and excellence, this ranking underscores the prospects for personal enrichment and advancement that await students AFTER GRADUATION. College, in our view, should be not merely a stepping stone to the next stage of life, whatever that may be, but a springboard to a full, rich, independent life.

Thus, in our ranking, you’ll find Harvey Mudd College ahead of many more-famous, elite, liberal arts colleges. Why? For one thing, Harvey Mudd has an exceptional undergraduate engineering program. But there’s more: Harvey Mudd’s graduates have exceptional career prospects.

Undergraduate Colleges and Universities Ranking Guidelines

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Of course, our ranking is not only concerned with “return on investment.” For a college, as opposed to a research university, we value especially the following five factors:

1. Record of achievement

When you graduate from any of the colleges in our ranking, you’ll have something to show for it. You’ll have a skill-set, a credential, a springboard to new possibilities. This can translate into cash, but it can also translate in other ways.

2. Diversity of study

We think excellence in a college education need not be confined to liberal arts and sciences. Business, engineering, architecture, seafaring, aviation, musicianship, visual arts, performing arts, filmmaking, animation, etc. are all legitimate pursuits in college, and a list of top colleges should reflect this diversity.

3. Freedom of inquiry and expression

We believe that dogmatism and political correctness hinder true education. You’ll find liberal and conservative schools in our ranking. But we’ve tried to avoid elite schools who seem mainly in the business of indoctrination and politicization.

4. Academic Rigor

College should be fun, but also a time of intense concentration and effort. An undergraduate’s course of study should be thoroughgoing, empowering him or her with mastery of a subject, skill, or set of ideas. Also, more focus should be on primary sources rather than criticism.

5. Low Cost and Minimal Debt

A college education should not load students with massive debt. Large debts drastically limit what students can do after graduation. We like schools that charge zero tuition (yes, such schools exist — read on!), or have such big endowments that students with financial need can get scholarships.

Unless stated otherwise, SAT scores include the 25th/75th percentile.

The Top 50 Undergraduate Colleges in the United States for 2017–18

1. Deep Springs College

Deep Springs, California

Deep Springs College, a unique alternative to the first half of a conventional, four-year college program, recruits students of exceptional ability. Many of its students have turned down offers from some of the nation’s most highly esteemed colleges.

Deep Springs is founded on the pillars of academics, self-governance, and labor, and prepares students for lives of service to humanity. (For our full-length feature article on Deep Springs, click here.)

Admissions officers of the top schools know and respect the name of Deep Springs College. After students participate in a two-year, liberal arts honor program, most of them complete their degree at the world’s most prestigious four-year institutions.

Students learn from their responsibilities of authentic self-government and substantial physical labor, as well as from the school’s traditional arts curriculum. Students administer the labor program. They also have the dominant decision-making authority regarding curriculum, admissions, and hiring of faculty members.

Professors live about 100 yards from students. They’re readily available to provide advice on academic life and other subjects.

In the classrooms, students discuss subjects with their professors in a seminar format. Many students develop their own independent or directed studies.

Admission: The school emphasizes academic ability, leadership potential, and the desire to assume active and practical responsibility for the ongoing life of the Deep Springs community. The school regards the interview and essays as more important parts of the admission process than the SAT. Although it seemed that women could apply to enroll in the class of 2013, as of this revision in 2017 only persons who identify as male are permitted to enroll at Deep Springs.

SCHOOL PROFILE

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2. Harvey Mudd College

Claremont, California

Harvey Mudd College — one of the nation’s leading math, science, and engineering colleges — is also a liberal arts college. Many of the engineers, scientists, and mathematicians become leaders in their fields. Harvey Mudd only offers undergraduate degrees. The college provides nine math, science, and engineering majors. All of the programs include humanities and social science courses.

Harvey Mudd College has the highest rate of science and engineering Ph.D production among all undergraduate colleges and second-highest compared to all colleges and universities. Graduates have produced great advances in technology such as MIME Standard, SQL, Flash, and Remote Procedure Calls.

Students gain hands-on experience in high-level research projects and through the college’s world-renowned Clinic Program. They must complete at least one year of in-depth research or a challenging clinic project. They also work with notable companies in the clinics.

The school has a wide variety of clubs to keep students entertained and connected. The student population governs itself via a student-run Honor Code.

Admission: Harvey Mudd College seeks students who excelled in challenging courses, show a passion for math and science, appreciate the social sciences and humanities, and participate in activities outside of the classroom. The admission procedure includes recommendations from a mathematics or science recommender and a recommendation from an English, foreign language, or social studies recommender. Applicants should have four years of English.

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3. Curtis Institute of Music

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Curtis Institute of Music, one of the world’s leading conservatories, trains and educates exceptionally gifted young musicians for careers as performing artists at the highest professional level.

The Curtis Institute offers complete musical training and liberal arts courses. Students train with some of the world’s leading musical artists.

Over 60 graduates have performed at the Metropolitan Opera. The school’s trained instrumentalists comprise 16% of principal chairs of the top 25 U.S. orchestras. They have also been members of the Berlin Philharmonic and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam. Two New York Philharmonic music directors have come from the Curtis Institute.

Graduates are regularly among the winners of the most prestigious honors and awards in classical music, including prizes, competitions, and career grants. Graduates have received Pulitzer Prizes, Grammy and Tony awards, and Guggenheim Fellowships.

The institute enrolls just enough students to maintain a full symphony orchestra, an opera program, plus select departments in guitar, piano, composition, conducting, harpsichord, and organ.

The Curtis Institute offers a performance Diploma, Bachelor of Music, Master of Music in Opera, and a Professional Studies Certificate in Opera.

The students participate in a busy schedule of performances. Every year, well known stage and music directors work with the Curtis Opera Theater on fully staged productions.

Admission: The school selects students based on artistic promise. The institute has no minimum or maximum age requirements. Every applicant must audition in person.

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4. Swarthmore College

Swarthmore, Pennsylvania

Swarthmore College, a private, liberal arts college, consistently hovers near the top of almost every ranking list of U.S. liberal arts colleges.

The college is known for rigorous intellectual inquiry, which is shaped by its commitment to social responsibility and the legacy of its Quaker heritage. Graduates include five Nobel Prize winners (second-highest number of Nobel Prize winners per graduate in the United States).

The college provides a liberal arts and engineering curriculum. About one-third of the students pursue their degree through the school’s exceptional honors program. The college also offers community-based learning courses. Students can design their own major.

Admission: The private college is open to all students regardless of their financial need. Applicants are evaluated on factors such as:

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5. Williams College

Williamstown, Massachusetts

Williams College, a private, liberal arts college, consistently ranks among the nation’s top liberal arts colleges.

Williams College ranked #1 among National U.S. colleges and universities in percentage of undergraduates participating in paid summer science research.

The faculty has received recognition for scholarship and professional achievements. Williams College ranks third among national liberal arts colleges in the number of National Science Foundation Grants held by faculty.

The school has three academic divisions: Social Studies; Language and the Arts; and Science and Mathematics. The college uses Oxford-style tutorials. Experiential programs and courses challenge students to become more personally engaged in their learning via fieldwork from research, special projects, or placement in community organizations.

Williams College encourages students to connect their community interests to their academic learning via a broad range of curricular and extracurricular programming. Its students are enrolled in over 150 off-campus program worldwide.

Admission: The college enrolls students without regard to their ability to pay.

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6. United States Military Academy

West Point, New York

The United States Military Academy, a four-year, public, liberal arts college, is one of the most selective colleges in the nation.

The United States Military academy develops cadets in four vital areas: intellectual, physical, military, and moral-ethical.

Cadets participate in Individual Advanced Development (IAD) activities. Some cadets participate in academic IADs, including at the Supreme Court, NASA, Crossroads to Africa, and the National Laboratories.

The academy provides a Bachelor of Science degree. After students graduate, they earn a commission in the United States Army as a 2nd Lieutenant. They have a five-year service requirement after graduation.

Admission: Applicants are required to apply directly to the academy and receive a nomination from a congressional representative.

7. College of William and Mary

Williamsburg, Virginia

College of William and Mary is a “Public Ivy"---one of eight in the nation.

It is well known for its rigorous liberal arts curriculum and its engaged, dedicated professors. The college has a historic dedication to community service. Seventy-five percent of the students participate in community service projects.

The College of William and Mary believes in original hands-on research. Undergrads, beginning with their first class, have opportunities to work with peers and faculty mentors on inspiring projects.

Admission: School representatives use a combination of GPA, choice of curriculum, and curriculum vigor to evaluate academic potential.

8. Pomona College

Claremont, California

Pomona College, one of the nation’s leading liberal arts colleges, provides an environment for intellectual development and personal growth.

The college offers a comprehensive curriculum in the arts, humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. Professors teach all the courses.

As a member of The Claremont Colleges, a consortium of seven independent institutions with contiguous campuses, Pomona College provides students with the personal experience of a small, high-level, liberal arts college, along with the extensive resources typically associated with major universities.

Admission: Academic excellence is the school’s main consideration. The school reports that it is interested in the best students; their ability to pay doesn’t matter.

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9. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

Terre Haute, Indiana

Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology is one of the leading undergraduate engineering, mathematics, and science colleges in the nation. It’s one of the rare engineering schools in the U.S. focusing nearly entirely on undergraduate education.

Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology reports that its seniors are highly sought-after by Fortune 500 firms, the nation’s best graduate schools, and emerging hi-tech companies. Rose-Hulman Ventures, situated on campus, provides students with the opportunity to work on real-world projects from an array of technology-based companies.

Admission: Regarding schools that rank students, the college expects applicants to be in the top 25% of their graduating class. For schools that don’t rank students, the college gives special attention to the quality and rigor of the curriculum students pursued.

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10. Grove City College

Grove City, Pennsylvania

Grove City College, a non-denominational, Christian college, emphasizes faith and freedom. The college provides a liberal and professional education.

To maintain its independence of thought and expression, it does not accept government funds such as federal student loans. And yet, as of 2017, its per-year cost has been around $27,542 total (not just tuition!). This is comparable to in-state costs for many public universities.

Grove City is renowned as a college uniquely qualified in the teaching of Austrian economics and other aspects of conservative economic and political thought at the undergraduate level.

Admission: Grove City College uses a holistic admissions process. An interview is highly recommended; interviews plays a significant role in the selection of the freshman class.

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Annapolis, Maryland

United States Naval Academy, a four-year, coeducational, public, liberal arts college, is one of the nation’s most selective colleges.

The academy provides a demanding four-year program leading to a Bachelor of Science degree and a commission as an Ensign in the United States Navy, or as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps.

Moral development is a fundamental element of all aspects of the Naval Academy experience. The four-year program focuses on integrity, honor, and mutual respect. The academic program of every midshipman includes a core curriculum providing courses in science, engineering, mathematics, social sciences, and humanities. The objective is a wide-based education to qualify students for nearly any career field in the Navy or Marine Corps. Students also have the opportunity to develop a specific area of academic interest.

Admission: Applicants are required to apply directly to the academy. They are also required to receive a nomination, typically from a congressional representative.

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12. Rhode Island School of Design

Providence, Rhode Island

Rhode Island School of Design (RISD, pronounced “Rizdy"), one of the nation’s oldest and best-known colleges of art and design. The school offers bachelor’s degrees, including a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, as well as master’s degrees.

RISD students can take classes at Brown University. Students can earn a dual degree from RISD and Brown University consisting of a Bachelor of Fine Arts from RISD and a Bachelor of Arts from Brown University.

Undergraduate students participate in an intensive Foundation Studies program and also work in their studio major. Students earn a third of their credits in liberal arts subjects.

Students have access to the RISD Museum, which includes more than 80,000 works of art.

Admission: Prospective applicants are encouraged to follow a college-preparatory program in secondary school and take courses in art history and studio art. Letters of recommendation from teachers or professionals who have first-hand knowledge of an applicant’s art or academic achievements are not required; however, recommendations can be very helpful in the consideration of an application.

13. Colorado College

Colorado Springs, Colorado

Colorado College is nestled near the foot of the Rocky Mountains. This private liberal-arts college was founded in 1874 by the founder of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, General William Jackson Palmer. Palmer was a Civil War verteran.

The college offer 42 majors and 33 minors. Colorado Colleges follows a “block plan“ in which students study one subject at a time in three and a half week blocks.

Admissions:Colorado College requires that applicants submit either the SAT Reasoning Test or ACT test, or elect a third option including three exams of the applicant’s choice chosen from a list of acceptable exams.

14. Juilliard School

New York, New York

Juilliard School, one of the world’s most prestigious performing arts schools, provides a superb performing arts education.

The school offers pre-professional training in music, dance, and drama. Graduates of the Juilliard School have won over 105 Grammy Awards, 62 Tony Awards, 47 Emmy Awards, 24 Academy Awards, and 16 Pulitzer Prizes.

Besides taking courses specific to their major, students also take liberal arts courses.

The pre-college division teaches students enrolled in elementary school, junior high, and high school.

Admission: The admissions process varies by department, but often applicants are required to audition. Juilliard School evaluates the transcripts and diplomas earned by applicants. The school does not require a GPA, specific courses, standardized test scores such as SAT or ACT, or a class rank for admission.

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15. Bowdoin College

Brunswick, Maine

Bowdoin College, a “New Ivy“ private liberal arts college, is one of the elite colleges and universities outside of the Ivy League.

Due to its strengths in liberal arts and sciences, the college received a chapter of the prestigious Phi Beta Kappa honor society.

The college reports that a liberal arts education at Bowdoin College is not about being small and safe. Rather, it is about having the support to take surprising risks.

According to the college, its curriculum provides a bold blueprint for liberal education designed to inspire students to become world citizens with acute sensitivity to the social and natural world.

Admission: A student’s overall academic record is by far the most important credential. Bowdoin College uses a holistic selection process based on individual review. Successful applicants are bright and engaged community members who show curiosity and a willingness to take intellectual risks.

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16. United States Air Force Academy

El Paso County, Colorado

United States Air Force Academy, a public, liberal arts college, provides intellectual, physical, moral, and leadership development.

Graduates receive a Bachelor of Science degree.

The academy is a military school for officer candidates for the United States Air Force. Most graduates are commissioned as second lieutenants in the U.S. Air Force.

Admission: The academy evaluates the academic, athletic, character, and leadership potential of every applicant, as shown by their achievements and life experiences. Leadership activities are important. Applicants must also pass a fitness test and obtain a nomination, typically from the member of Congress in the applicant’s home district.

17. Haverford College

Haverford, Pennsylvania

Haverford College, strong in all liberal arts and science areas, offers a personalized educational experience due to its small size.

The college earned a chapter of the prestigious Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society due to its academic strengths. Many of the students continue their studies at top national universities.

Although all the students are undergraduates, they are involved in faculty research. Also, students can take classes at Swarthmore College, Bryn Mawr College, and the University of Pennsylvania.

The connection of academics to social justice issues is extended by three interdisciplinary centers: The Center for Peace and Global Citizenship, the Hurford Humanities Center, and the Koshland Integrated Natural Science Center.

Admission: The academic transcript receives the greatest weight. Due to its holistic and personal application evaluation process, the college recommends all applicants have an interview, if possible. The school reports that it is interested in students who show an ability and interest in achieving at the highest levels of scholarship and service, in engaging deeply and substantially with the community, and in growing intellectually and personally.

18. Colorado School of Mines

Golden, Colorado

Colorado School of Mines, a public research institution, provides all the advantages of a world-class research institution with a size allowing for personal attention. The college is known for its excellent academic programs in engineering and applied sciences.

Colorado School of Mines, which is devoted to engineering and applied science, provides a curriculum and research program emphasizing responsible stewardship of the earth and its resources. The Colorado School of Mines has broad expertise in resource exploration, extraction, production, and utilization.

Research funding, provided by government agencies and corporations, supports cutting-edge work in alternative and traditional energy sources, earth sciences, mineral economics, environmental science, and engineering, as well as materials.

Partnerships with government laboratories, including the Bureau of Land Reclamation and the U.S. Geological Survey, offer students great opportunities to participate in world-class research.

Faculty members and student research new frontiers in resource exploration, extraction and processing; renewable energy production and distribution; and advanced materials; as well as in environmental impact, mitigation, and remediation. The college’s renowned faculty provides a challenging and supportive learning environment for students.

Admission: Trigonometry is the minimum math requirement for freshman; however, applicants should complete pre-calculus or calculus, if they have the opportunity. Freshmen should also rank among the upper one-third of their high school class and have strong SAT or ACT scores.

19. Cooper Union

New York, New York

Cooper Union is known for its excellent engineering, architecture, and art programs.

Graduates have received at least 18 Guggenheim fellowships, three MacArthur fellowships, three American Institute of Architects Thomas Jefferson Awards for Public Architecture, and one Nobel Prize.

Copper Union focuses on preparing students for the architecture, art, and engineering professions. It consists of three schools: Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture; the Albert Nerken School of Engineering; and the School of Art.

Admission: Cooper Union admits undergraduates only on merit and all undergraduates receive full-scholarships.

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20. Hillsdale College

Hillsdale, Michigan

Hillsdale College, a liberal arts college, is one of the few non-military colleges in the United States requiring all students to study the U.S. Constitution as a core requirement.

Most of the curriculum is based on the teachings of the Western heritage as a product of Greco-Roman culture and the Judeo-Christian religion.

Admission: Important factors include official academic transcripts, two letters of recommendation, and a résumé of extra-curricular activities. The school strongly encourages applicants to have an interview with an admissions officer.

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21. Claremont McKenna College

Claremont, California

Claremont McKenna College (CMC), a member of the Claremont Colleges, is one of the nation’s leading private liberal arts colleges.

CMC focuses mainly on undergraduate education. Almost half of its students study abroad.

Admission: The college weighs the following factors: Academic performance and promise; achievements and goals; personal characteristics; participation in activities and organizations; and interests, talents, and leadership potential.

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22. Carleton College

Northfield, Minnesota

Carleton College is an independent, non-sectarian, private liberal arts college.

The college has enrolled more students who are part of the National Merit Scholarship Program than any other liberal arts college in the United States.

Carleton reports that the most important thing its students learn is how to learn for a lifetime. Every course is taught by a professor, not a teaching assistant.

Community service is another integral part of the Carleton College experience.

Admission: The admissions committee is typically attracted to applicants who take advantage of the opportunity to do honors or advanced placement work. Normally students are expected to take two or more years of a foreign or classical language, unless it’s not provided at their school. Carleton College recognizes achievements in the arts and encourages applicants to submit tapes, slides, or other evidence of their work with their application.

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23. Grinnell College

Grinnell, Iowa

Grinnell College was initially founded in 1846 as Iowa College. The college was founded by a group of congregational ministers in Davenport, Iowa prior to the state joining the union. The college shortly moved from Davenport to Grinnell and adopted the name in 1909.

Grinnell utilizes an open curriculum in which students select courses with the direction of a major department advisor. This freedom allows students to take ownership of their education and fosters academic engagement.

Admissions:Grinnell doesn’t have minimum GPA or test score requirements, and reviews every component of your application with care because potential success at Grinnell shouldn’t be distilled to just one number.

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24. New College of Florida

Sarasota, Florida

New College of Florida was initially founded as a private college in 1960. In 2015 it became an honors college as part of the State University System of Florida.

The college was founded as a bastion of liberal arts thinking in the South. Students are encouraged to take responsiblity for their education and embody free-thinking.

Students begin each semester by completing a contract with an advisor, which lays out the courses for the semester and expectations. The New College of Floida does not employ letter grades or a grade point average. Professors provide narrative evaluations of students. Students must complete seven contracts for graduation.

Admissions:New College of Florida practices selective admission, seeking those students who are able and eager to take responsibility for their own education, and who will benefit from the College’s demanding academic program and flexible curriculum.

25. Wheaton College

Wheaton, Illinois

Wheaton College is a private and interdenominational Christian liberal arts college, which takes the pursuit of faith and learning seriously.

Admission: The college reports that it continues to enroll strong, distinctively Christian students. It evaluates the following factors: quality of course selection; class rank; performance in high school/college; essays; ACT and/ or SAT scores; extracurricular activities; recommendations; and Christian commitment (necessary for admission).

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26. Davidson College

Davidson, North Carolina

Davidson College, consistently regarded as one of the nation’s top liberal arts colleges, provides a vigorous undergraduate education. The college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars.

The Honor Code is central to student life at Davidson College. The college also has a commitment to community service.

Admission: Davidson College seeks evidence of academic success and well-developed interests and/or talents in the arts, leadership, athletics, and service. In descending order, Davidson College emphasizes the following factors:

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27. School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Chicago, Illinois

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), a leader in educating artists, designers, and scholars, fosters a conceptual and technical education.

SAIC has been recognized by Columbia University’s National Arts Journalism survey as “the most influential art college in the United States.” The school provides an education in the liberal arts and in the arts and design. SAIC offers seven bachelor’s degrees.

The school’s resources include the Art Institute of Chicago.

Admission: Applicants at the freshman level are required to submit their official high school transcript, one letter of reference, a portfolio, and a statement of purpose. The school strongly recommends an interview.

28. Reed College

Portland, Oregon

Reed College, a liberal arts and sciences college, reports that a higher percentage of its graduates earn Ph.D.s across fields than do graduates of all but three other United States colleges and universities.

Reed ranks #2 among liberal arts colleges in producing Rhodes scholars. Students regularly win Fulbright, National Science Foundation, Watson, and other fellowships.

The college requires all first-year students to take humanities courses. It emphasizes a conference-style classroom, where the instructor acts as a mediator for discussion instead of as a lecturer.

Reed College has a research reactor — the college is the nation’s only school which has a nuclear reactor run entirely by undergraduates.

Admission: Academic accomplishments have the greatest weight in the selection process. Reed College reports a strong secondary school preparation, including honors and advanced courses, improves students' chances for admission. The college reports that it looks for applicants excited about ideas, passionate about learning, and oriented towards independent thought, as well as eager to be part of an intellectual community that emphasizes student-faculty collaboration.

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29. Beloit College

Beloit, Wisconsin

Beloit college, the oldest college in Wisconsin to be continuously operated, was founded in 1846 while Wisconsin was still a territory.

Beloit boasts more anthropology Ph.D.s than any other undergraduate institution. This is a direct result of their focus on experiential learning and field work.

The philosophy department has hosted such high-caliber visiting professors as Martha Nussbaum and Daniel Dennett.

Admissions:Students receive funding from many sources: merit-based scholarships, need-based grants, loans, work study, and scholarships from outside organizations to help meet costs. Together, these help to make Beloit an affordable education. Beloit students receive, on average, $26,226 in gift aid alone

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30. University of Dallas

Irving, Texas

University of Dallas, a Catholic University, earned a chapter of the prestigious Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society due to its strengths in the liberal arts and sciences.

Admission: The University of Dallas recommends the following curriculum for preparing for its academic program:

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31. Smith College

Northampton, Massachusetts

Smith College, which is among the largest of the historically all-women’s colleges in the United States, focuses on educating women at the undergraduate level.

Talented young women from all over the world enroll at Smith College to be part of its intellectual life and participate in its vibrant academic environment. The college reports that students are free to pursue their intellectual passions and receive support on their own terms. The learning experience includes mentors, faculty advisors, and independent study opportunities.

Every year, almost half of the college’s juniors study abroad in the college’s programs in Geneva, Florence, Paris, Hamburg, and many other cities in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

Smith College is part of a five-college cooperation along with Mount Holyoke, Amherst, Hampshire College, and the University of Massachusetts.

Smith College is also one of the “Seven Sisters.”

Admission: Smith College strongly recommends that applicants prepare for the college by taking the strongest courses provided by their high school. Admission staff members look for evidence of success in a rigorous curriculum. The school reports that it takes a holistic and individual approach to each application. Besides meeting the normal requirements, the college expects each applicant to pursue in greater depth academic interests important to the applicant. A personal interview is highly recommended.

32. Gettysburg College

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Gettysburg College, a national college of liberal arts and sciences, has earned a chapter of the prestigious Phi Beta Kappa honor society due to its strengths in the liberal arts and sciences.

Students prepare for leadership via experimental learning opportunities, a career network, co-curricular service, and off-campus study activities. Almost half of the students have spent a semester abroad.

Undergraduates get an idea about career life via the college’s program, named “Bright Lights! Big City!,” consisting of a three-day trip to Washington, Boston, New York, and Philadelphia to attend company presentations, meet prominent alumni ,and work together on case studies.

Admission: The college expects applicants to participate in a solid college-preparatory program with accelerated, enriched, and advanced placement courses. Significant factors include grades in academic courses, quality and distribution of subjects, and class rank.

33. Berea College

Berea, Kentucky

Berea College charges no tuition and only admits academically promising students with limited resources, primarily from Appalachia.

Seventy percent of the students are from Kentucky or the wider Appalachian region; however, students come from all 50 states and over 60 foreign countries. Every student works at least 10 hours per week in campus and services jobs.

Berea College provides rigorous Bachelor of Arts of Science degree programs.

The college also provides student/faculty undergraduate research opportunities in numerous fields.

Admission: Berea College seeks applicants with strong academic potential and financial need. The college also considers factors such as leadership qualities, community service, and levels of motivation. The personal statement is optional for every applicant; however, the school strongly encourages applicants who have experienced obstacles or adversity to submit a personal statement.

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Berea College ranks as the second best college in Kentucky in The 100 Best Colleges and Universities by State 2018–2019 and is featured in The Most Affordable Four-Year College in Each State and The Best Colleges Providing Free Tuition.

34. United States Coast Guard Academy

New London, Connecticut

The United States Coast Guard Academy (USCGA), the military academy of the United States Coast Guard, has one of the lowest acceptance rates of any college in the nation, private or public.

The academy, which provides a Bachelor of Science degree program, offers a holistic education, including academics, physical fitness, character, and leadership. Every cadet completes core studies in liberal arts and sciences. Each student also receives a full-scholarship.

Graduates of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy have an obligation to serve five years in U.S. Coast Guard.

USCGA provides academics through five departments: humanities, engineering, mathematics, management, and science. The academy also provides unique courses via its Strategic Intelligence and Homeland Security department.

Admission: Accepted applicants typically have proven academic accomplishments, especially in math and the sciences, a record of service to the community, skills as an athlete, motivation to embrace leadership development, and an unwavering desire to serve their country and humanity.

35. California Institute of the Arts

Valencia, California

California Institute of the Arts, also known as CalArts, is an internationally recognized school for the performing and visual arts, emphasizing the exploration of new paths beyond conventional boundaries.

The school emphasizes close collegial interaction between students and instructors in class and in one-on-one mentoring. All the faculty members are working artists.

CalArts has three entities: an on-campus educational and artistic program; the REDCAT theater and gallery; and the CalArts' Community Arts Partnership.

Admission: The school accepts students primarily on the basis of their demonstrated talent, creativity, and commitment.

36. Webb Institute

Glen Cove, New York

Webb Institute is a private engineering college. All accepted students recieve full tuition for four years and graduate with degrees in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering.

The school has significant influence in the marine industry as a direct result of their emphasis on ship design and practical work experience.

The Webb Institute requires students to participate in an internship each January and February. During this period students seek employment in the marine industry.

Admissions: Students must apply directly to Webb Institute.

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Webb Institute is #6 in The Best Colleges Providing Free Tuition

37. Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University

La Mirada, California

The Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University, a liberal arts and biblical studies institute, emphasizes academic excellence, but also values students who show abilities in an array of fields.

The institute exposes students to the great works of the Western and Christian traditions. Torrey Honors Institute incorporates rigorous reading, discussion, and writing guided by faculty members. Discussion is the main mode of instruction.

The Institute fulfills most of the Biola University undergraduate general education requirements. Freshmen take their classes at the institute with their group for all four years.

The institute evaluates students on their individual progress. Students have opportunities such as community service, studying abroad, and extracurricular opportunities.

Admission: All potential Biola University students with one or more of the following can apply to the Torrey Honors Institute: GPA of 3.8 or higher; combined SAT of 1800; or composite ACT of at least 25. Applicants should have completed some honors or Advanced Placement work, if available at their high school.

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Biola University ranks #1 in The 25 Best Colleges for Studying the Bible and #2 in The Best Colleges for Homeschool Graduates.

38. Babson College

Wellesley, Massachusetts

Babson College, an independent business school, offers top-flight undergraduate business education combining integrated and applied business and liberal arts programs with curricular and non-curricular learning experiences.

All students study business and work to obtain a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree. The program emphasizes leadership and entrepreneurial skills. Every student receives extensive hands-on training. First-year students take a year-long course in which they develop student teams and launch and liquidate a for-profit business they design.

Admission: The college uses an extensive and holistic evaluation of applicants. The college reports that its greatest focus is on students' four-year performance at the secondary level. Factors carefully considered include academic performance, rigor of coursework, academic motivation, performance on standardized tests, writing ability, involvement in activities and/or work experience and leadership, creativity, and enthusiasm.

39. United States Merchant Marine Academy

Kings Point, New York

The United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) is one of the five undergraduate service academies in the nation.

USMMA reports that its graduates have careers in the maritime industry and the armed services, and that many of its graduates become leaders in business and government. Many graduates continue their studies in graduate or professional schools.

Every student at the academy trains in subject areas related to shipping and transportation. The United States Merchant Marine Academy offers academic programs through the following departments: Humanities, Marine Engineering, Marine Transportation, Mathematics and Science, Naval Science, and Physical Education and Athletics.

The academy’s Sea Year program places students on a U.S. flag — bearing merchant ship for portions of their sophomore and junior years.

Admission: Admission office representatives evaluate applicants' high school record, class rank, SAT or ACT standardized test scores, history of extracurricular activities, recommendations from school officials, ability to pass a Candidate Fitness Assessment, and evidence of character, leadership, and potential for academic achievement. Applicants are required to obtain a letter of nomination from a member of the U.S. Congress.

40. New England Conservatory of Music

Boston, Massachusetts

New England Conservatory of Music, recognized nationally and internationally as a leading music school, provides rigorous training to music students from all over the world. The school’s faculty includes internationally esteemed musicians, performing artists, and scholars.

The conservatory serves as a training ground for orchestral players for the Boston Symphony Orchestra; however, its graduates have filled orchestra chairs, concert hall stages, recording studios, and jazz clubs, as well as arts management positions worldwide.

The New England Conservatory of Music offers degree and diploma programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels. The courses focus in the areas of performance and composition. The programs emphasize one-on-one studio instruction.

Admission: Applicants are considered for admission based on a competitive review of their audition results, artistic preparation, overall academic history, and letters of recommendation.

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New England Conservatory of Music ranks #6 in The 20 Best Music Conservatories in the U.S.

41. St. John’s College, Annapolis

Annapolis, Maryland

St. John’s College, a co-educational, four-year liberal arts college, is known for its distinctive “great books” curriculum.

The college bases all required course of study on the reading, study, and discussion of the most important books of the Western tradition. St. John’s College has no majors and no departments; every student follows the same program. The school provides a Bachelor of Arts degree.

Students study from the classics in literature, theology, philosophy, political science, psychology, history, economics, laboratory sciences, mathematics, and music. The courses don’t use textbooks. Students read the books roughly in chronological order beginning with ancient Greece and continuing to modern times.

Although the college does not train students for specific careers, students gain valuable and marketable skills. Before they graduate, many students participate in internships from medical research to teaching to the arts. Many of its graduates go to law school, medical school, or graduate school.

Admission: The school expects applicants to have pursued a college-preparatory course of study, including substantial sequences in foreign languages, mathematics, and the physical sciences. SAT and ACT scores are optional, but they provide helpful information.

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St. John’s College ranks as the second best college in Maryland in The 100 Best Colleges and Universities by State 2018–2019.

42. Hampden-Sydney College

Hampden Sydney, Virginia

Hampden-Sydney College, a private, liberal arts college for men, is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church. Due to its strengths in liberal arts and sciences, the college earned a chapter of the prestigious Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society. Its general education objectives include civic, moral, and academic components.

The students subscribe to the following two statements of honorable behavior: “The Hampden-Sydney student will behave as a gentleman at all times and in all places“ and “The Hampden-Sydney student will not lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate those who do.”

Admission: The admissions office seeks applicants who have demonstrated aptitude in the classroom through a series of rigorous courses. The admission office is also interested in applicants who excelled outside their studies. Applicants should have mastered a college-preparatory program. Applicants are strongly encouraged to have an interview and in some cases may be required to have a personal interview.

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Hampden-Sydney College ranks as the second best college in Virginia in The 100 Best Colleges and Universities by State 2018–2019, #19 in The 20 Best Conservative Colleges in America, and #30 in The Top 50 Places to Study Classical Economics.

Hampden-Sydney President, Christopher B. Howard, is featured in our list of The 20 Most Interesting College Presidents.

43. Morehouse College

Atlanta, Georgia

Morehouse College, a private, liberal arts college for African-American men, is often thought of as the preeminent, historically black college in the country.

The college reports that it is committed to training the leaders who will change their communities, the nation, and the world. It also reports its mission is to develop men with disciplined minds who lead lives of leadership and service.

Through the Corporate Connection program, corporate sponsors partner with the college to help produce outstanding business and civic leaders. The program includes:

Morehouse College provides Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees. Academic divisions include Business Administration & Economics; Humanities & Social Sciences; and Science & Mathematics.

The college emphasizes leadership and volunteerism. Almost three-quarters of students volunteer within the community.

Admission: Academic competence is a major consideration in selecting students. An applicant’s personal qualities, which may add to the diversity of the student body, are also important.

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Morehouse College ranks as the second best college in Georgia in The 100 Best Colleges and Universities by State 2018–2019.

44. Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering

Needham, Massachusetts

Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, an independent, nonprofit, undergraduate engineering college, strives to prepare students to become engineering innovators who recognize needs, design solutions, and engage in creative enterprises for the good of the world.

The school reports that it seeks to redefine engineering as a profession of innovation encompassing the consideration of societal needs, the creative design of engineering systems, and the creation of value via entrepreneurial philanthropy and effort.

Graduates of the Senior Consulting Program for Engineering Teams are hired by corporations, entrepreneurial ventures, or nonprofits for real-world engineering projects.

The programs have an interdisciplinary, project-based approach emphasizing liberal arts and entrepreneurship, as well as rigorous science and engineering fundamentals.

Project-based teaching begins in the first year and culminates in two capstone projects in the senior year.

Admission: The college seeks applicants with outstanding achievement in coursework and testing. The college gives special attention to creativity, passion, and enterprise.

45. College of the Ozarks

Point Lookout, Missouri

College of the Ozarks has a mission to provide the advantages of a Christian education for the youth of both sexes, particularly for those found worthy but who don’t have sufficient means to pay for their education.

The curriculum has a liberal arts core. The college has a cultural goal to cultivate an appreciation of the fine arts, an adherence to high personal standards, and an understanding of the world. It also strives to foster the Christian faith via the integration of faith with living, learning, and service.

Full-time students do not pay tuition. College of the Ozarks does not participate in any federal loan programs. Students work to pay for many of their educational costs.

Admission: College of the Ozarks seeks students who demonstrate financial need, academic ability, sound character, and willingness to work.

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College of the Ozarks ranks as the second best college in Missouri in The 100 Best Colleges and Universities by State 2018–2019, #4 in The Best Colleges Providing Free Tuition, #6 in The 20 Best Conservative Colleges in America, and #6 in The Best Colleges for Homeschool Graduates.

46. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

Daytona Beach, Florida

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the world’s only fully accredited, aviation-oriented university, teaches the practice, science, and business of the world of aviation and aerospace.

The university provides the nation’s largest aerospace program. Its two Air Force ROTC detachments form the nation’s largest university-based Air Force commissioning source. The university’s contract with the U.S. Department of Defense maintains the school’s long-time status as the sole provider of aviation-related degree programs to the U.S. military in Europe.

The university’s curriculum covers the engineering, operation, research, manufacturing, marketing, and management of modern aircraft and the systems which support them. The university’s research and consulting addresses the needs of the aerospace and aviation sectors and related industries.

Two residential campuses — in Daytona Beach, Florida, and Prescott, Arizona — offer education in a traditional environment.

Embry-Riddle Worldwide offers instruction in over 150 locations in the United States, Canada, Europe, and the Middle East, as well as via online learning.

The major airlines hire more alumni from Embry-Riddle than from any other collegiate aviation program. The university is the country’s largest supplier of air traffic controllers with bachelor degrees to the FAA.

Admission: High school students must have four years of English, three or four years of math, and two or more years of lab science.

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47. The King’s College, NYC

New York, New York

The King’s College, a Christian liberal arts college, seeks students who want to make a difference in the world.

The college reports that it prepares students for principled leadership.

The King’s College teaches a worldview rooted in the Bible and informed by close study of great works of political theory, philosophy, and economics. The college provides an education which incorporates classroom instruction, extra-curricular commitments, and service to the larger community.

The college is open to all students regardless of their religious affiliations.

Admission: Applicants are required to submit their high school transcripts and SAT or ACT scores.

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The King’s College ranks #11 in The 20 Best Conservative Colleges in America and #12 in The Best Colleges for Homeschool Graduates.

48. Massachusetts Maritime Academy

Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Maritime Academy offers Bachelor of Science degrees, Merchant Marine Officer’s Licenses, and Naval Officer’s Commissions, as well as programs in maritime-related fields, including marine transportation, marine engineering, facilities engineering, energy systems engineering, international maritime business, and other subjects.

Although not required, some of graduates serve in active and reserve components of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Admission: The academy bases admission on an evaluation of applicants' academic record, testing information, including SAT or ACT, extracurricular and community activities, letters of recommendation, and leadership potential. An interview is highly recommended.

49. Alice Lloyd College

Pippa Passes, Kentucky

Alice Lloyd College was founded as Caney Junior College in 1923. The college began offering four-year degrees in the 1980s.

Alice Lloyd College places an emphasis on educating Appalachain leaders close to home. Three quarters of the college’s graduates are the first member of their family to obtain a degree. A staggering 95% of graduates are accepted to graduate or professional programs.

The school offers 18 academic majors and eight pre-professional programs.

Admissions: Alice Lloyd awards tuition guarantees for residents of 108 Central Appalachian counties, regardless of income, who are eligible for admission. The College provides high quality educational opportunities primarily for students with outstanding leadership potential for effective service to the surrounding mountain region regardless of the student’s ability to pay.

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Alice Lloyd College ranks #8 in The Best Colleges Providing Free Tuition.

50. Virginia Military Institute

Lexington City, Virginia

Virginia Military Institute (VMI) is a state-supported military college founded in 1839. All cadets enrolled in VMI must be part of the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC).

Unlike other military academies, VMI graduates may pursue employment as a civilian or in any branch of the military as either active duty or reserve.

Admissions: Applicants are normally not less than 16 or more than 22 years of age at matriculation and may not be married or a parent. A one-year age waiver may be granted for an applicant who has served on active duty in the armed forces or for other extenuating circumstances.

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