North Carolina’s Best Small Colleges of 2021

Small colleges in North Carolina are a great option for students interested in a more intimate campus experience, more personal attention from excellent professors, and more immediate access to support services. Whether the focus is on the technical or on the liberal arts, small colleges give you the chance to pursue a well-rounded education while working closely with classmates and professors in a dynamic community atmosphere.

North Carolina’s Best Small Colleges of 2021

Colleges and Universities in North Carolina

Among these schools are over 60 public colleges and universities, including the state’s largest school, North Carolina State University, which serves almost 30,000 students. Tuition costs average about $9,000, just below the national average, and students also have the option to enroll in over 1,000 online courses. Another notable public school is the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which is one of the country’s oldest universities.

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The 25,000 students who attend UNC will walk the same halls as Francis Collins, Thomas Wolfe, and former president James K. Polk. North Carolina’s private schools have also made a name for themselves, including the well-known Duke University located in Durham. Here, students can earn degrees in some of the top programs, like nursing, political science, and business. Additionally, students can attend one of the many small schools which serve less than 5,000 students, like Campbell University in Buies Creek, or a religiously affiliated school, like Mid-Atlantic Christian University in Elizabeth City.

From its coastal beaches to its lush forests, it’s no wonder the Wright Brothers dreamed of taking flight over North Carolina. This state is rich with history, scenic views, and famous people who once called it home, like John Coltrane and Nicholas Sparks. Students hoping to earn their associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree also have the option of choosing from over 100 schools in the Tar Heel State.

Whether you prefer ocean views or wooded forests, North Carolina has something for everyone. Discover more about the state’s higher learning options.

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The following list of the best small colleges and universities in North Carolina is composed mainly of four-year undergraduate schools (though a handful also offer graduate programs). There are 33 small colleges in North Carolina; 13 of which meet our criteria. The list below of the best small colleges in the state satisfies the following four conditions:

  1. It must be a non-profit institution.
  2. It must be fully accredited.
  3. Its student body must consist of 5,000 or fewer students.
  4. Its graduation rate must be greater than 50%.

How do we determine North Carolina's best small colleges and universities?

The best colleges pound for pound!

The people affiliated with a school are ultimately what make it great. This is why, at the undergraduate level, we rank the best colleges and universities based on what we call Concentrated Influence. Concentrated Influence takes the combined influence score of a college or university’s top academic influencers (including faculty and alums) and divides it by the school’s total number of undergraduates.

Using concentrated influence gives small and mid-sized schools an opportunity to shine by taking away the size advantage of larger universities. A small school with proportionately more influential faculty than a large school, whose influence in absolute terms may be bigger, will nonetheless score higher in a concentrated influence ranking. Our approach highlights undergraduate schools that truly rank for excellence, regardless of size.

If you are serious about finding the best colleges and universities for a bachelor’s degree, you should be asking where the most influential professors are teaching and whether their graduates are themselves advancing the school’s reputation for academic excellence.

Most ranking sites rely on an opaque combination of reputation surveys and arbitrary performance metrics. Concentrated Influence provides a ranking that is free from bias, insulated from manipulation, and reflective of real-world educational outcomes.

Find out more about our ranking methodology here.

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Best Small Colleges in North Carolina

  1. Davidson College
    #1

    Davidson College

    #678 institution's overall influence
    #36 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $53K

    Acceptance

    20%

    Graduation

    91%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1397/31

    Davidson, NC

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    What is Davidson College known for?

    Davidson College's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Philosophy
    • Biology
    • Religious Studies
    • Computer Science
    • Mathematics
    • Physics
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  2. Guilford College
    #2

    Guilford College

    #1414 institution's overall influence
    #343 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $39K

    Acceptance

    78%

    Graduation

    53%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1070/20

    Greensboro, NC

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    What is Guilford College known for?

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. Warren Wilson College
    #3

    Warren Wilson College

    #2434 institution's overall influence
    #374 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $37K

    Acceptance

    85%

    Graduation

    54%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1177/25

    Swannanoa, NC

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    What is Warren Wilson College known for?

    Most Influential Alumni

  4. Queens University of Charlotte
    #4

    Queens University of Charlotte

    #2440 institution's overall influence
    #431 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $36K

    Acceptance

    68%

    Graduation

    54%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1140/24

    Charlotte, NC

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  5. Catawba College
    #5

    Catawba College

    #2292 institution's overall influence
    #893 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $31K

    Acceptance

    52%

    Graduation

    43%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1025/20

    Salisbury, NC

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    What is Catawba College known for?

    Most Influential Alumni

  6. Johnson C. Smith University
    #6

    Johnson C. Smith University

    #2045 institution's overall influence
    #570 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $19K

    Acceptance

    49%

    Graduation

    44%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    881/16

    Charlotte, NC

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    What is Johnson C. Smith University known for?

    Most Influential Alumni

  7. Campbell University
    #7

    Campbell University

    #1454 institution's overall influence
    #486 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $35K

    Acceptance

    81%

    Graduation

    50%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1130/22

    Buies Creek, NC

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    What is Campbell University known for?

    Most Influential Alumni

  8. Salem College
    #8

    Salem College

    #2696 institution's overall influence
    #989 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $30K

    Acceptance

    85%

    Graduation

    57%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1025/19

    Winston-Salem, NC

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  9. University of North Carolina at Asheville
    #9

    University of North Carolina at Asheville

    #2072 institution's overall influence
    #555 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    79%

    Graduation

    62%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1180/24

    Asheville, NC

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  10. Meredith College
    #10

    Meredith College

    #1831 institution's overall influence
    #1109 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $39K

    Acceptance

    72%

    Graduation

    63%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1120/21

    Raleigh, NC

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    What is Meredith College known for?

    Most Influential Alumni

  11. Barton College
    #11

    Barton College

    #5098 institution's overall influence
    #1425 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $32K

    Acceptance

    42%

    Graduation

    53%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1035/20

    Wilson, NC

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    What is Barton College known for?

    Barton College's faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • History
    • Social Work
    • Communications
    • Political Science
    • Medical
    • Biology
    • Literature
    • Psychology
    • Sociology

    Most Influential Alumni

  12. Wingate University
    #12

    Wingate University

    #3655 institution's overall influence
    #1100 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $36K

    Acceptance

    73%

    Graduation

    52%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1030/20

    Wingate, NC

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  13. University of Mount Olive
    #13

    University of Mount Olive

    #4896 institution's overall influence
    #1147 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $21K

    Acceptance

    62%

    Graduation

    43%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1000/19

    Mount Olive, NC

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    What is University of Mount Olive known for?

    Most Influential Alumni

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