Best Liberal Arts Colleges in Virginia 2022

Best Liberal Arts Colleges in Virginia 2022

Liberal arts colleges are a great option for students seeking a well-rounded education in an intimate campus setting. The best liberal arts colleges in Virginia offer a diverse selection of degree programs with opportunities for a highly individualized educational experience.

Colleges and Universities in Virginia

Liberty University, a private Christian school in Lynchburg, is the largest school in Virginia, serving over 60,000 students. The largest public university, Virginia Tech, has a student population of about half that but offers many in-person degree programs as well as eight master’s programs and 19 certificate programs online. Students who attend Virginia Tech can pursue fields like engineering, criminal justice, education, and business.

Find college admissions consultants in your state.

The majority of Virginia’s universities and colleges could be considered small schools, serving populations of less than 5,000 students. Included on this list are public schools, like Christopher Newport University in Newport News, and private schools, like Hampton University, a historically black university in Hampton. Though most of its higher education institutes charge tuition fees above the national average, Virginia offers several loan forgiveness programs for qualifying attorneys and medical, dental, behavioral health, and pharmaceutical professionals.

Virginia is perhaps most famous for its rich history — but the state is also home to many unique museums and famous landmarks. For example, those who love the classics can visit the Edgar Allen Poe Museum in Richmond. Those who harbor romantic dreams of espionage and intrigue might visit the CIA Museum in McLean. And, if you like your attractions random, you could check out Virginia’s 300-yard-long natural tunnel or its 29-ton spinning granite ball. While you’re here, you might consider attending one of the 78 colleges located in the state.

Learn more about Virginia’s higher education opportunities by checking out the state’s many colleges and universities.


What are Virginia’s Colleges & Universities?

Virginia’s Best Overall

Related: Differences between research universities and teaching colleges

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How do we determine Virginia's best colleges and universities?

Methodology

The people affiliated with a school are ultimately what make it great! 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 in their fields of study.

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

To rank the influence of schools, we first determine the influence of scholars and professionals based on the number of citations and publications they have had over the past 10 years. In addition to publications and citations, we consider the web links to and from these sources, and the page views of those sources. We then match the influential people to their alma maters and institutions of employment, so that their influence is attributed to those schools. Our machine-learning Influence Ranking algorithm produces a numerical score of academic achievements, merits, and citations across Wikipedia, wikidata, Crossref, Semantic Scholar and an ever-growing body of data. If you are interested in exploring how and why we rank by influence, explore our methodology in more depth.

A liberal arts college is a school that puts a premium on undergraduate studies and offers a broad range of subjects for students to study. A college of liberal arts typically provides smaller class sizes, more direct engagement with professors, and, most importantly, the opportunity to sample a wide range of subject areas on the way to a bachelor’s degree. We’ve identified 32 liberal arts colleges in Virginia. To be ranked among the 25 best liberal arts colleges in Virginia, schools must fully accredited institutions.

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Best Liberal Arts Colleges in Virginia 2022

  1. #2

    University of Richmond

    University of Richmond , VA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $59K

    Acceptance

    31%

    Graduation

    88%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1375/31

    What is University of Richmond known for?

    University of Richmond’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Law
    • History
    • Philosophy
    • Anthropology
    • Education
    • Business
    • Economics
    • Psychology
    • Mathematics
    • Political Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  2. #3

    James Madison University

    Harrisonburg , VA

    Tuition + fees

    $12K

    Acceptance

    80%

    Graduation

    82%

    Student body

    21K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1205/25

    What is James Madison University known for?

    James Madison University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Mathematics
    • Earth Sciences
    • Communications
    • Philosophy
    • Computer Science
    • Criminal Justice
    • Nursing
    • Physics
    • Economics
    • Business

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. #4

    Radford University

    Radford , VA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    79%

    Graduation

    56%

    Student body

    9K

    What is Radford University known for?

    Radford University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Nursing
    • Social Work
    • Psychology
    • Criminal Justice
    • Medical
    • Communications
    • Biology
    • Economics
    • Earth Sciences
    • Political Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  4. #5

    Virginia Military Institute

    Lexington , VA

    Tuition + fees

    $19K

    Acceptance

    60%

    Graduation

    85%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1180/24

    What is Virginia Military Institute known for?

    Virginia Military Institute’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Engineering
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Biology
    • Mathematics
    • Chemistry
    • Literature
    • Physics
    • Economics
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  5. #6

    Virginia State University

    Petersburg , VA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    96%

    Graduation

    46%

    Student body

    4K

    Median SAT/ACT

    920/17

    What is Virginia State University known for?

    Virginia State University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Social Work
    • Criminal Justice
    • Engineering
    • Education
    • Mathematics
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Business
    • Computer Science
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

  6. #7

    Christopher Newport University

    Newport News , VA

    Tuition + fees

    $15K

    Acceptance

    76%

    Graduation

    80%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1195/24

    What is Christopher Newport University known for?

    Christopher Newport University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Physics
    • Chemistry
    • Computer Science
    • Engineering
    • Social Work
    • History
    • Mathematics
    • Political Science
    • Communications
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  7. #8

    Sweet Briar College

    Sweet Briar , VA

    Tuition + fees

    $23K

    Acceptance

    76%

    Graduation

    32%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1110/24

    What is Sweet Briar College known for?

    Sweet Briar College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Mathematics
    • Education
    • Engineering
    • Sociology
    • Political Science
    • Physics
    • Economics
    • Chemistry
    • Biology
    • History

    Most Influential Alumni

  8. #9

    University of Mary Washington

    Fredericksburg , VA

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    75%

    Graduation

    65%

    Student body

    4K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1180/26

    What is University of Mary Washington known for?

    University of Mary Washington’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Nursing
    • Education
    • History
    • Sociology
    • Physics
    • Economics
    • Anthropology
    • Political Science
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

  9. #10

    Norfolk State University

    Norfolk , VA

    Tuition + fees

    $10K

    Acceptance

    91%

    Graduation

    39%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    950/18

    What is Norfolk State University known for?

    Norfolk State University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Social Work
    • Criminal Justice
    • Communications
    • Engineering
    • Mathematics
    • Computer Science
    • Physics
    • Nursing
    • Political Science
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  10. #11

    Virginia Union University

    Richmond , VA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    75%

    Graduation

    36%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    849/15

    What is Virginia Union University known for?

    Virginia Union University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Religious Studies
    • Social Work
    • History
    • Education
    • Sociology
    • Chemistry
    • Communications
    • Literature
    • Psychology
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  11. #12

    Roanoke College

    Salem , VA

    Tuition + fees

    $48K

    Acceptance

    78%

    Graduation

    70%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1155/24

    What is Roanoke College known for?

    Roanoke College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Political Science
    • Literature
    • Business
    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Religious Studies
    • Economics
    • History
    • Computer Science
    • Physics

    Most Influential Alumni

  12. #13

    Stratford University

    Alexandria , VA

    Tuition + fees

    $15K

    Graduation

    73%

    Student body

    2K

    What is Stratford University known for?

    Stratford University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Nursing
    • Computer Science
    • Business
    • Medical
    • Criminal Justice
    • Engineering

    Most Influential Alumni

  13. #14

    Hollins University

    Roanoke , VA

    Tuition + fees

    $40K

    Acceptance

    81%

    Graduation

    62%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1185/26

    What is Hollins University known for?

    Hollins University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Philosophy
    • Communications
    • Sociology
    • History
    • Education
    • Mathematics
    • Political Science
    • Economics
    • Chemistry

    Most Influential Alumni

  14. #15

    Longwood University

    Farmville , VA

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    87%

    Graduation

    67%

    Student body

    4K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1055/20

    What is Longwood University known for?

    Longwood University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Social Work
    • Anthropology
    • Education
    • Economics
    • Criminal Justice
    • History
    • Sociology
    • Computer Science
    • Nursing
    • Communications

    Most Influential Alumni

  15. #16

    Marymount University

    Arlington , VA

    Tuition + fees

    $36K

    Acceptance

    85%

    Graduation

    54%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1065/20

    What is Marymount University known for?

    Marymount University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Nursing
    • Psychology
    • Medical
    • Computer Science
    • Political Science
    • Economics
    • Mathematics
    • Business
    • Communications
    • History

    Most Influential Alumni

  16. #17

    Randolph–Macon College

    Ashland , VA

    Tuition + fees

    $45K

    Acceptance

    71%

    Graduation

    66%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1145/23

    What is Randolph–Macon College known for?

    Randolph–Macon College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Economics
    • Physics
    • Biology
    • Literature
    • Chemistry
    • Communications
    • Religious Studies
    • Political Science
    • Sociology
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

  17. #18

    Hampden–Sydney College

    Hampden-Sydney , VA

    Tuition + fees

    $50K

    Acceptance

    47%

    Graduation

    71%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1190/23

    What is Hampden–Sydney College known for?

    Hampden–Sydney College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Religious Studies
    • Philosophy
    • Literature
    • History
    • Chemistry
    • Mathematics
    • Engineering
    • Political Science
    • Physics
    • Sociology

    Most Influential Alumni

  18. #19

    Randolph College

    Lynchburg , VA

    Tuition + fees

    $27K

    Acceptance

    90%

    Graduation

    56%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1075/22

    What is Randolph College known for?

    Randolph College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Physics
    • Sociology
    • Psychology
    • Literature
    • Chemistry
    • Philosophy
    • Education
    • Mathematics
    • History
    • Engineering

    Most Influential Alumni

  19. #20

    Eastern Mennonite University

    Harrisonburg , VA

    Tuition + fees

    $40K

    Acceptance

    72%

    Graduation

    60%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1100/22

    What is Eastern Mennonite University known for?

    Eastern Mennonite University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Criminal Justice
    • Social Work
    • Sociology
    • Religious Studies
    • Political Science
    • Chemistry
    • Mathematics
    • Biology
    • Psychology
    • History

    Most Influential Alumni

  20. #21

    Emory and Henry College

    Emory , VA

    Tuition + fees

    $35K

    Acceptance

    75%

    Graduation

    54%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1065/21

    What is Emory and Henry College known for?

    Emory and Henry College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Mathematics
    • Physics
    • Political Science
    • Religious Studies
    • Communications
    • History
    • Literature
    • Economics
    • Psychology
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

  21. #22

    Southern Virginia University

    Buena Vista , VA

    Tuition + fees

    $18K

    Acceptance

    99%

    Graduation

    45%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1083/22

    What is Southern Virginia University known for?

    Southern Virginia University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Philosophy
    • History
    • Sociology
    • Business
    • Biology
    • Political Science
    • Mathematics
    • Computer Science
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  22. #23

    Bridgewater College

    Bridgewater , VA

    Tuition + fees

    $38K

    Acceptance

    76%

    Graduation

    63%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1070/21

    What is Bridgewater College known for?

    Bridgewater College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Political Science
    • Biology
    • Sociology
    • Economics
    • History
    • Physics
    • Philosophy
    • Literature
    • Chemistry
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  23. Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    83%

    Graduation

    52%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1065/21

    What is University of Virginia's College at Wise known for?

    University of Virginia's College at Wise’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Nursing
    • Computer Science
    • Mathematics
    • Engineering
    • History
    • Sociology
    • Medical
    • Business
    • Biology
    • Literature

    Most Influential Alumni

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Virginia’s Best Liberal Arts Colleges in Your Area of Interest

Frequently Asked Questions About Research Universities, Liberal Arts Colleges, Online Colleges

In pursuing a bachelor’s degree, you will need to choose between three kinds of schools: research universities, liberal arts colleges, and online colleges.

Research universities are colleges and universities whose faculty are active in research and publishing. These schools offer a wide array of doctoral programs, especially in the sciences. They tend to be big, with tens of thousands of students.

Do you prefer a larger university setting, such as largest public university in your state? Research universities are typically big, offering degrees in many different disciplines. Is a big high-powered research environment the thing for you. If not, you should think about a liberal arts college. In deciding on an undergraduate institution, ask yourself what sort of environment will best help you to be happy and excel.

  • Consider whether you are self motivated enough to be a face in the crowd for some classes and largely unknown on campus at a large university. Of course you can find clubs and friends at a large university, but often liberal arts colleges have a more personal quality to them. If you want the community feel, a research university may not fit you well.
  • Are you interested in STEM fields? Research universities have that name for a reason – real research is happening there. This can create an exciting atmosphere for students interested in STEM. Attending a research university can give you a better chance of getting into better programs for graduate degrees, although a lot of that depends on your performance.
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Often referred to as “teaching colleges” liberal arts colleges put a premium on undergraduate studies and offers a broad range of subjects for students to study. A college of liberal arts typically provides smaller class sizes, more direct engagement with professors, and, most importantly, the opportunity to sample a wide range of subject areas on the way to a bachelor’s degree.

  • Do you want your professors to know you? Liberal arts colleges strive to cultivate campus cultures that encourage tight bonds between professors and students. Professors at these schools will typically conduct original research. Yet the best of these schools offer their faculty reduced teaching loads so that they can both be productive researchers and still have plenty of time for students (both in and outside the classroom).
  • Do you want to feel like you know everybody? One of the most enticing features of a liberal arts college is that in very little time, you can feel like you know who’s who, which can create strong friendships, but also more pleasurable walks across campus. While your sports teams may never be on ESPN, it’s more likely that you’ll know the athletes as your peers. Beyond student and faculty relationships, it’s not unusual for the school president and other administrators to learn who you are. When faced with problems with your student account or the need to switch classes, this can be comforting during a stressful moment.
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Online colleges are typically the same colleges and universities you could attend in-person, but for certain degree programs the college or unviersity has made the degree programs available to be completed online. For over 5 million students, online degree programs allow students to earn their degrees in the most flexible format available. Online degrees are as respected as the on-campus degress you could earn from the same schools. There’s usually no disctinction between the two degrees, and your degree and transcript will not say that the degree was earned online. Online degree programs are offered by a vast majority of colleges and universities, and the number of offering continues to grow. Whehter you are searching for an associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate, there’s a good chance you can earn your degree online from a respectable online college.

  • Are you a self-driven student? Perhaps the hardest aspect of obtaining an online degree is whether you will be disciplined enough to manage your time and course demands. Many online students report that online college made them more disciplined in all areas of their lives, but the flexible, self-paced learning that makes online colleges attractive can often be the same qualities that make it difficult. If you tend to be a procrastinator, you need to be honest with yourself. You can change your habits and propensities, or you can throw money down the drain.
  • Do you need the flexibility of an online degree program? Most online students study online because of time demands balancing work and life, or becuase the online colleges afford them the chance to attend a better school without moving. If you are serious about earning your degree for career advancement, online colleges make it possible. The most flexible options among online degrees are those that are aynchronous, meaning you don’t have scheduled times to meet with your class online. However, many students seek synchronous online degree programs so that they have some structure – set meeting times, scheduled exams, etc.
  • The good news is that attending an online college doesn’t mean you will miss out on getting to know your professors and classmates. In fact, many online students who have experienced both online and on-campus courses report having easier access to their professors. Since most communication with your professor is expected to be in text – via email or your class learning management system – it makes asking your questions easier. The same students also report that they got to better know the thoughts of their classmates. While in-person course conversations can be dominated by a few extroverts, online courses that require online discussions make it so that you see all of your classmates’ thoughts and questions.

If you interested in an online bachelor’s degree, check out what the best online colleges offer, or search our online degrees for the exact program that interests you. In either case, you will find well respected colleges and universities that offer online degrees.

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Resources for College-Bound Students

2021 Ranking Archive

Many of our 2022 undergraduate focused rankings look considerably different than 2021. That’s because we took a fundamentally different apporach. For 2021 we utiulized our Concentrated Influence algorithm, designed to take away the size advantage larger schools have when we rank their faculty and alumni’s academic influence. Concentrated influence highlights smaller schools that are proportionally as successful as larger universities at cultivating influential alumni and faculty.

  1. Washington and Lee University
  2. Virginia Military Institute
  3. Hollins University
  4. University of Richmond
  5. Hampden–Sydney College
  6. Sweet Briar College
  7. Randolph–Macon College
  8. Marymount University
  9. University of Mary Washington
  10. Eastern Mennonite University
  11. Randolph College
  12. Emory and Henry College
  13. James Madison University
  14. Radford University
  15. Christopher Newport University
  16. Roanoke College
  17. Bridgewater College
  18. Longwood University
  19. University of Lynchburg