Virginia’s Best Liberal Arts Colleges of 2021

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.

Virginia’s Best Liberal Arts Colleges of 2021

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.

More see more Less see less

What are Virginia’s Colleges & Universities?

Virginia’s Best Overall

Related: Differences between research universities and teaching colleges

Virginia's Best Liberal Arts Colleges and Universities 2021 badge
Download Badge

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

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.

More see more Less see less

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 a total of 32 liberal arts colleges and universities in Virginia, 19 of which satisfy our criteria. The list below of the best liberal arts schools in the state satisfies the following four conditions:

  1. It must be a non-profit institution.
  2. It must be fully accredited.
  3. It must offer a broad range of bachelor’s degrees.
  4. It must have a graduation rate of greater than 50%.

Best Liberal Arts Colleges & Universities in Virginia

  1. #1

    Washington and Lee University

    #355 institution's historical influence
    #80 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $57K

    Acceptance

    25%

    Graduation

    93%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1430/33

    Lexington, VA

    View profile

    What is Washington and Lee University known for?

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

    • Law
    • Literature
    • Communications
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Biology
    • Engineering
    • Religious Studies
    • Philosophy
    • Economics

    Most Influential Alumni

  2. #2

    Virginia Military Institute

    #581 institution's historical influence
    #124 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $19K

    Acceptance

    60%

    Graduation

    85%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1180/24

    Lexington, VA

    View profile

    What is Virginia Military Institute known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. #3

    Hollins University

    #1245 institution's historical influence
    #476 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $40K

    Acceptance

    81%

    Graduation

    62%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1185/26

    Roanoke, VA

    View profile

    What is Hollins University known for?

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

    • Literature
    • Philosophy
    • Education
    • Communications
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Business
    • Psychology
    • Sociology
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  4. #4

    University of Richmond

    #659 institution's historical influence
    #145 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $57K

    Acceptance

    31%

    Graduation

    88%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1375/31

    University of Richmond, VA

    View profile

    What is University of Richmond known for?

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

    • Law
    • Business
    • Education
    • Philosophy
    • History
    • Literature
    • Political Science
    • Medical
    • Psychology
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

  5. #5

    Hampden–Sydney College

    #1049 institution's historical influence
    #740 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $48K

    Acceptance

    47%

    Graduation

    71%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1190/23

    Hampden-Sydney, VA

    View profile

    What is Hampden–Sydney College known for?

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

    • Religious Studies
    • Philosophy
    • Literature
    • History
    • Engineering
    • Political Science
    • Business
    • Biology
    • Mathematics
    • Chemistry
  6. #6

    Sweet Briar College

    #1869 institution's historical influence
    #719 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $23K

    Acceptance

    76%

    Graduation

    32%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1110/24

    Sweet Briar, VA

    View profile

    What is Sweet Briar College known for?

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

    • Education
    • Business
    • Political Science
    • Engineering
    • Mathematics
    • History
    • Biology
    • Computer Science
    • Physics
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  7. #7

    Randolph–Macon College

    #1561 institution's historical influence
    #962 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $44K

    Acceptance

    71%

    Graduation

    66%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1145/23

    Ashland, VA

    View profile

    What is Randolph–Macon College known for?

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

    • Literature
    • Economics
    • Political Science
    • Medical
    • Biology
    • History
    • Education
    • Religious Studies
    • Communications
    • Business

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  8. #8

    Marymount University

    #3107 institution's historical influence
    #510 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $34K

    Acceptance

    85%

    Graduation

    54%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1065/20

    Arlington, VA

    View profile

    What is Marymount University known for?

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

    • Medical
    • Business
    • Education
    • Political Science
    • Computer Science
    • History
    • Nursing
    • Mathematics
    • Biology
    • Communications
    REQUEST INFO
  9. #9

    University of Mary Washington

    #1714 institution's historical influence
    #558 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    75%

    Graduation

    65%

    Student body

    4K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1180/26

    Fredericksburg, VA

    View profile

    What is University of Mary Washington known for?

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

    • Education
    • Literature
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Nursing
    • Philosophy
    • Biology
    • Medical
    • Computer Science
    • Economics

    Most Influential Alumni

  10. #10

    Eastern Mennonite University

    #2271 institution's historical influence
    #1308 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $39K

    Acceptance

    72%

    Graduation

    60%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1100/22

    Harrisonburg, VA

    View profile

    What is Eastern Mennonite University known for?

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

    • Religious Studies
    • Political Science
    • Education
    • Business
    • History
    • Criminal Justice
    • Medical
    • Biology
    • Sociology
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  11. #11

    Randolph College

    #2709 institution's historical influence
    #766 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $26K

    Acceptance

    90%

    Graduation

    56%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1075/22

    Lynchburg, VA

    View profile

    What is Randolph College known for?

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

    • Education
    • Literature
    • History
    • Engineering
    • Psychology
    • Business
    • Philosophy
    • Physics
    • Political Science
    • Communications

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  12. #12

    Emory and Henry College

    #1829 institution's historical influence
    #835 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $35K

    Acceptance

    75%

    Graduation

    54%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1065/21

    Emory, VA

    View profile

    What is Emory and Henry College known for?

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

    • Education
    • Political Science
    • Mathematics
    • History
    • Business
    • Literature
    • Religious Studies
    • Physics
    • Communications
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  13. #13

    James Madison University

    #785 institution's historical influence
    #1172 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $12K

    Acceptance

    80%

    Graduation

    82%

    Student body

    21K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1205/25

    Harrisonburg, VA

    View profile

    What is James Madison University known for?

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

    • Mathematics
    • Education
    • Business
    • Biology
    • Physics
    • Computer Science
    • Political Science
    • Communications
    • Philosophy
    • History

    Most Influential Alumni

  14. #14

    Radford University

    #1364 institution's historical influence
    #353 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    79%

    Graduation

    56%

    Student body

    9K

    Radford, VA

    View profile

    What is Radford University known for?

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

    • Psychology
    • Education
    • Medical
    • Biology
    • Political Science
    • Business
    • Communications
    • History
    • Nursing
    • Criminal Justice
  15. #15

    Christopher Newport University

    #2105 institution's historical influence
    #1255 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $15K

    Acceptance

    76%

    Graduation

    80%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1195/24

    Newport News, VA

    View profile

    What is Christopher Newport University known for?

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

    • Computer Science
    • Political Science
    • Education
    • History
    • Chemistry
    • Engineering
    • Physics
    • Communications
    • Biology
    • Literature
  16. #16

    Roanoke College

    #1659 institution's historical influence
    #332 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $47K

    Acceptance

    78%

    Graduation

    70%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1155/24

    Salem, VA

    View profile

    What is Roanoke College known for?

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

    • Business
    • Political Science
    • Computer Science
    • Literature
    • Education
    • Biology
    • History
    • Religious Studies
    • Philosophy
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

  17. #17

    Bridgewater College

    #4614 institution's historical influence
    #457 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $38K

    Acceptance

    76%

    Graduation

    63%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1070/21

    Bridgewater, VA

    View profile

    What is Bridgewater College known for?

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

    • Political Science
    • Biology
    • History
    • Medical
    • Economics
    • Literature
    • Physics
    • Sociology
    • Philosophy
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  18. #18

    Longwood University

    #2427 institution's historical influence
    #456 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    87%

    Graduation

    67%

    Student body

    4K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1055/20

    Farmville, VA

    View profile

    What is Longwood University known for?

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

    • Education
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Medical
    • Computer Science
    • Literature
    • Communications
    • Economics
    • Nursing
    • Criminal Justice
  19. #19

    University of Lynchburg

    #4294 institution's historical influence

    Tuition + fees

    $42K

    Acceptance

    97%

    Graduation

    57%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1070/22

    Lynchburg, VA

    View profile

    What is University of Lynchburg known for?

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

    • Education
    • Medical
    • Business
    • History
    • Nursing
    • Religious Studies
    • Political Science
    • Psychology
    • Communications
    • Criminal Justice

    Most Influential Alumni

Find the Best Schools in Virginia for your Major

Resources for College-Bound Students

Photo By: Zeete - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0