50 Best Small Colleges and Universities of 2021

Small colleges 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 (as at Caltech) or on the liberal arts (as at Sarah Lawrence), small colleges give you the chance to pursue a well-rounded education while working closely with classmates and professors in a dynamic community atmosphere.

50 Best Small Colleges and Universities of 2021

When comparing a big college campus to a small college campus, consider that the latter offers more individualized experiences, including opportunities for illuminating classroom discussions, independent research, and one-on-one relationships with your instructors.

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The following list of the best small colleges and universities is composed mainly of four-year undergraduate schools (though a handful also offer graduate programs). We’ve identified a total of 1,069 small colleges in the US. In order to be included in this list of best private colleges and universities, a school needs to satisfy the following three 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.

How do we determine small schools are the best?

Methodology

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.

The best small colleges and universities in the US!” – @AcademicInflux

The Best Small Colleges and Universities in the US

  1. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $57K

    Acceptance

    7%

    Graduation

    92%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1545/35

    What is California Institute of Technology known for?

    California Institute of Technology’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Physics
    • Biology
    • Computer Science
    • Mathematics
    • Engineering
    • Chemistry
    • Business
    • Literature
    • Economics
    • Earth Sciences

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  2. #2

    Swarthmore College

    Swarthmore , PA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $54K

    Acceptance

    9%

    Graduation

    97%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1460/33

    What is Swarthmore College known for?

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

    • Philosophy
    • Psychology
    • Literature
    • Biology
    • Political Science
    • Economics
    • Computer Science
    • Mathematics
    • Physics
    • Education
    REQUEST INFO
  3. #3

    Amherst College

    Amherst , MA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $61K

    Acceptance

    12%

    Graduation

    95%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1415/32

    What is Amherst College known for?

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

    • Literature
    • Law
    • Biology
    • Philosophy
    • Political Science
    • Economics
    • History
    • Mathematics
    • Computer Science
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  4. #8

    Wesleyan University

    Middletown , CT
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $59K

    Acceptance

    21%

    Graduation

    91%

    Student body

    4K

    What is Wesleyan University known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  5. #9

    Vassar College

    Poughkeepsie , NY
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $61K

    Acceptance

    25%

    Graduation

    88%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1445/32

    What is Vassar College known for?

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

    • Literature
    • Education
    • Computer Science
    • Psychology
    • Philosophy
    • History
    • Biology
    • Communications
    • Physics
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  6. #10

    Hampshire College

    Amherst , MA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $52K

    Acceptance

    59%

    Graduation

    66%

    Student body

    <1K

    What is Hampshire College known for?

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

    • Literature
    • Education
    • Physics
    • Psychology
    • Mathematics
    • Computer Science
    • Communications
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  7. #11

    Wellesley College

    Wellesley , MA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $58K

    Acceptance

    20%

    Graduation

    94%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1445/32

    What is Wellesley College known for?

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

    • Literature
    • Philosophy
    • Education
    • Political Science
    • Biology
    • Physics
    • History
    • Psychology
    • Economics
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  8. #14

    Pomona College

    Claremont , CA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $55K

    Acceptance

    9%

    Graduation

    94%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1465/33

    What is Pomona College known for?

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

    • Biology
    • Literature
    • Mathematics
    • Chemistry
    • Philosophy
    • Political Science
    • Psychology
    • History
    • Physics
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  9. #17

    Bennington College

    Bennington , VT
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $58K

    Acceptance

    60%

    Graduation

    71%

    Student body

    <1K

    What is Bennington College known for?

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

    • Literature
    • Education
    • Communications
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Philosophy
    • Psychology
    • Medical
    • Sociology
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  10. #18

    Yeshiva University

    New York , NY
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $46K

    Acceptance

    67%

    Graduation

    77%

    Student body

    4K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1270/27

    What is Yeshiva University known for?

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

    • Medical
    • Biology
    • Law
    • Philosophy
    • Religious Studies
    • Mathematics
    • Education
    • Psychology
    • Physics
    • Literature

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  11. #19

    Bard College

    Annandale-On-Hudson , NY
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $56K

    Acceptance

    57%

    Graduation

    74%

    Student body

    3K

    What is Bard College known for?

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

    • Literature
    • Education
    • Economics
    • History
    • Biology
    • Sociology

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  12. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $49K

    Acceptance

    82%

    Graduation

    74%

    Student body

    5K

    What is The Catholic University of America known for?

    The Catholic University of America’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Religious Studies
    • Law
    • Philosophy
    • Literature
    • Biology
    • Political Science
    • Education
    • Physics
    • Engineering
    • History

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  13. #25

    Morehouse College

    Atlanta , GA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $29K

    Acceptance

    77%

    Graduation

    56%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1081/20

    What is Morehouse College known for?

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

    • Education
    • Political Science
    • Religious Studies
    • Literature
    • History
    • Engineering
    • Communications
    • Biology
    • Psychology
    • Computer Science
    REQUEST INFO
  14. #27

    Naropa University

    Boulder , CO

    Tuition + fees

    $35K

    Acceptance

    100%

    Graduation

    31%

    Student body

    <1K

    What is Naropa University known for?

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

    • Literature
    • Psychology
    • Religious Studies
    • Education
    • Political Science
    • Medical
    REQUEST INFO
  15. #29

    Mount Holyoke College

    South Hadley , MA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $55K

    Acceptance

    52%

    Graduation

    84%

    Student body

    2K

    What is Mount Holyoke College known for?

    Mount Holyoke College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Education
    • Mathematics
    • Biology
    • Philosophy
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Psychology
    • Computer Science
    • Physics
    REQUEST INFO
  16. #31

    Fisk University

    Nashville , TN
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $22K

    Acceptance

    66%

    Graduation

    51%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1040/21

    What is Fisk University known for?

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

    • Literature
    • Education
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Business
    • Sociology
    • Mathematics
    • Chemistry
    • Biology
    • Physics

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  17. #32

    Spelman College

    Atlanta , GA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $30K

    Acceptance

    53%

    Graduation

    75%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1155/24

    What is Spelman College known for?

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

    • Education
    • History
    • Literature
    • Political Science
    • Medical
    • Mathematics
    • Psychology
    • Biology
    • Engineering
    • Sociology

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  18. #33

    Clark University

    Worcester , MA

    Tuition + fees

    $49K

    Acceptance

    47%

    Graduation

    75%

    Student body

    4K

    What is Clark University known for?

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

    • Psychology
    • Biology
    • Mathematics
    • Education
    • Business
    • Philosophy
    • Physics
    • History
    • Chemistry
    • Political Science

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  19. #36

    Occidental College

    Los Angeles , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $57K

    Acceptance

    41%

    Graduation

    84%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1390/30

    What is Occidental College known for?

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

    • Literature
    • History
    • Biology
    • Political Science
    • Mathematics
    • Economics
    • Philosophy
    • Chemistry
    • Religious Studies
    • Psychology
    REQUEST INFO
  20. #37

    Connecticut College

    New London , CT
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $59K

    Acceptance

    38%

    Graduation

    82%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1380/31

    What is Connecticut College known for?

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

    • Literature
    • History
    • Psychology
    • Biology
    • Computer Science
    • Political Science
    • Mathematics
    • Philosophy
    • Engineering
    • Economics

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  21. #39

    New College of Florida

    Sarasota , FL

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    70%

    Graduation

    64%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1270/28

    What is New College of Florida known for?

    New College of Florida’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Computer Science
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  22. #41

    Grinnell College

    Grinnell , IA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $57K

    Acceptance

    19%

    Graduation

    87%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1450/32

    What is Grinnell College known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  23. #42

    Middlebury College

    Middlebury , VT
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $58K

    Acceptance

    22%

    Graduation

    94%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1445/33

    What is Middlebury College known for?

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

    • Literature
    • Education
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Biology
    • Mathematics
    • Philosophy
    • Economics
    • Physics
    • Religious Studies

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  24. #43

    DePauw University

    Greencastle , IN
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $53K

    Acceptance

    68%

    Graduation

    87%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1245/26

    What is DePauw University known for?

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

    • Business
    • Literature
    • Communications
    • History
    • Education
    • Political Science
    • Anthropology
    • Biology
    • Mathematics
    • Philosophy
    REQUEST INFO
  25. #44

    Hamilton College

    Clinton , NY

    Tuition + fees

    $59K

    Acceptance

    18%

    Graduation

    91%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1445/33

    What is Hamilton College known for?

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

    • Literature
    • Psychology
    • Philosophy
    • Biology
    • Economics
    • Religious Studies
    • Mathematics
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Earth Sciences

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  26. #48

    Clarke University

    Dubuque , IA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $36K

    Acceptance

    89%

    Graduation

    66%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1030/20

    What is Clarke University known for?

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

    • Computer Science
    • Literature
    • Mathematics
    • Education
    • Communications
    • History
    • Biology
    • Philosophy
    • Chemistry
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  27. #49

    Scripps College

    Claremont , CA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $57K

    Acceptance

    35%

    Graduation

    88%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1411/31

    What is Scripps College known for?

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

    • Business
    • Literature
    • Biology
    • Political Science
    • Engineering
    • History
    • Religious Studies
    • Law
    • Sociology
    • Philosophy

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  28. #50

    Earlham College

    Richmond , IN
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $48K

    Acceptance

    59%

    Graduation

    67%

    Student body

    <1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1235/26

    What is Earlham College known for?

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

    • Philosophy
    • Biology
    • Education
    • Literature
    • Chemistry
    • Political Science
    • Religious Studies
    • History
    • Engineering
    • Computer Science
    REQUEST INFO

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