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Which colleges and universities are the most influential in the world? And, in what do they excel?

Find the colleges and universities that have made the biggest historical impact in the discipline, country, and timeframe of your choice! We rank universities and colleges from around the world based on the scholarly work of their faculty and alumni, i.e., influence.

Note: The schools featured using this tool are influential in the disciplines selected. This does not necessarily mean that they offer a degree in the selected discipline. For example, Princeton University ranks highly for its influence in law. Given that Princeton is the alma mater of three former US presidents (James Madison, Woodrow Wilson, and John F. Kennedy) and three Supreme Court Justices (Samuel Alito, Elena Kagan, & Sonia Sotomayor), among many other prominent statespeople and law makers, Princeton’s influence in the field of law is undeniable. Nevertheless, they offer degrees in politics and public policy, but not in law specifically.

To find influential schools in the US that offer degrees in your area of interest, use our Custom College Rankings tool.

Methodology: How and Why We Rank by Influence …

What is Desirability?

List of the most influential schools in Environmental Science, for the years 2000 – 2020

University of California, Berkeley
#1

University of California, Berkeley

#6 institution's overall influence
#29 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$14K

Acceptance

15%

Graduation

92%

Student body

41K

Median SAT/ACT

1425/33

Berkeley, CA

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The University of California, Berkeley is a public research university in Berkeley, California. Established in 1868 as the state's first land-grant university, it is the oldest campus of the University of California system and a founding member of the Association of American Universities. Among its 14 colleges and schools, the university employs over 2,500 faculty and enrolls some 31,000 undergraduate and 12,000 graduate students, and its 180 academic departments and 80 interdisciplinary research units offer over 350 degree programs. Berkeley is ranked among the world's top universities by ma...
Harvard University
#2

Harvard University

#1 institution's overall influence
#2 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$50K

Acceptance

5%

Graduation

97%

Student body

25K

Median SAT/ACT

1520/34

Cambridge, MA

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Harvard University is almost universally acclaimed as the world’s most prestigious university. There is little doubt that its towering reputation is well earned.
Stanford University
#3

Stanford University

#10 institution's overall influence
#1 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$51K

Acceptance

4%

Graduation

94%

Student body

14K

Median SAT/ACT

1495/33

Stanford, CA

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Stanford University was founded by Leland Stanford, a wealthy railroad magnate and erstwhile US Senator from California, as well as a former Governor of the Golden State. He placed the university in an unincorporated area about 30 miles south of San Francisco, adjacent to the town of Palo Alto (which he also founded). The campus lies in what is now known as Silicon Valley, which contributes greatly to the immense intellectual and economic influence of the private, research university that still bears the Stanford family name. Today, Stanford University is perhaps the closest thing to a true Iv...
Duke University
#4

Duke University

#31 institution's overall influence
#12 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$56K

Acceptance

9%

Graduation

95%

Student body

15K

Median SAT/ACT

1510/34

Durham, NC

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Duke began life as Brown’s Schoolhouse, on a site in what is now the town of Trinity in Randolph County, North Carolina, a little over 70 miles west of its current location in the city of Durham.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
#5

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

#9 institution's overall influence
#3 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$52K

Acceptance

7%

Graduation

93%

Student body

14K

Median SAT/ACT

1535/35

Cambridge, MA

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The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, founded shortly before the American Civil War and universally known as “MIT,” is located just across the Charles River from downtown Boston. Starting from the MIT campus, if you walk, cycle, or drive in a westerly direction along Massachusetts Avenue (“Mass Ave,” to the locals), or ride the Red Line underneath it, you soon arrive at Harvard Square, with the bulk of the town of Cambridge sandwiched in between. Thus, MIT is not unlike a bookend paired with Harvard, geographically speaking, and academically speaking, as well, it looks upon itself very mu...
State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry
#6

State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry

#1115 institution's overall influence
#242 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$9K

Acceptance

61%

Graduation

74%

Student body

2K

Median SAT/ACT

1215/26

Syracuse, NY

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The State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry is a specialized, doctoral-degree granting institution in Syracuse, New York. It is part of the State University of New York system. ESF is immediately adjacent to Syracuse University, within which it was founded, and with which it maintains a special relationship. It is classified among "R2: Doctoral Universities – High research activity".
California Institute of Technology
#7

California Institute of Technology

#27 institution's overall influence
#9 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$52K

Acceptance

7%

Graduation

94%

Student body

2K

Median SAT/ACT

1555/35

Pasadena, CA

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The California Institute of Technology (universally known as “Caltech”) is located in the Los Angeles suburb of Pasadena. It was originally founded as a vocational school, but took on the complexion of an institute at the cutting edge of scientific discovery quite early in its history.
University of California, Santa Barbara
#8

University of California, Santa Barbara

#94 institution's overall influence
#100 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$14K

Acceptance

32%

Graduation

82%

Student body

26K

Median SAT/ACT

1345/30

Santa Barbara, CA

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Dating all the way back to the 1891 founding of a small, vocational institution called the Anna Blake School, the University of California, Santa Barbara is now a full-blown public research university, and among the most influential schools in the world.
Yale University
#9

Yale University

#7 institution's overall influence
#4 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$53K

Acceptance

6%

Graduation

98%

Student body

15K

Median SAT/ACT

1515/34

New Haven, CT

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Yale was originally founded under the name of Collegiate School by Connecticut Colony in 1701. It is the fourth-oldest institution of higher learning in the US, after Harvard, the College of William & Mary (in Williamsburg, Virginia), and St. John’s College (in Annapolis, Maryland). Called the “Collegiate School,” its original mission was to train future ministers for the Congregational Church.
Syracuse University
#10

Syracuse University

#87 institution's overall influence
#1450 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$52K

Acceptance

50%

Graduation

82%

Student body

23K

Median SAT/ACT

1275/27

Syracuse, NY

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Syracuse University traces its roots to Genesee Wesleyan Seminary, which was founded by the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1831 in Lima, a small town south of Rochester, in the western part of New York state.
Columbia University
#11

Columbia University

#3 institution's overall influence
#6 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$53K

Acceptance

6%

Graduation

95%

Student body

28K

Median SAT/ACT

1505/34

New York, NY

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Columbia is the eleventh-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. After New Jersey founded its college (now Princeton University) in 1746, New Yorkers, not wishing to be outdone, established their own college just eight years later. Its original name was King’s College.
Cornell University
#12

Cornell University

#14 institution's overall influence
#14 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$55K

Acceptance

11%

Graduation

94%

Student body

24K

Median SAT/ACT

1465/33

Ithaca, NY

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Cornell University was founded in turbulent times. With the Civil War winding down, and less than two weeks after President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, the Governor of New York signed the school’s official charter in the state capital, Albany, where only the day before Lincoln’s funeral procession had passed through the city’s streets.
University of Cambridge
#13

University of Cambridge

#4 institution's overall influence
Founded in 1209, the University of Cambridge is one of the oldest universities in the world (or, at least, in Europe, not to prejudge the claims of several Islamic institutions to that title).
Princeton University
#14

Princeton University

#8 institution's overall influence
#5 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$50K

Acceptance

5%

Graduation

97%

Student body

7K

Median SAT/ACT

1505/33

Princeton, NJ

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Although only the ninth-oldest university in the country, Princeton is one of the most historic. Originally founded as the College of New Jersey, the school’s sixth presidents, the Scottish theologian and educator John Witherspoon, signed the Declaration of Independence—the only college leader to do so. The next year, George Washington’s colonials dealt a small but significant blow to Lord Cornwallis’s superior forces at the Battle of Princeton on January 3, 1777. The victories at the earlier Battle of Trenton and at Princeton had an important positive effect on American morale, leading ...
University of Washington
#15

University of Washington

#42 institution's overall influence
#69 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$11K

Acceptance

49%

Graduation

84%

Student body

46K

Median SAT/ACT

1340/29

Seattle, WA

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In the 1850s, the Governor of Washington Territory and some of his Seattle-based friends and business associates, including a prominent Methodist minister, put their heads together to figure out a way to advance two causes close to their hearts: the prospect of statehood for the territory and the economic welfare of the city of Seattle.
Johns Hopkins University
#16

Johns Hopkins University

#20 institution's overall influence
#21 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$54K

Acceptance

11%

Graduation

92%

Student body

24K

Median SAT/ACT

1505/34

Baltimore, MD

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Johns Hopkins was designed from its origin to contribute to the cutting edge of scientific discovery. With time, this goal has been fully achieved, leading to the top-tier research institution that the university is today. The school is named after its founding benefactor, the entrepreneur and philanthropist Johns Hopkins, who contributed $7 million (approximately $145 million in today’s money) to create both the university and an associated hospital.
University of Michigan
#17

University of Michigan

#15 institution's overall influence
#37 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$16K

Acceptance

23%

Graduation

91%

Student body

42K

Median SAT/ACT

1420/32

Ann Arbor, MI

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The flagship campuses of many of the state university systems have superb faculties and excellent academic reputations. However, setting aside Berkeley as a special case, by our criteria the University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus is the most distinguished of all these many fine institutions. That is, Michigan has a strong claim to be considered (after Berkeley) the best public research university in the US.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
#18

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

#75 institution's overall influence
#38 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$9K

Acceptance

23%

Graduation

91%

Student body

25K

Median SAT/ACT

1375/31

Chapel Hill, NC

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The University of North Carolina (UNC) system is a large network of 16 public universities with a total student enrollment of around 240,000 souls. The oldest member of the UNC system is the flagship campus in the small, centrally located town of Chapel Hill.
Hunan University
#19

Hunan University

#906 institution's overall influence
Hunan University , in Changsha, Hunan, is a member of Project 985 and Project 211, which are sponsored by the Ministry of Education of China aiming to become a world-class university. It is an elite university, with Chinese Ministry of Education Double First Class University status, a major government initiative to comprehensively develop a group of elite universities into "world-class universities" by 2050.
Imperial College London
#20

Imperial College London

#50 institution's overall influence
The origins of Imperial College London (ICL) can be traced back to the Royal College of Chemistry, founded in 1845. In 1853, this school was merged with the Royal School of Mines, established two years previously.
University of London
#21

University of London

#2 institution's overall influence
An institution of higher education named University College London (UCL) was founded in the UK’s largest metropolis and capital city in 1826. A mere three years later, in 1829, a second, similar institution named King’s College London (KCL) opened its doors. Then, a mere decade after the founding of UCL, a third institution known simply as University of London (UL) was founded in 1836 by the merger of UCL and KCL.
University of British Columbia
#22

University of British Columbia

#60 institution's overall influence
The University of British Columbia (UBC) was founded in 1908.
Shanghai Jiao Tong University
#23

Shanghai Jiao Tong University

#456 institution's overall influence
Shanghai Jiao Tong University is a major research university in Shanghai. Established on April 8, 1896, as Nanyang Public School by an imperial edict issued by the Guangxu Emperor, it is one China's oldest universities. Shanghai Jiao Tong University is a C9 League university and a Chinese Ministry of Education Class A Double First Class University.
University of Maryland
#24

University of Maryland

#77 institution's overall influence
#214 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$11K

Acceptance

47%

Graduation

87%

Student body

35K

Median SAT/ACT

1380/31

College Park, MD

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The University of Maryland is a system comprising 15 campuses. The system has a rather complicated history.
New York University
#25

New York University

#16 institution's overall influence
#44 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$52K

Acceptance

20%

Graduation

85%

Student body

47K

Median SAT/ACT

1410/31

New York, NY

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As the cultural mecca of the US, New York City naturally contains many fine colleges and universities. One of the very best is New York University (NYU), located in Washington Square in Lower Manhattan’s Greenwich Village neighborhood. While NYU is a quintessentially urban school lacking a conventional, pastoral college campus setting, its site is immediately recognizable thanks to Washington Square Arch, which is a replica of the ancient Roman Arch of Titus and very similar in appearance to Paris’s celebrated Arc de Triomphe (though only half its size).
Brown University
#26

Brown University

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

Tuition + fees

$55K

Acceptance

8%

Graduation

96%

Student body

9K

Median SAT/ACT

1485/33

Providence, RI

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Brown began life as the College in the English Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations (officially) or Rhode Island College (unofficially). It is the twelfth-oldest institution of higher learning in the US.
University of Toronto
#27

University of Toronto

#24 institution's overall influence
The University of Toronto received its royal charter in 1827 from King George IV. Originally known as King’s College, it was the first institution of higher learning in the colonial Province of Upper Canada (consisting of mostly what is now southern Ontario).
Beijing Institute of Technology
#28

Beijing Institute of Technology

#1263 institution's overall influence
Beijing Institute of Technology , is a co-educational public university, located in Beijing, China. It was established in 1940 in Yan'an, Shaanxi. It is a major research university under the supervision of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.
Georgia Institute of Technology
#29

Georgia Institute of Technology

#145 institution's overall influence
#39 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$12K

Acceptance

22%

Graduation

86%

Student body

28K

Median SAT/ACT

1465/32

Atlanta, GA

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Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) was founded in 1885. A component part of the University System of Georgia, today Georgia Tech has five satellite campuses: in Savannah, Georgia; Metz, France; Athlone, Ireland; Shenzhen, China; and Singapore.
University of Wisconsin–Madison
#30

University of Wisconsin–Madison

#25 institution's overall influence
#216 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$11K

Acceptance

52%

Graduation

85%

Student body

36K

Median SAT/ACT

1365/29

Madison, WI

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The University of Wisconsin was founded at the same time that the eastern part of the Wisconsin Territory became the new state of Wisconsin and entered the union. In accord with its charter, the new state university was physically located in the state capital, Madison.
Durham University
#31

Durham University

#123 institution's overall influence
Durham University is a public, research university established by an act of Parliament in 1832. It received its royal charter five years later, in 1837.
University of California, Los Angeles
#32

University of California, Los Angeles

#23 institution's overall influence
#31 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$13K

Acceptance

14%

Graduation

91%

Student body

44K

Median SAT/ACT

1405/32

Los Angeles, CA

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The University of California, Los Angeles is a public research university in Los Angeles, California. UCLA traces its early origins back to 1882 as the southern branch of the California State Normal School . It became the Southern Branch of the University of California in 1919, making it the second-oldest of the 10-campus University of California system.
University of Texas at Austin
#33

University of Texas at Austin

#43 institution's overall influence
#43 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$11K

Acceptance

39%

Graduation

81%

Student body

45K

Median SAT/ACT

1355/30

Austin, TX

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By rights, the University of Texas (known within Texas itself as “UT,” for short) ought to be 40 years older than it is. In 1839, the Republic of Texas officially set aside 40 acres of prime real estate in the center of the new country’s capital city, Austin, as the site for the campus of a national university. The Texas Congress also granted 288,000 acres of land, mainly in the western regions of the Republic, as a financial endowment for the future university.
McGill University
#34

McGill University

#40 institution's overall influence
McGill University is the direct descendent of McGill College, founded by royal charter in 1821 and largely funded by a bequest from the Scottish-born Canadian entrepreneur and philanthropist, James McGill. The university took its present name in 1885.
James Cook University
#35

James Cook University

#742 institution's overall influence
James Cook University is a public university in North Queensland, Australia. The second oldest university in Queensland, JCU is a teaching and research institution. The university's main campuses are located in the tropical cities of Cairns and Townsville, and one in the city state of Singapore. JCU also has study centres in Mount Isa, Mackay and Thursday Island. A Brisbane campus, operated by Russo Higher Education, delivers undergraduate and postgraduate courses to international students. The University’s main fields of research include marine sciences, biodiversity, sustainable management ...
University of Georgia
#36

University of Georgia

#138 institution's overall influence
#58 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$12K

Acceptance

49%

Graduation

84%

Student body

37K

Median SAT/ACT

1325/29

Athens, GA

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The University of Georgia (UGA) was founded in 1785, making it one of the oldest public universities in the US. The school is organized into 17 schools and colleges, two of the best-known of which are the Mary Frances Early College of Education and the School of Law.
University of Oxford
#37

University of Oxford

#11 institution's overall influence
The University of Oxford is the oldest university in the English-speaking world, which affords it an aura of awe and respect that no amount of money can buy.
University of Chicago
#38

University of Chicago

#5 institution's overall influence
#8 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$57K

Acceptance

7%

Graduation

94%

Student body

12K

Median SAT/ACT

1520/34

Chicago, IL

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The University of Chicago is one of the foremost universities in the world academically, albeit one of the youngest in that august company. In spite of its relatively recent founding, the school has been associated with some of the world’s most important scientific achievements, above all, the first controlled, self-sustaining, nuclear chain reaction (atomic fission), which was achieved in late 1942 by a team led by the legendary Italian physicist, Enrico Fermi, in a laboratory beneath a football field on the Chicago campus.
Baylor University
#39

Baylor University

#397 institution's overall influence
#96 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$46K

Acceptance

39%

Graduation

74%

Student body

17K

Median SAT/ACT

1280/28

Waco, TX

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Baylor University, or simply Baylor, is a private Baptist research university in Waco, Texas. Baylor was chartered under a different name in 1845, by the last Congress of the Republic of Texas. Now operating under a different charter, Baylor is the oldest continuously operating universities in Texas and one of the first educational institutions west of the Mississippi River in the United States. Upon the banks of the Brazos River next to I-35, between the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and Austin, the university's campus is Earth's largest Baptist University. It is classified among "R2: Doctoral
Tongji University
#40

Tongji University

#864 institution's overall influence
Tongji University is a comprehensive university located in Shanghai. Established in 1907 by the German government together with German physicians in Shanghai, Tongji is one of the oldest and most selective, most prestigious universities in China. It is a Chinese Ministry of Education Class A Double First Class University.
University of Minnesota
#41

University of Minnesota

#33 institution's overall influence
#890 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$15K

Acceptance

52%

Graduation

78%

Student body

44K

Median SAT/ACT

1375/28

Minneapolis, MN

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The University of Minnesota (UM) traces its roots to a college preparatory school established in the city of Minneapolis seven years before Minnesota entered the Union in 1858. This school closed its doors during the Civil War, but reopened in 1867.
Carnegie Mellon University
#42

Carnegie Mellon University

#46 institution's overall influence
#35 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$55K

Acceptance

17%

Graduation

90%

Student body

16K

Median SAT/ACT

1500/34

Pittsburgh, PA

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In 1900, the Scottish-born industrialist and philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie, donated the funds to establish a vocational college called the Carnegie Technical Schools. In 1912, the Technical Schools’ name was changed to the Carnegie Institute of Technology (CIT).
University of Exeter
#43

University of Exeter

#241 institution's overall influence
The University of Exeter is a public research university in Exeter, Devon, South West England, United Kingdom. It was founded and received its royal charter in 1955, although its predecessor institutions, St Luke's College, Exeter School of Science, Exeter School of Art, and the Camborne School of Mines were established in 1838, 1855, 1863, and 1888 respectively. In post-nominals, the University of Exeter is abbreviated as Exon. , and is the suffix given to honorary and academic degrees from the university.
The University of Queensland
#44

The University of Queensland

#185 institution's overall influence
The University of Queensland is a public research university located primarily in Brisbane, the capital city of the Australian state of Queensland. Founded in 1909 by the Queensland parliament, UQ is one of the six sandstone universities, an informal designation of the oldest university in each state. The University of Queensland is ranked second nationally by the Australian Research Council and equal second in Australia based on the average of four major global university league tables. The University of Queensland is a founding member of edX, Australia's research-intensive Group of Eight an...
University of Manchester
#45

University of Manchester

#34 institution's overall influence
With more than 40,000 students, Manchester is the largest single-site university in the United Kingdom. While it traces its roots back to the Manchester Mechanics’ Institute founded in 1824, the present university was formed by the merger of University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST) and Victoria University of Manchester in 2004.
University of Waterloo
#46

University of Waterloo

#179 institution's overall influence
The University of Waterloo traces its roots back to the Waterloo College School, founded in 1914.
Arizona State University
#47

Arizona State University

#148 institution's overall influence
#1312 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$11K

Acceptance

85%

Graduation

67%

Student body

50K

Median SAT/ACT

1245/25

Tempe, AZ

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Arizona State University (ASU) was founded as the Territorial Normal School in 1885—over a quarter century before Arizona entered the Union in 1912—in Tempe, a town just east of Phoenix.
#48

Nankai University

#573 institution's overall influence
Nankai University is a public research university located in Tianjin, China. It is a member of the prestigious 985 and 211 group of universities and a Chinese Ministry of Education Class A Double First Class University. It was founded in 1919, by educators Yan Xiu and Zhang Boling.
University of Virginia
#49

University of Virginia

#44 institution's overall influence
#40 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$17K

Acceptance

26%

Graduation

94%

Student body

24K

Median SAT/ACT

1415/32

Charlottesville, VA

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The University of Virginia (UVA) was very much the personal project of the third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson. Virginia already had a venerable and distinguished university, the College of William & Mary, which is the second-oldest in the country—founded right after Harvard—and was Jefferson’s own alma mater.
George Mason University
#50

George Mason University

#200 institution's overall influence
#548 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$12K

Acceptance

81%

Graduation

70%

Student body

30K

Median SAT/ACT

1220/27

Fairfax, VA

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George Mason University (GMU) was founded in 1949 as the Northern Virginia University Center of the University of Virginia. The school was originally located in Arlington, Virginia, a suburban town just across the Potomac River from Washington, DC.