2022 Top Private Colleges and Universities | BestColleges (2023)

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Why choose a private college over a public college?

According to 2019-20 data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), there are approximately 1,900 private four-year colleges and universities in the U.S. NCES reports that during the 2019-2020 school year, four-year private schools charged $32,769 for tuition and fees, while public four-year schools charged $9,212.

Although private colleges cost more, students often get more scholarships, grants, and loans. Large endowment funds allow private schools to offer generous aid packages to students, which can offset the higher costs.

Private colleges offer a smaller learning environment and more insulated campus life. However, they also often have fewer degrees and extracurricular offerings than a public university. Students who want a large campus atmosphere with a huge catalog of degrees may prefer a public college.

Find out more about the pros and cons of private and public colleges in this guide. Learn about the admissions requirements for top-ranked private colleges in the U.S.

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      Why Choose a Private College or University?

      While private schools generally cost more, they also offer an active alumni network, a strong sense of campus community, and, for students at religious institutions, a faith-based curriculum.

      Students also choose private colleges because of the personalized education and small class sizes.

      Statista reports that out of the nearly 19 million students enrolled in college in 2020, some 5.12 million attended private schools. Courses at private colleges tend to offer a more personalized experience and better access to instructors, faculty, and staff.

      This intimate environment can foster positive student outcomes and more opportunities for mentorships, fellowships, and leadership positions on and off campus.

      Pros and Cons of Private Colleges and Universities

      Pros of Private Schools

      • Tight-knit alumni associations
      • More grants and scholarships available to students because of large endowment funds
      • Smaller classes
      • Alternative teaching methods and creative class structures
      • Religious-influenced education that may suit a student’s learning preferences
      • (Video) Top 5 Private Colleges in West Bengal 2022 | Admission In UG/PG/LLB | Open Universities In WB

        Higher prestige and quality of education, depending on the school
      • Small private colleges may have less competition for popular courses

      Cons of Private Schools

      • Smaller campus life and less social opportunities
      • Higher tuition
      • Less diversity
      • Lacks state or federal regulation
      • Not every student prefers religious-required curriculum
      • More selective admissions with lower admission rate
      • Fewer degrees and programs available to students

      Find the Tools You Need to Get Started on Your Degree

      • The Student’s Guide to College Scholarships and Grants
      • The Student’s Guide to College Planning
      • The Student’s Guide to Financial Aid and the FAFSA

      What Are the Admission Requirements for a Private College or University?

      The college admission process looks similar at private and public schools. Prospective students always submit applications and fees, usually through an online portal. Colleges also ask for additional materials such as official transcripts, personal statement essays, and letters of recommendation from professors, counselors, and employers.

      The admissions rate often differs between private and public colleges. According to 2019 data from the National Association for College Admission Counseling, private colleges tend to have lower admission rates than their public counterparts.

      This trend, coupled with lower enrollment rates, makes the application process more competitive. Specific admissions details depend on a student’s status as a first-year student, transfer student, or international student.

      Colleges may require standardized test scores, such as the ACT or SAT exams for first-year students. Entrance exams, required for international students and students who do not meet GPA requirements, test a student’s proficiency in English and math.

      How Do I Choose a Private College or University?

      Cost

      Private colleges almost always cost more than public universities. According to NCES, the average cost of tuition and fees at a private four-year college came to $32,769 in 2019-2020, up from $31,883 the year before. Room and board in 2019-2020 cost students an average of $13,162 at private schools. International fees can make attending private college even more expensive.

      Despite common misconceptions about paying for college, students should understand that the “sticker price” for college does not reflect the actual costs, which can be higher or lower. The total cost of college includes hidden costs such as health insurance and student health center fees, technology fees, student activity fees, books and materials, transportation, and parking fees.

      Accreditation

      Institutional accreditation serves as a quality assurance that a college meets educational standards. Accreditation happens when colleges voluntarily get reviewed by independent accrediting agencies. Students often need to attend accredited schools to transfer credits or go to graduate school.

      Much like the institutional accreditation process, specific programs can show that they meet industry standards through programmatic accreditation. In industries like healthcare and education, graduates often need to attend accredited programs to get professional certification or find a job.

      Location

      Many students relocate to different cities, states, and even other countries for college.

      Students who go to college close to home have the benefit of a shorter commute, which saves money and time. However, going to college nearby also means you may not get the dorm experience and may miss out on campus activities.

      Online learners can often earn a degree without having to relocate, or even travel to campus at all. For private school students, location may matter less because it does not impact in-state tuition rates like at a public university.

      Student Support

      Student support services can help you make the most of your college experience and set you up for success after graduation.

      (Video) The Top 5 Colleges In The U.S. | Forbes

      Colleges should offer academic and career advising to help new students map out their college journey and pick the right courses. Math and writing tutors offer students in-person and remote help at no cost. Students may also be able to find mentorship opportunities, networking opportunities, and internships.

      Alumni associations also help graduates continue to make connections for social and career opportunities years after college.

      Frequently Asked Questions About Private Colleges and Universities

      Are private colleges and universities better than public schools?

      Many private colleges hold a lot of prestige, but public colleges also have excellent reputations. Students should pick a college based on what matters to them and their learning style. Deciding factors include cost, location, program offerings, and size.

      Private colleges typically have a smaller student body, which means fewer people on campus and in the classroom. People who enjoy more one-on-one time with professors and a small college atmosphere will prefer a private university.

      Large public universities tend to offer a livelier campus life and more diverse student body. Public colleges also tend to have more majors, research funding, and extracurricular activities.

      Is a private college or university worth it?

      It could be. Between 2010-2011 and 2020-2021, tuition and fees increased from $8,500-$9,400 at public four-year schools. During that time, tuition and fees increased from $31,600-$35,900 at private nonprofit four-year colleges.

      While a private college or university often costs more, students can have more one-on-one mentoring opportunities with faculty and instructors. The personalized attention and education at a private college may help students graduate on time and launch their careers faster.

      According to 2019 data from NCES, 49.1% of students at private nonprofit colleges and 25.5% of students at for-profit colleges graduated within four years, compared to 36.3% of undergraduates at public colleges.

      How many private colleges are there in California?

      According to NCES, California has 258 private four-year colleges, including 177 private nonprofit colleges and 81 private for-profit schools. The state has 125 two-year private colleges and 187 “less-than-two-year”colleges, or vocational schools.

      Students can pick from large private colleges such as the University of Southern California near downtown Los Angeles with a student body of around 49,500. Or, they may prefer smaller private institutions such as Scripps College in Claremont, with a total enrollment of around 1,080 undergraduate and 20 graduate students.

      Why are private colleges so expensive?

      Private colleges do not receive as much federal and state funding as public colleges. Instead, the bulk of funding dollars comes from tuition and private donations, which allows them to have more autonomy in their funding decisions.

      However, private schools also charge more than public colleges because they rely heavily on these funding sources. That said, private colleges also offer larger financial aid packages to students based on merit.

      Tuition at private colleges varies widely from state to state. In the 2019-2020 school year, private colleges in Massachusetts charged an average of $47,980 for tuition and fees —the highest rate in the country. Meanwhile, private institutions in Idaho charged an average of $6,429 for tuition and fees during that same year.

      Can I get more scholarship money at a private university?

      Students often don’t consider private colleges because of the sticker price, which can be misleading. Unlike public universities, private universities often provide more financial aid to students based on their merit, not financial need.

      Most first-time undergraduate students receive grants and loans. These forms of financial aid have increased from 2009-2010 to 2019-2020. Public colleges awarded 85% of first-time undergraduates aid in 2019-2020, compared to 90% at private nonprofit colleges and 87% at private for-profit institutions. Private colleges also offer often-generous scholarships that students do not need to repay.

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      Private colleges typically have a smaller student body, which means fewer people on campus and in the classroom. People who enjoy more one-on-one time with professors and a small college atmosphere will prefer a private university.

      Large public universities tend to offer a livelier campus life and more diverse student body. Public colleges also tend to have more majors, research funding, and extracurricular activities." } },{ "@type": "Question", "name": "Is a private college or university worth it?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "It could be. Between 2010-2011 and 2020-2021, tuition and fees increased from $8,500-$9,400 at public four-year schools. During that time, tuition and fees increased from $31,600-$35,900 at private nonprofit four-year colleges. While a private college or university often costs more, students can have more one-on-one mentoring opportunities with faculty and instructors. The personalized attention and education at a private college may help students graduate on time and launch their careers faster. According to 2019 data from NCES, 49.1% of students at private nonprofit colleges and 25.5% of students at for-profit colleges graduated within four years, compared to 36.3% of undergraduates at public colleges." } },{ "@type": "Question", "name": "How many private colleges are there in California?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "According to NCES, California has 258 private four-year colleges, including 177 private nonprofit colleges and 81 private for-profit schools. The state has 125 two-year private colleges and 187 \"less-than-two-year\"colleges, or vocational schools.

      Students can pick from large private colleges such as the University of Southern California near downtown Los Angeles with a student body of around 49,500. Or, they may prefer smaller private institutions such as Scripps College in Claremont, with a total enrollment of around 1,080 undergraduate and 20 graduate students." } },{ "@type": "Question", "name": "Why are private colleges so expensive?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "Private colleges do not receive as much federal and state funding as public colleges. Instead, the bulk of funding dollars comes from tuition and private donations, which allows them to have more autonomy in their funding decisions. However, private schools also charge more than public colleges because they rely heavily on these funding sources. That said, private colleges also offer larger financial aid packages to students based on merit.

      Tuition at private colleges varies widely from state to state. In the 2019-2020 school year, private colleges in Massachusetts charged an average of $47,980 for tuition and fees — the highest rate in the country. Meanwhile, private institutions in Idaho charged an average of $6,429 for tuition and fees during that same year." } },{ "@type": "Question", "name": "Can I get more scholarship money at a private university?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "Students often don't consider private colleges because of the sticker price, which can be misleading. Unlike public universities, private universities often provide more financial aid to students based on their merit, not financial need. Most first-time undergraduate students receive grants and loans. These forms of financial aid have increased from 2009-2010 to 2019-2020. Public colleges awarded 85% of first-time undergraduates aid in 2019-2020, compared to 90% at private nonprofit colleges and 87% at private for-profit institutions. Private colleges also offer often-generous scholarships that students do not need to repay." } }]}

      FAQs

      What is the #1 private University in the US? ›

      1 Massachusetts Institute of Technology

      The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT, currently has about 11,250 students attending.

      What is the #1 college in America 2022? ›

      The Massachusetts Institute of Technology leads the pack for the first time.

      What college has the highest acceptance rate 2022? ›

      10 Colleges With the Highest Acceptance Rates

      A whopping 99% of students who apply to Liberty University get accepted. Marshall University, the University of New Mexico, Kansas State University, and the University of Maine all have acceptance rates of over 95%.

      What is the hardest college to get into in the US 2022? ›

      Yale ranks as one of the hardest colleges to get into with a 4.47% acceptance rate for the class of 2026, down just slightly from its 4.62% acceptance rate for the class of 2025.

      What is the prettiest University in the United States? ›

      25 Most Beautiful College Campuses in the USA in 2023
      1. Berry College, Georgia. ...
      2. The University of Notre Dame du Lac, Indiana. ...
      3. University of San Diego, California. ...
      4. Rice University, Texas. ...
      5. University of Virginia, Virginia. ...
      6. Pepperdine University, California. ...
      7. College of William and Mary, Virginia. ...
      8. Duke University, North Carolina.
      Nov 22, 2022

      What is the most exclusive college in the US? ›

      Alphabetic list of schools covered in this ranking
      NCES Name (abbrev, estdate, rank)location
      United States Naval Academy (USNA, 1845, #1)Annapolis, Maryland
      University of California-Berkeley (UCB, 1868, #3)Berkeley, California
      University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA, 1919, #7)Los Angeles, California
      22 more rows

      What is a Tier 1 college in USA? ›

      Tier 1 schools include: Stanford, Harvard, Princeton, Yale, MIT, UChicago, Caltech, Columbia, Brown, Northwestern, The University of Pennsylvania, Dartmouth, Duke, Vanderbilt, Cornell, Johns Hopkins, and Rice.

      What is the smartest college in the world 2022? ›

      • Harvard University. United States|Cambridge (U.S.) ...
      • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) United States|Cambridge (U.S.) ...
      • Stanford University. United States|Stanford. ...
      • University of California Berkeley. ...
      • University of Oxford. ...
      • University of Washington Seattle. ...
      • Columbia University. ...
      • University of Cambridge.

      What is the 3rd best college in America? ›

      The higher the quality of the program and the lower the cost, the better the deal.
      • #1. Harvard University.
      • #2. Princeton University.
      • #3. Yale University.

      What is the easiest ivy to get into? ›

      What's the easiest Ivy League school to get into? While all Ivy League schools have a low acceptance rate, Cornell University has the highest acceptance rate among them. Cornell's acceptance rate is 11%, but try not to get too hung up on the numbers.

      What is the easiest highly ranked college to get into? ›

      Colleges with 100% Acceptance Rates
      • South Florida State College (Avon Park, Florida)
      • St. ...
      • Thomas More College of Liberal Arts (Merrimack, New Hampshire)
      • University of Texas- El Paso (El Paso, Texas)
      • Utah Valley University (Orem, Utah)
      • Wayne State College (Wayne, Nebraska)
      • Wilmington University (New Castle, Delaware)
      Sep 7, 2022

      What is the easiest college major ever? ›

      The 16 Easiest College Majors – 2023 Rankings
      • History.
      • Health.
      • Liberal Arts.
      • Creative Writing.
      • Anthropology.
      • Linguistics.
      • Music.
      • Humanities.
      Nov 1, 2022

      What college has a 100% acceptance rate? ›

      Established in 1911 in southwestern Utah, Dixie State University features a 100% acceptance rate. The campus, which sits adjacent to the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, serves more than 11,000 students, about 60% of whom attend full time.

      What is the top 5 hardest colleges to get into? ›

      The 25 Hardest Colleges to Get Into in 2023
      • 1) Harvard University.
      • 2) Columbia University.
      • 3) Caltech.
      • 4) Stanford University.
      • 5) MIT.
      • 6) Princeton University.
      • 7) Yale University.
      • 8) Brown University.
      Nov 11, 2022

      What colleges have a 100% acceptance rate? ›

      Colleges with the Highest Acceptance Rates - Top 100
      SchoolLocationFall 2021 Acceptance Rate
      Academy of Art UniversitySan Francisco, CA100%
      Adams State UniversityAlamosa, CO100%
      Alliance UniversityNew York, NY100%
      Baptist College of FloridaGraceville, FL100%
      17 more rows

      What is the #1 best college town in America? ›

      1 best college town and city: Austin, Texas. Austin, Texas, topped the list as the best college town in America. It was also no. 1 when ranked by large city size.

      What college impresses the most? ›

      What Are the Best Extracurriculars for College?
      1. Leadership Work and Positions. Colleges seek out applicants with leadership experience. ...
      2. Part-Time Jobs. ...
      3. Sports and Athletic Participation. ...
      4. Academic Clubs and Teams. ...
      5. Artistic and Creative Pursuits. ...
      6. Volunteering and Community Service. ...
      7. Internships.

      What college do most millionaires go to? ›

      The top 20 U.S. universities churning out the most ultra-wealthy alums:
      • Harvard University 17,660.
      • Stanford University 7,972.
      • University of Pennsylvania 7,517.
      • Columbia University 5,528.
      • New York University 5,214.
      • Northwestern University 4,354.
      • Massachusetts Institute of Technology 4,089.
      • Yale University 3,654.
      Sep 19, 2022

      Where do most billionaires go to college? ›

      Harvard also comes in first if only bachelor's degrees are counted, according to a 2021 Forbes report. Harvard also ranks first in the number of ultra-high net worth alumni with assets greater than $30 million.

      Which state has the best universities? ›

      1. California: Along with having the most colleges by state in the U.S., California also has the highest number of top-ranked institutions. Some of the top ranked colleges on the list include Stanford University, Pomona College, and California Institute of Technology.

      What are Tier 3 universities in USA? ›

      Some of the third-tier Universities in the USA include College of Liberal Arts, Babson College, and Virginia Tech.

      What are Tier 2 Tier 3 colleges? ›

      Tier 1 colleges are those that have the best: Academics, infrastrucure, faculty, research, placements, alumni network and national/international presence. They also have high NIRF/NAAC ratings. Tier 2 colleges are those have middle level facilities of the above parameters, and tier 3 colleges fall even behind tier 2.

      Where do the smartest kids go to college? ›

      The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvey Mudd College, Washington University in St.
      ...
      The 25 smartest colleges in the United States in 2020, by average SAT score.
      CharacteristicAverage test score
      California Institute of Technology1,545
      12 more rows
      Dec 6, 2021

      What is the most useful degree in 2022? ›

      What are the Top 10 Best Majors in 2022?
      • Software Engineering. Software engineering majors learn how to design and develop software programs before sending them to customers. ...
      • Biology. ...
      • Data Science. ...
      • Accounting. ...
      • Cybersecurity. ...
      • Game Design. ...
      • Hospitality Management. ...
      • Pre-Law (with a focus on Elder Law)
      Jan 18, 2022

      What college has the most intelligent students? ›

      The Top 25 Smartest US Colleges
      RankingSchoolStudents IQ Test Score Estimate
      1Caltech145.4
      2MIT143.9
      3Olin College143.4
      4Rice143.4
      21 more rows

      What is the top 1% University in the world? ›

      The University of Oxford tops the ranking for the seventh consecutive year.

      What is the #1 public University in the US? ›

      1. University of California—Los Angeles. UCLA has an A+ ranking in almost all of the categories that Niche rates. With a fairly small acceptance rate of 17%, the school's the most popular major is economics.

      What University is #1 in the nation? ›

      National Universities Rankings
      RankingUNIVERSITY4 Year Graduation Rate
      1Princeton87%
      2Harvard87%
      3Columbia88%
      4MIT85%
      39 more rows

      What is Tier 1 college in us? ›

      Tier 1 is comprised of major private research universities, including MIT, UChicago, Stanford, John Hopkins, Northwestern, California Institute of Technology, Duke, Vanderbilt, and Rice (amongst many others). The campuses are likely to be quite large and include graduate schools and a medium-large student population.

      What is the hardest college to get into in the world? ›

      1. Stanford University. Topping the list of the hardest school to get into in the world is Stanford. It has been featured top of this list for several years and no other university anywhere in the world has managed to replace it yet.

      What is the hardest University to get into? ›

      The 25 Hardest Colleges to Get Into in 2023
      • 1) Harvard University.
      • 2) Columbia University.
      • 3) Caltech.
      • 4) Stanford University.
      • 5) MIT.
      • 6) Princeton University.
      • 7) Yale University.
      • 8) Brown University.
      Nov 11, 2022

      What is the most respected University? ›

      Harvard University

      What are the 3 best universities in the United States? ›

      Here are the best colleges in the U.S.
      • Princeton University.
      • Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
      • Harvard University.
      • Stanford University.
      • Yale University.
      • University of Chicago.
      • Johns Hopkins University.
      • University of Pennsylvania.

      Which state has the best colleges? ›

      1. California: Along with having the most colleges by state in the U.S., California also has the highest number of top-ranked institutions. Some of the top ranked colleges on the list include Stanford University, Pomona College, and California Institute of Technology.

      Is it better to go to a public or private university in USA? ›

      Public Universities offer lower tuition fees but are also extremely competitive and have a low acceptance rate. Why are private universities better? Private Universities are an excellent choice for higher education, though, the tuition is higher, they offer financial aid to need-based students.

      What are Tier 2 universities in USA? ›

      Tier 2 schools include: USC, Washington University in St Louis, Tufts, Tulane, NYU, Boston University, UNC Chapel Hill, University of Michigan Ann Arbor, Notre Dame, Emory, University of Virginia, Wake Forest, UT Austin College of Natural Sciences, Boston College, Georgia Tech, William and Mary, UCLA, UC Berkeley, ...

      What is the best public ivy? ›

      However, the following five schools are widely considered the cream of the crop when it comes to Public Ivies:
      • University of California, Berkeley.
      • University of California, Los Angeles.
      • University of Michigan.
      • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
      • University of Virginia.
      Dec 5, 2022

      What is a Tier 3 college? ›

      Tier 3 engineering colleges are those which have recently been opened and lack many things that tier 1 and 2 colleges have. These colleges attract abundant of those students who just want to pursue engineering. The only thing that the students won't have is more links, resources.

      What is considered a Tier 2 college? ›

      Tier 2 schools are selective private liberal arts colleges like Middlebury and Vassar. Tier 3 are major public research universities, among them most of the University of California system.”

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