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Study Abroad

Top universities in America

Interested in studying in the United States? Check out the top 10 universities in America.

USA flag in front of MIT

Credit: Bryan Pollard, Marcio Jose Bastos Silva – Shutterstock

When applying for universities in America, many UK students will (rightly) be looking at the top ones.

We've used data from QS World University Rankings to show you the best American unis.

The rankings are based on a wide range of criteria. These include employability, diversity and internationalisation, research and learning experience.

Top 10 American universities

These are the best universities in the US:

  1. Columbia University

    Ivy League school Columbia University is located in New York. It was established in 1754. This makes it the oldest higher education institute in the city and the fifth oldest in the country.

    While Columbia University offers over 150 majors, it's also known for awarding the Pulitzer Prize. This is one of the most prestigious achievements in journalism and the arts. It comes as no surprise, then, that English Language/Literature is one of the most popular majors.

    The uni's acceptance rate sits just under 4%, with around 2,300 students being accepted each year.

  2. Cornell University

    Cornell University is another Ivy League school in the state of New York. This top university offers over 4,000 different courses across 100 different academic departments. Whatever you'd like to study, there will be something that matches your interest here.

    Around 10% of applicants are accepted every year. Famous alumni include Bill Nye, Ruth Bader Ginsburg (the second woman ever appointed to the US Supreme Court) and Reggie Fils-Aimé (former president of Nintendo of America).

  3. Yale University

    yale university

    Credit: Kit Leong – Shutterstock

    Located in New Haven, Connecticut, Yale University is the third-oldest uni in America. It's welcomed students since 1701 and has grown to be one of the most prestigious schools in the world.

    Quite a few famous people are included in Yale's alumni list. These include Bill and Hilary Clinton and Ben Silbermann (the founder of Pinterest).

    Yale's acceptance rate sits around 4.5, which translates into roughly 2,000 newly enrolled students each year. Around 20% of them are international students, representing 115 countries.

  4. Princeton University

    Princeton University is another one of America's eight Ivy League unis. It's located in New Jersey and has an acceptance rate of around 5.5%. The number of students that were accepted into Princeton sat at 1,500 in 2022.

    Michelle Obama got her bachelor's degree from there, majoring in African-American studies. Another famous alumnus, Jeff Bezos, graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering.

    This uni is popular among international students, especially in graduate programmes. The overseas cohort makes up more than 40% of the Graduate School at Princeton.

  5. University of Pennsylvania

    The University of Pennsylvania is one of the nine colonial colleges, established before the Declaration of Independence. It dates back to 1740 when it was founded by Benjamin Franklin.

    It's one of America's eight Ivy League unis, making it one of the best places to study in the USA. One of their most famous grads is Elon Musk, who gained a double major in Physics and Economics in 1997.

    In 2022, the uni welcomed around 2,400 new students. The acceptance rate is just shy of 5%.

  6. University of Chicago

    The University of Chicago is the highest-ranking university in the Midwest. Students and faculty members at this university have been awarded around 100 Nobel Prizes in total. Barack Obama even taught law here for 12 years.

    Accepting around 2,000 new students each year, their acceptance rate sits around 5.5%.

  7. California Institute of Technology (Caltech)

    If you want to study a degree in science or engineering, it's hard to find a better school than Caltech. Located in California, this university is one of the hardest schools to get into. Every year, they only welcome around 500 new students.

    Since the courses offered focus on science and technology, fewer people apply than at universities like Harvard. However, the acceptance rate still sits at a tiny 3.25%.

  8. Harvard University

    harvard university

    Credit: Jorge Salcedo – Shutterstock

    Once home to Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Harvard is often cited as one of the best unis in the world. So, it's no surprise that it's ranked so high in this list of best American unis.

    Harvard was founded in 1636, making it the oldest higher education institution in the country. The campus is located just outside of Boston, Massachusetts. It enrols around 2,000 students a year.

    Of course, at number one, the competition is fierce. It has an acceptance rate of around 5.5% – a fraction of which are from outside the US.

  9. Stanford University

    Stanford University is based in the California Bay area, near Silicon Valley. The campus spreads over 8,180 acres, making it the largest in the USA.

    This uni goes by the nickname 'billionaire factory'. It lives up to that name with alumni such as Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page. In fact, if the uni's graduates formed their own country, it would boast one of the world's ten largest economies.

    With a low admission rate of around 4%, Stanford University accepts around 1,700 students per year.

  10. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

    MIT is located near Harvard in Boston, MA. Founded in 1861, MIT is one of the best schools in the US for engineering and applied sciences. Famous graduates include Buzz Aldrin and Dropbox founders Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi.

    While science and technology are at the heart of this uni, the MIT campus is filled with culture and art. It has 12 museums which attract more than 100,000 visitors every year! And one in five students joins one of the sports teams.

    Just under 4% of the people who apply get accepted into MIT. This results in around 1,300 students a year.

These US unis are seen as the top 10 in academic terms. But, keep in mind that they might not offer sufficient financial support. Plus, they may not even excel in your chosen subject. This is just a broad-based ranking list using selected criteria.

Unfortunately, the US college system doesn't benefit from a central body (such as UCAS in the UK). So, before applying to a US university or college, do plenty of research.

American unis aren't cheap. But how much exactly is tuition? We have a guide that covers the cost of studying in America.

Nele van Hout

WRITTEN BY Nele van Hout

Nele van Hout, content editor at Save the Student, is a freelance writer and travel expert. She runs her own travel blog and is passionate about making money online. Nele has appeared in British Airways Magazine, Love to Visit, FOCUS Magazine and more.
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