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Study Abroad

Top universities in America

Does studying in the United States sound like something you'd be interested in? Check out the top 10 universities in America below.

USA flag in front of MIT

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When applying for universities in America, many UK students will (rightly) be looking for the most popular American universities to get the best education – and make their CVs sparkle!

On this basis, we have used the latest US uni data from QS World University Rankings to show you the very best universities in America. The ranking is based on a wide array of criteria, including employability, diversity and internationalisation, research and learning experience.

Top 10 American universities

These are the best universities in the US:

  1. University of Pennsylvania

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

    This is one of America's eight Ivy League universities, making it one of the best places to study in the USA. One of Pennsylvania's most famous graduates is Elon Musk, who gained a double major in Physics and Economics from the university in 1997.

    Every year, the university welcomes around 3,300 new students, and the acceptance rate is just shy of 6%.

  2. New York University (NYU)

    New York University

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    With campuses in Manhattan and Brooklyn, New York University gives its students the opportunity to really experience the Big Apple. Its most popular majors include Visual and Performing Arts, Social Sciences and Business.

    Lady Gaga went to NYU but dropped out after a year, but she's not the only famous person to attend this university – others include Angelina Jolie, Anne Hathaway, Adam Sandler and the Olsen sisters.

    The university enrols roughly 12,500 students each year with an acceptance rate of close to 13%.

  3. Princeton University

    Princeton University is another one of America's eight Ivy League universities. It's located in New Jersey and has an acceptance rate of around 4%. The number of students that were accepted into Princeton sat just over 1,000 in 2021 – which was a record low.

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

    This university is very popular among international students, especially the graduate programs – the overseas cohort make up more than 40% of the Graduate School at Princeton.

  4. Columbia University

    Colombia University

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

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

    The university's acceptance rate is 6%, with around 1,500 students being accepted each year.

  5. Yale University

    Located in New Haven, Connecticut, Yale University is the third-oldest university 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, such as Bill and Hilary Clinton and Ben Silbermann (the founder of Pinterest).

    Yale's acceptance rate sits around 6%, which translates into roughly 2,000 newly enrolled students each year. Around 20% of them are international, representing over 120 countries.

  6. University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

    university of california los angeles

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    UCLA is located in – you guessed it – Los Angeles, California. It's one of the most popular colleges in America. In 2020, it received the most applications out of all universities – almost 110,000!

    With an acceptance rate of around 14%, UCLA offers a place to around 15,000 new students each year.

    Being located near Hollywood, it comes as no surprise that UCLA's School of Theater, Film and Television produces some world-famous alumni. For example, Steve Martin, Mila Kunis and Jack Black all graduated from UCLA.

  7. University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley)

    The University of California, Berkeley is located near San Francisco and Silicon Valley. Similar to UCLA, UC Berkeley receives more applications than most other universities in the USA. In 2020, more than 88,000 people applied to study here.

    The university accepts roughly 15,000 students each year and has an acceptance rate of around 17.5%.

    UC Berkeley is home to some world-renowned research institutions, including the space science laboratory. And with more than 350 different degree programs, it isn't hard to see why so many people apply here.

  8. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

    Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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    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 university, 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 also joins one of the sports teams.

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

  9. Stanford University

    Stanford University is located in the California Bay area in a suburban setting, close to Silicon Valley. The campus spreads over 8,180 acres, making it the largest in the USA.

    This university also goes by the nickname 'billionaire factory', and it lives up to that name with alumni such as Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page. In fact, if the university'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 just over 2,000 students per year.

  10. Harvard University

    harvard university

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    Once home to Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Harvard University is often cited as the best university in the world. So, it comes as no surprise that it's also ranked at the top of this list of the best unis in America.

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

    Of course, at number one, the competition is fierce, resulting in an acceptance rate of around 4% – a fraction of which are from outside the US.

It's worth bearing in mind that although these US universities are seen as the top 10 in academic terms, they may not offer sufficient financial support or even excel in the subject that you wish to take. 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 the first step to studying in America is doing a lot of your own research before you apply to a US university or college.

You may already know that American universities aren't cheap, but how much exactly is tuition? We have a guide that covers the cost of studying in America.


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