For full functionality of this site it is necessary to enable JavaScript. Here are the instructions how to enable JavaScript in your web browser.

Study Abroad

Top universities in America

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

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. 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.

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

  2. New York University (NYU)

    New York University

    Credit: Maya K. Photography – Shutterstock

    With campuses in Manhattan and Brooklyn, New York University lets students experience life in 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. However, 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 unis. It's located in New Jersey and has an acceptance rate of around 4%. The number of students that were accepted into Princeton sat at just over 1,000 in 2021 (a record low).

    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.

  4. Columbia University

    Colombia University

    Credit: Robnroll – Shutterstock

    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 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 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 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

    Credit: Kit Leong – Shutterstock

    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.

    It's located near Hollywood. So, it's no surprise that UCLA's School of Theater, Film and Television produces 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 based near San Francisco and Silicon Valley. UC Berkeley receives more applications than most other unis 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's not hard to see why so many apply to study there.

  8. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

    Massachusetts Institute of Technology

    Credit: Marcio Jose Bastos Silva – Shutterstock

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

  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 just over 2,000 students per year.

  10. Harvard University

    harvard university

    Credit: Jorge Salcedo – Shutterstock

    Once home to Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Harvard is often cited as the best uni in the world. So, it's no surprise that it's ranked at the top of 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 4% – a fraction of which are from outside the US.

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.


Ask us a question or share your thoughts!

Tweet @savethestudent - Facebook Message - Email