2017 Top Private Universities in America

The Top Private Universities ranking is based on rigorous analysis of academic, admissions, financial, and student life data from the U.S. Department of Education along with millions of reviews from students and alumni. The ranking compares top private colleges and universities in each state.
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Viewing 1-25 of 100
  1. 1

    Stanford University

    • Stanford, CA
    • 1,088 reviews
    Sophomore:I've really enjoyed Stanford so far.
    Academics are certainly challenging, but rewarding, and students usually aren't excessively stressed about grades.
    Professors are, for the most part, incredibly knowledgeable and care about students, but there are some (particularly those teaching intro classes) who could use some improvement.
    The local area can be a bit expensive and far away (especially without a car).
    Currently, the administration is facing a lot of criticism about the school's handling of sexual assault. It's not the best situation, but a lot of the criticism also comes from Stanford's own professors and students, so I do still feel relatively safe and supported on campus.
    More about Stanford University
  2. 2
    College Freshman:I absolutely love my school and I wouldn't change it at all! It's probably the most stressful, hard, and demanding thing I've done up to now but that's what I love about it! It's a challenge and it really is intense but the people I've met, my friends, help me through it all and I love that! The community at MIT is amazing too, there are so many different people on campus both mainstream and off-stream(I guess that's how you say it?) but that makes everyday much better in an open and accepting campus.
    More about Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  3. 3

    Yale University

    • New Haven, CT
    • 914 reviews
    Freshman:Yale managed to exceed my expectations. I originally chose Yale because of how genuine every student I met was and that perception continues to persist. I have met the most interesting and talented people while at Yale and have made some of the closest friends. One moment we'll be discussing a bio problem set, the next discussing the real solution to economic disparity, the next talking about our upbringings. While it's easy to think of Yale as a competitive college, I think that's far from the truth. I have never collaborated as much as I have at Yale. Everyone wants the best for each other and grades are not a focus. The social scene at Yale is also great. Frat parties are open to anyone for the most part and it's very easy to get integrated with Greek life members even if you aren't in it yourself. Just based off of the year I've been here, I can already say that Yale has changed me to be a more well-rounded person.
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  4. 4

    Harvard University

    • Cambridge, MA
    • 620 reviews
    Alum:Harvard University offers the most incredible experience for its students. From the rich history to the esteemed faculty to the vibrant atmosphere of Harvard Square, it is truly one of a kind and inspiring. During my time at Harvard, I got to dance to Gangnam Style with Psy, read a Gutenberg Bible, study and work under my hero, perform fMRIs, and eat brunch in what is essentially the Great Hall of Hogwarts. I cannot begin to tell you the opportunities available here nor what you will learn from working and studying alongside people from all over the world. Harvard also tries to promote diversity further by offering a needs-blind application process and a financial aid package that guarantees you will not have to turn down your acceptance due to financial hardship! Harvard truly takes care of its students, giving them every opportunity imaginable and giving them an experience they will never forget.
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  5. 5

    Princeton University

    • Princeton, NJ
    • 382 reviews
    Freshman:I love Princeton! The financial aid is incredible, the campus is beautiful, and the academics are really fantastic. While things can get stressful, the University tries to provide resources to combat that (even though CPS is massively backlogged, which can make things tough). Because the grade deflation policy is over, a lot of the old stress is gone!

    The social scene can be a little odd because of eating clubs (which is definitely something for incoming freshmen to be aware of), but it's definitely navigable and plenty of upperclassmen are really cool and helpful when it comes to social stuff.

    The experience of a lot of people of color tends to differ from white students (like myself), so this is definitely something to take into consideration. It can be tough because there's so much privilege on the campus, so a lot of the dialogue surrounding the experiences of people of color and people of lower classes can be difficult to navigate.
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  6. 6

    Rice University

    • Houston, TX
    • 970 reviews
    Sophomore:Rice is incredible. The people are so friendly and collaborative, and the residential college system gives you an automatic support system and built-in friends/family. While people are smart, the atmosphere is close-knit and not cutthroat, which I've come to realize is hugely important when I hear my friends at other top universities talk about the pressure and competition they suffer through. The academics aren't easy- especially the STEM programs, which are structured to be some of the most rigorous in the country, but that's why we have such a good reputation and ease with post-graduation placements. Compared to other colleges, there's a lot of freedom with social life/partying and distribution requirements. Overall, the campus is beautiful and quality of life (dorms/food/area) very high. I love Rice and wouldn't go anywhere else!
    More about Rice University
  7. 7

    Bowdoin College

    • Brunswick, ME
    • 640 reviews
    Freshman:Whether its the Outing Club, the Literary Magazine, the Film Society, or an a Capella group, there is always something for every kind of person to get involved in. Also, people here are incredibly friendly and willing to go out of their way to help you. Bowdoin's size, with 1700 students, really enables this sense of community. If I could change one thing about Bowdoin, I would offer class credit for laboratory time. Also , this is just my wish , but I think Bowdoin should advertise more to the outside world. I grew up overseas, so most of my other friends had not heard of Bowdoin, or Brunswick for that matter. I can understand that I was surprised that not many people in United States knew about this school either. The social scene is great on the weekends, but for the most part exists only on the weekends as people work very hard during the week. As for food, you can guess exactly how delicious it is from just taking a peek at the NYtimes article and the college rankings.
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  8. 8

    University of Pennsylvania

    • Philadelphia, PA
    • 1,106 reviews
    Graduate Student:Like any colleges, Penn has both pros and cons. As a graduate student in the School of Social Policy and Practice at Penn (Master's of Social Work), I find that the biggest strength of Penn is its wide reach of professional network, research, etc.

    The amount of resources/networking opportunities available for developing insight, experience, and others is unimaginable here at Penn. Having deep connections with all three sectors of the non-profit, for-profit, and governmental world brings its students enormous opportunities and information/knowledge to learn and grow from.

    The cons, however, is that Penn as a whole seems a bit lacking in terms of student activism and engagement. There are clubs to join. But, I rarely see them out in the quad or the walkway outreaching or being vocal about a variety of issues students are concerned with in this age and time.
    More about University of Pennsylvania
  9. 9

    Washington University in St. Louis

    • Saint Louis, MO
    • 1,323 reviews
    Freshman:WUSTL is a fantastic university! I first came here because of the prestigious pre-med program, comfy dorms, yummy food, beautiful campus, and great FA. I found all of those here to be true. My experience truly has been an excellent one. Although the academics are undoubtedly challenging, it is equally rewarding.
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  10. 10

    Brown University

    • Providence, RI
    • 917 reviews
    College Freshman:Professors, even in large lecture classes, are always approachable and friendly. They are open to extensions when asked and even small talk. However, with the amount of time you have with each professor (this also depends on the size of the class) it's unlikely for you to become very friendly with any teachers throughout college unless you take initiative.

    Classes can range from 7 people to 200. There are a variety of options, usually intro classes are big while seminars, language classes, and specific topic classes are smaller. With large classes there is an immense amount of TAs that are always available to help. They also run review/discussion sections to allow students to ask specific questions and get advice from experts who already aced the class.

    Most classes, in the humanities, make you do a lot of reading, have a smaller discussion section, and then 2-4 big assignments like midterms, finals, essays, take home exams, etc.

    The variety of courses speaks for itself. There are too many choices and they are all interesting!
    More about Brown University
  11. 11

    Duke University

    • Durham, NC
    • 1,005 reviews
    Freshman:If you aren't entirely decided on what you want to study, or want to combine two fields that don't seem to fit, Duke is the best school available to you. The flexible pathway through Duke is one of its best features, and it guarantees there's something academic for nearly everyone here. Not to mention everything that goes on outside of academics. Whether you're a performance artist, coder, engineer, service-learner, researcher, intense athlete, or a just for fun one, there's a place for you here. If you're anything at all, and looking to challenge yourself, then come to Duke!
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  12. 12

    Columbia University

    • New York, NY
    • 1,083 reviews
    Graduate Student:I am currently enrolled in graduate school at the prestigious Columbia University. I am impressed with the level of diversity at Columbia. There is a majority minority. Most of my seminars are comprised of Asian, Indian students I myself am typically the only African American student. I believe that Columbia truly wants their students to thrive. They bring in some of the best professors from the corporate world. For instances in one of my courses I have three different professors. Each have a very different perspective and method of teaching. I will say that I am disappointed that there are not more scholarships available to graduate students; I am working a full-time job in addition to taking a full course load so that I can graduate in a two year span and pay for school. Mind you I have a 3.8 G.P.A I believe that their should be some source of funding other than loans for students in my situation.
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  13. 13

    Dartmouth College

    • Hanover, NH
    • 654 reviews
    College Junior:I would definitely choose Dartmouth again. I love the spirit of the school, the people, the professors and all of the non-academic learning experiences that are available. I think in the Engineering school there is a lot of room for improvement in terms of consistently having consistently good teachers. For the most part, teachers are good in the entry level classes, occasionally there is a great teacher, but often ( so far 1 class out of three, every trimester) there is one teacher who isvery suboptimal in their ability to teach or communicate well. Not acceptable at this type of school.

    Additionally, because Dartmouth is out of the way for most companies, their engineering recruiting fairs are extremely lacking in depth and availability. Much of the fair is online. Being only 3 hours from Boston, The Thayer school of engineering should host a weekend or trip to Boston for a recruiting fair to coincide with all the other colleges there when there are HUNDREDS of companies available to talk to and connect with. Students could take a bus to Boston and even make up the classes that are missed at some later point if necessary. Job hunting and internship opportunities are far inferior than at many other schools, even if they are not as highly ranked as Dartmouth!
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  14. 14

    Vanderbilt University

    • Nashville, TN
    • 1,156 reviews
    Sophomore:Vanderbilt is an excellent place to continue your education. It is easy to find your place at this school because the environment is amazingly friendly and welcoming. Greek life is huge here and many people get involved. The weather is usually mild and the faculty is great. The food is ranked in the country, and as a sophomore, I still enjoy it. Anchor Down! This school is not without flaws, however. The campus is pretty divided racially. There is no malice, but it is clear that intermingling between races only truly occurs in the classroom. That is one thing this school could improve.
    More about Vanderbilt University
  15. 15

    Pomona College

    • Claremont, CA
    • 347 reviews
    Junior:Pomona's largest assets are not its $2b endowment, its buildings, or its location, but rather its people. Here, some of the world's most inquisitive, interesting, and downright intelligent students come together in the pursuit of knowledge and with the intention of changing the world. Professors care deeply about students and are some of the most well-regarded in their fields, a rare combination that allows for students to do meaningful work and learn from people who love to teach, never a teacher's assistant. The admitted class of 2021 is made up of 56.7% domestic students of color, plus 11.4% international students, making Pomona's the most diverse campus in the country.
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  16. 16

    California Institute of Technology

    • Pasadena, CA
    • 106 reviews
    Freshman:As a freshman in the second term, the experience here has been pretty positive. The coursework is definitely challenging, but it keeps me motivated to pursue higher goals. I am extremely grateful for finding such a like-minded community of scholars who are supportive and caring.
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  17. 17

    University of Southern California

    • Los Angeles, CA
    • 3,320 reviews
    Sophomore:I love attending the University of Southern California! The school has high caliber academics, a competitive yet fun environment for students of all majors, and a gorgeous campus. USC is a bit expensive however, hardworking students can come in with large scholarships to defray this cost. I definitely think that this experience is worth the cost of living and expenses out here and will truly pay off in the end. I have definitely met life long friends and have made unforgettable memories throughout my time here!
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  18. 18

    University of Notre Dame

    • South Bend, IN
    • 1,216 reviews
    Niche User:I attended Notre Dame's Summer Scholars Program. So, I will give my perspective on that experience. At the beginning of the session, the Dean told us it would be "life changing." Indeed, it was. The friends, the environment, the professors and the spirituality of this campus is unmatched. The grounds are impeccable and incredibly gorgeous with flowers everywhere. Based on my experience, I have changed my career goals- a life changing experience. I have had lots of college experiences since age 3. Notre Dame, without exception, is the FINEST. I am a triplet and I speak for my siblings too. We are ND fans and always will be.
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  19. 19

    University of Chicago

    • Chicago, IL
    • 1,104 reviews
    College Sophomore:My experience at UChicago so far has been wonderful! There is such a variety of courses to choose from, and so many interesting majors are available. All of the courses are respectable and worth taking. The professors and TA's are all very experienced in their fields, and are very passionate about what they're teaching. The Core classes are usually taught in lecture halls, but also have classes periods that are broken up into smaller groups (during discussion). Other classes can have as few as five students, like my Yucatec Maya class, which allows students to have awesome conversations with their professors and TA's.
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  20. 20

    Washington & Lee University

    • Lexington, VA
    • 388 reviews
    Alum:I graduated in 2002 and I still keep up with my professors, faculty, classmates, and most of all my fraternity brothers. The alumni connections are worth the tuition alone. It teaches you far more than what can be taught online or in a classroom alone. The best 4 years of my life!
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  21. 21

    Carleton College

    • Northfield, MN
    • 466 reviews
    Freshman:The school has an incredibly open community; cliques are fluid and almost anyone is welcome and can feel comfortable sitting with any group. Dining hall food is great, although there are few good restaurants in the area. Classes are fantastic and the trimester system works very well for people who live far away (winter break extends from before thanksgiving to after new years). In addition, the trimester system allows students to fit three academic terms into one year while focusing more intensely on less during those terms, all the while still leaving room for a long winter break.
    The biggest downside for me is that students seem less individual and more self-effacing than some other similar liberal arts colleges.
    More about Carleton College
  22. 22

    Colgate University

    • Hamilton, NY
    • 961 reviews
    Sophomore:Best college ever! I love everything about Colgate from the small class sizes to the food to the atmosphere to the people. Although, Colgate isn't every well known it shouldn't be looked over! Courses are challenging but very rewarding.
    More about Colgate University
  23. 23

    Northwestern University

    • Evanston, IL
    • 1,244 reviews
    Alum:I attended Northwestern because of the music program and the professor I would be working with. My professor was amazing, and so was the music program as a whole. I was able to pursue a double major with an outside field, and while it was difficult and busy, the administration helped me every quarter by allowing me to take extra classes to finish on time. The campus is beautiful, but there is always construction. It is not a huge party school, but there are parties and lots of other ways to have fun. I loved the proximity to Chicago and the public transit system. Overall, I liked the student body. There was a general hard work ethic, and though my majors weren't particularly competitive, I know there were some that were fairly cut-throat. The mental health services can be improved upon, but I felt that NU was a very accepting, diverse, and progressive school overall. Financial aid was great, and getting better!
    More about Northwestern University
  24. 24

    Tufts University

    • Medford, MA
    • 857 reviews
    Freshman:Tufts is an amazing school! The intellectual environment is extremely is stimulative. The Professors are very passionate about what they teach and are open to helping any of their students. The food is good too! Students are generally friendly depending on the crowd you hang out with. The political environment is one of liberalism. I love this school and would attend it again when given the chance. There is diversity in terms of the many people from different backgrounds and categories. The surrounding area is beautiful! The school is not called the "Light on the Hill" for no reason
    More about Tufts University
  25. 25

    Williams College

    • Williamstown, MA
    • 251 reviews
    College Freshman:I really enjoy being at my college. It is academically challenging while being engaging. The professors love teaching their subjects, and I have learned the value of a liberal arts education by taking classes in many different areas of study, which are helping me become a well-rounded scholar. I really like it here! The relatively small class sizes allow me to get to know my professors and classmates, which helps me learn better, as I can approach my professors comfortably during office hours and form study groups with my fellow classmates. I would choose my school again if I could do it all over because it has everything I want and need: small classes, passionate professors, engaging courses, welcoming atmosphere, beautiful location, and the list can go on!
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