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Top Middle Atlantic Colleges and Universities

Top Middle Atlantic Colleges and Universities

National Top Picks: Universities | Public Universities | Liberal Arts Colleges | Engineering | Business | Women's | Most Selective | More Top Picks

The Middle Atlantic region of the United States has some of the best colleges and universities in the world. This list of the top 36 Middle Atlantic colleges includes four Ivy League universities and some of the nation's top liberal arts colleges. The top picks range from schools with over 40,000 students to tiny Cooper Union with fewer than 1,000. Schools on the list include private and public institutions, urban and rural schools, and religious and secular institutions. The 36 colleges and universities below were chosen based on a range of factors, but most important was student persistence and success: retention rates and 4- and 6-year graduation rates. Also considered were student engagement, selectivity, and financial aid. I have listed the schools alphabetically to avoid the often arbitrary distinctions that separate #1 from #2, and because of the futility of comparing a large research university to a small liberal arts college. Note that I did not include highly specialized schools such as Julliard that have audition or portfolio admissions.

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The 35 colleges and universities in the list below were selected from the Middle Atlantic region: Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

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Annapolis (United States Naval Academy)

Annapolis - USNA. Rory Finneren / Flickr
  • Location: Annapolis, Maryland
  • Enrollment: 4,528 (all undergraduate)
  • Type of Institution: miltary academy
  • Distinctions: one of the most selective colleges in the country; no costs (but 5-year service requirement); strong engineering programs; competes in the NCAA Division I Patriot League
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the Annapolis profile
  • GPA, SAT and ACT graph for Annapolis

Barnard College

Barnard College from Broadway. Photo Credit: Allen Grove
  • Location: Manhattan, New York
  • Enrollment: 2,510 (all undergraduate)
  • Type of Institution: private women's liberal arts college
  • Explore the Campus: Barnard College photo tour
  • Distinctions: the most selective of all women's colleges; affiliation with adjacent Columbia University; one of the original "seven sister" colleges; lots of cultural and educational opportunities in Manhattan
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the Barnard College profile
  • GPA, SAT and ACT graph for Barnard

Binghamton University (SUNY Binghamton)

Binghamton University. unforth / Flickr
  • Location: Vestal, New York
  • Enrollment: 17,292 (13,632 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: public research university
  • Distinctions: highly ranked public university; 887-acre campus features a 190-acre nature preserve; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences; NCAA Division I athletics in the America East Conference
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the Binghamton University profile
  • GPA, SAT and ACT graph for Binghamton

Bucknell University

Bucknell University. aurimasliutikas / Flickr
  • Location: Lewisburg, Pennsylvania
  • Enrollment: 3,626 (3,571 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: small comprehensive university
  • Distinctions: 10 to 1 student / faculty ratio; feel of a small liberal arts college with academic offerings of a comprehensive university; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences; participation in the NCAA Division I Patriot League
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the Bucknell University profile
  • GPA, SAT and ACT graph for Bucknell

Carnegie Mellon University

Carnegie Mellon University (top) and the Carnegie Museum and Library (bottom). Jimmy Lin / Flickr
  • Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Enrollment: 13,258 (6,283 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private research university
  • Distinctions: 11 to 1 student / faculty ratio; top-ranked science and engineering programs; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences; membership in the American Association of Universities for strengths in research
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the Carnegie Mellon University profile
  • GPA, SAT and ACT graph for Carnegie Mellon

Colgate University

James B. Colgate Hall. bronayur / Flickr
  • Location: Hamilton, New York
  • Enrollment: 2,890 (2,882 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private liberal arts college
  • Distinctions: high ranking liberal arts college; picturesque location; high graduation rate; high percentage of students go on to graduate school; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa; NCAA Division I athletics in the Patriot League
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the Colgate University profile
  • GPA, SAT and ACT graph for Colgate

The College of New Jersey

The College of New Jersey. Iggynelix / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Ewing, New Jersey
  • Enrollment: 7,396 (6,787 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: public liberal arts college
  • Distinctions: one of the top public liberal arts colleges in the country; easy train access to Philadelphia and New York City; over 50 degree programs; high retention and graduation rates; excellent value
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the College of New Jersey profile
  • GPA, SAT and ACT graph for TCNJ

Columbia University

  • Location: Manhattan, New York
  • Enrollment: 29,372 (8,124 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private research university
  • Distinctions: member of the Ivy League; extremely selective admissions, member of the Association of American Universities; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa; lots of cultural and educational opportunities in Manhattan
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the Columbia University profile
  • GPA, SAT and ACT graph for Columbia

Cooper Union

Cooper Union. moacirpdsp / Flickr
  • Location: Manhattan, New York
  • Enrollment: 964 (876 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: small engineering and art school
  • Distinctions: specialized curriculum in engineering and art; historic building where Abraham Lincoln gave a famous speech on limiting slavery; Manhattan location provides students with many cultural and educational opportunities; highly ranked engineering program; free tuition for all students
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the Cooper Union profile
  • GPA, SAT and ACT graph for Cooper Union

Cornell University

Cornell University Sage Hall. Photo Credit: Allen Grove
  • Location: Ithaca, New York
  • Enrollment: 22,319 (14,566 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private research university
  • Distinctions: member of the Ivy League; member of the Association of American Universities; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa; beautiful Finger Lakes location; highly ranked programs in engineering and hotel management
  • Explore Campus: Cornell University photo tour
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the Cornell University profile
  • GPA, SAT and ACT graph for Cornell

Dickinson College

Dickinson College. ravedelay / Flickr
  • Location: Carlisle, Pennsylvania
  • Enrollment: 2,420 (all undergraduate)
  • Type of Institution: private liberal arts college
  • Distinctions: 10 to 1 student / faculty ratio and an average class size of 17; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences; chartered in 1783 and named after a signer of the Constitution; member of the NCAA Division III Centennial Conference
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the Dickinson College profile
  • GPA, SAT and ACT graph for Dickinson

Franklin & Marshall College

Franklin & Marshall University. haydnseek / Flickr
  • Location: Lancaster, Pennsylvania
  • Enrollment: 2,255 (all undergraduate)
  • Type of Institution: private liberal arts college
  • Distinctions: 10 to 1 student / faculty ratio; average class size of 19 students; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences; hands-on approach to learning; rich history dating to 1787; member of the NCAA Division III Centennial Conference
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the Franklin & Marshall College profile
  • GPA, SAT and ACT graph for F&M

George Washington University

George Washington University. Alan Cordova / Flickr
  • Location: Washington, D.C.
  • Enrollment: 27,159 (11,504 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private research university
  • Distinctions: strong international programs; 13 to 1 student / faculty ratio; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences; located near the White House with graduation held on the National Mall; member of the NCAA Division I Atlantic 10 Conference
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the George Washington University profile
  • GPA, SAT and ACT graph for George Washington

Georgetown University

Georgetown University. tvol / Flickr
  • Location: Washington, D.C.
  • Enrollment: 18,525 (7,453 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private Catholic university
  • Distinctions: 10 to 1 student / faculty ratio; one of the country's best universities; large international student population; strong study abroad programs; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences; member of the NCAA Division I Big East Conference
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the Georgetown University profile
  • GPA, SAT and ACT graph for Georgetown

Gettysburg College

Gettysburg College. fauxto digit / Flickr
  • Location: Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
  • Enrollment: 2,394 (all undergraduate)
  • Type of Institution: private liberal arts college
  • Explore the Campus: Gettysburg College Photo Tour
  • Distinctions: 11 to 1 student / faculty ratio and average class size of 18; historic location; ; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences; new athletic center; music conservatory and professional performing arts center
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the Gettysburg College profile
  • GPA, SAT and ACT graph for Gettysburg

Grove City College

Grove City College. nyello8 / Flickr
  • Location: Grove City, Pennsylvania
  • Enrollment: 2,336 (all undergraduate)
  • Type of Institution: private Christian liberal arts college
  • Distinctions: one of the country's top conservative colleges; excellent value; 16 to 1 student / faculty ratio; impressive retention and graduation rates; chapel requirement for all students
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the Grove City College profile
  • GPA, SAT and ACT graph for GCC

Hamilton College

Hamilton College. EAWB / Flickr
  • Location: Clinton, New York
  • Enrollment: 1,883 (all undergraduate)
  • Type of Institution: private liberal arts college
  • Distinctions: highly ranked liberal arts college; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa; emphasis on individualized instruction and independent research; picturesque location in upstate, New York
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the Hamilton College profile
  • GPA, SAT and ACT graph for Hamilton

Haverford College

Haverford College Path. edwinmalet / flickr
  • Location: Haverford, Pennsylvania
  • Enrollment: 1,268 (all undergraduate)
  • Type of Institution: private liberal arts college
  • Distinctions: 8 to 1 student / faculty ratio; one of the country's top liberal arts colleges; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences; opportunities to take classes at Bryn Mawr, Swarthmore, and the University of Pennsylvania
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the Haverford College profile
  • GPA, SAT and ACT graph for Haverford

Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins University. Laughidea / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Baltimore, Maryland
  • Enrollment: 23,917 (6,042 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private research university
  • Distinctions: 10:1 student / faculty ratio; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences; membership in the AAU for strong research programs; multi-billion dollar endowment; one of the country's top universities
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the Johns Hopkins University profile
  • GPA, SAT and ACT graph for Johns Hopkins

Lafayette College

Easton, Pennsylvania. Retromoderns / Flickr
  • Location: Easton, Pennsylvania
  • Enrollment: 2,550 (all undergraduate)
  • Type of Institution: private liberal arts college
  • Distinctions: 11 to 1 student / faculty ratio; excellent value; several engineering programs as well as traditional liberal arts and sciences; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences; member of the NCAA Division I Patriot League
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the Lafayette College profile
  • GPA, SAT and ACT graph for Lafayette

Lehigh University

Lehigh University. conormac / Flickr
  • Location: Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
  • Enrollment: 7,059 (5,080 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private research university
  • Distinctions: 9 to 1 student / faculty ratio; strong engineering and applied science programs; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences; althetic teams participate in the NCAA Division I Patriot League
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the Lehigh University profile
  • GPA, SAT and ACT graph for Lehigh

Muhlenberg College

Muhlenberg College. JlsElsewhere / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Allentown, Pennsylvania
  • Enrollment: 2,408 (all undergraduate)
  • Type of Institution: private liberal arts college with Lutheran affiliation
  • Distinctions: 12 to 1 student / faculty ratio; strengths in several pre-professional areas as well as a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences; high retention and graduation rates
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the Muhlenberg College profile
  • GPA, SAT and ACT graph for Muhlenberg

New York University

New York University Bobst Library. davidsilver / Flickr
  • Location: Manhattan, New York
  • Enrollment: 50,550 (26,135 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private research university
  • Distinctions: member of the Association of American Universities; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa; located in Manhattan's Greenwich Village; 16 schools and centers with law, business, art, public service and education all placing high in national rankings
  • Admissions: NYU GPA and Test Score Graph
  • Explore the Campus: NYU Photo Tour
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the New York University profile
  • GPA, SAT and ACT graph for NYU

Penn State University

Penn State University Football. nick knouse / Flickr
  • Location: University Park, Pennsylvania
  • Enrollment: 47,789 (41,359 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: public research university
  • Distinctions: large school with wide-ranging academic offerings; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences, membership in the Association of American Universities for research strengths; athletic teams compete in the NCAA Division I Big Ten Conference
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the Penn State University profile
  • GPA, SAT and ACT graph for Penn State

Princeton University

Princeton University. _Gene_ / Flickr
  • Location: Princeton, New Jersey
  • Enrollment: 8,181 (5,400 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private research university
  • Explore the Campus: Princeton University Photo Tour
  • Distinctions: member of the Ivy League; one of the top universities in the country; 5 to 1 student / faculty ratio; attractive 500-acre campus; membership in the Association of American Universities for research strengths; chapter of of Phi Beta Kappa for strengths in the liberal arts and sciences; excellent retention and graduation rates
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the Princeton University profile
  • GPA, SAT and ACT graph for Princeton

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

RPI - Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. DannoHung / Flickr
  • Location: Troy, New York
  • Enrollment: 7,363 (6,265 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: technology-focused private university
  • Distinctions: engineering school with a strong undergraduate focus; near the state capital in Albany; good financial aid; competitive Division I hockey team
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the RPI profile
  • GPA, SAT and ACT graph for RPI

St. Lawrence University

Saint Lawrence University - Richardson Hall. Photo Credit: Tara Freeman, SLU Photographer
  • Location: Canton, New York
  • Enrollment: 2,464 (2,377 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private master's-level university
  • Distinctions: 12 to 1 student / faculty ratio; chapter of of Phi Beta Kappa for strengths in the liberal arts and sciences; attractive campus located near the St. Lawrence river; long progressive and coeducational history; Division I hockey team
  • Explore the Campus: St. Lawrence Photo Tour
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the St. Lawrence University profile
  • GPA, SAT and ACT graph for St. Lawrence

SUNY Geneseo

SUNY Geneseo. bdesham / Flickr
  • Location: Geneseo, New York
  • Enrollment: 5,602 (5,512 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: public liberal arts college
  • Explore the Campus: SUNY Geneseo Photo Tour
  • Distinctions: good value for both in-state and out-of-state students; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strengths in the liberal arts and sciences; located on the western edge of the Finger Lakes region
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the SUNY Geneseo profile
  • GPA, SAT and ACT graph for Geneseo

Swarthmore College

Swarthmore Parrish Hall. EAWB / flickr
  • Location: Swarthmore, Pennsylvania
  • Enrollment: 1,543 (all undergraduate)
  • Type of Institution: private liberal arts college
  • Distinctions: 8 to 1 student / faculty ratio; one of the country's top liberal arts colleges; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences; opportunities to take classes at neighboring Bryn Mawr, Haverford, and the University of Pennsylvania
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the Swarthmore College profile
  • GPA, SAT and ACT graph for Swarthmore

University of Maryland

University of Maryland. synaethesia / Flickr
  • Location: College Park, Maryland
  • Enrollment: 39,083 (28,472 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: public reseShippensburg University of arch university
  • Distinctions: one of the country's top public universities; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences; membership in the AAU for strong research programs; member of the NCAA Division I Big Ten Conference
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the University of Maryland profile
  • GPA, SAT and ACT graph for Maryland

University of Pennsylvania

University of Pennsylvania. rubberpaw / Flickr
  • Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Enrollment: 24,960 (11,716 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private research university
  • Distinctions: member of the Ivy League; membership in the Association of American Universities for strong research programs; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences; rich history (founded by Benjamin Franklin)
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the University of Pennsylvania profile
  • GPA, SAT and ACT graph for Penn

University of Pittsburgh (Pitt)

University of Pittsburgh. shadysidelantern / Flickr
  • Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Enrollment: 28,664 (19,123 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: public research university
  • Distinctions: wide-ranging strengths including philosophy, medicine, engineering and business; membership in the Association of American Universities for strong research programs; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences; athletic teams compete in the NCAA Division I Big East Conference
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the University of Pittsburgh profile
  • GPA, SAT and ACT graph for Pitt

University of Rochester

University of Rochester. daniel.green / Flickr