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    Top Private Colleges & Universities in the US

    Written by Gabriel Jimenez-Ekman

    Gabriel Jimenez-Ekman is a content editor and writer at Scholarships360. He has managed communications and written content for a diverse array of organizations, including a farmer’s market, a concert venue, a student farm, an environmental NGO, and a PR agency. Gabriel graduated from Kenyon College with a degree in sociology.

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    Learn about our editorial policies

    Updated: December 11th, 2023

    One important decision when it comes time to look for colleges is whether you want a public or private school. Private schools tend to charge higher tuition, but usually offer more generous merit and need-based financial aid. So, while the price tag may look intimidating, they may end up being cheaper than many public options.

    Check out our list below to compare the top private colleges and universities by size, graduation rate, admissions rate, cost, and much more. And don’t forget to apply for scholarships to help with the financial side of things!

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    623 colleges
    Sort by
    M

    Massachusetts Institute of Technology

    Cambridge, MA • Private, Non-Profit, City, Need-Blind

    Top College Top College, Top Affordability
    Top College Top College
    Top College Top College: Affordability

    MIT is a world leader in science, engineering, and technology education and research. The Institute is known for its rigorous academics and innovative culture, fostering technological breakthroughs and alumni such…Read More

    MIT is a world leader in science, engineering, and technology…Read More

    4% acceptance
    95% graduation rate
    4,638 undergrads
    $20,338 net price
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    S

    Stanford University

    Stanford, CA • Private, Non-Profit, Suburb, Need-Blind

    Top College Top College, Top Affordability
    Top College Top College
    Top College Top College: Affordability

    Stanford University is a private, non-profit 4-year college located in Stanford, California. There are currently 7,761 undergraduates at Stanford and the school’s acceptance rate is 4%. The tuition at Stanford…

    Stanford University is a private, non-profit 4-year college located in…Read More

    4% acceptance
    95% graduation rate
    7,761 undergrads
    $10,851 net price

    Princeton University

    Princeton, NJ • Private, Non-Profit, City, Need-Blind

    Top College Top College, Top Affordability
    Top College Top College
    Top College Top College: Affordability

    Princeton is renowned for having some of the best academics in the entire world. Famous for its Eating Clubs, Princeton has produced alumni such as Woodrow Wilson, Jeff Bezos, and…Read More

    Princeton is renowned for having some of the best academics…Read More

    6% acceptance
    97% graduation rate
    5,527 undergrads
    $8,143 net price
    P

    University of Pennsylvania

    Philadelphia, PA • Private, Non-Profit, City, Need-Blind

    Top College Top College, Top Affordability
    Top College Top College
    Top College Top College: Affordability

    Located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the University of Pennsylvania, commonly known as Penn, is an Ivy League institution renowned for its blend of rigorous academics and vibrant campus life. Founded by…Read More

    Located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the University of Pennsylvania, commonly known…Read More

    7% acceptance
    96% graduation rate
    10,572 undergrads
    $26,138 net price
    F

    Franklin W Olin College of Engineering

    Needham, MA • Private, Non-Profit, Suburb

    Top College Top College
    Top College Top College

    Franklin W Olin College of Engineering is a private, non-profit 4-year college located in Needham, Massachusetts. There are currently 356 undergraduates at Olin College and the school’s acceptance rate is…Read More

    Franklin W Olin College of Engineering is a private, non-profit…Read More

    19% acceptance
    94% graduation rate
    356 undergrads
    $25,924 net price
    C

    Columbia University in the City of New York

    New York, NY • Private, Non-Profit, City, Need-Blind

    Top College Top College, Top Affordability
    Top College Top College
    Top College Top College: Affordability

    Located in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of Upper Manhattan, Columbia University is renowned for its prestigious Core Curriculum, which includes interdisciplinary courses in literature, philosophy, history, and more. Columbia also…Read More

    Located in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of Upper Manhattan, Columbia…Read More

    4% acceptance
    95% graduation rate
    8,902 undergrads
    $23,497 net price
    H

    Harvard University

    Cambridge, MA • Private, Non-Profit, City, Need-Blind

    Top College Top College, Top Affordability
    Top College Top College
    Top College Top College: Affordability

    Harvard University is a private, non-profit 4-year college located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. There are currently 7,973 undergraduates at Harvard and the school’s acceptance rate is 3%. The tuition at Harvard…

    Harvard University is a private, non-profit 4-year college located in…Read More

    3% acceptance
    98% graduation rate
    7,973 undergrads
    $19,500 net price
    Y

    Yale University

    New Haven, CT • Private, Non-Profit, City, Need-Blind

    Top College Top College, Top Affordability
    Top College Top College
    Top College Top College: Affordability

    Yale University, located in New Haven, Connecticut, is known for its prestigious law school and its secret societies, including Skull and Bones. The Ivy League institution has produced many influential…Read More

    Yale University, located in New Haven, Connecticut, is known for…Read More

    5% acceptance
    98% graduation rate
    6,639 undergrads
    $18,535 net price
    H

    Harvey Mudd College

    Claremont, CA • Private, Non-Profit, Suburb

    Top College Top College
    Top College Top College

    Harvey Mudd College is a private, non-profit 4-year college located in Claremont, California. There are currently 906 undergraduates at Harvey Mudd and the school’s acceptance rate is 13%. The tuition…

    Harvey Mudd College is a private, non-profit 4-year college located…Read More

    13% acceptance
    92% graduation rate
    906 undergrads
    $39,671 net price
    J

    Johns Hopkins University

    Baltimore, MD • Private, Non-Profit, City, Need-Blind

    Top College Top College, Top Affordability
    Top College Top College
    Top College Top College: Affordability

    Did you know that Johns Hopkins University was the first research university in the United States? Located in Baltimore, Maryland, it is renowned for its medical, public health, and engineering…Read More

    Did you know that Johns Hopkins University was the first…Read More

    7% acceptance
    94% graduation rate
    5,643 undergrads
    $20,820 net price
    P

    Pomona College

    Claremont, CA • Private, Non-Profit, Suburb, Need-Blind

    Top College Top College, Top Affordability
    Top College Top College
    Top College Top College: Affordability

    Pomona College, located in Claremont, California, is a premier liberal arts college known for its academic excellence and close-knit community. Founded in 1887, Pomona is one of the Claremont Colleges…

    Pomona College, located in Claremont, California, is a premier liberal…Read More

    7% acceptance
    95% graduation rate
    1,699 undergrads
    $18,084 net price
    G

    Georgetown University

    Washington, DC • Private, Non-Profit, City, Need-Blind

    Top College Top College, Top Affordability
    Top College Top College
    Top College Top College: Affordability

    Georgetown University is a private, non-profit 4-year college located in Washington, District Of Columbia. There are currently 7,343 undergraduates at Georgetown and the school’s acceptance rate is 12%. The tuition…

    Georgetown University is a private, non-profit 4-year college located in…Read More

    12% acceptance
    96% graduation rate
    7,343 undergrads
    $35,965 net price
    C

    Claremont McKenna College

    Claremont, CA • Private, Non-Profit, Suburb

    Top College Top College, Top Affordability
    Top College Top College
    Top College Top College: Affordability

    Claremont McKenna College is a private, non-profit 4-year college located in Claremont, California. There are currently 1,383 undergraduates at CMC and the school’s acceptance rate is 10%. The tuition at…

    Claremont McKenna College is a private, non-profit 4-year college located…Read More

    10% acceptance
    91% graduation rate
    1,383 undergrads
    $19,489 net price
    R

    Rice University

    Houston, TX • Private, Non-Profit, City, Need-Blind

    Top College Top College, Top Affordability
    Top College Top College
    Top College Top College: Affordability

    Rice University is a private, non-profit 4-year college located in Houston, Texas. There are currently 4,480 undergraduates at Rice and the school’s acceptance rate is 9%. The tuition at Rice…

    Rice University is a private, non-profit 4-year college located in…Read More

    9% acceptance
    94% graduation rate
    4,480 undergrads
    $15,091 net price
    B

    Babson College

    Wellesley, MA • Private, Non-Profit, Suburb

    Top College Top College
    Top College Top College

    Babson College is a private, non-profit 4-year college located in Wellesley, Massachusetts. There are currently 2,709 undergraduates at Babson and the school’s acceptance rate is 22%. The tuition at Babson…

    Babson College is a private, non-profit 4-year college located in…Read More

    22% acceptance
    93% graduation rate
    2,709 undergrads
    $34,994 net price
    W

    Williams College

    Williamstown, MA • Private, Non-Profit, Town, Need-Blind

    Top College Top College, Top Affordability
    Top College Top College
    Top College Top College: Affordability

    Williams College, located in Williamstown, Massachusetts, consistently ranks as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country. Known for its tutorial system, similar to Oxford, Williams has notable…Read More

    Williams College, located in Williamstown, Massachusetts, consistently ranks as one…Read More

    9% acceptance
    95% graduation rate
    2,138 undergrads
    $26,775 net price
    A

    Amherst College

    Amherst, MA • Private, Non-Profit, Suburb, Need-Blind

    Top College Top College, Top Affordability
    Top College Top College
    Top College Top College: Affordability

    Amherst College is a private, non-profit 4-year college located in Amherst, Massachusetts. There are currently 1,898 undergraduates at Amherst and the school’s acceptance rate is 7%. The tuition at Amherst…

    Amherst College is a private, non-profit 4-year college located in…Read More

    7% acceptance
    92% graduation rate
    1,898 undergrads
    $25,035 net price
    C

    California Institute of Technology

    Pasadena, CA • Private, Non-Profit, City, Need-Blind

    California Institute of Technology is a private, non-profit 4-year college located in Pasadena, California. There are currently 982 undergraduates at Caltech and the school’s acceptance rate is 3%. The tuition…

    California Institute of Technology is a private, non-profit 4-year college…Read More

    3% acceptance
    94% graduation rate
    982 undergrads
    $16,550 net price
    C

    Cornell University

    Ithaca, NY • Private, Non-Profit, City, Need-Blind

    Top College Top College
    Top College Top College

    Located in Ithaca, New York, Cornell University is known for its Ivy League member status and scenic campus. Notable alumni include Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Bill Nye, and Toni Morrison.

    Located in Ithaca, New York, Cornell University is known for…Read More

    7% acceptance
    95% graduation rate
    15,676 undergrads
    $29,651 net price
    S

    Swarthmore College

    Swarthmore, PA • Private, Non-Profit, Suburb, Need-Blind

    Top College Top College, Top Affordability
    Top College Top College
    Top College Top College: Affordability

    Swarthmore College is a private, non-profit 4-year college located in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. There are currently 1,619 undergraduates at Swarthmore and the school’s acceptance rate is 7%. The tuition at Swarthmore…

    Swarthmore College is a private, non-profit 4-year college located in…Read More

    7% acceptance
    94% graduation rate
    1,619 undergrads
    $21,595 net price
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    About the Data

    We sort colleges on our lists according to their Scholarships360 Top Colleges Index Score. This score is calculated using up-to-date information taken directly from the College Scorecard. Additional information is sourced from the colleges themselves, as well as other publicly available information. If you see an error, feel free to contact us.

    Advantages of private schools

    There are many great reasons to attend a private school. Maybe you’re interested in the liberal arts experience, or you want to attend a school with a religious affiliation, or a specific private school has just caught your eye.

    Private schools tend to offer more generous financial aid, both merit and need-based, than public schools. So, even though their price tag is higher, they can end up actually being cheaper for many students.

    Many of the country’s most prestigious schools are also private. Harvard, Yale, Princeton, MIT, Stanford, and many others are all private options. That’s not to say there are no prestigious public options; schools like University of California Berkeley are known around the world for their strong academics. However, to some, a private education carries more prestigious connotations.

    Also see: What’s the difference between a private and public university?

    Why you should apply to public schools too

    Even if you are primarily interested in private colleges and universities, it’s a good idea to apply to an in-state public school as well. Private schools may be your first choice, but in-state public schools can serve as excellent financial safety schools, and your application may end up coming in handy.

    Advice From a College Access Professional

    Finding a financially safe school is one of the most important decisions a high school senior can make. For many students, an in-state public institution is a great bet for a safe financial school because you will qualify for in-state tuition. When I worked in school counseling the University of Connecticut was a popular choice for our students, because our high school was in Connecticut so students received discounted, in-state tuition. 

    Some public colleges also offer tuition discounts to out-of-state students through tuition reciprocity. In Connecticut, in-state students were also eligible to receive tuition discounts at out-of-state colleges like the University of Maine. 

    Will Geiger | Scholarships360 Co-Founder, Former Associate Director of College Counseling at Hopkins School

    Other college lists to consider

    Frequently asked questions about private colleges

    Are private colleges more expensive than public?

    Private colleges typically carry a higher price tag than public schools. However, they also tend to be more generous with financial aid. If you’ve heard horror stories about the cost of private schools, don’t let that deter you from applying. At the end of the day, there is no way to tell how expensive a college will be until you apply and receive your financial aid award letter.

    Are private colleges better than public?

    Private colleges are not any better or worse than public schools as a rule. Every school is different, and the best way to decide on a school is to compare them directly. To learn more about the differences between these two types of schools, check out our article on public vs private colleges.

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