No matter what you want to do with your education – go to graduate school, get a running start in your career, build your own business – having a strong undergraduate background is crucial. While most national universities offer bachelor’s degree programs in a number of disciplines, they don’t all provide the same quality of education.
However, some universities do an extraordinary job educating undergraduate students. These schools often offer the most important things students should look for in an undergraduate degree program: a wide array of majors to choose from, impressive research opportunities and undergraduate core curricula that equip students with a breadth and depth of knowledge. When you choose one of the 20 best degree programs for undergraduates, you won’t just get a bachelor’s degree – you’ll get a well-rounded, comprehensive education that will help you achieve whatever personal and professional goals you pursue.
1. Princeton University
The best national university for education at the undergraduate level is Princeton University in New Jersey. The Ivy League institution didn’t just top U.S. News & Report’s list of the best undergraduate programs. It also earned recognition as the best national university overall, the second best value in education in the country and a number of its undergraduate engineering programs, along with more than 60 of the school’s graduate-level programs. Princeton University’s history dates back to 1746, when the institution was founded in Elizabeth, NJ, as the College of New Jersey. The school kept this name for 150 years, during which it moved twice, first to Newark and then to its present location in Princeton. Princeton University is one of the most selective schools to make the list of the best degree programs for undergraduates, accepting just seven percent of applicants. Princeton University confers two types of degrees on its undergraduate students. Students at the School of Engineering and Applied Science graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering (B.S.E.) degree. The other 75 percent of Princeton University students earn an Artium Baccalaureus, or A.B. degree. Princeton University used the Latin term for its Bachelor of Arts degree when it was first founded 270 years ago and has since decided to keep the designation, in part because it required students to study Latin through 1930.
Students pursuing an Artium Baccalaureus at Princeton University can choose from more than 30 majors, including foreign languages, architecture, music and physical and social sciences. There are also 53 interdisciplinary certificate programs available to undergraduate students. All A.B. undergraduate students at Princeton start off their academic careers with two years of general education courses, cultivating a breadth of knowledge at the collegiate level, before choosing a concentration or major. B.S.E. students also take a range of general education courses, but they focus primarily on coursework in science, mathematics and computing. They choose from six engineering concentration options in the second half of their freshman year and spend the later semesters of their undergraduate education taking advanced coursework and working on independent research. Princeton University’s exceptionally small student to faculty ratio – five to one – means that undergraduates at the school can look forward to small class sizes and personal attention, no matter which degree they’re pursuing. Around 98 percent of undergraduates at Princeton live on campus.
Location: Princeton, NJ
Enrollment: 5,402 students
2. Miami University—Oxford
Landing the second spot on U.S. News & World Report’s list of the best universities for undergraduates is a larger and much more accessible Ohio institution. Miami University—Oxford is a public university that admits 65 percent of applicants. The school was founded in 1809 and named for the nearby Miami Indian Tribe. The school has several claims to fame, including being the founding place of four popular fraternities, the alma mater of former President Benjamin Harrison and the home of many athletes who have gone on to coach collegiate and professional sports. Miami University—Oxford has earned recognition from many publications, including repeated placements on the annual President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, features in Princeton Review’s The Best 381 Colleges, spots on Forbes magazine’s America’s Top Colleges lists and Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine’s 100 Best Values in Public Colleges ranking. U.S. News & World Report has also ranked the school highly on lists of the top public schools, the best undergraduate business programs, the best undergraduate engineering programs and the best colleges for veterans.
Undergraduate students at Miami University—Oxford can choose from more than 100 majors and 100 minors to study. Academic programs at the bachelor’s level run the gamut from technical, like accountancy and biological physics, to the creative, like theatre and music composition. Whatever subject Miami University—Oxford students choose to study, they’re sure to graduate with a strong and well-rounded educational background thanks to the school’s core curriculum, which makes up about 30 percent of their academic work. This program, called the Global Miami Plan, includes coursework in English composition, natural and social sciences, mathematics, humanities, technology, fine arts, reasoning and global perspectives. Students also delve into a thematic sequence of courses outside their major as well as a capstone seminar, workshop or project. To help fight the rising cost of a college education, the institution makes first-time undergraduate students Miami’s Tuition Promise, guaranteeing that the cost of attendance – tuition, fees and room and board – will not increase over the four consecutive years the student remains at the school. Given that the median time to graduation is just 3.7 years at Miami University—Oxford, that offers students plenty of time to earn their degrees without worrying about cost increases.
Location: Oxford, OH
Enrollment: 16,387 students
Tuition: $31,592 (out-of-state), $14,288 (in-state)
3. Yale University
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Third on the list of national universities that excel at teaching undergraduates is another Ivy League institution. Yale University, originally known simply as the Collegiate School, was founded in Saybrook, CT, in 1701. The institution became Yale College in 1718, shortly after moving to its present home in New Haven. In 1732, the school became the first college in America to offer scholarships. Over the course of its more than 300 year history, the institution has continued its tradition of innovation. A number of Yale alumni played integral roles in the American Revolution, signing the Declaration of Independence and serving in the Continental Congress. The school remains revolutionary today. Yale University began pioneering online education options in 2001 and now features a variety of online learning offerings that range from open non-credit classes to for-credit courses and entire certificate programs. U.S. News & World Report has ranked the institution highly on several best colleges lists, including the Best Value Colleges. With an acceptance rate of just seven percent, gaining admission into Yale University isn’t easy – but the top-notch undergraduate education it provides is well worth the effort.
Though the institution as a whole now goes by Yale University, undergraduate education takes place at Yale College. Students pursuing a bachelor’s degree from Yale will start off their liberal arts education taking distributional requirements in the arts and humanities, the sciences, the social sciences, a foreign language, quantitative reasoning and writing. Completing this coursework helps students develop a broad range of knowledge. Undergraduate students must also select a major program of study from the more than 70 Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degree programs available. Students in every major will complete a senior requirement, which could take the form of a project, essay or exam. Students pursuing their B.A. or B.S. at Yale University can also take advantage of extensive research opportunities not often offered to undergraduates. The school encourages all undergraduate students at Yale College to consider spending a summer, a term, or a year studying abroad sometime during their college careers, and 64 percent of students do so.
Location: New Haven, CT
Enrollment: 5,532 students
4. Brown University
Ivy League school Brown University is next on our list of the top degree programs for undergraduate students. The institution became the seventh-oldest college in America when it was founded in 1764. Brown University has a generous financial aid policy, meeting 100 percent of demonstrated student need, and 65 percent of students who receive aid have no student loans. This policy is, in part, what landed Brown University a top ten spot on U.S. News & World Report’s list of the best value schools. The publication also ranked Brown University highly on additional lists, including its Most Innovative Schools ranking. The private college boasts a 7-to-1 student to faculty ratio, and upwards of 70 percent of classes have few than 20 students enrolled. More than three-quarters of the student population at Brown University lives on campus. With an average freshman retention rate of 98 percent, it’s clear that the students who make it into Brown University – a selective school that admits just nine percent of applicants – want to stay there throughout their education.
Brown University is a particularly excellent choice for undergraduate students who value academic freedom and want to customize their education. Unlike many of the schools recognized for their outstanding undergraduate teaching practices, Brown University does not have a required core curriculum of general education courses every student must take. Instead, the school features an open curriculum, one that invites undergraduate students to compile a unique mix of courses that forms their educational core. Brown University also extends this freedom to the selection of a major. Rather than forcing students to choose from a small number of possible degree programs, the school allows students to develop their own individualized program, choosing from more than 2,000 courses offered each year. There are more than 80 concentrations, or majors, that students can explore and customize at Brown University. As a research university, Brown is able to offer undergraduate students research and teaching opportunities beyond what most students at the bachelor’s level can expect.
Location: Providence, RI
Enrollment: 6,652 students
5. Rice University
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Tied for fifth place on U.S. News & World Report’s list of national universities that excel at educating undergraduates is Rice University in Texas. Rice University’s history dates back 125 years, but the story of its founding is somewhat unusual. A businessman named William Marsh Rice chartered the school – then to be called the William Marsh Rice Institute for the Advancement of Literature, Science, and Art – in 1891, but stipulated that only after his death could work on the school begin. Rice was murdered in 1900. The school officially opened as Rice Institute in 1912, on the twelfth anniversary of Rice’s death. Rice University has also earned coveted spots on U.S. News & World Report’s lists of the best colleges for veterans, best value schools and most innovative schools. The student to faculty ratio at Rice University is just six to one, and the median class size at the undergraduate level is just 14 students.
Like other colleges that made this list, Rice University makes it a priority to provide its students with a comprehensive education that includes knowledge in a broad range of subjects. To achieve this goal, students take four courses in each of a set of distribution requirements. These requirements include coursework in the applied sciences, the social sciences and the humanities. At the undergraduate level, students can chose from more than 50 possible majors spread across six varied divisions: Engineering, Architecture, Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, Music and Humanities. Degree program options range from bioengineering to medieval and early modern studies and everything in between. Students can also pursue one of 18 minors or one of four interdisciplinary programs. The school offers online learning options in the form of free massive open online courses (MOOCs) through RiceX and paid certificate programs through Coursera. To help make an undergraduate education affordable, Rice University offers payment plans that allow students to make their tuition payments in installments rather than as one large chunk at the start of the semester.
Location: Houston, TX
Enrollment: 3,910 students
6. Wake Forest University
Another institution where undergraduate education goes above and beyond is North Carolina’s Wake Forest University, a private college that combines a liberal arts education with outstanding research opportunities. Wake Forest University tied for fifth place on U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of the best colleges for an undergraduate education and also earned high rankings on the publication’s list of the best value schools, best undergraduate business programs and top national universities. Since its founding in 1834 as a manual labor institution, the college, originally located in Wake Forest, N.C., has offered students a top-notch education. Students at Wake Forest University live on campus through their junior year of school, enjoying the close-knit community of a residential college. Wake Forest University is known for small class sizes, with a 10 to one student to faculty ratio and an average class size of just 21 students. The institution accepts about 29 percent of applicants.
Students pursuing a bachelor’s degree at Wake Forest University are part of the Undergraduate College or, if pursuing a business degree, the School of Business. Wake Forest University awards both Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts degrees. Students in the School of Business can pursue a B.S. in Business degree in accountancy, business and enterprise management, finance or mathematical business. Undergraduate core requirements at Wake Forest University include a first-year seminar, a writing seminar, a foreign language course and two health and exercise science classes. Students must also complete coursework in the divisions of humanities, literature, fine arts, social sciences and math and natural sciences. However, motivated students at the Undergraduate College can apply to the school’s open curriculum, giving them the flexibility to customize their education more extensively. Undergraduate students can choose from more than 40 majors or create an interdisciplinary major that combines studies in two or more academic departments.
Location: Winston-Salem, NC
Enrollment: 4,871 students
7. Dartmouth College
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Taking seventh place on U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of the best national universities for an undergraduate education is New Hampshire’s Dartmouth College. The Ivy League school’s history dates back to 1769, when a reverend founded the institution primarily to education Native American youth but also students from other heritages. Today, Dartmouth College continues its commitment to diversity, and 35 percent of its undergraduate students are people of color, while eight percent of students seeking a bachelor’s degree are international students. Dartmouth College also ranked fifth on U.S. News & World Report’s list of the best colleges for veterans and seventh among the best value schools in the nation. The school’s graduate programs, too, have received national recognition. Dartmouth College accepts just 11 percent of applicants. The student to faculty ratio at Dartmouth College is just seven to one, and more than 63 percent of classes offered have fewer than 20 students. Notable alumni of Dartmouth College include politician Daniel Webster and author Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss.
Undergraduate students at Dartmouth College follow a quarter-based academic calendar, rather than semester-based one. This means they learn during four ten-week terms spread throughout the year and take classes in the winter and summer as well as spring and fall. A flexible study plan allows Dartmouth College students to customize their education not just based on which courses they take, but when they choose to study. Students can set their study schedule so that they have an entire year off of classes to focus on attaining hands-on experience through an internship or research opportunity – without falling behind in their education or taking time off from college. Dartmouth College offers more than 50 possible academic majors, which students declare during their sophomore years. Students can also personalize their degree path with a modified major or special major, or by selecting academic minors that add breadth and depth to their knowledge. Undergraduate students who begin their academic careers at Dartmouth College like the experience so much that the school boasts a 98 percent freshman retention rate.
Location: Hanover, NH
Enrollment: 4,307 students
8. University of Michigan—Ann Arbor
Tied with Dartmouth College on U.S. News & World Report’s ranking is a much larger public college, the University of Michigan—Ann Abor. Notably, the University of Michigan—Ann Arbor’s School of Education ranked 12th nationally among graduate education programs, and all of the institution’s graduate education specializations rank among the top six programs in the country. The institution has also achieved high rankings on lists of the Top Public Schools, Most Innovative Schools and Best Colleges for Veterans. At the undergraduate level, the University of Michigan—Ann Arbor has earned recognition for its exceptional business and engineering programs, including numerous concentrations within those programs. At the graduate level, the school’s business, education, engineering, law, medical, nursing, social sciences, health, sciences, fine arts, public affairs and library and information sciences programs have all placed highly on the relevant college ranking lists. The University of Michigan—Ann Arbor was founded in 1817 and today has more than 28,000 undergraduate students and upwards of 3,200 acres of land.
The University of Michigan—Ann Arbor has 14 different undergraduate colleges and schools, These colleges specialize in teaching education, architecture and urban planning, engineering, art and design, business, information, medicine, kinesiology, nursing, pharmacy, public policy, natural resources, music and performing arts and literature, science and the arts. The University of Michigan—Ann Arbor offers more than 265 degree programs, the most popular of which are business administration and management, economics, political science and psychology. The school also features residential Learning Communities in which students pursuing degrees in similar subjects live in designated residence halls together, and more than one-third of the college’s sizable population of students choose to live on campus. Despite being such a large school with a large undergraduate enrollment, the class sizes at the University of Michigan—Ann Arbor are surprisingly small. The student to faculty ratio is just 15 to one, and more than 57 percent of courses have fewer than 20 students enrolled. An impressive 97 percent of students who start their college education at the University of Michigan stay their throughout their undergraduate studies.
Location: Ann Arbor, MI
Enrollment: 28,312 students
Tuition: $43,476 (out-of-state), $13,856 (in-state)
9. University of Notre Dame
Also tied for the seventh place spot on U.S. News & World Report’s ranking is the University of Notre Dame, a well-respected private institution located in South Bend, Indiana. The university has also placed highly among lists of the best value schools and the best colleges for veterans and been recognized for its excellent undergraduate programs in engineering and business. Since its founding by a French priest in 1842, the University of Notre Dame has provided students an outstanding Catholic college education, and it retains that Roman Catholic affiliation today. The University of Notre Dame’s commitment to meeting 100 percent of student financial need means that more than three-quarters of students at the school receive aid, averaging more than $37,000 per student. The student to faculty ratio is just 10 to one at the University of Notre Dame. More than 60 percent of courses have fewer than 20 students enrolled, and more than 90 percent of classes are smaller than 50 students.
Students pursuing a bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame can choose from more than 75 academic majors offered by the College of Science, the College of Engineering, the School of Architecture, the Mendoza College of Business and the College of Arts and Letters. University of Notre Dame’s freshmen students kick off their college education with the school’s liberal first year curriculum. The requirements include studies in subjects like mathematics, science, foreign language and writing. They also include specially-design University Seminar courses and a two-semester sequence of college transition and orientation courses known as the Moreau First Year Experience. Completing this coursework early ensures that students start off their college education on the right foot, developing a strong background in a breadth of academic subjects and cultivating versatile thinking and communication skills. The University of Notre Dame is a residential school. While the institution only requires students to live on campus during their freshman year, so many students choose to live there throughout their education that four out of five total University of Notre Dame students live in the on-campus residences. Students overwhelmingly also choose to finish their undergraduate education at the school, which maintains a 98 percent freshman retention rate.
Location: Notre Dame, IN
Enrollment: 8,462 students
10. Stanford University
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Tied for 10th place on U.S. News & World Report’s list of the top national universities with the best undergraduate degree programs is Stanford University in California. Stanford University took second place among the most innovative schools in the nation and fourth on the list of the best value schools. The school has also earned recognition as the best college for American veterans. Its undergraduate engineering programs also rank second in the nation. As the most selective school on our list, Stanford University accepts just five percent of applicants, and its current enrollment is just shy of 7,000. Stanford University celebrated its 125th anniversary of educating students this year, having opened in 1891 after being established in 1885. Personal attention isn’t a problem at Stanford University, as the school boasts an astonishingly small student to faculty ratio of four to one and more than 70 percent of its classes have fewer than 20 students enrolled.
Undergraduates at Stanford University study at the schools of engineering, earth sciences or humanities and sciences. Students can choose from dozens of departmental and interdisciplinary academic majors, the most popular of which include biology, engineering, computer science and the interdisciplinary Science, Technology and Society degree program. No matter which major students at Stanford University choose, they’ll graduate with a comprehensive liberal arts background. Programs offered to help undergraduate students build their skills include introductory seminars, the Oral Communication Program, the Program in Writing and Rhetoric, the Thinking Matters course, the Ways of Thinking/Ways of Doing Applied Quantitative Reasoning course and Special Focus programs. Stanford University also offers residential programs for students interested in participating in learning communities in the arts or sciences or in general studies during their freshman and sophomore years. For undergraduate students who are looking forward to excellent research opportunities, Stanford University is a strong choice. The school has a total research budget of $1.22 billion, with 5,500 externally sponsored active research projects in progress.
Location: Stanford, CA
Enrollment: 6,999 students
11. Vanderbilt University
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Also tying for 10th place on U.S. News & World Report’s Best Undergraduate Teaching list is Vanderbilt University in Tennessee. Vanderbilt University also ties for sixth place on the U.S. News Best Colleges for Veterans list, ties for 15th place among national universities overall and ties for 23rd place among the most innovative schools. Vanderbilt University has also achieved recognition from other publications, like the Princeton Review. The school ranked highly on several lists, including first on College City Gets High Marks, second on the Happiest Students list, fourth on Great Financial Aid, seventh on Best Quality of Life, seventh on Best Financial Aid and 11th on the Most Beautiful Campus list. The private research university’s history dates back to 1873. Though founded with the help of a Methodist bishop, who won support – and funding to the tune of $1 million – from 79-year-old Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, Vanderbilt University no longer reflects any religious affiliation. It does, however, consider an applicant’s character to be a strong factor in its admissions process, and accepts just 12 percent of applicants.
The College of Arts and Science, the Blair School of Music, the School of Engineering and the Peabody College of education and human development at Vanderbilt University all offer bachelor’s degree programs. Students can choose from nearly 70 academic majors in disciplines like the arts, natural and social sciences, humanities, engineering and education. At the undergraduate level, Vanderbilt University’s student to faculty ratio is just eight to one. Nearly 99 percent of undergraduate students at Vanderbilt University study full-time. Only freshmen at Vanderbilt University must live on campus, residing in the Martha Rivers Ingram Commons as part of a first-year learning community. However, many students choose to stay on campus even after their freshman year, and 93 percent of all undergraduate students currently reside in campus housing. Vanderbilt University meets 100 percent of demonstrated student financial need without loans, allowing many students to graduate debt-free. Nearly two-thirds of students at Vanderbilt receive financial aid of some kind.
Location: Nashville, TN
12. College of William & Mary
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Twelfth on U.S. News & World Report’s ranking is Virginia’s College of William & Mary. U.S. News & World Report ranked the College of William and Mary sixth on its Top Public Schools list, tied for 19th place among the Best Colleges for Veterans, 32nd on the National Universities list and tied for 43rd among undergraduate business programs. Founded in 1693 by King William III and Queen Mary II of England, the public school happens to be the second oldest college in the United States. Founding Father and former President Thomas Jefferson is just one of the College of William & Mary’s distinguished alumni. The research university is one of only eight institutions in America considered to be a “Public Ivy” school – public institutions that offer an education and college experience on par with prestigious private Ivy League schools. The College of William & Mary accepts about 34 percent of applicants.
Undergraduate education at the College of William & Mary begins at the Arts & Sciences program, which awards nearly 90 percent of the school’s bachelor’s degrees. During their studies, students seeking a bachelor’s degree will develop a strong liberal arts foundation as they complete coursework required by the College Curriculum. Some of these course requirements focus on first-year learning, while others, like an original research requirement, aren’t completed until the senior year of studies. Business, management, marketing, biological sciences, psychology and the social sciences are among the most popular undergraduate majors offered at the College of William & Mary. Students can also pursue an interdisciplinary major or earn a degree in a unique self-directed major. Undergraduate students at the College of William and Mary enjoy small class sizes, with a student to faculty ratio of just 12 to one and fewer than 20 students in 49 percent of courses offered. The school maintains a high freshman retention rate of 96 percent.
Location: Williamsburg, VA
Enrollment: 6,301 students
Tuition: $41,718 (out-of-state), $18,687 (in-state)
13. Purdue University—West Lafayette
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Another public institution, Purdue University—West Lafayette, occupies the 13th spot on U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of the best national universities for undergraduate studies. The school has also earned recognition as one of the Most Innovative Schools, Top Public Schools and Best Colleges for Veterans. Purdue University—West Lafayette’s undergraduate business and engineering programs, in particular, have been recognized for excellence. A survey published by The Wall Street Journal and Times Higher Education recently rated Purdue University the fourth best public college in the United States. With an in-state tuition cost of just over $10,000 per year, Purdue University—West Lafayette is the most affordable college on our list for in-state students – and its $28,804 out-of-state tuition cost isn’t bad, either. Purdue University was founded in 1869, but the land-grant college’s history dates back to 1862, when President Abraham Lincoln signed into law the Morrill Land Grant Act.
Undergraduate students at Purdue University—West Lafayette can choose from hundreds of possible academic majors in a range of disciplines. This wide variety of bachelor’s degree programs is offered by Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management, College of Liberal Arts, College of Science, College of Engineering, Purdue Polytechnic Institute, College of Agriculture, College of Education, College of Health and Human Sciences, College of Pharmacy, College of Veterinary Medicine and Exploratory Studies. One thing that makes Purdue University—West Lafayette’s undergraduate education stand out is its commitment to learning communities for first-year students. With a student to faculty ratio of 12 to one, undergraduates at Purdue can enjoy small class sizes and personal attention. Purdue University—West Lafayette accepts 59 percent of applicants, making it one of the most accessible schools on our list. Once students get into Purdue University—West Lafayette, they stay there. The college’s freshman retention rate is 92 percent.
Location: West Lafayette, IN
Enrollment: 29,497 students
Tuition: $28,804 (out-of-state), $10,002 (in-state)
14. Duke University
Next on our list is private Methodist college Duke University. U.S. News & World Report ranked Duke University in a four-way tie for 14th place on its list of the best national universities for earning a bachelor’s degree. The publication also awarded Duke University high rankings in categories like the Best Colleges for Veterans, the Best Value Schools, the Most Innovative Schools and the best undergraduate biomedical engineering degree programs. Duke University’s history dates back to 1838, when Union Institute opened in what was previously Brown’s Schoolhouse in Randolph County, North Carolina. The institution was rechartered as Normal College in 1851 and then became Trinity College in 1859. The school moved to Durham, N.C. – its current location – in 1892. Not until 1924 did the college take on its current name in honor of its benefactors, the Duke family. Small class sizes are common at Duke University, where the student to faculty ratio is just six to one and 73 percent of courses offered have fewer than 20 students enrolled.
There are two main paths of study for undergraduate students at Duke University: the liberal arts and engineering. Around 80 percent of students pursuing a bachelor’s degree from Duke University study at the Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, where they can chose from 48 different liberal arts majors. However, most students here don’t choose just one program of study. Close to 83 percent of undergraduate students at Duke University earn a complete a minor, certificate or dual major in addition to their intended major. Students also complete a required core curriculum. This curriculum includes studies in five areas of knowledge: civilizations, quantitative studies, natural sciences, social sciences and arts, literatures. It also requires a focus on a variety of modes of inquiry, including writing, research, foreign language, cross-cultural inquiry, ethical inquiry and inquiries in science, technology and society. Duke University undergraduates who choose the engineering path are part of the Pratt School of Engineering, though many students complete a double major in non-engineering disciplines. Though engineering students don’t follow the same core curriculum as liberal arts students, the first-year engineering experience covers a breadth of topics in engineering opportunities.
Location: Durham, NC
Enrollment: 6,639 students
15. Georgia State University
Another institution included in the four-way tie for 14th place on U.S. News & World Report’s list is a public school, Georgia State University. With upwards of 25,000 undergraduate students, Georgia State University is one of the larger schools on our list. It’s also one of the more inclusive, accepting 58 percent of applicants. At around $10,600 for in-state students and $28,900 for out-of-state students, Georgia State University is among the most affordable schools to make the list. In addition to excelling at teaching undergraduate students, Georgia State University was named fourth on U.S. News & World Report’s Most Innovative Schools list and has earned national recognition for its quality undergraduate business degree programs. Since its founding in 1913, Georgia State University has awarded 227,705 degrees. As a research university, Georgia State University offers plenty of research opportunities – including high-tech facilities and more than $120 million in research funding – to undergraduate students as well as graduate students.
Undergraduate students at Georgia State University have more than 70 academic major options to choose from as well as more than 50 possible minors. Students can choose to pursue up to two minors per major. Some of the most popular undergraduate degree programs at Georgia State University include biological sciences, business, management, marketing, psychology, social sciences and art. In addition to completing the required coursework for their selected major, students seeking a bachelor’s degree from Georgia State University must satisfy the school’s core curriculum requirements. These include courses in English composition, mathematics, natural science, social science, art, humanities and foreign language. Students must also take classes known as Institutional Foundations, which include studies in critical thinking, human communication, and interdisciplinary courses in cultural, scientific, and human expression perspectives. The school also offers optional Freshman Learning Communities to help students transition into college life and make friends with fellow students who have similar academic interests.
Location: Atlanta, GA
Enrollment: 25,160 students
Tuition: $28,896 (out-of-state), $10,686 (in-state)
16. University of Wisconsin—Madison
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With more than 31,600 undergraduate students, the University of Wisconsin—Madison is the largest school on our list. The public institution is also among the most affordable colleges on the list. U.S. News & World Report ranked the University of Wisconsin—Madison among the top public schools in America and praised its undergraduate business and engineering degree programs as well as placing it tied for 14th place on the Best Undergraduate Teaching list. The institution was founded in 1848 and currently has 428,257 living alumni. The University of Wisconsin—Madison is a research university that spends $1 billion on research every year. Though the University of Wisconsin—Madison offers programs at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels, 65 percent of the degrees it awarded last year were bachelor’s degrees. Despite its large size, the University of Wisconsin—Madison has a student to faculty ratio of 17 to one, and more than 45 percent of courses at the school have fewer than 20 students enrolled.
Students find plenty of academic variety at the University of Wisconsin—Madison. The school offers 232 majors and certificate programs at the undergraduate level and a total of 4,769 courses to choose from, so it’s easy to customize your education. The University of Wisconsin—Madison places a priority on educating undergraduate students in a breadth of academic subjects. The general education requirements include coursework in social studies, natural science and Literature, arts and the humanities as well as classes designed to improve communication and literacy, enhance quantitative reasoning skills and develop an understanding of other cultures and ethnicities. With a 49 percent acceptance rate, the University of Wisconsin—Madison is more inclusive than many of the schools on our list. Once students get into the college, they tend to stay there for the duration of their education. The University of Wisconsin—Madison has an average freshman retention rate of 95 percent.
Location: Madison, WI
Enrollment: 31,662 students
Tuition: $32,738 (out-of-state), $10,488 (in-state)
17. Washington University in St. Louis
Washington University in St. Louis is yet another school that tied for 14th place on U.S. News & World Report’s Best Undergraduate Teaching list. The private Missouri institution has been educating students since 1853 and has earned recognition as a best value school, best college for veterans and top-ranked national university, as well as a college with outstanding undergraduate business and engineering programs. The Princeton Review has also ranked Washington University in St. Louis highly on lists like Best College Dorms (ranked number one), Best-Run Colleges and Best Quality of Life. The student to faculty ratio at Washington University in St. Louis is just eight to one, and more than 63 percent of undergraduate courses contain fewer than 20 students. Washington University in St. Louis has a 96 percent freshman retention rate and an 86 percent four-year graduation rate, which shows that students who pursue a bachelor’s degree from this institution want to stay there until it’s time to graduate – and that the majority of students will graduate on time.
The majority of undergraduate students at Washington University in St. Louis – 4,117 of them, to be precise – study in the School of Arts & Sciences. The School of Engineering follows with an undergraduate enrollment of 1,291, while 942 undergrads are part of the School of Business. The School of Art is home to 294 undergraduates, and 197 students attend the School of Architecture. The College of Arts & Sciences now follows the Integrated Inquiry, or IQ, Curriculum. Through this curriculum, students develop core skills in writing, numbers (Applied Numeracy) and social differentiation as well as studying a breadth of academic subjects that include the humanities, social and behavioral sciences, natural sciences and mathematics and language and cultural diversity. Around 80 percent of undergraduate students at Washington University in St. Louis pursue more than one academic major or minor, and close to 40 percent fit a study abroad experience into their college education.
Location: St. Louis, MO
Enrollment: 7,504 students
18. University of California—Berkeley
One of three schools tied for 18th place on U.S. News & World Report’s list of the Best Undergraduate Teaching National Universities is the University of California—Berkeley. The large institution is the best public school in America, as well as one of the best colleges for veterans and most innovative schools, according to U.S. News & World Report. The University of California—Berkeley’s undergraduate business degree program tied for second place in the nation, and its undergraduate engineering degree is third in the nation. The State Constitution of California, which was ratified in 1849, expressed hope for the establishment of a college that would “contribute even more than California’s gold to the glory and happiness of advancing generations.” In 1868, that aspiration became a reality with the founding of the University of California. UC Berkeley is the oldest – and one of the most highly praised – University of California campuses
The University of California—Berkeley offers more than 120 academic majors for undergraduate students, ranging from molecular biology to theater and performance studies. Six of the University of California—Berkeley’s 14 colleges educate undergraduate students: the College of Letters and Science, the College of Chemistry, the College of Engineering, the College of Environmental Design, the College of Natural Resources and the Haas School of Business. While undergraduate graduation requirements for University of California—Berkeley students vary depending on the specific college and degree program they’re pursuing, there are a few requirements all UC Berkeley students must meet. The University of California as a whole requires students to satisfy an entry-level writing requirement and an American History and Institutions requirement, either prior to enrolling or during their college studies. The Berkeley campus requires all students to take an American Cultures course, but with more than 50 departments offering courses from different frameworks that fulfill this requirement, there’s a class that’s relevant to every major and every student.
Location: Berkeley, CA
Enrollment: 27,496 students
Tuition: $40,191 (out-of-state), $13,509 (in-state)
19. University of Maryland—Baltimore County
Also tied for 18th on U.S. News & World Report’s list is the University of Maryland—Baltimore County (UMBC). A public honors university with an affordable price tag (especially for Maryland residents), UMBC is also the youngest school on the list, having been founded in 1963. U.S. News & World Report has ranked the institution the fifth most innovative school in the nation, tied for 83rd place among the top public schools and tied for 159th place among national universities. UMBC operates on a 4-1-4-based academic calendar, which means the school fits in a month-long term in January in between the traditional fall and spring semesters. The institution offers excellent research opportunities at the undergraduate level in subjects that range from the technical to the creative and provides research funding of up to $1,500 through its Undergraduate Research Awards. UMBC is among the more inclusive schools on our list, accepting 59 percent of applicants.
Undergraduate students at the University of Maryland—Baltimore County can choose from more than 40 possible academic majors in subjects that range from art and the humanities to mathematics and the natural sciences. Among the most popular programs of study at the undergraduate level at UMBC are psychology, the social sciences, engineering, biological sciences and computer and information sciences. UMBC awards Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), Bachelor of Science (B.S.) and Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.) degrees. Required general education courses at UMBC include studies in physical education, writing, English composition, mathematics, arts and humanities, sciences, social sciences, culture and a foreign language. The honors university requires that students take 45 college credits – more than one-third of their undergraduate education – in upper level courses in order to graduate. The student to faculty ratio at UMBC is 19 to one, and more than 38 percent of courses offered have fewer than 20 students enrolled.
Location: Baltimore, MD
Enrollment: 11,243 students
Tuition: $24,492 (out-of-state), $11,264 (in-state)
20. Worcester Polytechnic Institute
IMAGE SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons, public domain
Completing our top 20 list is Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts. When you think of national universities that provide an exceptional undergraduate education, you might not think of a technical institute. However, education in technology and the applied sciences isn’t the only thing Worcester Polytechnic Institute excels at. The institution is a prominent private research university that dates back to 1865. U.S. News & World Report ranked the Worcester Polytechnic Institute tied for 18th place on its Best Undergraduate Teaching list as well as in coveted spots on the Best Colleges for Veterans list, the Best Value Schools list, the National Universities list, the Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs list and the Best Undergraduate Business Programs list. Worcester Polytechnic Institute accepts 49 percent of applicants, and students at the institution have a four-year graduation rate of 76 percent. The school boasts a student to faculty ratio of 13 to one, and more than 64 percent of courses at Worcester Polytechnic Institute have fewer than 20 students.
A bachelor’s degree program at Worcester Polytechnic Institute isn’t your typical undergraduate education. For one thing, the school follows a unique academic calendar, with four seven-week terms during the traditional school year and two additional terms during the summer. These shorter but more frequent terms allow full-time students to take just three intensive classes at a time and focus their full attention on these studies. Undergraduate students follow the WPI plan, which focuses on attaining hands-on experience early through project based learning. While the majority of the school’s dozens of majors are based in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), Worcester Polytechnic Institute strongly encourages students to pursue passions of all kinds. Around 80 percent of students there play a sport, and the curriculum is such that 100 percent of undergraduate students will complete the equivalent of a minor in the humanities and arts. The school also offers a teacher preparation program that allows STEM students to expand their career options by preparing for a role as a middle or high school educator.
Location: Worcester, MA
Enrollment: 4,299 students
Editor’s Note: This list of the 20 universities that provide the best undergraduate education is meant to be used solely as a guide to aid students in their college search. Data such as enrollment figures, acceptance rates, tuition costs, school history and ranking information were provided by U.S. News & World Report, the Princeton Review and the official websites of the above ranked institutions. Students should use this information as a starting place for their own research as they determine which college is right for them.