Discover 10 of the Best Colleges in New England

The United States was born on the east coast. Philadelphia and Boston were the nation’s first epicenters.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that New England houses some of the country’s oldest and most respected schools. 

Sure, that includes Ivy League schools such as Harvard and Yale. But it also includes excellent state schools and religious institutions.

Located in the center of America’s intellectual and cultural movements, New England’s colleges played an instrumental part in developing the country’s character. 

These schools not only shared with the world the best of American science and writing but also brought these innovators back as instructors, training the next generation.

Today, New England colleges continue their proud traditions. Their innovations continue to shake the world, and their cultural offerings continue to enflame minds. 

The work began by America’s founders is carried on in the halls of MIT, the ecological centers of the University of Vermont, and the campus grounds of Brown University.

With so many vaunted options to choose from, future college students are sure to be overwhelmed. 

Instead of ranking the top 10 colleges in New England, we are going to instead provide you with a hand-picked list of 10 of the best NE schools with different offerings, locations, histories, and more.

University of Vermont (Burlington, VM)

University of Vermont
Niranjan Arminius, UVM, CC BY-SA 4.0

Established in 1791, the University of Vermont is one of the oldest institutions in the country. 

Thanks to this distinction, U Vermont has a reputation as a “public Ivy,” a public institution that provides an education similar to those from an Ivy League school.

Over its 231-year history, the school has developed many notable features, such as the Lawrence Debate Union

Dating back to 1899, the Lawrence Debate Union has represented the school all over the world, winning top-level competitions.

The school also enriches the cultural life of its community with the many concerts it brings to the area. 

The school’s program board prides itself on hosting acts from all over the world, including Bob Dylan and the Roots. 

The annual Spring Fest hosted on campus is a celebration for both students and Burlington residents.

University of Maine (Orono, ME)

If you want a small liberal arts experience at a state school price, then the University of Maine may be the place for you. 

UMaine offers everything you’d want from a flagship school, including 90 undergraduate majors and 70 postgraduate programs.

Between UMaine’s seventeen Division I sports teams and its more than 200 student organizations, there’s always something on campus to do.

But UMaine earns its reputation through its outstanding research. As a Tier-1 institution, the school devotes much of its resources to research, funding several institutions and centers.

Established in 1996, the school’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center works with the National Science Foundation to advance the understanding of material sciences and manufacturing. 

In the Multisensory Interactive Media Lab, academics develop the “internet of everything,” finding new ways to embed digital capability into everyday items.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA)

Public domain photo by Daderot via Wikimedia Commons

Founded in 1861, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has earned a reputation as a leader in every STEM field.

Not only has the school’s graduates gone on to win nearly every major award, but its faculty includes leaders of every science and technology subject. 

Its teachers include Nobel Prize-winning economist Peter Diamond, who helped develop American social security policy. 

Computer scientist and MacArthur Fellow Regina Barzilay works as a faculty lead in the Jameel Clinic, lending her expertise in artificial intelligence.

With experts such as these in the faculty, MIT has been established itself as a home for excellent research. 

Most of MIT’s research funding from the U.S. government includes $27.4 million from NASA, $256 million from the Department of Health and Human Services, and $97.5 million from the Department of Defense.

Harvard University (Cambridge, MA)

Harvard Building
Public domain photo by Daderot via Wikimedia Commons

Harvard University hardly needs an introduction. 

The oldest institution of higher learning in the United States, Harvard has been associated with hundreds of award winners, including Nobel laureates and Rhodes scholars.

That type of success comes only with top-level funding, which Harvard fortunately has. Harvard is one of the richest schools in the world, working with an endowment of approximately $41.9 billion.

In addition to excellent research centers and institutes, the University also uses that funding to house its many museums and libraries.  

At the center of the Harvard library system is The Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library, the home of an original Gutenberg Bible and approximately 3.5 million other books.

Likewise, the Fogg Museum, the Busch-Reisinger Museum, and the Sackler Museum hold some of Western Civilization’s most important works. 

Art lovers can find masterpieces by the German Expressionists and Dutch Masters such as Steen and Rembrandt.

Boston University (Boston, MA)

Boston University
Public domain photo by Daderot via Wikimedia Commons

While Boston University has an academic record that rivals that of any other New England school, the institution distinguishes itself with a commitment to ethics. 

Since the 1960s, Boston University has reserved the Martin Luther King Chair of Social Ethics for scholars dedicated to creating a more just and equitable world.

Thanks to its commitment to equality, BU has a number of programs designed to empower students. 

BU displays artwork from its students throughout its campuses, allowing them to take ownership of their school. One such installment is “Panthera Tigris,” created by Kayleigha Zawacki to highlight conservation issues.

BU also works to expand the horizons of its students with new scientific programs. The school secured $1 million to develop a new Faculty of Computing & Data Sciences position. From this position, academics will study the effects of technology used in everyday life.

Brown University (Providence, RI)

Brown University
Filetime, John Hay Library (Brown), CC BY-SA 4.0

One of the “colonial colleges” and a member of the Ivy League, Brown University is one of the country’s most respected institutions. 

Since its founding in 1794, Brown University broke traditions by becoming one of the first schools to accept students of any religious affiliation.

Brown remains one of the most innovative schools in the country, even today. With a top-level engineering program and one of the country’s oldest medical schools, Brown paves the way in the STEM fields. 

For more than fifty years, the school has used an “open curriculum,” which allows students to be “the architects of their own syllabus” instead of adherents to a predetermined program.

This unique approach has allowed Brown to train some of the greatest minds in the country. Alumni include educational reformer Horace Mann and author Lois Lowry, who wrote the YA staple The Giver.

Boston College (Newton, MA)

Boston College
BCLicious, Burns Library Boston College, CC BY-SA 4.0

Designed by Jesuits to empower students to serve others and strengthen their faith, Boston College is a Catholic liberal arts school. 

The school keeps the designation “college” to underscore its small community of like-minded learners but make no mistake: Boston College is a top-level research school.

BC features everything you’d want from a less prestigious liberal arts school to maintain its small school character. 

Student-run radio stations and newspapers can be found throughout campus, ranging from the satirical magazine The New England Classic to the progressive paper The Gavel to the traditional Catholic periodical The Torch.

A relatively small college, BC has many houses of worship for students to attend. The most important of these is the Church of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, where most students attend and volunteer.

University of New Hampshire (Durham, NH)

University of New Hampshire
Millyard800, University of New Hampshire Urban Campus, CC BY-SA 4.0

Like all of the schools on this list, the University of New Hampshire makes the most of its academic resources.

One such resource is the UNH InterOperability Laboratory, with which STEM majors work with communication and networking technology. 

The Lab provides both training to its volunteers and valuable data to the companies who work with it.

In the Carsey School of Public Policy, sociology and political science students research the social forces affecting vulnerable Americans. 

The findings of Carsey academics influence policymakers and social workers, helping them find solutions to help the neediest.

U New Hampshire also takes advantage of its topographical location, providing field training for ecology students. 

Working with a $110 million endowment, the University operates facilities such as the Hamel Center for Undergraduate Research. Through the Hamel Center, students gain the financial support they need to pursue their research agendas.

Yale University (New Haven, CT)

Yale University
Ragesoss, Berkeley College (South) at Yale, CC BY-SA 4.0

Like its fellow Ivies Brown and Harvard, Yale belongs among the best schools in the world. Since 1701, Yale has trained award winners and world leaders, the most influential figures in the world.

Yale owes part of its success to its outstanding medical school, universally placed among the top ten on the planet. 

In addition to its celebrated faculty, the medical school is also renowned for its “Yale System.” With this approach, the school does not assign grades to students in the first two years, giving them the confidence to pursue their academic interests freely.

On the other end of the academic spectrum, Yale also boasts highly influential English and Comparative Literature departments. 

Over the years, these departments have been leaders in several literary theory movements, including American deconstruction and New Criticism. 

So important is the university to these programs that the former is known as “The Yale School.”

Williams College (Williamstown, MA)

Williams College
Beyond My Ken, Hopkins Hall Williams College, CC BY-SA 4.0

Williams College may not have the name recognition of Yale, Harvard, and other New England schools, but it proudly stands beside them in quality. 

Established as a men’s-only school in 1793, Williams is Massachusetts’s second-oldest university.

Because of its age, Williams boasts several historically important buildings. Williams’s campus houses the nation’s oldest extant astronomical observatory, Hopkins Observatory

Opened in 1923, Chapin Library holds over 100,000 artifacts, including original copies of founding documents such as the Articles of Confederation, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution.

Even more important than its buildings are the people involved with Williams. Pulitzer Prize winners Elizabeth Kolbert and Luise Glück and MacArthur Fellow Andrea Barrett have taught at the school. Williams alumni include Broadway great Stephen Sondheim and Nobel laureate Robert Engle.

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