The 10 Best Colleges in New York City

If you asked most high school students what they want to do after they graduate, most will say go off to college and get a good job. But if you press them further, you’ll probably discover that when they say “Go off to college,” they really mean, “Go to a big city.”

And if you asked them to describe the big city in question, they’d probably talk about New York City. That shouldn’t be much of a surprise. After all, popular culture has taught that New York is one of the world’s most exciting and influential cities.

That’s good news. Because while New York City may conjure romantic images of giant Christmas trees and high-powered executives sealing big deals, the fact is that NYC is home to some of the best colleges in the country.

In New York, you can find a school to match your personality and dreams. The city is home to elite private institutions, religious schools of every persuasion, and fully-supported state schools. 

Every school in the city has its own share of excellent teachers, outstanding resources, and inspiring alumni.

Which school is the best for you? Here are our picks for 10 of the best colleges in New York City.

Baruch College

Baruch College
Tdorante10, 23rd St Lex Av 06 – Baruch College, CC BY-SA 4.0

Part of the City University of New York system, Baruch College was founded in 1919. 

Over 100 years of existence, Baruch has trained people who have gone on to change the world. Graduates include everyone from pop star Jennifer Lopez and fashion icon Ralph Lauren to New York political figures Carl Heastie and Melissa Mark-Viverito.

These graduates benefited from Baruch’s excellent research programs.

At the Bernard L. Schwartz Communication Institute, students and faculty study the changing nature of communication in the 21st century. 

Using innovative learning approaches, teachers working in the Schwartz Institute develop curricula that schools across the nation have adopted.

Located in the Weissman School of Arts, the Sandra Kahn Wasserman Jewish Studies Center has a proud history of preserving and advancing Jewish culture. 

With a steady program of lectures, exhibits, and classes, the Wasserman Center is central to improving the education of Baruch students.

Touro University

A private Jewish university founded in 1971, Touro provides a small liberal arts experience in the heart of New York City. 

The school serves approximately 5500 undergraduates and 4000 graduates each year, with a student body consisting of people from various faiths and ethnicities.

To expand its offerings for students, Touro enjoys affiliations with institutes around the world.

Law students benefit from the Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center on Long Island. Touro Law Center has a reputation for innovative teaching, taking a student-first approach to the subject. In 2020, 70.7% of Touro Law Center graduates passed the Bar Exam on their first attempt.

The New York College of Podiatric Medicine is one of the most influential schools in the nation, training 1/4th of the nation’s working podiatrists. Since joining the Touro College system, the College developed the curriculum followed by institutions around the country.

St. John’s University

St. John's University
StJohnHall, Lourdes Hall, CC BY-SA 4.0

A private Catholic institution established in 1870, St. Johns University began as a school to educate New York’s immigrant population.

Since then, St. John’s has educated some of the city’s greatest leaders. After graduating from St. Johns in 1953, Mario Cuomo went on to become mayor of New York City, holding the office for eleven years. 

Former U.S. Representative Bob Turner became a successful media executive after graduating from St. John’s.

Perhaps the most important part of St. John’s University is its School of Law. Thanks to its commitment to academic excellence, 89% of the school’s first-time test takers passed the bar exam in 2019. Even better, 82.3% of the class of 2018 was able to find full-time employment to make use of their degrees within nine months of graduating.

Pace University

Founded in 1906 as a business school, Pace University has become one of the best universities in the city. Students focus on everything from the arts to the STEM fields, taking advantage of New York’s cultural and academic offerings.

Perhaps the greatest advantage offered by Pace is its location. According to the observing website, Pace is ranked 28th on the list of Best College Locations in the U.S. 

Even better, most outlets consider Pace’s location to be one of the safest in New York.

The excellent location may be the reason that Pace has developed a legendary acting program. Pace’s Acting program entered the national consciousness with the interview program Inside the Actors Studio, in which famous actors come to campus to discuss their craft. 

Taught by a cadre of industry professionals, the acting program ensures a steady stream of performers to the New York theater scene.

CUNY – City College

CUNY - City College
Jim.henderson, Harris Hall 1589 Amst Av, CC BY 4.0

The flagship institution in the City University of New York system, City College was founded in 1847 as the country’s first free public institution of higher education. 

Over the years, City College has educated accomplished individuals, including ten Nobel laureates and three recipients of the Pulitzer Prize.

City College is one of the most influential institutions in the country, pioneering several elements now common in higher education. 

The school was the first to institute a student government and the first to feature a fraternity that accepts members of any religion or race.

Perhaps the most important aspect of City College is the CUNY School of Law. As suggested by its motto, “Law in the Service of Human Needs,” CUNY Law exists to equip its students with the tools they need to improve the lives of others.

The program focuses on justice initiatives and research programs devoted to human rights. One such program, the Center for Latinx Rights and Equality works to address the concerns of New York’s Latinx population.

The New School

New School
Beyond My Ken, New School University Center, CC BY-SA 4.0

One of the nations most influential liberal arts institutions, The New School was founded in 1919 as a home for free-thinking intellectuals. It has since grown to become the premier training ground for artists of various styles.

The New School’s commitment to artist freedom can be demonstrated in part by its faculty. For example, the Jazz program features many legends teaching at the school, including Reggie Workman, a Jazz Master recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts, and MacArthur fellow Mary Halvorson.

The Parsons School of Fashion Design at the New School features a faculty comprised of industry professionals.

These instructors bring not only their experience in marketing and design but also a commitment to innovation. Working with such professionals, students at the New School gain the inspiration and confidence to blaze their own trails.

Yeshiva University

Yeshiva University
Beyond My Ken, Yeshiva University Stern College for Women 253 Lexington Avenue, CC BY-SA 4.0

Inspired by centrist Judaism, Yeshiva College exists to combine secular education with Jewish thought. Over its more than 130 year history, Yeshiva has strived to equip students to serve in the public sector and religious institutions.

Some of Yeshiva’s more notable alumni include Eddie Huang, the restauranter whose autobiography inspired the hit ABC sitcom Fresh Off the Boat

Howard Dean earned his M.D. from Yeshiva in 1978, eventually going on to become a successful physician and political figure in the Democratic Party.

One of the most important parts of Yeshiva is the Cardozo School of Law. Cardozo served as the founding place of the Innocence Project, a highly influential program that uses DNA testing to exonerate the wrongly accused.

Equally impressive is Cardozo’s Benjamin B. Ferencz Human Rights and Atrocity Prevention Clinic. Ferencz allows law students to gain hands-on experience and advances the school’s mission of service.

Fordham University

Fordham University
Indefatigable2 at English Wikipedia, Cunniffe House, CC BY-SA 4.0

One of the oldest schools in New York State, Fordham University was established in 1841 as St. John’s College. The school has been the alma mater of influential world leaders, including political figures and billionaires.

Although ranked as a tier-two research institution, Fordham is home to the incredibly important Fordham University Press. 

An affiliate of Oxford University Press, Fordham disseminates cutting-edge research in the humanities and social sciences.

Furthermore, the press provides funding for undergraduates to pursue their research agendas, thanks to partnerships with the National Science Foundation, the American Museum of Natural History, and other institutions.

The Fordham School of Law continues this commitment to scholarly publishing, creating six law journals edited by students. 

These journals are recognized as the best in the field, and the Fordham Journal of Corporate & Financial Law is cited more than any other publication on the subject.

New York University

New York University
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

New York University may have started as an all-male school, but it has since grown to become one of the largest schools in the city.

 Considered highly selective by observing outlets, NYU features several groundbreaking programs.

At the center of NYU’s reputation are its research centers and schools.

Home to one of the country’s best music programs, the Clive Davis School of Recorded Music at NYU Tisch is recognized as an innovator in the field. In addition to traditional music education, Davis also offers a unique business degree, which trains its students to become “entrepreneurs” in the industry.

The Grossman School of Medicine is equally respected, thanks to its state-of-the-art facilities. Boasting offerings such as the newly constructed emergency simulation center at NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue, Grossman prides itself on preparing future doctors for all potential scenarios. 

Likewise, the New York Simulation Center trains emergency workers, providing access to lifelike mannequins and practice materials.

Columbia University

Columbia University Business School Butler Library
Beyond My Ken, Columbia University Butler Library, CC BY-SA 4.0

Founded as King’s College in 1754, Columbia University is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York. Over its 250 years, Columbia University has produced three presidents, including Barack Obama, and numerous other political leaders.

To train such successful alumni, Columbia features one of the most impressive faculty bodies ever assembled

The school’s teachers include 58 winners of the Nobel Prize and 13 National Medal of Sciences winners. Currently, Columbia faculty includes groundbreaking international relations expert Michael W. Doyle and literary critic Saidiya Hartman, a MacArthur Genius.

But it’s not all hard work at Columbia, despite what its vaunted history might suggest. The school has a vibrant and fun social life, with its own celebrated traditions.

One of the school’s most popular traditions is the Varsity Show, for which students write and direct a new musical every year. 

To aid the process, Columbia recruits guest directors to lend their experience and expertise. 

Past directors include luminaries in the field, including Broadway legends Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein.