The 10 Best Colleges in the Northeast

New England and the tri-state area are home to some of the best schools in the country, many of which are classified as Ivy League schools. 

As the first part of the country settled by colonists, the area is also home to some of the oldest and most prestigious learning institutions in America. 

If there’s one thing the best colleges in the northeast have in common, it’s a competitive admissions process. 

All of the universities featured on our list have an acceptance rate under 15%, with most limiting admission to 6% or fewer candidates.

Many of the best colleges in the northeast are situated in or proximal to major cities like New York City, Philadelphia, and Boston. 

Undergraduates flock to these locations for a stimulating social experience in addition to ample internship and career preparation opportunities. 

While tuition at these schools is generally exorbitant, most of the institutions offer significant financial aid packages for those who demonstrate financial need.

Without further ado, here are the 10 highest-ranked universities, according to US News, that lie in the northeast United States.

For each school, we’ll share the most popular majors and unique experiential learning opportunities available to ambitious undergraduates.

10. Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, PA)

Carnegie Mellon University
Dllu, Gates-Hillman Complex at Carnegie Mellon University 3, CC BY-SA 4.0

Located in the burgeoning technology hub of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon is proximal to innovative companies (and potential internship locations) like Uber. Google, and Apple. 

Unsurprisingly, the school received the #1 ranking in undergraduate computer science programs, cybersecurity, game development, and software engineering. 

One of the most populated schools on our list, Carnegie Mellon boasts the country’s first-ever BS in artificial intelligence (launched in 2018) and a new BS in human-computer interaction (as of 2020). 

Undergraduates in the School of Computer Science have various interdisciplinary majors at their disposal, allowing them to combine a passion for computer science with art, music, and biology.

With an acceptance rate of 14% – considered highly competitive – Carnegie Mellon is actually one of the least competitive schools on our list. 

Accepted students will join the ranks of an alumni network that claims over 20 Nobel laureates, 13 Academy Award winners, 12 Emmy Awards, and other prizes in various departments. 

The school is also an ideal location for launching a start-up, and more than 400 existing startups originated at CMU.

9. Columbia University (New York, NY)

Columbia University Hall
Beyond My Ken, Columbia University Earl Hall from north, CC BY-SA 4.0

Columbia’s reputation is predicated upon its exceptional engineering program. 

Most engineering undergraduates take an interdisciplinary approach to their degrees, collaborating with faculty and peers across nine engineering departments.

The engineering management systems comparison within the operations research program exposes undergraduates to the most cutting-edge technology, and degree candidates select electives from offerings like Air Pollution Prevention and Control, Real Estate Finance for Construction, and Data Mining for Engineers.

In addition to offering engineering-centric study-abroad programs in locations like Madrid, Dublin, and Sydney, Columbia is home to the illustrious four-year Egleston Scholars Program

Accepted scholars receive $10,000 stipends for attending conferences, buying research equipment, and securing room and board over the summer. 

Scholars begin working with faculty mentors in their first year and are awarded work-study placements for four years.

8. Cornell University (Ithaca, NY)

Cornell University
Dantes De MonteCristo, Cornell+University, CC BY-SA 4.0

Acclaimed for its commitment to writing across disciplines, Cornell has a 9% acceptance rate and enrolls upwards of 25,000 students. The school claims many firsts in America, including the first four-year schools of hotel administration.

Today, the Cornell Peter and Stephanie Nolan School of Hotel Administration is the best in the nation. 93% of its graduates receive full-time job offers soon after graduation, with an average starting salary of $69,000. 

Undergraduates participate in various experiential learning opportunities within Cornell’s on-campus restaurant, Hotel Ezra Cornell, and Hotel Leadership Development Program.

The School of Industrial and Labor Relations is another popular program at Cornell. Undergraduates take an interdisciplinary approach to explore critical topics in globalization, how technology impacts work, and labor relations, among other issues.

7. Brown University (Providence, RI)

Brown University
Kenneth C. Zirkel, Brown University Pembroke campus, CC BY-SA 4.0

Brown is defined by its signature Open Curriculum, which frees undergraduates from the core course requirements set by most liberal arts institutions. 6% of applicants are accepted to Brown, and all undergraduates complete a senior capstone. 

There are several ways to fulfill the senior capstone: write a year-long thesis, complete a one-semester research project, or take an approved capstone course. 

Those who choose to write a thesis will present a poster on their findings at an annual research symposium and are eligible to graduate with honors. 

Eligible capstone courses include compelling offerings like Narrating the Anthropocene, The Nature of Cities, and Energy Policy and Politics.

Entrepreneurship is another popular field among Brown’s 7,043 undergraduates. The school prides itself on its structured approach to teaching the entrepreneurial process, which begins with identifying an unmet societal need, creating a solution, and building a prototype. 

To say students receive hands-on experiences is an understatement!

6. Dartmouth College (Hanover, NH)

Dartmouth College
Public domain photo by Daderot via Wikimedia Commons

Dartmouth’s D-Plan affords autonomy in the curricular journey that undergraduates won’t experience anywhere else. 

All sophomores spend the summer on campus involved in exciting research and learning opportunities. 

They can pursue internships at any point in their undergraduate career, which gives them the advantage over most of their peers applying to internships in the summertime.

Terms are categorized by R, O, or L status. R terms take place on campus, O terms involve study abroad excursions, and L terms center the learning experience on internships, field research, or even a break! 

There are four 10-week terms each year, and undergraduates decide the 12 terms in which they will enroll.

The Department of Government is home to a large faction of Dartmouth’s undergraduates. Students construct surveys, carry out political science experiments, conduct interviews regarding voting behavior, and more. 

The War and Peace Fellows participate in an interdisciplinary exploration of international conflict and problem-solving, focusing on the intersection of morals, technology, and social norms.

5. University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA)

Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

Enrolling just over 10,000 undergraduates, Penn receives numerous accolades for its world’s #1 ranked nursing program. 

The standard four-year BSN is a direct-entry option for graduating high school students, while undergraduates may also take advantage of the dual-degree program in nursing and healthcare management in conjunction with the esteemed Wharton School of Business.

Nowhere else in the nation do students have the opportunity to gain clinical experience and practice in hospital patient management, pharmaceutical operations, nonprofit work, and insurance. 

Other exciting interdisciplinary programs include a seven-year bio-dental program, where scholars earn a BA and DDM from Penn Dental.

Penn sends more students abroad than its Ivy League counterparts. Nursing majors, for example, can apply to study in the United Kingdom, Australia, and Israel. 

The school maintains a partnership with the University of Queensland School of Nursing, Midwifery, and Social Work, where study-abroad participants gain early hands-on experience working in a hospital setting.

4. Yale University (New Haven, CT)

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

Getting more and more competitive as we progress through our list, we come to Yale University, ranked #3 in best value schools and recently lauded by the Pentagon for its exceptional ROTC program

Yale is one of the more out-of-state-friendly options, enrolling 93% of undergraduates outside Connecticut. The international population makes up 22% of Yale’s 6,494 undergraduates.

History is one of the institution’s most popular majors, and students can select from the global or specialist tracks. 

The former is centered on the student of major social trends throughout history, while the latter focuses on a particular region of the world (like the Middle East) or a thematic avenue, like ideas and intellectuals, religion in context, or social change and social movements.

Interestingly enough, Yale tends to dominate the political sphere. Alumni have been present on either a Democratic or Republican ticket in every United States presidential election between 1972 and 2004. 

Those interested in pursuing a career as a U.S. government official would be wise to apply to Yale, as the odds are certainly in their favor!

3. Harvard University (Cambridge, MA)

Harvard University
Public domain photo by Daderot via Wikimedia Commons

One of the most competitive schools on this list, Harvard is constantly innovating new programs and ways of accessing a top-notch education. 

Its Harvard Online program offers more than 140 courses to a pool of nearly 18 million learners! Students worldwide can take 8-12 week courses to earn a certificate at an affordable price of under $200. Topics include the art of persuasive writing and public speaking and an introduction to game development course that challenges students to use what they know from childhood games (i.e., Legend of Zelda, Angry Birds, and Super Mario) to build new games.

On campus, mathematics and the sciences reign supreme. Mathematics faculty have won an array of accolades, including Guggenheim Fellowships, Macarthur Awards, and Nobel Prizes. 

The neuroscience program prompts students to address behavioral deficits in those living with Alzheimer’s disease, map neural connections in the central nervous system, and explain how electrical signals allow nerve cells to transmit environmental information.

Just recently, Harvard created the Salata Institute for Climate and Sustainability. Launched in the fall of 2022, the institute will engage students, faculty, and other stakeholders in developing solutions for climate and sustainability issues. 

2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Public domain photo by Daderot via Wikimedia Commons

MIT is a paradise for STEM majors, and its programs are featured at the very top of rankings honoring the best programs in aeronautical, chemical, and electrical engineering, among computer science. 

85% of undergraduates participate in research, which often leads to groundbreaking discoveries like bionic prosthetics, 3D printing, and other technological innovations that have improved living conditions worldwide.

Within the engineering program, undergraduates start early on building new machines and can even create their own concentrations. 

MIT is home to the best program in materials science and engineering; essentially, the study of how things are made.

 Laboratory work is a hallmark of the curriculum, and graduates leave MIT prepared to build more sustainable structures, products, and systems.

A plethora of internships awaits MIT undergraduates, including those offered by the Momentum program

First- and second-year students are organized into teams competing to solve engineering queries. Additionally, students receive guidance in preparing resumes, giving presentations, participating in job interviews, and applying for summer work opportunities.

1. Princeton University (Princeton, NJ)

Princeton University
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

At Princeton, a genuine investment in community service is a core component of the undergraduate experience. 

Over 15,000 alumni participate in some sort of university-sponsored service project annually, and current students facilitate efforts like bike donation campaigns, food drives, and volunteer firefighting.

The 5:1 undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio is one of the smallest in the country, ensuring close, supportive mentoring relationships between undergraduates and expert professors. 

The school is also known for its generous financial aid packages. Princeton covers 100% of tuition, room, and board expenses for families earning up to $65,000.

Best known for its programming in public policy, the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs prepares students to assume leadership roles in the public sector and international sphere. 

Undergraduate public policy majors take a course each in statistics, microeconomics, psychology or sociology, and politics or history, ensuring an interdisciplinary education. 

All undergraduates must complete a cross-cultural experience before the final semester of their senior year, which can be met by studying abroad, engaging in ROTC training, completing a service project to serve an underrepresented community, or interning at a global entity like the United Nations. 
Exciting study abroad opportunities exist in Cape Town, South Africa, and Cambridge University, among other peer institutions.