The 10 Best “Hidden Gem” Private Universities in the US

If I were to ask you what the best private universities in the country are, you would probably name schools like Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. Undoubtedly, schools like these three are legendary institutions graduating many of the finest minds not just today, but for both centuries past and generations to come.

However, getting an excellent education does not necessarily equate to attending a top-10 university in the US. Rather, the best way to get an outstanding education is finding schools fitting a specific student exceptionally well.

All of this brings us to our conversation today about 10 amazing “hidden gem” private universities. These are schools that you may or may not have heard of, yet they offer some of the finest educations a private university can offer.

All of these schools are currently ranked on the US News National Universities list, a list that only ranks about 10% of all schools nationwide. For this particular hidden gem list, we are focusing on private universities ranked after number 150 on the US News National Universities list with an enrollment of fewer than 25,000 students. 

We have published several other hidden gem lists, primarily focusing on public universities, liberal arts colleges, and regional universities in different states. 

Without further ado, here are College Gazette’s picks for the 10 best “hidden gem” private universities in the US.


10. Wilkes University (Wikes-Barre, PA)

Wilkes University
Smallbones, Weiss Hall Wilkes B PA, CC0 1.0

Named after influential British politician John Wilkes, Wilkes University in Pennsylvania is classified as a “Doctoral/Professional University” by the Carnegie Classification, which awarded just 14 private institutions in Pennsylvania with this prestigious designation. Other Pennsylvania schools on the same list include Carnegie-Mellon, Villanova, and the University of Pennsylvania.

Facilities at Wilkes are state-of-the-art and comparable to those of the highest-ranking institutions. They include the Cohen Science Center, a 35 million dollar facility complete with a rooftop greenhouse, LEED silver standards for environmental consciousness, and departments in biology, health sciences, and earth sciences, among others. Other facilities include the impressive Eugene Shedden Farley Library, which contains nearly 300,000 total volumes.

Wilkes University is home to one of the most distinguished Lecture Series in the country, inviting some of the world’s greatest minds to speak on campus every year. Some of the names to have spoken at Wilkes University include author Norman Mailer, Washington Post writer Bob Woodward, and Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.

Wilkes University is ranked in the US News National Universities list, which lists only 10% of all higher education institutions in the country. Other rankings by US News for Wilkes include mentions in their Best Undergraduate Engineering Schools and Top Performers on Social Mobility lists.


9. Misericordia University (Dallas, PA)

Misericordia University
photo by Misericordia University via Flickr Creative Commons, CC BY 2.0

Hands-on experiential learning is at the heart of the Misericordia University experience, as this school is home to one of the most intriguing programs in the country, the Guaranteed Placement Program. In this one-of-a-kind program, Misericordia guarantees all alumni placement in a job within six months of graduation. If a student does not find a job in this time, Misericordia finds them a paid internship in their chosen major.

Although Misericordia may be a true hidden gem, that does not mean it is easy to get accepted into. Nearly half of Misericordia’s incoming class, according to the Misericordia website, graduated from the top 25% of their high school, making students here highly qualified academically.

With a student body of less than 3,500 total students, Misericordia may be described as akin to a liberal arts college, where students can have significant 1-on-1 time with their professors unencumbered by a massive student body so often seen in some other major universities. For the student seeking a smaller and more intimate learning environment, Misericordia represents a compelling option.


8. Roosevelt University (Chicago, IL)

Roosevelt University
Ken Lund, Wabash Building, Roosevelt University, Chicago, Illinois , CC BY-SA 2.0

Internationally, Roosevelt may be a true hidden gem, however, it is a well-known school in its home city of Chicago. Roosevelt is home to one of the nation’s premier performing arts schools, the Chicago College of Performing Arts. At this prestigious conservatory of music and the arts, 600 students from around the world gather to study both music as well as theatre. Faculty at this conservatory include over two dozen musicians from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as well as actors whose credits include film, television, and Broadway roles.

Roosevelt has one of the most impressive-looking facilities in any urban campus, the new Wabash building. Located in downtown Chicago’s Loop, this complex is the second-tallest academic building in the entire country!

Outside of the performing arts, one of Roosevelt’s most unique programs is the Robert Morris Experiential College, abbreviated as RMEC. At RMEC, students are exposed to a career-first approach to education, where hands-on learning in and out of the classroom helps the student become a more competitive candidate in a contemporary job market. 

Based in Chicago, Roosevelt may very well epitomize what an excellent urban campus is supposed to feel like for the student interested in a city, surrounded by culture, the arts, business, and superior education.

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