Top 20 Universities in the United States

Every year thousands of people apply for spots in colleges and universities to try to get the training they think will make them stand out in their chosen fields.  There are all types of universities, but some of the top ones are the most desired.  These are the ones that stand in the highest regard with employers so they will be competing for the students from them.  What makes these universities so great?  What features do they have for the students that make them so desirable?

What Makes For a Great University?

Part of it is that these universities hold a very high academic standard.  Their entrance requirements are so high that only students who go far beyond most make it in.  Class size is also a factor.  Generally smaller class sizes mean more one-on-one time with the professor.  This is a major plus, especially when the educators are top in their industries, which is usually the case for great universities.

Outside activities are also a factor.  Not only are students expected to maintain good grades, but volunteering for community service outside of class is also sometimes expected and students are encouraged to participate in clubs and interests as well.  These universities want their students to become leaders in general and will push them to do so.

Admission Tips

If you’re planning to apply for a university in the near future, here are some admissions tips that might help:

  • Submit your application early.  Early submissions get more attention because there aren’t as many as when the flood of applications comes in around the deadline time.  Early submissions impress admissions officers because it shows the student really cares about coming to that university.
  • Don’t have Cs on a transcript.  As are the best, Bs may be acceptable depending on the school, but anything less than a B will stand out, and not in a good way.
  • Visit the campus of the school you want to go to.  Some schools make note of this. They want you to see the school to see if you’ll be comfortable there.  Just as the school is being selective about the students, the students must be selective about the school and choose one that fits them.
  • When you have to write an essay, make it about something you care about passionately.  Admissions receive essays all the time about world peace and overcoming obstacles.  What will really make you stand out is showing that you care about something passionately enough that you could make a difference in regards to it.

Our original content and list of the top 20 universities in the United States can be found below.

Thousands of people are turning to education to give them the boost they need in the workforce. While many of these individuals are seeking new certifications or training classes in small community colleges, those who are heading off to a university as undergraduates are looking at a bleak reality. College costs are rising, and job prospects are still depressed. In our current economic climate, the best value comes from schools where you’ll be courted by companies upon graduation.

Of course, these schools often come with high price tags. However, with the right collection of scholarships and grants, these top schools are the greatest value – your degree will be your ticket into a career, even with millions out of work in the United States.



The Top 20 Universities in the United States

To rank the top twenty universities in the United States, I considered the annual tuition that is currently available online as well as an index created by QS Top Universities which includes scores for how favorably employers view the schools. The more employers like a university in regards to graduates and abilities, the higher the employer score.

University of California, Berkeley

Number 1 – University of California, Berkeley (UCB)

Employer Score – 100
Annual Tuition – $33,747

A beautiful campus in a lovely location, the University of California at Berkeley is situation just over the San Francisco Bay. 25,530 undergraduates are found around campus in one of the fourteen different colleges and schools on campus. Berkeley has long been a center of free speech movements and activity to gain widespread, national attention. UCB has nationally recognized graduate programs and specialized schools in optometry, journalism and environmental design which add to the overall feel of the university. While on level academically with prestigious private universities, Berkeley tops our list for two reasons – it’s a relative bargain at $33,747 per year for non-residents and $10,868 for residents, and it’s well-loved by employers. Graduate from Berkeley and you’ll have great opportunities and a bit more in your wallet.

Yale University

Number 2 – Yale University

Employer Score – 100
Annual Tuition – $38,300

With only 5, 275 undergraduate students, Yale is small enough to be comfortable for high-achieving students, and urban enough in a well-known college town of New Haven, Connecticut. Founded in 1701, Yale has more than 300 years of traditions and excellence as its foundation for continued success. Yale is especially well known for its excellent drama and music programs at the undergraduate level, but its graduate programs in business, law, art and medicine are among the best in the world. Students at Yale live on campus throughout their time at the university. They are divided into 12 residential colleges and each college is looked after by a master and dean who lives and eats with students. This close-knit community is especially popular with employers as well.

Harvard University

Number 3 – Harvard University

Employer Score – 100
Annual Tuition – $38,416

The oldest and most well-known university in the United States, Harvard dates back to 1636. With hundreds of years of tradition and excellence, Harvard is highly sought after by employers for graduates in business and medicine as well as education, engineering, law and government. Harvard is another tightly-knit community with all undergraduates living on campus for their years at the university in twelve undergraduate houses. Heritage and student groups play an important role in the social lives of Harvard students both during their time in the university and their professional lives after graduation. While normally found at the top of any prestigious ranking, Harvard found its way to third in this ranking due to its higher price tag.

Stanford University

Number 4 – Stanford University

Employer Score – 100
Annual Tuition – $38,416

6,602 undergraduate students roam the 8,180 sprawling acres of Stanford in the suburban campus of Stanford University. Just thirty miles from San Francisco, Stanford is a beautiful campus with plenty of traditions in both sports and academics. Only four of the seven prestigious colleges on campus offer programs for undergraduates, but the recognized graduate programs in education, engineering, law, medicine and business create a culture of excellence at all levels of the university. Stanford has a recognized program in environmental research as well as a well-known theatrical and musical program as well.


Number 5 – Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Employer Score – 100
Annual Tuition – $39,212

Located just across the Charles River from Boston, MIT is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. MIT offers freshman and other undergraduates housing in one of the most unique dorms in the world designed by architect Steven Holl. Especially known for the prestigious engineering and mechanical coursework, MIT’s mascot is the beaver and their team is even called the Engineers. MIT is focused on scientific and technological research, which is often funded by government agencies such as the Department of Defense and the Department of Health and Human Services. MIT graduates are among the most sought after technical students in the world.


Number 6 – University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

Employer Score – 98
Annual Tuition – $33,660

UCLA may be a large public school, but this Los Angles university can compete with the top private schools. Well known for its colleges in management, education, engineering, law, nursing and public health, graduates of UCLA is sought after by employers in many different fields. UCLA is also very affordable for residents of California at $10,781 per year.

Unviersity of Michigan

Number 7 – University of Michigan

Employer Score – 99
Annual Tuition – $36,163

Ann Arbor, the home of the University of Michigan, is one of the most recognized and attractive college towns in the world. This public university boasts 26,208 undergraduates on more than 3,000 acres. The University of Michigan is a bargain for Michigan residents at $12,400.

Columbia University

Number 8 – Columbia University

Employer Score – 100
Annual Tuition – $43,304

Located deep in New York City, Columbia is one of the oldest universities in the United States with a founding date in 1754. Business and engineering are both well recognized from Columbia as are the programs and affiliations in theology and women’s studies.


Number 9 – University of Pennsylvania (UPenn)

Employer Score – 98
Annual Tuition – $40,514

As large as most public universities, UPenn is a private university. Founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1740, the University of Pennsylvania has recognized undergraduate programs in business, engineering and liberal arts.

Cornell University

Number 10 – Cornell University

Employer Score – 95
Annual Tuition – $39,666

A rare rural Ivy League school, Cornell University is located on 745 acres in Ithaca, New York. Most undergraduate students at Cornell are part of the College of Arts and Sciences or the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Unviersity of Chicago

Number 11 – University of Chicago

Employer Score – 96
Annual Tuition – $40,188

This small private college in the heart of Chicago, Illinois is one of the nation’s leading research centers. The undergraduates of the University of Chicago are close-knit in an on-campus community. Undergraduate programs in business, science and social sciences are especially well respected.

Purdue University

Number 12 – Purdue University

Employer Score – 89
Annual Tuition – $26,622

Well known as the “Cradle of Astronauts” in the scientific community, Purdue is a public university in West Lafayette, Indiana. The nickname for the university comes from School of Aeronautics and Astronautics, which is very highly recognized at the undergraduate and graduate level. Residents of Indiana can attend Purdue for $9,070 per year.

Duke University

Number 13 – Duke University

Employer Score – 93
Annual Tuition – $40,575

A private university in Durham, North Carolina, Duke is situated on a sprawling 8,709 acres outside of the city. Duke is well known for its fierce rivalry with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and its engineering and liberal arts programs at the undergraduate level.


Number 14 – New York University (NYU)

Employer Score – 90
Annual Tuition – $38,765

A large private school located in New York City, NYU is home to a large College of Arts and Sciences. The Tisch School of the Arts is especially recognized for drama, film, dance and dramatic writing.

Northwestern University

Number 15 – Northwestern University

Employer Score – 91
Annual Tuition – $40,247

A small campus in Evanston, Illinois is home to the private Northwestern University. Northwestern allows students to create their own combination of majors to take advantage of the strong programs in twelve different colleges on campus.

Princeton University

Number 16 – Princeton University

Employer Score – 88
Annual Tuition – $36,640

A private school established in Princeton, New Jersey in 1746, Princeton is a campus noted for rigorous academics, century-old tradition and striking, ivy-covered buildings. Princeton is most recognized for its school of public and international affairs and the school of engineering and applied sciences.

UT Austin

Number 17 – University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin)

Employer Score – 84
Annual Tuition – $31,218

A very large public university located in the heart of Austin, Texas, UT Austin is known for its strong programs in business, nursing, fine arts, education and engineering. One of the largest universities in the United States, UT is available for Texas residents for $9,418 per year.

Georgia Tech

Number 18 – Georgia Institute of Technology

Employer Score – 82
Annual Tuition – $26,926

A public school located in Atlanta, Georgia Tech is a leading research institution and is especially well known for its College of Engineering and its College of Management. Residents of Georgia can attend Georgia Tech for $8,716 per year.

Carnegie Mellon

Number 19 – Carnegie Mellon University (CMU)

Employer Score – 83
Annual Tuition – $41,940

A private University located in Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon is known for programs in science and engineering. Undergraduates at CMU can participate in research and receive fellowships or grants for summer research program in the field of their choice.

Dartmouth College

Number 20 – Dartmouth College

Employer Score – 77
Annual Tuition – $40,437

A private school in Hanover, New Hampshire, Dartmouth College is small in a rural setting. Undergraduates at Dartmouth have the option of a degree program in the arts, science or engineering programs.

Note: This article was originally published on January 16, 2011. We have since updated the article and added new content. It was updated and re-published on the currently-listed publication date.