2021 Best Colleges in New York

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Published on May 11, 2021

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New York attracts students from around the globe to a diverse array of college programs. Learners can attend world-renowned research and liberal arts colleges in New York — both in New York City and in Upstate New York — preparing to launch successful careers.

The best colleges in New York offer majors in fields like business, communications, finance, engineering, and fine arts. Many programs emphasize professional skills to prepare students for lucrative jobs in New York, which is home to several cultural centers, global media outlets, and Fortune 500 companies.

Our ranking highlights the best colleges in New York for students from all walks of life.

What Are the 2021 Best Colleges in New York? Here Are Our Top 10:

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#1 Columbia University in the City of New York New York, NY
#2 Cornell University Ithaca, NY
#3 Barnard College New York, NY
#4 Hamilton College Clinton, NY
#5 New York University New York, NY
#6 University of Rochester Rochester, NY
#7 Marist College Poughkeepsie, NY
#8 Stony Brook University Stony Brook, NY
#9 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Troy, NY
#10 Binghamton University Vestal, NY
How We Rank Schools

At BestColleges, we believe a college education is one of the most important investments you will make. We want to help you navigate the college selection process by offering school rankings that are transparent, inclusive, and relevant for online students.

Our rankings are grounded in a few guiding principles and use the latest statistical data available from trusted sources. Read our Ranking Methodology. We hope our approach helps you find the school that is best for you.

Why Study in New York?

New York offers unmatched education and enrichment opportunities for college students.

Historically, coming to New York has often represented the pursuit of the American dream. Like many of the immigrants who helped establish New York City as a cultural hub, students at colleges in New York can pursue higher education on the path to professional and personal success. New York offers unmatched education and enrichment opportunities for college students from around the globe.

While the cost of living in New York City is much higher than the national average, the state boasts the largest subway system in the U.S., helping commuters across the Tri-State Area get to work and school. Many students reside in relatively affordable housing in the New York City suburbs or New Jersey and commute to colleges in New York's metro area.

Students who attend college in New York can choose from a variety of exciting careers. New York's "local" economy includes the headquarters of companies like IBM, PepsiCo, JPMorgan Chase, Verizon, and Pfizer. Students attending college in New York can take advantage of ample networking, internship, and entry-level job opportunities due to their unique location.

New York also offers extracurricular activities for students from all walks of life. In their free time, students may enjoy visiting New York City's many museums, Broadway theatres, or music venues. The Empire State is also home to several major league sports teams.

Top Degree Programs in New York

Best Online Master's in Psychology Programs Best Online Master's in Computer Science Programs Best Online Master's in Counseling Programs

New York Employment Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, New York's top industries include education and health services; trade, transportation, and utilities, and professional and business services. Chief executives and surgeons earn some of the highest mean wages in the state.

The best colleges in New York offer programs for students aspiring to careers in the tech, communications, and healthcare sectors. Additionally, New York's software developers, producers and directors, and registered nurses all earn significantly higher hourly wages than the national averages for those positions. Hourly wages in New York are also higher than average for editors, tellers, and fast food workers.

Popular Career Paths in New York

Political Science Business Administration Healthcare Public Policy Technology Finance Mechanical Engineering Education Organizational Psychology

Related Programs That Might Interest You

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

2021 Best Accredited Colleges in New York

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Columbia University in the City of New York View School Profile New York, NY

Located in New York City, Columbia boasts 26 libraries and almost 200 research institutes. Considered one of the best colleges in New York, Columbia consists of more than 15 schools and colleges, including the College of Dental Medicine; the School of International and Public Affairs; and the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation.

The university also maintains affiliations with Barnard College, Teachers College, the Jewish Theological Seminary, and the Union Theological Seminary. Other notable areas of study include archaeology, Slavic languages, and sustainability science. Tuition varies from school to school and from program to program.

General admission requirements for first-year applicants include transcripts, a letter of recommendation, a personal essay, and a list of activities or a resume.

Cornell University View School Profile Ithaca, NY

A private institute located in Ithaca, Cornell also operates campuses, labs, and studios in New York City; Washington, D.C.; Qatar; and Italy — to name just a few.

Cornell offers 80 undergraduate majors and more than 100 graduate fields of study. Notable schools and colleges within Cornell include the College of Veterinary Medicine, the School of Industrial and Labor Relations, and the College of Human Ecology. Sample majors include atmospheric science, China and Asia-Pacific studies, and fiber science and apparel design.

First-year applicants must submit transcripts, a counselor recommendation, two teacher evaluations, and a writing sample. Some programs also ask applicants to submit a portfolio of work.

Barnard College View School Profile New York, NY

A private institute located in New York City, Barnard only admits women. The college also maintains an affiliation with Columbia University.

Barnard offers almost 50 areas of study, including options like classics and ancient studies, European studies, human rights, and neuroscience and behavior. Students can also consider joining more than 80 clubs, including pre-professional options like the Barnard Psychology Society and cultural clubs like the Korean Students Association.

Applicants must submit transcripts, a personal essay, a writing supplement, a counselor letter of recommendation, and two letters of recommendation from teachers. If desired — to boost their application packet — applicants may also complete an admissions interview, submit a portfolio, and/or include up to two additional letters of recommendation.

Hamilton College View School Profile Clinton, NY

A private, liberal arts institute located in Clinton, Hamilton College emphasizes the importance of writing, speaking, and thinking across disciplines. Currently, the college teaches about 2,000 students each year.

Hamilton College offers 44 majors and 57 areas of study. Notable majors include cinema and media studies, geoarchaeology, and Russian studies. Areas of study only available as minors include statistics, Latin American studies, and astronomy. Students can pursue research opportunities through summer internships on campus, independent projects, and the college's Senior Program.

Admission requirements may vary depending on the program, but all first-year applicants must submit transcripts and an essay, at minimum.

New York University View School Profile New York, NY

Located in New York City and founded in 1831, NYU teaches more than 50,000 students each year. The university received over 100,000 applications for the 2021-2022 academic year.

In addition to its main campus, NYU operates campuses in 13 other cities around the world. The university offers several online degree and certificate programs. In total, NYU students can choose from over 230 areas of study. Notable majors include metropolitan studies, anthropology and linguistics, medieval and renaissance studies, and dramatic writing.

Tuition costs vary from school to school and from program to program. First-year applicants must submit transcripts and other materials as required by their desired program.

University of Rochester View School Profile Rochester, NY

A private institute located in the city of the same name, Rochester educates more than 12,000 students annually but maintains a low 10-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio. Learners also have ample opportunities to engage in research, with more than 75% of undergraduates conducting student research projects.

Schools and colleges operated within the university include the Warner School of Education, the Simon Business School, and the Eastman School of Music. Notable undergraduate degrees include a bachelor of arts in American sign language, a bachelor of arts in bioethics, a master of science in epidemiology, and a doctor of philosophy in optics.

First-year applicants must submit transcripts, a counselor recommendation, and a teacher recommendation. The Eastman School of Music features a separate admissions process.

Marist College View School Profile Poughkeepsie, NY

Located in Poughkeepsie, Marist also operates a campus in Florence, Italy. Marist's enrollment reaches around 6,400 students each year. Learners can access a variety of academic resources, including career services, a center for multicultural affairs, and a writing center.

Marist offers almost 50 degrees across seven schools, including the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences, School of Management, and School of Communication and the Arts. Marist also offers several fully online degree programs, including an online master of business administration.

First-year applicants must submit transcripts, a counselor letter of recommendation, a personal essay, and any supplemental materials as required by their desired program.

Stony Brook University View School Profile Stony Brook, NY

Located in the town of the same name, Stony Brook originally opened in Oyster Bay in 1957. Stony Brook represents one of the institutes in the State University of New York System and teaches more than 26,000 students each year.

One of the top colleges in New York, Stony Brook consists of 12 schools and colleges, including the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, the Renaissance School of Medicine, and the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Notable undergraduate majors include Earth space and sciences, chemical and molecular engineering, human evolutionary biology, and Africana studies.

First-year applicants must submit transcripts and a teacher or counselor recommendation. The honors program requires additional application materials, including an additional letter of recommendation, a personal statement, and an essay.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute View School Profile Troy, NY

A private institute located in Troy, Rensselaer teaches around 8,000 students each year. Research is a foundational aspect of Rensselaer — the institute oversees 30 research centers and spent more than $100 million on research in 2020.

Rensselaer operates five schools, including the Lally School of Management; the School of Architecture; and the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. Notable degree offerings include a master of science in lighting, a bachelor of science in business analytics, and a doctor of philosophy in nuclear engineering and science.

First-year applicants must submit transcripts and a letter of recommendation. Most programs also require aspiring students to write an essay.

Binghamton University View School Profile Vestal, NY

Located in the city of the same name, Binghamton debuted as Triple Cities College in 1946. The university currently teaches about 18,000 students each year and received over 42,000 applications in 2020.

Binghamton oversees six schools and colleges, including the Decker College of Nursing and Health Sciences, the Watson College of Engineering and Applied Science, and the College of Community and Public Affairs. Students can choose from over 130 undergraduate programs and more than 80 graduate degree programs. Notable degree options include a bachelor of arts in medieval and early modern studies, a master of science in genocide and mass atrocity prevention, and a doctorate of education in educational theory and practice.

First-year applicants must submit transcripts and one letter of recommendation.

Feeling first-day-of-college jitters? Learn what to expect and how to prepare for the first day of class. Looking for a good school in the Southwest? Check out our list of the top 10 online colleges in the southwestern United States. Students can make college life easier by bringing 10 documents that are essential for study, work, and other aspects of student life.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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