2022 Best Colleges in Pennsylvania

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Colleges in Pennsylvania include some of the nation's oldest and most prestigious institutions. For example, the University of Pennsylvania — an Ivy League school — was founded in 1740 and stands among the oldest schools in the United States. Moravian College also ranks among the oldest colleges in the U.S. In total, Pennsylvania houses hundreds of colleges and universities.

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Some of the best colleges in Pennsylvania belong to the state university system, which comprises 14 schools and boasts campuses across the state. Many Pennsylvania colleges feature main campuses in big cities like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Pennsylvania students choose from a variety of public and private schools, where they can pursue degrees at the undergraduate or graduate level.

Read on to learn more about the best colleges in Pennsylvania.

Top 10 Colleges in Pennsylvania

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#1 Swarthmore College Swarthmore, PA
#2 University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA
#3 Haverford College Haverford, PA
#4 Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh, PA
#5 Lehigh University Bethlehem, PA
#6 Lafayette College Easton, PA
#7 Franklin and Marshall College Lancaster, PA
#8 Bryn Mawr College Bryn Mawr, PA
#9 Bucknell University Lewisburg, PA
#10 Villanova University Villanova, PA

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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.

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

2022 Best Accredited Colleges in Pennsylvania

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Best Colleges in Pennsylvania

  1. Swarthmore College

    Swarthmore, PA



    Due to the stellar academic success of its students, Swarthmore College takes the top spot on our ranking of the best colleges in Pennsylvania. One out of every three Swarthmore graduates has either earned or is currently pursuing a doctoral degree.

    The college prides itself on creating intimate learning environments. With a student-to-faculty ratio of 8-to-1, Swarthmore students benefit from unparalleled access to their instructors -- 99% of whom hold a terminal degree in their field.

    In addition to offering 40 formal programs of study, Swarthmore encourages learners to work with their faculty advisor to design a personalized major that fits their academic interests and professional aspirations.

    Swarthmore's admission requirements are highly selective. The college considers applicants holistically on the basis of high school grades, test scores, civic engagement, and potential contributions to campus life. Swarthmore meets 100% of the demonstrated financial need of all admitted students.

  2. University of Pennsylvania

    Philadelphia, PA



    Originally founded in 1740 by Benjamin Franklin, the University of Pennsylvania serves as one of the eight elite private universities that make up the Ivy League. Alumni of the university include U.S. presidents, business magnates, and some of the country's most influential artists and scholars. Penn is also one of the nation's top research institutions, with close to $1 billion in annual research expenditures.

    In addition to hosting extensive on-campus offerings, Penn serves students around the world through an array of fully online programs in fields such as business administration, education, engineering, and nursing. Online students can choose to pursue a degree or develop standalone professional skills through one of the university's MicroMasters programs.

    Undergraduate applicants must submit high school transcripts, ACT or SAT scores, two teacher evaluations, and a letter of recommendation from a guidance counselor. Graduate admission requirements vary by program, but you typically must hold a bachelor's degree and take either the GMAT or GRE.

    Penn meets 100% of undergraduate financial need, with an average award package of nearly $54,000.

  3. Haverford College

    Haverford, PA



    Just over 98% of Haverford College students live on the college's 200-acre campus outside of Philadelphia, pursuing bachelor's degrees in fields like anthropology, comparative literature, environmental studies, and philosophy. The college does not currently offer any online programs, though students may earn master's degrees through partnerships with other universities in the state.

    Haverford expects all undergraduate students to actively participate in research. The college's Center for Peace and Global Citizenship provides funding to catalyze student scholarship related to community engagement and social justice, while the Koshland Integrated Natural Sciences Center supports research in astronomy, biology, and related fields. Students ultimately draw on their original research to write a senior thesis.

    To apply, you will need a high school diploma or GED certificate, ACT or SAT scores, and two teacher evaluations. The transfer admissions process at Haverford is extremely competitive; admissions officers recommend submitting multiple letters of recommendation, a personal essay, and additional materials that demonstrate extracurricular involvements and talents.

  4. Carnegie Mellon University

    Pittsburgh, PA



    Carnegie Mellon University consistently ranks as one of the top research universities in the country. Students and faculty contribute to breakthroughs in brain science, robotics, big data, and a host of other fields.

    Along with more traditional majors, the university emphasizes the importance of interdisciplinary studies, offering bachelor's and master's degrees in areas such as computational finance, music and technology, and engineering innovation management.

    Upon graduation, CMU students join a network of more than 110,000 alumni living and working in 144 countries around the globe. The university's career and development center helps match current students with alumni mentors, hosts leadership development programs, and provides personalized and industry-specific career counseling and advising.

    First-year applicants must hold a high school diploma or GED certificate. As part of their application materials, prospective students must also submit two letters of recommendation, writing samples, and ACT or SAT scores.

    In addition to need-based aid, the university offers presidential and Carnegie scholarships to incoming freshmen with exceptional records of academic achievement.

  5. Lehigh University

    Bethlehem, PA



    Each year, nearly 7,000 students at Lehigh University work toward bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in areas of study such as architecture, electrical engineering, international relations, and population health. The university also offers fully online master's degrees in engineering and business administration. Ninety-five percent of students find a job or enroll in graduate school within six months of earning their degree.

    The undergraduate experience at Lehigh rests on three pillars: faculty mentorship, hands-on learning, and a global perspective. The university boasts a student-to-faculty ratio of 9-to-1, and 89% of students complete at least one internship or experiential learning opportunity. In addition, more than 40% of students participate in an international experience, like one of the university's 250 study abroad programs in 74 countries.

    Undergraduate admission requires a high school diploma, ACT or SAT scores, and letters of recommendation from a teacher and counselor. Although Lehigh does not set minimum academic requirements, the average incoming student scores between 31 and 34 on the ACT (or between 1350 and 1480 on the SAT).

  6. Lafayette College

    Easton, PA



    Lafayette College is a small liberal arts college located just 70 miles west of New York City. The school offers more than 50 undergraduate majors, including biochemistry, film and media studies, government and law, and neuroscience.

    Students may also work with professors to design their own course of study or customize their learning by selecting one of 17 minors. Lafayette does not currently deliver online programs.

    All incoming students at Lafayette participate in a first-year seminar that helps them develop the critical thinking and inquiry skills they will need throughout their undergraduate experience. These seminars include unusual but engaging topics, like surviving the zombie apocalypse, miracles, and popular music and race in America. In addition to this first-year experience, all undergraduate students take a series of common courses in writing, multiculturalism, science, and the humanities.

    To enter a bachelor's program at Lafayette, you must hold a high school diploma and submit results from either the ACT or SAT. All prospective students must also participate in an interview with admissions staff.

  7. Franklin and Marshall College

    Lancaster, PA



    Franklin and Marshall College aims to equip students with the skills and knowledge to solve complex problems and advance the common good. To do so, the school offers high-quality bachelor's programs in fields like economics, environmental management, moral psychology, and public policy. An additional 50% of undergraduate students participate in an independent study or self-designed major.

    The college works to provide research opportunities to all learners. Through the Hackman Summer Scholars program, for example, students work alongside faculty members on innovative projects in their chosen area of study. Many students who participate in this 10-week program co-author a scholarly publication with their faculty mentor or use their research to inform a senior thesis.

    All applicants must hold a high school diploma or GED certificate. As a test-optional institution, F&M allows prospective students to decide whether to submit ACT or SAT scores. Additionally, all applicants must participate in an in-person or remote interview.

  8. Bryn Mawr College

    Bryn Mawr, PA



    Bryn Mawr primarily serves young women, though two coed graduate schools at the college provide advanced training in subjects like archaeology, chemistry, and social work. Students can also access additional classes and extracurricular activities through Bryn Mawr's close partnerships with nearby Haverford College and Swarthmore College.

    Undergraduate students receive ongoing support as they shape their academic experience. In their first year, all students participate in seminars that provide a foundation for liberal arts study. A sophomore planning experience offers guidance to students as they design a personalized course of study. During their junior and senior years, students conduct research and analysis alongside faculty advisors, participate in internships and field experiences, and build useful skills.

    Those who aspire to attend Bryn Mawr must hold a high school diploma. They must also submit a writing sample and three letters of recommendation from counselors and teachers. While the college does not look at ACT or SAT scores for admissions decisions, they do use these exams for purposes of academic advising and placement.

  9. Bucknell University

    Lewisburg, PA



    Through 60 major and 70 minors, Bucknell University gives students the flexibility to pursue diverse academic interests and prepare for a variety of careers. In addition to a master's program in college student personnel, the university offers bachelor's degrees in subjects like animal behavior, computer science, global management, and mechanical engineering. The college does not currently offer online programs.

    A Bucknell education helps position learners for success. Nearly 90% of students at the university graduate within six years, compared to less than 60% nationally. More than 90% of these graduates report finding a job or beginning work toward an advanced degree within nine months of graduation.

    First-year applicants must hold a high school diploma or GED certificate, though Bucknell does not require prospective students to submit ACT or SAT scores. More than 50% of admitted learners receive need-based aid, and the university offers a variety of merit-based scholarships. For example, the Bucknell Community College Scholars program specifically supports transfer students who hold an associate degree.

  10. Villanova University

    Villanova, PA



    Since its founding in 1842, Villanova University has grown to serve more than 11,000 undergraduate and graduate students each year through instruction rooted in the Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition.

    In addition to technical and graduate certificates, the university offers bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in areas like accounting, criminology, international business, and public administration. Hybrid and fully online programs also allow the university to reach students who cannot live on or commute to campus.

    Service plays an indispensable role in the Villanova educational experience. Students at the university complete close to 250,000 hours of community service every year, receiving course credit and honing professional skills through volunteering, internships, ministry activities, and social justice organizing. Learners can even choose to live with classmates who dedicate themselves to working with low-income and marginalized communities.

    To apply to Villanova as an undergraduate, you need a high school diploma or GED certificate. The university does not require ACT or SAT scores, though students may elect to submit these as supplemental materials. Villanova does not conduct interviews with prospective students.

Top Degree Programs in Pennsylvania

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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