2021 Best Colleges in Virginia

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Published on May 6, 2021

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Virginia features some of the best colleges and universities in the nation. Graduates in the state can look forward to joining an expanding job market and lucrative career possibilities, as well as the opportunity to live and play in a land rich in history and natural beauty.

According to Virginia's Employment Commission, the industries projected to add the most employment opportunities from 2018-2028 include education and health services; professional and business services; and professional, scientific, and technical services. Jobs within these sectors include accountant, human resources manager, financial analyst, and teacher.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that accountants and auditors in Virginia earn an annual average salary of $85,720. Additionally, human resources managers in Virginia boast an average annual salary of $139,610. To qualify for these lucrative positions, candidates typically need a bachelor's degree or higher in a related industry.

Fortunately, there are several colleges in Virginia that can help prepare graduates for these dynamic roles. To help you make an informed decision about where to go to school, we ranked the 10 best colleges in Virginia. Read on to learn about each school's programs and admission requirements, as well as features that make each institution unique.

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

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#1 University of Virginia-Main Campus Charlottesville, VA
#2 Washington and Lee University Lexington, VA
#3 William & Mary Williamsburg, VA
#4 Virginia Military Institute Lexington, VA
#5 Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Blacksburg, VA
#6 University of Richmond University of Richmond, VA
#7 James Madison University Harrisonburg, VA
#8 Christopher Newport University Newport News, VA
#9 Averett University-Non-Traditional Programs Danville, VA
#10 George Mason University Fairfax, VA
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.

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 Virginia

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University of Virginia-Main Campus View School Profile Charlottesville, VA

The University of Virginia offers over 300 courses completely online, spanning nine schools and colleges and 18 degree programs. This public institution offers distance learners helpful orientations, an online health and wellness center, 24/7 technical support, and personalized academic success resources.

All online students at UVA pay in-state tuition rates. Prospective learners can apply by submitting an online application and fee, official transcripts, and recommendations. All applicants can apply for the 2021-2022 school year under a test-optional policy.

The University of Virginia is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Washington and Lee University View School Profile Lexington, VA

A small, private school located in Lexington, Washington and Lee University currently serves under 2,000 students annually. Its small size allows the university to maintain a low 8-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio.

The ninth-oldest institution of higher education in the United States, W&L currently offers 36 undergraduate majors and 37 undergraduate minors. Additionally, the institution offers graduate studies through its Graduate School of Law.

First-year application requirements include the Common Application and the Questbridge application, official transcripts, two teacher recommendations, one guidance or college counselor recommendation, and self-reported standardized test scores.

Washington and Lee University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

William & Mary View School Profile Williamsburg, VA

Chartered in 1693, William & Mary operates as the nation's second-oldest institution of higher learning and was the first institution to gain university status. In total, W&M offers more than 45 undergraduate degree programs and more than 40 graduate and professional degree programs.

W&M offers online education through multiple avenues, including the Raymond A. Mason School of Business and the William & Mary School of Education. The undergraduate application process requires aspiring learners to submit an online application, official transcripts, and a $75 application fee.

William & Mary is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Virginia Military Institute View School Profile Lexington, VA

Founded in 1839 as the first state-sponsored military college in the nation, VMI educates about 1,700 students annually. The 11-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio provides intimate learning for undergraduate studies.

Students at VMI can pursue a four-year bachelor's degree in the arts and humanities, engineering, information and social sciences, life sciences, or natural sciences. Core curriculum requirements cover topics like written and oral communication, civilization and culture, and leadership.

Applicants must complete an online or mail-in application form and submit supporting documentation, such as a guidance counselor or school administrator recommendation, a personal statement, official high school transcripts, and a $40 application fee.

Virginia Military Institute is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University View School Profile Blacksburg, VA

Virginia Tech offers more than 100 undergraduate programs and about 170 master's and doctoral programs. Students can also pursue nine online master's degrees and 19 certificates online. Operating as an approved SARA institution through the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements, Virginia Tech is recognized to provide quality distance education to online learners.

First-year applicants interested in pursuing an undergraduate degree use an online portal to submit an online application, a personal essay, letters of recommendation, and official transcripts.

Virginia Tech is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of Richmond View School Profile University of Richmond, VA

The University of Richmond offers over 60 undergraduate programs of study across five schools and colleges. Students can also pursue master's degree and graduate certificates in areas related to business and education. The school educates over 4,000 learners annually, and the average undergraduate class size is 16 students.

UR incorporates a holistic admissions process designed to take a big-picture look at each applicant. Aspiring students submit an online application, an essay response, official transcripts, a letter of recommendation, standardized test scores, and optional supplemental documentation.

The University of Richmond is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

James Madison University View School Profile Harrisonburg, VA

Located in Harrisonburg, James Madison University serves almost 22,000 students annually — both on-campus and online.

JMU offers online and distance learning options for undergraduate and graduate studies, including an undergraduate adult degree program designed for working professionals looking to complete their degree. The institution also offers multiple online graduate programs through its College of Education, College of Health and Behavioral Studies, and College of Integrated Science and Engineering.

The undergraduate admissions process requires aspiring students to submit official transcripts, a letter of recommendation, a personal statement, and standardized test scores. Graduate admissions materials vary by program but typically include official transcripts and letters of recommendation.

James Madison University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Christopher Newport University View School Profile Newport News, VA

Christopher Newport University achieved university status in 1992 — it operated as part of the College of William & Mary until 1977. Today, about 5,000 students attend the public university annually.

CNU offers programs in four primary areas of study: arts and humanities, business, natural and behavioral sciences, and social sciences. In addition to more than 20 undergraduate departments, the university oversees four master's programs.

CNU takes a holistic approach to the admissions process, analyzing everything from GPA and standardized test scores to the rigor of a student's previous coursework and their class rank. Applicants can submit as much or as little amplifying documentation as they see fit.

Christopher Newport University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Averett University-Non-Traditional Programs View School Profile Danville, VA

Accelerated coursework, online programs, and personalized attention make Averett University an appealing choice for many working professionals.

For over 30 years, Averett has offered flexible programs for distance learners. Current online offerings include applied data analytics, business, criminal justice and sociology, education, leadership, and nursing.

To apply, prospective students complete an online application, submit official transcripts, and provide a means of identification. Averett also offers a free transfer credit consultation to help individuals determine which of their previously earned credits qualify for different programs.

Averett University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

George Mason University View School Profile Fairfax, VA

Over 37,000 students attend George Mason University each year, completing studies in more than 200 programs.

GMU's offerings include over 50 online and hybrid programs designed and taught by the same instructors and professors as on-campus classes. Available areas of study for online learners include business and management, education, engineering and technology, health, and science and math. The university also hosts online adult degree completion programs.

Application materials for aspiring first-year students include official high school transcripts, optional SAT or ACT scores, letters of recommendation, and an optional personal statement.

George Mason University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.


Why Study in Virginia?

Virginia is home to more than 100 colleges and universities, including some of the most notable and distinguished schools in the nation.

Virginia is home to more than 100 colleges and universities, including some of the most notable and distinguished schools in the nation. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 39% of adults in Virginia hold a bachelor's degree or higher — considerably higher than the national average (32.1%).

Virginia also earned the number one spot on CNBC's 2019 ranking of America's Top States for Business. The state's highly skilled and educated workforce played a major role in this ranking. Additionally, Amazon's decision to open their HQ2 headquarters in Virginia centered around the state's concentration of highly educated workers.

The state also offers residents many recreational activities. For example, individuals can learn about the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and the first English colony by touring the historic battlegrounds and museums of Virginia. Additionally, hikers can explore Shenandoah National Park or the Luray Caverns, while boaters and beachgoers can head to the barrier islands of Chincoteague and Assateague.

The state's cost of living varies dramatically from city to city. While Arlington and Alexandria are 56% more expensive than average, Richmond and Roanoke are each about 5% less expensive than average.

Top Degree Programs in Virginia

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

Virginia Employment Outlook

The Virginia Employment Commission projects 6.6% job growth between 2018 and 2028, resulting in approximately 276,000 new jobs. A few of the positions projected to experience growing demand include computer systems analyst, financial manager, medical and health service manager, and market research analyst.

All of these roles offer annual salaries well above the average for all workers, and all require a bachelor's degree or higher. For example, according to the BLS, market research analysts in Virginia earn an average annual salary of $74,630.

Additionally, in its Best State Rankings, U.S. News & World Report recently ranked Virginia seventh in terms of education and ninth in terms of overall opportunity for its residents.

Popular Career Paths in Virginia

Political Science Healthcare Business Administration Public Policy Social Science Technology Finance Civil Engineering Education
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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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