Best Six-Year Graduation Rates

Colleges and Universities with the Best Six-Year Graduation Rates

While most students plan to earn their Bachelor's degrees in four years, the reality is that it often takes a little longer than that.  Working, changing majors, and a variety of other factors can make college take more than four years.  As a result, colleges and universities are often judged by their ability to graduate students in six years, 150% of normal time.  The 23 colleges and universities listed below all graduated 93% or more of their students in six years.  Note that many factors influence graduation rates and the most selective colleges will always have an advantage when it comes to graduating a high percentage -- they enroll students who are well prepared for college-level work, and most of their students will enter with AP course credits.  You'll also notice from the list that private institutions outperform public institutions.  The University of Virginia is the only public college to make the list. Be sure to read more about graduation rates to understand the factors that influence the numbers.

Amherst Chapel
Amherst Chapel. Qin Zhi Lau / Wikimedia Commons
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Bowdoin College
Bowdoin College. sglickman / Flickr
  • 6-Year Graduation Rate: 94%
  • Location: Brunswick, Maine
  • School Type: 1,777 (all undergraduate)
  • Enrollment: Private liberal arts college
  • Description: Located in a town of 21,000 on the Maine coast, Bowdoin takes pride in both its beautiful location and its academic excellence. For its strengths in the liberal arts and sciences, Bowdoin was awarded a chapter of the prestigious Phi Beta Kappa honor society. Eight miles away from the main campus is Bowdoin's 118-acre Coastal Studies Center on Orr's Island. Bowdoin recently changed their financial aid practices, and students can look forward to graduating with no loans.
  • For acceptance rate, test scores and other admissions data, read the Bowdoin College profile 
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Brown University Campus
Brown University Campus. _Gene_ Flickr
  • 6-Year Graduation Rate: 95%
  • Location: Providence, Rhode Island
  • School Type: Private research university
  • Enrollment: 8,574 (6,244 undergraduates)
  • Description: Often considered the most liberal of the Ivy League schools, Brown is well known for its open curriculum in which students craft their own plan of study. Like Dartmouth, Brown has more of an undergraduate focus than other top-ranked universities. Boston is only a short drive or train ride away. The university has a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, and it is a member of the Association of American Universities.
  • For acceptance rate, test scores and other admissions data, read the Brown University profile 
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Claremont McKenna College
Claremont McKenna College. Bazookajoe1 / Wikimedia Commons
  • 6-Year Graduation Rate: 93%
  • Location: Claremont, California
  • School Type: Private liberal arts college
  • Enrollment: 1,238 (all undergraduate)
  • Description:  With an acceptance rate below 20%, Claremont McKenna College is one of the most selective colleges in the country. Claremont McKenna's small 50-acre campus is located in the heart of the Claremont Colleges, and students at CMC share facilities and often cross-register for classes at the other schools -- Scripps College, Pomona College, Harvey Mudd College, and Pitzer College. Claremont McKenna has a 9 to 1 student/faculty ratio, a diverse student body, and strong liberal arts credentials that earned it a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.
  • For acceptance rate, test scores and other admissions data, read the Claremont McKenna College profile 
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Photo of Columbia University in Spring by Yandi at Flickr
Columbia University in Spring. Yandi / Flickr
  • 6-Year Graduation Rate: 94%
  • Location: New York, New York
  • School Type: Private research university
  • Enrollment: 24,230 (7,743 undergraduates)
  • Description: If you want an Ivy League education in a truly urban setting, be sure to take a look at Columbia. Its location in upper Manhattan places it right in the bustle of New York City. Columbia has extensive graduate programs—of its 22,000 students, over two-thirds are graduate students. Like all the Ivy League schools, Columbia's high level of research and instruction has earned it membership in the Association of American Universities, and its strengths in the liberal arts and sciences earned it a chapter of the prestigious Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society.
  • For acceptance rate, test scores and other admissions data, read the Columbia University profile 
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Dartmouth College
Dartmouth College. Brave Sir Robin / flickr
  • 6-Year Graduation Rate: 94%
  • Location: Hanover, New Hampshire
  • School Type: Private research university
  • Enrollment: 5,987 (4,196 undergraduates)
  • Description: As the smallest of the Ivy League schools, Dartmouth provides the curricular breadth of its larger rivals with a feeling more like a liberal arts college. Dartmouth’s picturesque campus is located in Hanover, New Hampshire, a town of 11,000. Dartmouth's strong programs in the liberal arts and sciences earned the school a chapter of the prestigious Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society.
  • For acceptance rate, test scores and other admissions data, read the Dartmouth College profile 
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Duke University
Duke University. mricon / Flickr
  • 6-Year Graduation Rate: 95%
  • Location: Durham, North Carolina
  • School Type: Private research university
  • Enrollment: 14,060 (6,496 undergraduates)
  • Description: Duke is one of the most prestigious and competitive universities in the south, and it frequently ranked nationally among the top ten universities. Duke is part of the “research triangle” with UNC Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University in Raleigh. The area boasts the highest concentration of PhDs and MDs in the world. Duke's strengths in research and instruction have earned it membership in the Association of American Universities, and its strong liberal arts and sciences earned Duke a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. The Duke Blue Devils compete in the NCAA Division I Atlantic Coast Conference.
  • For acceptance rate, test scores and other admissions data, read the Duke University profile 
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Georgetown University
Georgetown University. tvol / Flickr
  • 6-Year Graduation Rate: 93%
  • Location: Washington, D.C.
  • School Type: Private Jesuit research university
  • Enrollment: 14,826 (7,038 undergraduates)
  • Description: Georgetown's location in the capital has contributed to its sizable international student population and the popularity of the International Relations major. Bill Clinton stands out among Georgetown's notable alumni. Over half of Georgetown students take advantage of the many study abroad opportunities, and the university recently opened a campus in Qatar. For strengths in the liberal arts and sciences, Georgetown was awarded a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. On the athletic front, the Georgetown Hoyas compete in the NCAA Division I Big East Conference.
  • For acceptance rate, test scores and other admissions data, read the Georgetown University profile 
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Harvard University Memorial Hall
Harvard University Memorial Hall. timsackton / Flickr
  • 6-Year Graduation Rate: 98%
  • Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • School Type: Private research university
  • Enrollment: 27,651 (10,257 undergraduates)
  • Explore campus in this Harvard University photo tour
  • Description: Harvard usually ranks #1 or #2 among the top universities. With an endowment in the tens of billions, Harvard has more financial resources at its disposal than any other university in the world. The result is a world-class faculty, high-level research and AAU membership, state-of-the-art facilities, and free tuition for students from families with modest income. Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, this Ivy League school is in close-proximity to the hundreds of thousands of college students in the greater Boston area. Low achieving students need not apply -- Harvard has the lowest acceptance rate of any U.S. university.
  • For acceptance rate, test scores and other admissions data, read the Harvard University profile 
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Northwestern University Marching Band
Northwestern University Marching Band. powerbooktrance / Flickr
  • 6-Year Graduation Rate: 95%
  • Location: Evanston, Illinois
  • School Type: Private research university
  • Enrollment: 19,291 (9,336 undergraduates)
  • Description: Northwestern University is located on a 240-acre campus just north of Chicago on the shore of lake Michigan. Northwestern has a rare balance of exceptional academics and athletics. It is the only private university in the Big Ten athletic conference. For its strengths in research and instruction, Northwestern earned membership in the Association of American Universities. For its strong liberal arts and sciences, the university was awarded a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.
  • For acceptance rate, test scores and other admissions data, read the Northwestern University profile 
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University of Notre Dame Golden Dome
University of Notre Dame Golden Dome. mandy pantz / Flickr
  • 6-Year Graduation Rate: 96%
  • Location: Notre Dame, Indiana
  • School Type: Private
  • Enrollment: Catholic research university
  • Description: Located about 90 miles east of Chicago, the University of Notre Dame boasts that its undergraduate alumni have earned more doctorates than any other Catholic university. The school is highly selective and has a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. Roughly 70% of accepted students rank in the top 5% of their high school class. The university's 1,250-acre campus has two lakes and 137 buildings including Main Building with its well known Golden Dome. In athletics, many Notre Dame Fighting Irish teams compete in the NCAA Division I Big East Conference.
  • For acceptance rate, test scores and other admissions data, read the University of Notre Dame profile 
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Olin College
Olin College. Paul Keleher / Flickr
  • 6-Year Graduation Rate: 93%
  • Location: Needham, Massachusetts
  • School Type: Undergraduate engineering college
  • Enrollment: 339 (all undergraduate)
  • Description: The Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering was established in 1997 by a gift of over $400 million by the F. W. Olin Foundation. Construction began quickly, and the college welcomed its first class of students in 2002. Olin has a project-based, student-centered curriculum, so all students can plan to get their hands dirty in the lab and machine shop. The college is small -- just over 300 students total -- with a 9 to 1 student/faculty ratio. All enrolled students receive a significant Olin Scholarship.
  • For acceptance rate, test scores and other admissions data, read the Franklin W. Olin College profile
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Pomona College
Pomona College. CMLLovesDegus / Wikimedia Commons
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Princeton University
Princeton University. _Gene_ / Flickr
  • 6-Year Graduation Rate: 97%
  • Location: Princeton, New Jersey
  • School Type: Private research university
  • Enrollment: 7,592 (5,113 undergraduates)
  • Description: Princeton, a member of the Ivy League, often vies with Harvard for the top spot on national rankings of top universities. Located in a town of about 30,000 people, Princeton’s beautiful 500-acre campus sits about an hour away from both New York City and Philadelphia. Princeton's strengths in research have earned it membership in the Association of American Universities. For its strong liberal arts and sciences, the university was awarded a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.
  • For acceptance rate, test scores and other admissions data, read the Princeton University profile 
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Rice University
Rice University. Rice MBA / Flickr
  • 6-Year Graduation Rate: 93%
  • Location: Houston, Texas
  • School Type: Private research university
  • Enrollment: 5,357 (3,120 undergraduates)
  • Description: Rice University earns its reputation as a "Southern Ivy." The university boasts a multi-billion-dollar endowment, a 5 to 1 ratio of undergraduates to faculty members, a median class size of 15, and a residential college system modeled after Oxford. Admissions are highly competitive, with roughly 75% of students coming from the top 5% of their class. Rice has won high marks for its diversity and value. In athletics, the Rice Owls compete in the NCAA Division I Conference USA (C-USA). Rice has a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, and it is a member of the Association of American Universities.
  • For acceptance rate, test scores and other admissions data, read the Rice University profile 
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Stanford University
Stanford University. jillclardy / Flickr
  • 6-Year Graduation Rate: 95%
  • Location: Palo Alto, California
  • School Type: Private research university
  • Enrollment: 17,833 (6,532 undergraduates)
  • Description: Stanford is usually considered the best school on the west coast, as well as one of the finest research and teaching universities in the world. Stanford is just as competitive as the best universities in the Northeast, but with its Spanish architecture and mild Californian climate, you won’t mistake it for the Ivy League. Stanford's strengths in research and teaching have earned it a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa and membership in the Association of American Universities. In athletics, Stanford University competes in the NCAA Division I Pacific 12 Conference.
  • For acceptance rate, test scores and other admissions data, read the Stanford University profile 
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Swarthmore Parrish Hall
Swarthmore Parrish Hall. EAWB / flickr
  • 6-Year Graduation Rate: 93%
  • Location: Swarthmore, Pennsylvania
  • School Type: Private liberal arts college
  • Enrollment: 1,525 (all undergraduate)
  • Description: Swarthmore’s gorgeous 399-acre campus is a registered national arboretum situated just 11 miles from downtown Philadelphia, and students have the opportunity to take classes at neighboring Bryn Mawr, Haverford, and the University of Pennsylvania. The college can boast of an impressive 8 to 1 student/faculty ratio and a chapter of the prestigious Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society. Swarthmore consistently sits near the top of nearly all rankings of top U.S. liberal arts colleges.
  • For acceptance rate, test scores and other admissions data, read the Swarthmore College profile 
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University of Pennsylvania
University of Pennsylvania. rubberpaw / Flickr
  • 6-Year Graduation Rate: 95%
  • Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • School Type: Private research university
  • Enrollment: 24,599 (11,954 undergraduates)
  • Description: Founded by Benjamin Franklin, Penn should not be confused with Penn State or a public university. The University of Pennsylvania holds its own against the best of its Ivy League brethren. From Penn’s location in West Philadelphia, Center City is an easy walk across the Schuylkill river. With nearly 12,000 undergraduates and a similar number of graduate students, Penn has a diverse and bustling urban campus. For its strengths in the liberal arts and sciences, Penn was awarded a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, and its strength in research has earned it membership in the Association of American Universities.
  • For acceptance rate, test scores and other admissions data, read the University of Pennsylvania profile
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University of Virginia
University of Virginia. rpongsaj / flickr
  • 6-Year Graduation Rate: 93%
  • Location: Charlottesville, Virginia
  • School Type: Public research university
  • Enrollment: 24,355 (15,476 undergraduates)
  • Description: Established about 200 years ago by Thomas Jefferson, the University of Virginia has one of the most beautiful and historic campuses in the U.S. The school consistently ranks among the top public universities, and with an endowment now over $5 billion it is the wealthiest of the state schools. UVA is part of the NCAA Division I Atlantic Coast Conference. The university is located near Jefferson's home at Monticello. The school has strengths in academic areas from the humanities to engineering. UVA is a member of the Association of American Universities, and it has a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.
  • For acceptance rate, test scores and other admissions data, read the University of Virginia profile 
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Washington University in St. Louis
Washington University in St. Louis. 黄若云 / Flickr
  • 6-Year Graduation Rate: 93%
  • Location: St. Louis, Missouri
  • School Type: Private research university
  • Enrollment: 13,575 (7,046 undergraduates)
  • Description: Washington University in St. Louis is one of the most selective and highly-ranked universities in the Midwest. Indeed, for both the quality of its programs and the strength of its students, Washington University is comparable to many of the East Coast Ivy League universities (with, Wash U would argue, a bit more Midwest friendliness). Washington University was awarded a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences, and it is a member of the AAU for its strengths in research. Every undergraduate at Washington University belongs to a residential college, creating a small-college atmosphere within this mid-sized university.
  • For acceptance rate, test scores and other admissions data, read the Washington University profile 
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Wesleyan University
Wesleyan University. moyix / Flickr
  • 6-Year Graduation Rate: 93%
  • Location: Middletown, Connecticut
  • School Type: Private liberal arts college
  • Enrollment: 3,148 (2,787 undergraduates)
  • Description: Wesleyan University is one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country. While Wesleyan does have several graduate programs, the university has the feel of a liberal arts college with a predominantly undergraduate focus. Wesleyan has an impressive 9 to 1 student/faculty ratio, and the university's strengths in the liberal arts and sciences have earned it a chapter of the prestigious Phi Beta Kappa honor society. Students at Wesleyan are highly engaged in the campus community, and the university offers over 200 student organizations and a wide range of athletic teams.
  • For acceptance rate, test scores and other admissions data, read the Wesleyan University profile 
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Williams College
Williams College. WalkingGeek / Flickr
  • 6-Year Graduation Rate: 96%
  • Location: Williamstown, Massachusetts
  • School Type: Private liberal arts college
  • Enrollment: 2,141 (2,085 undergraduates)
  • Description: Williams College typically vies with Amherst for the top spot on national rankings the best liberal arts colleges. One of Williams’ unique features is its tutorial program in which students meet with faculty in pairs to present and critique each other’s work. With a 7 to 1 student/faculty ratio and an endowment well over $1 billion, Williams offers exceptional educational opportunities for its students. The college has a chapter of the prestigious Phi Beta Kappa honors society.
  • For acceptance rate, test scores and other admissions data, read the Williams College profile 
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Yale University
Yale University. Poldavo (Alex) / Flickr
  • 6-Year Graduation Rate: 98%
  • Location: New Haven, Connecticut
  • School Type: Private research university
  • Enrollment: 11,593 (5,275 undergraduates)
  • Description: Yale, with Princeton and Harvard, usually finds itself near the top of university rankings. This Ivy League school has an endowment over $15 billion and a 6:1 student/faculty ratio, so it’s easy to see why. For Yale's strengths in the liberal arts and sciences, the university was awarded a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. Its excellent research programs have earned it membership in the Association of American Universities. Yale is an easy train ride to either New York City or Boston. 
  • For acceptance rate, test scores and other admissions data, read the Yale University profile 
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Grove, Allen. "Best Six-Year Graduation Rates." ThoughtCo, Feb. 28, 2017, thoughtco.com/best-six-year-graduation-rates-788275. Grove, Allen. (2017, February 28). Best Six-Year Graduation Rates. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/best-six-year-graduation-rates-788275 Grove, Allen. "Best Six-Year Graduation Rates." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/best-six-year-graduation-rates-788275 (accessed October 17, 2017).