Top Colleges and Universities in the Southeast

South Atlantic Region
South Atlantic Region.

The southeastern United States has some excellent colleges and universities, and my top picks range from small liberal arts colleges to giant state universities. UNC Chapel Hill, Virginia Tech, William and Mary, and the University of Virginia frequently appear among the country's top 10 public universities, and Duke is one of the nation's top private universities. The colleges and universities below were selected based on factors such as retention rates, graduation rates, student engagement, selectivity, and overall value. I have listed the schools alphabetically to avoid the often arbitrary distinctions that separate #1 from #2, and because of the futility of comparing a large research university to a small liberal arts college.

The colleges and universities in the list below were selected from the South Atlantic region of the United States: Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Agnes Scott College

Agnes Scott College
Agnes Scott College. Diliff / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Decatur, Georgia
  • Enrollment: 927 (all undergraduate)
  • Type of Institution: private women's liberal arts college
  • Distinctions: One of the country's top women's colleges; excellent value; 9 to 1 student/faculty ratio; chapter of  Phi Beta Kappa for strengths in the liberal arts and sciences; easy access to Atlanta; attractive campus
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the Agnes Scott College profile

Clemson University

Clemson University
Clemson University. Blue Sun Photography / Flickr
  • Location: Clemson, South Carolina
  • Enrollment: 23,406 (18,599 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: public university
  • Distinctions: One of the country's best public universities; good value; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences; attractive location in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains; highly regarded business and engineering programs; member of the NCAA Division I Atlantic Coast Conference
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the Clemson University profile

College of William and Mary

William and Mary
William and Mary. Lyndi&Jason / flickr

Davidson College

Davidson College
Davidson College. functoruser / Flickr
  • Location: Davidson, North Carolina
  • Enrollment: 1,796 (all undergraduate)
  • Type of Institution: private liberal arts college
  • Distinctions: Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for its strengths in the liberal arts and sciences; one of the country's top liberal arts colleges; founded in 1837; honor code allows for self-scheduled exams; member of the NCAA Division I Atlantic 10 Conference
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the Davidson College profile

Duke University

Duke University
Duke University. mricon / Flickr

Elon University

Elon University
Elon University. photo courtesy of Elon University / Office of University Relations
  • Location: Elon, North Carolina
  • Enrollment: 6,739 (6,008 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private university
  • Distinctions: High level of student engagement; strong programs for study abroad, internships, and volunteer work; popular pre-professional programs in business and communications; attractive red-brick campus; member of the NCAA Division I Colonial Athletic Association (CAA)
  • Explore the Campus: Elon University Photo Tour
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the Elon University profile

Emory University

Emory University Tower
Emory University Tower. Nrbelex / Flickr
  • Location: Atlanta, Georgia
  • Enrollment: 14,067 (6,861 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private university
  • Distinctions: Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strengths in the liberal arts and sciences; membership in the Association of American Universities for strong research programs; multi-billion dollar endowment; one of the country's best universities; home to one of the top ten business schools
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the Emory University profile

Florida State University (FSU)

Florida State University
Florida State University. J-a-x / Flickr
  • Location: Tallahassee, Florida
  • Enrollment: 41,173 (32,933 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: public university
  • Distinctions: One of the flagship campuses of Florida's state university system; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strengths in the liberal arts and sciences; active fraternity and sorority system; member of the NCAA Division I Atlantic Coast Conference
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the Florida State University profile

Furman University

Furman University
Furman University. JeffersonDavis / Flickr
  • Location: Greenville, South Carolina
  • Enrollment: 3,003 (2,797 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: liberal arts college
  • Readers share their impressions of Furman
  • Distinctions: 11 to 1 student/faculty ratio; high level of student engagement; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences; member of the NCAA Division I Southern Conference
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the Furman University profile

Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech Football Stadium
Georgia Tech Football Stadium. brian.chu / Flickr

Hampden-Sydney College

Hampden-Sydney College
Hampden-Sydney College. MorrisS / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Hampden-Sydney, Virginia
  • Enrollment: 1,027 (all undergraduate)
  • Type of Institution: private men's liberal arts college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church
  • Distinctions: 11 to 1 student/faculty ratio; 10th oldest college in the United States (founded in 1775); attractive 1,340-acre campus; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strengths in the liberal arts and sciences; one of the few all-male colleges in the country
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the Hampden-Sydney College profile

James Madison University

James Madison University
James Madison University. taberandrew / Flickr
  • Location: Harrisonburg, Virginia
  • Enrollment: 21,270 (19,548 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: public university
  • Distinctions: High rankings for value and academic quality; attractive campus features an open quad, lake, and arboretum; member of the NCAA Division I Colonial Athletic Association and Eastern College Athletic Conference
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the James Madison University profile

New College of Florida

New College
New College. markus941 / Flickr
  • Location: Sarasota, Florida
  • Enrollment: 875 (all undergraduate)
  • Type of Institution: public liberal arts college
  • Distinctions: One of the top public liberal arts colleges; oceanfront campus; student-centered curriculum has no traditional majors and emphasizes independent study; students receive written evaluations rather than grades; good value
  • Explore Campus: New College photo tour
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the New College of Florida profile

North Carolina State University Raleigh

NC State University Football
NC State University Football. opus2008 / Flickr
  • Location: Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Enrollment: 33,755 (23,827 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: public university
  • Distinctions: Largest university in North Carolina; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences; strong science and engineering programs; founding member of the NCAA Division I Atlantic Coast Conference
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the NC State profile

Rollins College

Rollins College
Rollins College. mwhaling / Flickr
  • Location: Winter Park, Florida
  • Enrollment: 3,240 (2,642 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private liberal arts college
  • Distinctions: 11 to 1 student/faculty ratio; highly ranked masters level university in the South; attractive 70-acre campus on the shores of Lake Virginia; strong commitment to international learning; member of the NCAA Division II Sunshine State Conference
  • Explore the Campus: Rollins College photo tour
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the Rollins Colleges profile

Spelman College

Spelman College
Spelman College. waynetaylor / Flickr
  • Location: Atlanta, Georgia
  • Enrollment: 2,125 (all undergraduate)
  • Type of Institution: private all-female historically black liberal arts college
  • Distinctions: 11 to 1 student/faculty ratio; one of the country's top women's colleges; highly ranked school for promoting social mobility; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strengths in the liberal arts and sciences
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the Spelman College profile

University of Florida

University of Florida
University of Florida. randomduck / Flickr

University of Georgia

University of Georgia
University of Georgia. hyku / Flickr
  • Location: Athens, Georgia
  • Enrollment: 36,574 (27,951 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: public university
  • Distinctions: Rich history dating back to 1785; well-respected Honors Program for ​high-achieving students; appealing college town location; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the University of Georgia profile

University of Mary Washington

University of Mary Washington
University of Mary Washington. Jte288 / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Fredericksburg, Virginia
  • Enrollment: 4,726 (4,357 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: public liberal arts college
  • Distinctions: One of the top public liberal arts colleges; highly ranked for its quality and value; attractive 176-acre campus with Jeffersonian architecture; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strengths in the liberal arts and sciences
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the University of Mary Washington profile

University of Miami

University of Miami
University of Miami. BurningQuestion / Flickr
  • Location: Coral Gables, Florida
  • Enrollment: 16,744 (10,792 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private university
  • Distinctions: Well-regarded program in Marine Biology; popular business and nursing programs; diverse student population; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences; member of the NCAA Division I Atlantic Coast Conference
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the University of Miami profile

University of North Carolina Chapel Hill

UNC Chapel Hill - Old Well
UNC Chapel Hill - Old Well. Seth Ilys / Wikimedia Commons

University of North Carolina Wilmington

UNC Wilmington
UNC Wilmington. Aaron / Flickr
  • Location: Wilmington, North Carolina
  • Enrollment: 15,740 (13,914 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: public university
  • Distinctions: Strong professional programs in business, education, communications and nursing; excellent value; located just minutes from the Atlantic Ocean; member of the NCAA Division I Colonial Athletic Association
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the UNC Wilmington profile

University of Richmond

University of Richmond
University of Richmond. rpongsaj / Flickr

University of South Carolina

University of South Carolina
University of South Carolina. Florencebballer / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Columbia, South Carolina
  • Enrollment: 34,099 (25,556 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: public university
  • Distinctions: Flagship campus of the South Carolina university system; 350 degree programs; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strengths in the liberal arts and sciences; nationally known and pioneering program for first-year students; member of the NCAA Division I Southeastern Conference
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the University of South Carolina profile

University of Virginia

University of Virginia
University of Virginia. rpongsaj / Flickr

Virginia Military Institute

Virginia Military Institute
Virginia Military Institute. Mrzubrow / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Lexington, Virginia
  • Enrollment: 1,713 (all undergraduate)
  • Type of Institution: public military college
  • Distinctions: Oldest public military college in the U.S.; disciplined and demanding college environment; strong engineering programs; member of the NCAA Division I Big South Conference
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the Virginia Military Institute profile

Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech Campus
Virginia Tech Campus. CipherSwarm / Flickr

Wake Forest University

Wake Forest University Residence Hall
Wake Forest University Residence Hall. NCBrian / Flickr

Washington and Lee University

Washington and Lee University
Washington and Lee University. wsuhonors / Flickr
  • Location: Lexington, Virginia
  • Enrollment: 2,160 (1,830 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private liberal arts college
  • Distinctions: One of the country's top liberal arts colleges; founded in 1746 and endowed by George Washington; attractive and historic campus; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences; highly selective admissions
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the Washington and Lee University profile

Wofford College

Wofford College Gibbs Stadium
Wofford College Gibbs Stadium. Greenstrat / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Spartanburg, South Carolina
  • Enrollment: 1,683 (all undergraduate)
  • Type of Institution: private liberal arts college affiliated with the United Methodist Church
  • Distinctions: 11 to 1 student/faculty ratio; campus is a designated National Historic District; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences; competes in the NCAA Division I Southern Conference
  • For more information and admissions data, visit the Wofford College profile