The Best New England Colleges and Universities

A game of softball on the green lawns of the campus of Williams College
Barry Winiker / Getty Images

The New England region has some of the most selective and prestigious colleges and universities in the country. Harvard frequently ranks first or second among U.S. universities, and Williams and Amherst often vie for the top spot for liberal arts colleges. On the engineering front, MIT frequently sits at the top of the rankings. The colleges and universities ranked alphabetically below were chosen from Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont based on retention rates, graduation rates, student engagement, selectivity, and financial aid.

Amherst College

The sun streams across an Amherst College academic building

Allen Grove

Babson College

  • Location: Wellesley, Massachusetts
  • Enrollment: 3,165 (2,283 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private business college
  • Distinctions: Highly ranked undergraduate business program; innovative curriculum with emphasis on leadership and entrepreneurship skills; first-year students develop, launch and liquidate a for-profit business of their own design
  • GPA, SAT and ACT graph for Babson

Bates College

Green Scenery at Bates College

Wentworth Washington / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

  • Location: Lewiston, Maine
  • Enrollment: 1,780 (all undergraduate)
  • Type of Institution: private liberal arts college
  • Distinctions: Test-optional admissions; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strengths in the liberal arts and sciences; highly ranked liberal arts college; popular study abroad programs; about 2/3 of students go on to graduate school; 10 to 1 student/faculty ratio

Bentley University

Bentley University Library
Bentley University Library. Fogster / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Waltham, Massachusetts
  • Enrollment: 5,506 (4,222 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private university with a business focus
  • Distinctions: Highly ranked business school; 12 to 1 student/faculty ratio; average class size of 24; business curriculum has a liberal arts core; curricular emphasis on ethics, social responsibility, and global culture
  • GPA, SAT and ACT graph for Bentley

Boston College

Boston College St. Ignatius Church
Boston College St. Ignatius Church. John.Workman / Flickr
  • Location: Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts
  • Enrollment: 14,466 (9,870 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private Catholic university
  • Distinctions: One of the top Catholic universities; largest endowment of any Jesuit university; strong undergraduate business program; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strengths in the liberal arts and sciences; member of the NCAA Division 1-A Atlantic Coast Conference

Bowdoin College

Bowdoin College
Bowdoin College. sglickman / Flickr
  • Location: Brunswick, Maine
  • Enrollment: 1,806 (all undergraduate)
  • Type of Institution: private liberal arts college
  • Distinctions: Loan-free financial aid; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences; beautiful; highly selective admissions; interesting mix of historic and state-of-the-art buildings; 118-acre Coastal Studies Center on Orr's Island

Brandeis University

Brandeis University
Brandeis University. Mike Lovett / Wikipedia Commons
  • Location: Waltham, Massachusetts
  • Enrollment: 5,729 (3,608 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private university
  • Distinctions: 10 to 1 student/faculty ratio; member of the Association of American Universities for strong research programs; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences; easy access to Boston
  • GPA, SAT and ACT graph for Brandeis

Brown University

Brown University
Brown University. Photo Credit: Allen Grove
  • Location: Providence, Rhode Island
  • Enrollment: 9,781 (6,926 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private university
  • Distinctions: Member of the Ivy League; open curriculum allows students to plan their own plans of study; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences; member of the Association of American Universities for strong research programs; one of the country's top universities

Coast Guard Academy

United States Coast Guard Academy
United States Coast Guard Academy. uscgpress / Flickr
  • Location: New London, Connecticut
  • Enrollment: 1,047 (all undergraduate)
  • Type of Institution: federal service academy (military)
  • Distinctions: 8 to 1 student/faculty ratio; 80% of graduates go on to graduate school; free, but students have a five-year service commitment; merit-based admissions (no congressional nomination required); low acceptance rate

Colby College

Miller LIbrary at Colby College
Miller LIbrary at Colby College. Colby Mariam / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Waterville, Maine
  • Enrollment: 1,879 (all undergraduate)
  • Type of Institution: private liberal arts college
  • Distinctions: 10 to 1 student/faculty ratio; attractive 714-acre campus with a 128-acre arboretum; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strengths in the liberal arts and sciences; strong environmental and global initiatives; NCAA Division I ski teams
  • GPA, SAT and ACT graph for Colby

Connecticut College

Connecticut College
Connecticut College. randomduck / Flickr
  • Location: New London, Connecticut
  • Enrollment: 1,865 (all undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private liberal arts college
  • Distinctions: 9 to 1 student/faculty ratio; average class size of 18; attractive waterfront campus adjacent to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences; test-optional admissions
  • GPA, SAT and ACT graph for Connecticut College

Dartmouth College

Dartmouth Hall at Dartmouth University
Dartmouth Hall at Dartmouth University. Photo Credit: Allen Grove
  • Location: Hanover, New Hampshire
  • Enrollment: 6,409 (4,310 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private university
  • Explore Campus: Dartmouth College photo tour
  • Distinctions: Smallest member of the Ivy League; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences; attractive 269-acre campus with a mix of historic and modern buildings; home to the Hood Museum of Art and Hopkins Center for the Arts; active athletic programs; strong study abroad initiatives

Harvard University

Harvard University Memorial Hall
Harvard University Memorial Hall. timsackton / Flickr
  • Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Enrollment: 29,908 (9,915 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private university
  • Explore the Campus: Harvard University photo tour
  • Distinctions: Most selective university in the country; member of the Ivy League; largest endowment of any university; member of the Association of American Universities for strong research programs; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strengths in the liberal arts and sciences; excellent financial aid for families with modest income

Holy Cross, College of the

College of the Holy Cross
College of the Holy Cross. Joe Campbell / Flickr
  • Location: Worcester, Massachusetts
  • Enrollment: 2,720 (all undergraduate)
  • Type of Institution: private Catholic liberal arts college
  • Distinctions: 10 to 1 student/faculty ratio; one of the country's top Catholic colleges; oldest Catholic college in New England; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strengths in the liberal arts and sciences; member of the NCAA Division I Patriot League
  • GPA, SAT and ACT graph for Holy Cross

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

MIT Great Dome
MIT Great Dome. Dan4th / Flickr
  • Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Enrollment: 11,376 (4,524 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private university (engineering and science focus)
  • Distinctions: Often ranked #1 among top engineering schools; home to one of the nation's top business schools; stunning location overlooking the Boston skyline; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strengths in the liberal arts and sciences; membership in the Association of American Universities for strong research programs

Middlebury College

Middlebury College Campus
Middlebury College Campus. Alan Levine / Flickr
  • Location: Middlebury, Vermont
  • Enrollment: 2,549 (2,523 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private liberal arts college
  • Distinctions: One of the country's top liberal arts colleges; 8 to 1 student/faculty ratio; average class size of 16; excellent language programs and study-abroad program; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences; attractive campus in a scenic New England town
  • GPA, SAT and ACT graph for Middlebury

Olin College of Engineering

Olin College
Olin College. Paul Keleher / Flickr
  • Location: Needham, Massachusetts
  • Enrollment: 378 (all undergraduate)
  • Type of Institution: engineering school
  • Distinctions: One of the top undergraduate engineering colleges; generous financial aid—all students receive an Olin Scholarship; project-based, hands-on, student-centered curriculum; 8 to 1 student/faculty ratio; small school with lots of student-faculty interaction
  • GPA, SAT and ACT graph for Olin

Rhode Island School of Design (RISD)

Rhode Island School of Design
Rhode Island School of Design. spablab / Flickr
  • Location: Providence, Rhode Island
  • Enrollment: 2,477 (1,999 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: school of art and design
  • Distinctions: One of the country's top art schools; studio-based curriculum; strong job placement rate; home to the RISD Museum; portfolio-centered admissions process; dual degree program with neighboring Brown University

Smith College

Seelye Hall at Smith College
Seelye Hall at Smith College. Allen Grove
  • Location: Northampton, Massachusetts
  • Enrollment: 2,896 (2,514 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private women's liberal arts college
  • Distinctions: One of the country's top women's colleges; member of the five college consortium; 9 to 1 student/faculty ratio; home to the 12,000 square foot Lyman Conservatory and the Botanic Garden with about 10,000 different plant species; one of the "Seven Sisters"
  • GPA, SAT and ACT graph for Smith

Trinity College

Trinity College
Trinity College. Photo Credit: Allen Grove
  • Location: Hartford, Connecticut
  • Enrollment: 2,350 (2,259 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private liberal arts college
  • Distinctions: 10 to 1 student/faculty ratio; strong initiatives for study abroad, community service and internships; 100 student organizations including an active Greek system; home to one of the country's oldest chapters of the Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society
  • GPA, SAT and ACT graph for Trinity

Tufts University

Olin Center at Tufts University
Olin Center at Tufts University. Photo Credit: Marisa Benjamin
  • Location: Medford, Massachusetts
  • Enrollment: 11,489 (5,508 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private university
  • Distinctions: 9 to 1 student/faculty ratio; attractive campus with easy access to Boston; broad academic options; high marks for student happiness and study abroad; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strengths in the liberal arts and sciences

Wellesley College

Schneider Center at Wellesley College
Schneider Center at Wellesley College. Daderot / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Wellesley, Massachusetts
  • Enrollment: 2,482 (all undergraduate)
  • Type of Institution: private women's liberal arts college
  • Explore the Campus: Wellesley College photo tour
  • Distinctions: One of the top 10 liberal arts colleges; often ranked #1 among top women's colleges; 7 to 1 student/faculty ratio; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences; academic exchange programs with Harvard and M.I.T.; attractive lakeside campus
  • GPA, SAT and ACT graph for Wellesley

Wesleyan University

Wesleyan University Library
Wesleyan University Library. Photo Credit: Allen Grove
  • Location: Middletown, Connecticut
  • Enrollment: 3,206 (2,971 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private liberal arts college
  • Distinctions: 8 to 1 student/faculty ratio; one of the country's top liberal arts college; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences; over 200 student organizations; 47 major fields of study; 29 NCAA Division III varsity teams
  • GPA, SAT and ACT graph for Wesleyan

Williams College

Williams College
Williams College. Photo Credit: Allen Grove
  • Location: Williamstown, Massachusetts
  • Enrollment: 2,150 (2,093 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private liberal arts colleges
  • Distinctions: often first or second in national rankings of the best liberal arts colleges; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences; 7 to 1 student/faculty ratio; endowment well over $1 billion; students enrolled in more than 150 off-campus study programs; 32 varsity athletic teams

Yale University

Yale University
Yale University. Photo Credit: Allen Grove
  • Location: New Haven, Connecticut
  • Enrollment: 12,458 (5,472 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private university
  • Distinctions: 6 to 1 student/faculty ratio; highly ranked among the nation's top universities; member of the Ivy League; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences; membership in the Association of American Universities for strong research programs; endowment over $16 billion; 35 varsity athletic teams