Top Tennessee Colleges

Learn About 11 of the Top-Ranked Colleges and Universities in Tennessee

Tennessee has excellent higher education options for both public and private institutions.  From a large public university like the University of Tennessee to tiny Fisk University, Tennessee has schools to match a wide range of student personalities and interests. Many of the stronger colleges in the state have religious affiliations. The 11 top Tennessee colleges listed below represent such diverse school types and missions that I have simply listed them alphabetically rather than force them into any sort of artificial ranking. That said, Vanderbilt University is the most selective and prestigious institution on the list. The schools were chosen based on factors such as academic reputation, curricular innovations, first-year retention rates, six-year graduation rates, selectivity, financial aid and student engagement.

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Belmont University
Belmont University. EVula / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Nashville, Tennessee
  • Enrollment: 7,350 (5,983 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private Christian university
  • Distinctions: 14 to 1 student / faculty ratio; highly ranked master's-level university in the South; strong programs in music and music business; located next door to Vanderbilt University; member of the NCAA Division I Atlantic Sun Conference
  • For acceptance rate, test scores, costs and other information, visit the Belmont University profile

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Fisk University
Fisk University. amerune / Flickr
  • Location: Nashville, Tennessee
  • Enrollment: 855 (806 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private historically black university
  • Distinctions: rich history dating to 1866; highly ranked historically black university; many notable alumni including W.E.B. Du Bois; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society for strengths in the liberal arts and sciences
  • For acceptance rate, test scores, costs and other information, visit the Fisk University profile

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Lipscomb University
Lipscomb University. SeeMidTN.com (aka Brent) / Flickr
  • Location: Nashville, Tennessee
  • Enrollment: 4,680 (3,030 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private university affiliated with the Churches of Christ
  • Distinctions: 12 to 1 student / faculty ratio; strong grant aid; strong Christian identity and belief in the interconnectedness of faith and learning; 130 programs of study; member of the NCAA Division I Atlantic Sun Conference
  • For acceptance rate, test scores, costs and other information, visit the Lipscomb University profile

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Carnegie Hall at Maryville College
Carnegie Hall at Maryville College. Notneb82 / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Maryville, Tennessee
  • Enrollment: 1,213 (all undergraduate)
  • Type of Institution: private college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church
  • Distinctions: 13 to 1 student / faculty ratio; average class size of 17; located less than 30 minutes from Knoxville; rich history going back to 1819; generous financial aid
  • For acceptance rate, test scores, costs and other information, visit the Maryville College profile

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Milligan College
Milligan College. aprilandrandy / Flickr
  • Location: Milligan College, Tennessee
  • Enrollment: 1,193 (891 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private Christian liberal arts college
  • Distinctions: 9 to 1 student / faculty ratio; strong Christian identity; attractive campus in the Appalachian Mountains; good graduation rate in relation to student profile; generous grant aid
  • For acceptance rate, test scores, costs and other information, visit the Milligan College profile

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Rhodes College Buckman Hall
Rhodes College Buckman Hall. Photo Courtesy of Rhodes College
  • Location: Memphis, Tennessee
  • Enrollment: 2,063 (2,046 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church
  • Explore campus in the Rhodes College photo tour
  • Distinctions: attractive 100-acre park-like campus; 10 to 1 student / faculty ratio; average class size of 13; students from 46 states and 15 countries; chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences
  • For acceptance rate, test scores, costs and other information, visit the Rhodes College Profile

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Sewanee, University of the South
Sewanee, University of the South. wharman / Flickr
  • Location: Sewanee, Tennessee
  • Enrollment: 1,797 (1,710 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private liberal arts college affiliated with the Episcopal Church
  • Distinctions: 10 to 1 student / faculty ratio; average class size of 18 the first year, 13 in later years; 13,000-acre campus on the Cumberland Plateau; strong English program and home of The Sewanee Review
  • For acceptance rate, test scores, costs and other information, visit the Sewanee profile

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Tennessee Tech
Tennessee Tech. Turvy / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Cookeville, Tennessee
  • Enrollment: 10,900 (9,801 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: public university with technological focus
  • Distinctions: strong professional fields in nursing, business and engineering; good grant aid and overall value; competes in the NCAA Division I Ohio Valley Conference
  • For acceptance rate, test scores, costs and other information, visit the Tennessee Tech profile

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Union University Miller Tower
Union University Miller Tower. ask / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Jackson, Tennessee
  • Enrollment: 3,583 (2,520 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private university affiliated with the Southern Baptist Church
  • Distinctions: 10 to 1 student / faculty ratio; Christ-centered identity; students from 45 states and 30 countries; mostly new residence halls built in 2008 after tornado damage
  • For acceptance rate, test scores, costs and other information, visit the Union University profile

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University of Tennessee Football
University of Tennessee Football. Triple Tri / Flickr
  • Location: Knoxville, Tennessee
  • Enrollment: 27,845 (21,863 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: public research university
  • Distinctions: flagship campus of Tennessee's state university system; strong business programs; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong programs in the liberal arts and sciences; member of the NCAA Division I Southeastern Conference
  • For acceptance rate, test scores, costs and other information, visit the University of Tennessee profile

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Vanderbilt University Benson Science Hall
Vanderbilt University Benson Science Hall. Zeamays / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Nashville, Tennessee
  • Enrollment: 12,567 (6,883 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private research university
  • Distinctions: most selective and prestigious university in Tennessee; 8 to 1 student / faculty ratio; many high ranking programs including education, law, medicine and business; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strengths in the liberal arts and sciences; member of the Association of American Universities for strong research programs; member of the NCAA Division I Southeastern Conference
  • Explore the Campus: Vanderbilt University Photo Tour
  • For acceptance rate, test scores, costs and other information, visit the Vanderbilt University profile

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