Top Virginia Colleges

Virginia's best colleges and universities are among the top in the country. From large research universities to small liberal arts colleges, from military colleges to single-sex campuses, Virginia offers a little of everything. The top Virginia colleges listed below vary so much in size and mission that I have simply listed them alphabetically rather than force them into any sort of artificial ranking. That said, Washington and Lee, the University of Virginia and the College of William and Mary are probably the most selective and prestigious schools on the list.

Christopher Newport University

Christopher Newport University
Christopher Newport University.

 ETIENJones / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Located on a 260-acre campus near the Virginia coast, Christopher Newport University has seen rapid growth since it gained full university status in 1992. The school is home to the Ferguson Center for the Arts, and next door to the campus is The Mariner's Museum. The school has an active Greek scene, over 100 student clubs and organizations, highly rated residence halls, and NCAA Division III athletics.

Fast Facts (2018)
Location Newport News, Virginia
Enrollment 4,957 (4,857 undergraduates)
Acceptance Rate 68%
Student / Faculty Ratio 14 to 1

College of William and Mary

College of William & Mary
College of William & Mary. Photo Credit: Amy Jacobson

Admission to the College of William and Mary is highly selective, and the school ranks among the best public universities in the United States. It is also one of the oldest having been founded in 1693 (the second oldest college in the country after Harvard), and it is home to the original chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. The college represents an excellent value, especially for in-state students.

Fast Facts (2018)
Location Williamsburg, Virginia
Enrollment 8,817 (6,377 undergraduates)
Acceptance Rate 37%
Student / Faculty Ratio 11 to 1

George Mason University (GMU)

George Mason University School of Law
George Mason University School of Law.

 Ron Cogswell / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Another of Virginia's fast-growing public universities, George Mason University has strengths across a wide range of disciplines. Professional fields in health and business are popular with undergraduates, as are majors including biology, psychology, and information technology. The university is a member of the NCAA Division I Atlantic 10 Conference.

Fast Facts (2018)
Location Fairfax, Virginia
Enrollment 37,316 (26,192 undergraduates)
Acceptance Rate 81%
Student / Faculty Ratio 17 to 1

Hampden-Sydney College

Cushing Hall at Hampden-Sydney College
Cushing Hall at Hampden-Sydney College.

Ncstateguy2013 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Hampden-Sydney College is one of the nation's few all male colleges. The private liberal arts college has a rich history dating back to 1775, and the school is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church. Nearly all students receive significant grant-based financial aid.

Fast Facts (2018)
Location Hampden-Sydney, Virginia
Enrollment 1,072 (all undergraduate)
Acceptance Rate 59%
Student / Faculty Ratio 11 to 1

Hollins University

Hollins University
Hollins University.

 Allen Grove

With a beautiful 475-acre campus near the Blue Ridge Parkway, Hollins University wins high marks for its international learning and internship programs, generous financial aid, and a strong liberal arts and sciences curriculum. Despite its name as a "university," the school provides the intimacy and strong student-faculty relationships one expects with a small liberal arts college.

Fast Facts (2018)
Location Roanoke, Virginia
Enrollment 805 (676 undergraduates)
Acceptance Rate 64%
Student / Faculty Ratio 10 to 1

James Madison University (JMU)

James Madison University
James Madison University. Alma mater / Wikimedia Commons

James Madison University does well in the rankings for both its value and the quality of its academic programs. Business, health, and communication fields are particularly popular at the undergraduate level. The school's attractive campus features a lake and arboretum, and athletic teams compete in the NCAA Division I Colonial Athletic Association and Eastern College Athletic Conference.

Fast Facts (2018)
Location Harrisonburg, Virginia
Enrollment 21,751 (19,923 undergraduates)
Acceptance Rate 71%
Student / Faculty Ratio 16 to 1

Longwood University

Longwood University
Longwood University.

Idawriter / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

A mid-sized public institution, Longwood University's 154-acre campus features attractive Jeffersonian architecture in a town situated about an hour west of Richmond. The university emphasizes hands-on learning, and all students must complete an internship or research project. Athletic teams compete at the NCAA Division I level.

Fast Facts (2018)
Location Farmville, Virginia
Enrollment 4,911 (4,324 undergraduates)
Acceptance Rate 89%
Student / Faculty Ratio 14 to 1

Randolph College

Randolph College
Randolph College.

 Allen Grove

Don't underestimate Randolph College because of its small size. The school has a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for its strong programs in the liberal arts and sciences, and a low student/faculty ratio and small class size guarantee lots of personal attention. The college offers good financial aid, and outdoor lovers will appreciate the location in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Fast Facts (2018)
Location Lynchburg, Virginia
Enrollment 626 (600 undergraduates)
Acceptance Rate 87%
Student / Faculty Ratio 9 to 1

Randolph-Macon College

Student Center at Randolph-Macon College
Student Center at Randolph-Macon College.

Jay Paul / Stringer / Getty Images

Founded in 1830, Randolph-Macon College has the distinction of being the oldest Methodist college in the country. The college features attractive red-brick buildings, small classes, and a low student/faculty ratio. All students take an interdisciplinary team-taught seminar in their first year, so they begin building meaningful relationships with their professors early in their academic journeys.

Fast Facts (2018)
Location Ashland, Virginia
Enrollment 1,488 (all undergraduate)
Acceptance Rate 67%
Student / Faculty Ratio 11 to 1

Roanoke College

Roanoke College
Roanoke College.

roanokecollege / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

One of the advantages of a liberal arts college is that students have lots of opportunities to take on leadership roles. At Roanoke College, two-thirds of students have done so. Despite its small size, the college has over 100 student clubs and organizations, and 27 varsity and club athletic teams. Like many schools on this list, Roanoke also has a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for its strong programs in the liberal arts and sciences.

Fast Facts (2018)
Location Salem, Virginia
Enrollment 2,014 (all undergraduate)
Acceptance Rate 72%
Student / Faculty Ratio 11 to 1

Sweet Briar College

Sweet Briar College
Sweet Briar College.

 Allen Grove

Sweet Briar College nearly closed in 2015 because of financial hardship, but the school was saved by concerned alumnae, faculty, and students. This women's liberal arts college occupies a large 3,250-acre campus that often ranks among the most beautiful in the country. The school's small size and low student/faculty ratio means students get to know their classmates and professors well.

Fast Facts (2018)
Location Sweet Briar, Virginia
Enrollment 337 (336 undergraduates)
Acceptance Rate 76%
Student / Faculty Ratio 7 to 1

University of Mary Washington

Trinkle Hall at the University of Mary Washington
Trinkle Hall at the University of Mary Washington.

Morgan Riley / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0

One of the country's top public liberal arts colleges, the University of Mary Washington occupies an attractive 176-acre campus defined by its Jeffersonian architecture. The university wins high marks for bot the quality of its academic programs and its value (especially for in-state students). The school's location between Richmond and Washington, D.C., provides students with wide-ranging internships and research opportunities.

Fast Facts (2018)
Location Fredericksburg, Virginia
Enrollment 4,727 (4,410 undergraduates)
Acceptance Rate 72%
Student / Faculty Ratio 14 to 1

University of Richmond

Robins School of Business at the University of Richmond
Robins School of Business at the University of Richmond.

 Talbot0893 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

The University of Richmond is a mid-sized private university located on the outskirts of the city. The school has a strong liberal arts curriculum that earned it a chapter of the prestigious Phi Beta Kappa honor society. The university's Robins School of Business is well-regarded, and business is by far the most popular major among undergraduates. In athletics, the Spiders compete in the NCAA Division I Atlantic 10 Conference.

Fast Facts (2018)
Location Richmond, Virginia
Enrollment 4,002 (3,295 undergraduates)
Acceptance Rate 30%
Student / Faculty Ratio 8 to 1

University of Virginia

The Lawn at the University of Virginia
The Lawn at the University of Virginia.

 garytog / iStock / Getty Images

The University of Virginia's main campus has many distinctions. It consistently ranks among the very best public universities in the United States, and its roughly $10 billion endowment is the largest of any public university. UVA is home to one of the nation's top business schools, and strengths in the liberal arts and sciences earned the university a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. In athletics, the Virginia Cavaliers compete in the NCAA Division I Atlantic Coast Conference.

Fast Facts (2018)
Location Charlottesville, Virginia
Enrollment 24,639 (16,777 undergraduates)
Acceptance Rate 26%
Student / Faculty Ratio 15 to 1

Virginia Military Institute (VMI)

Virginia Military Academy
Virginia Military Academy.

Mgirardi / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

The Virginia Military Institute (VMI) was established in 1839 making it the oldest military college in the United States. Unlike the nation's military academies, VMI does not require military service after graduation. Nevertheless, students will encounter a disciplined and demanding undergraduate experience. The institute has particular strengths in engineering. On the athletic front, most teams compete in the NCAA Division I Southern Conference.

Fast Facts (2018)
Location Lexington, Virginia
Enrollment 1,685 (all undergraduate)
Acceptance Rate 51%
Student / Faculty Ratio 10 to 1

Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech.

 BSPollard / iStock / Getty Images Plus

With its distinctive stone architecture, Virginia Tech does extremely well in national rankings. It stands as one of the country's top public universities and top engineering schools. The school is home to a corps of cadets, and the center of campus is defined by the large oval Drillfield. The Virginia Tech Hokies compete in the NCAA Division I Atlantic Coast Conference.

Fast Facts (2018)
Location Blacksburg, Virginia
Enrollment 34,683 (27,811 undergraduates)
Acceptance Rate 65%
Student / Faculty Ratio 14 to 1

Washington and Lee University

Washington and Lee University
Washington and Lee University.

 Travel_Bug / iStock / Getty Images Plus

A small private school, Washington and Lee University ranks among the country's top liberal arts colleges. Occupying an attractive and historic campus, the college was founded in 1746 and endowed by George Washington. Admissions standards are similar to those at the University of Virginia, so you're going to need to be a strong student to get in.

Fast Facts (2018)
Location Lexington, Virginia
Enrollment 2,223 (1,829 undergraduates)
Acceptance Rate 21%
Student / Faculty Ratio 8 to 1