10 of the Top Small Colleges in the U.S.

When high school students begin looking for colleges, they’re forced to prioritize the things they want. A strong athletic program, a hard-to-find-major, or a particular location can all influence a student’s desire to attend. So, too, can size—for many students, the choice of big schools vs. small schools is one of the most important factors.

While there are reasons to attend a big school and reasons to attend a small school, finding an academic institution that suits your needs is crucial to success in your continued education. For those students looking for a smaller college (perhaps with 5,000 students of less), we present you a list of some of the very best. 

California Institute of Technology

The California Institute of Technology is a small private university in Pasadena, California. Known for its abundance of Nobel Prize winners and recipients of the National Medal of Science and Technology, the school accepts only 8% of applicants and specializes in engineering and science.

Claremont McKenna College

Located in Claremont, California, Claremont McKenna College is a private liberal arts college known for its programs in economics, government, and public affairs. The college accepts only 9.8% of those students who apply to the prestigious school. The school has only been co-ed since 1976.

Pomona College

Another California school to make the list, Pomona College is located in Claremont and only offers undergraduate education. It is one of the most endowed liberal arts colleges in the United States and accepts 12.1% of applicants. The college is associated with the Say Yes to Education Compact, offering free tuition to inner city youth.

Swarthmore College

Swarthmore College is a private liberal arts college in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, and it was one of the first co-ed colleges in the U.S. They accept 17% of applicants. The school is part of a consortium with Bryn Mawr College and Haverford College, which provides an integrated library system and gives students the opportunity to cross-register for classes.

Amherst College

Amherst College is a private liberal arts school in Amherst, Massachusetts. There are 38 majors to choose from, and it is said that students enjoy the open curriculum. Approximately 14% of students who apply are admitted to the school.

Bowdoin College

Located in Brunswick, Maine, this East Coast college offers a student-faculty ratio of 9:1. They’ve also got a 118-acre coastal studies center on Orr’s Island. Bowdoin accepts 14.9% of students. Perhaps best of all, Bowdoin is a no-loan school, meeting 100% of demonstrated financial need with grants.

College of the Ozarks

College of the Ozarks sits in Point Lookout, Missouri and is a Christian liberal arts college. They offer over 30 majors and charge no tuition for full-time students, instead offering a student work program, so it’s no wonder that admissions are difficult—the school accepts only 9% of applicants.

Alice Lloyd College

This Pippa Passes, Kentucky college offers 18 degree programs and roughly 20 students to every faculty member. The school has a high percentage of first-generation students, and around 33% of students who apply are admitted.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

MIT is a private research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It is well known throughout the world for its programs in physical sciences, engineering, and biology. The school also boasts a high number of Nobel laureates and National Medal of Science recipients, many Rhodes Scholars and MacArthur Fellows, and Fields Medalists. It is understandably difficult to enroll—only 7.9% of students are admitted.

U.S. Naval Academy

The U.S. Naval Academy is a four-year school in Annapolis, Maryland, educating officers for commissioning in the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. To get in, candidates must be nominated for admission, usually by a member of Congress. Candidates must also be between the ages of 17 and 23, unmarried and childless, and of good moral character. They’re given applications, standardized tests, physical tests, etc. Only 7.9% of applicants are admitted.

While some of these schools may to difficult to get into, they certainly offer some rewarding perks. By planning your strategy for college applications well in advance and studying up on the kinds of things admissions officers are looking for, you’ll undoubtedly increase your chances of going to one of the top small colleges in the United States!