Best universities in the United States 2016

Stanford University, Best universities in the United States 2016

Thinking about studying in the USA can be overwhelming, especially since there are so many options of where to study in the United States.

We are currently in the process of launching our own bespoke US college ranking, due for publication in September. Before that goes live, however, we thought you might like to know which are the top universities in America based on the highly respected Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2015-2016.

The best universities and colleges in the USA number almost 150, and wherever you want to study in America, a top university will not be far away. Almost all of the states are represented in the best US universities list. In total, 128 different cities appear in the ranking.


Resources: US university rankings

– Best universities in New York
– US universities with the most international students
– Universities in the United States promoting social mobility


California is by far the most represented state among the best American universities with 14 institutions, followed by New York State with 12, Texas with nine and Massachusetts with eight.

But the city with the most universities is Washington DC, which has four. Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, New York City, Atlanta in Georgia and Chicago in Illinois have three universities each in the ranking.

The universities at the very top are more concentrated in popular destinations well known for their higher education opportunities; the top five are based in California, Massachusetts and New Jersey.


Resources: applying to the United States

– International student application guide
– American universities with late application deadlines
– Benefits of public universities v Ivy Leagues


Top 5 universities in the United States

Scroll down to view the full table of the best American universities

1. California Institute of Technology

Relative to the tiny size of the student population, CalTech has an impressive number of wildly successful graduates and affiliates, including 34 Nobel prizewinners, six Turing Award winners, five Fields Medalists and a number of national awards.

There are only 2,243 students at CalTech, and the primary campus in Pasadena, near Los Angeles, covers 124 acres. Almost all undergraduates live on campus.

Across the six faculties there is a focus on science and engineering; the university appears in the top 5 for engineering and technology (#2), physical sciences (#1), and life sciences (#5) rankings in 2016.

In addition to Nobel laureates and top researchers, the CalTech alumni community also includes a number of politicians and public advisers, particularly in positions that deal with science, technology and energy.

All first-year students belong to one of four houses as part of the university’s alternative model to fraternities. There are a number of house traditions and events associated with each house.

The university has the highest proportion of students who continue on to pursue a PhD, and the trope of the CalTech postgraduate has filtered into popular culture; all the main characters in the TV comedy The Big Bang Theory work or study at CalTech.

2. Stanford University

Based right next to Silicon Valley – or Palo Alto – Stanford has had a prominent role in encouraging the high-tech industry to develop in the area.

Many faculty members, students and alumni have founded successful technology companies and start-ups, including Google, Snapchat and Hewlett-Packard.

In total, companies founded by Stanford alumni make $2.7 trillion each year.

The university is often referred to as “the Farm”, as the campus was built on the site of the Stanford family’s Palo Alto Stock Farm. The campus covers 8,180 acres, but more than half of the land is not yet developed.

With distinctive sand-coloured, red-roofed buildings, Stanford’s campus is thought to be one of the most beautiful in the world. It contains a number of sculpture gardens and art museums in addition to faculty buildings and a public meditation centre.

As might be expected from one of the best universities in the world, Stanford is highly competitive. The admission rate currently stands at just over 5 per cent.

Of the 15,596 students – most of whom live on campus – 22 per cent are international.

3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

A long-standing rival of CalTech, MIT also cultivates a strong entrepreneurial culture, which has seen many alumni found notable companies such as Intel and Dropbox.

Unusually, the undergraduate and postgraduate programmes at MIT are not wholly separate; many courses can be taken at either level.

The undergraduate programme is one of the country’s most selective, admitting only 8 per cent of applicants. Engineering and computer science programmes are the most popular among undergraduates.

Thirty-three per cent of the 11,000 students are international, hailing from 154 different countries around the world.

Famous alumni include astronaut Buzz Aldrin, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and physicist Richard Feynman. Graduates are prevalent throughout science, politics, economics, business and media.

The university appears in the top 5 list in the Engineering and technology, physical sciences, social sciences and arts and humanities rankings published by Times Higher Education.

4. Harvard University

Harvard University is probably the best-known university in the world, coming top in the reputation rankings most years.

It was founded in 1636, and is the oldest higher education institution in the United States.

There are currently 20,152 students enrolled, a quarter of whom are international. Although the cost of tuition is expensive, Harvard’s financial endowment allows for plenty of financial aid for students.

The Harvard Library system is made up of 79 different libraries and counts as the largest academic library in the world.

Among many famous alumni, Harvard can count eight US presidents, about 150 Nobel laureates, 13 Turing Award winners and 62 living billionaires.

Unlike some other universities at the top of the list, Harvard is at least equally as reputed for arts and humanities as it is for science and technology, if not more so. In the 2016 arts and humanities ranking, Harvard takes the second position, and secures top 10 positions for physical sciences, social sciences and engineering and technology.

5. Princeton University

Like Harvard, Princeton is a prestigious Ivy League university with a history stretching back more than 200 years.

Princeton’s distinctive social environment includes private “eating clubs” – which function as both social houses and dining halls. Many of the clubs are selective and competitive, but others simply require undergraduates to sign up.

There are fewer than 8,000 students enrolled at Princeton, and just over a quarter are international.

Princeton’s campuses, in New Jersey, are located about an hour away from both New York City and Philadelphia.

Degree courses have strictly specified requirements. All students are required to do independent research as part of their degrees, and some must take a foreign language course.

The application process is highly selective. Unlike most US universities, Princeton does not now offer an early decision application route.

Renowned Princeton alumni include US presidents, astronauts, businessmen, Olympians and numerous award-winners. Physicist Richard Feynman attended as a graduate student, as did mathematicians John Nash and Alan Turing.


Compare US universities with other regions:

– Best universities in Europe 2016
– Where do graduates face the most debt?
  

– Where are international postgraduates most satisfied?
– European universities competing with US in humanities


Top universities in the United States 2016

Click each institution to view its full World University Rankings 2015-2016 results

USA Rank Position in World University Rankings 2016 University State City
1 1 California Institute of Technology California Pasadena
2 3 Stanford University California Stanford
3 5 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Massachusetts Cambridge
4 6 Harvard University Massachusetts Cambridge
5 7 Princeton University New Jersey Princeton
6 10 University of Chicago Illinois Chicago
7 11 Johns Hopkins University Maryland Baltimore
8 12 Yale University Connecticut New Haven
9 13 University of California, Berkeley California Berkeley
10 15 Columbia University New York State New York City
11 16 University of California, Los Angeles California Los Angeles
12 17 University of Pennsylvania Pennsylvania Philadelphia
13 18 Cornell University New York State Ithaca
14 20 Duke University North Carolina Durham
15 21 University of Michigan Michigan Ann Arbor
16 22 Carnegie Mellon University Pennsylvania Pittsburgh
17 25 Northwestern University Illinois Evanston
18 30 New York University New York State New York City
19 32 University of Washington Washington Seattle
20 36 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Illinois Champaign
=21 =39 University of California, San Diego California San Diego
=21 =39 University of California, Santa Barbara California Santa Barbara
23 41 Georgia Institute of Technology Georgia Atlanta
24 =44 University of California, Davis California Davis
25 46 University of Texas at Austin Texas Austin
26 50 University of Wisconsin-Madison Wisconsin Madison
27 51 Brown University Rhode Island Providence
28 =60 Washington University in St Louis Missouri St. Louis
29 63 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill North Carolina Chapel Hill
30 64 Boston University Massachusetts Boston
31 =65 University of Minnesota Minnesota Minneapolis
32 68 University of Southern California California Los Angeles
33 75 Pennsylvania State University Pennsylvania State College
34 79 University of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania Pittsburgh
35 87 Vanderbilt University Tennessee Nashville
=36 =90 Emory University Georgia Atlanta
=36 =90 Ohio State University Ohio Columbus
38 =94 Georgetown University Washington DC
39 =99 Michigan State University Michigan East Lansing
40 =101 Rice University Texas Houston
41 =104 Dartmouth College New Hampshire Hanover
42 =106 University of California, Irvine California Irvine
43 108 University of Notre Dame Indiana Notre Dame
44 =113 Purdue University Indiana West Lafayette
45 117 University of Maryland, College Park Maryland College Park
46 =120 University of Florida Florida Gainesville
47 =123 Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey New Jersey New Brunswick
=48 =127 University of Colorado Boulder Colorado Boulder
=48 =127 Tufts University Massachusetts Medford
50 =133 Case Western Reserve University Ohio Cleveland
51 141 University of Massachusetts Massachusetts Amherst, Boston, Dartmouth, Lowell, Worcester
52 =144 University of California, Santa Cruz California Santa Cruz
53 147 University of Virginia Virginia Charlottesville
54 =158 University of Rochester New York State Rochester
55 =161 University of Miami Florida Coral Gables
56 163 University of Arizona Arizona Tucson
57 =164 Yeshiva University New York State New York City
58 =167 University of California, Riverside California Riverside
59 =182 University of Utah Utah Salt Lake City
60 =185 Brandeis University Massachusetts Waltham
61 189 Arizona State University Arizona Tempe
62 =190 Boston College Massachusetts Newton
63 =193 Texas A&M University Texas College Station
=64 201–250 Florida State University Florida Tallahassee
=64 201–250 George Washington University Washington DC
=64 201–250 University of Hawai’i at Mānoa Hawaii Honolulu
=64 201–250 University of Illinois at Chicago Illinois Chicago
=64 201–250 Indiana University (Bloomington) Indiana Bloomington
=64 201–250 University of Iowa Iowa Iowa City
=64 201–250 Northeastern University Massachusetts Boston
=64 201–250 Oregon Health and Science University Oregon Portland
=64 201–250 Rush University Illinois Chicago
=64 201–250 University of South Florida Florida Tampa
=64 201–250 Stony Brook University New York State Stony Brook
=64 201–250 University of Texas at Dallas Texas Richardson
=64 201–250 University at Buffalo New York State Buffalo
=64 201–250 Wake Forest University North Carolina Winston-Salem
=64 201–250 William & Mary Virginia Williamsburg
=79 251–300 Colorado School of Mines Colorado Golden
=79 251–300 Colorado State University Colorado Fort Collins
=79 251–300 University of Delaware Delaware Newark
=79 251–300 University of Georgia Georgia Athens
=79 251–300 Iowa State University Iowa Ames
=79 251–300 North Carolina State University North Carolina Raleigh
=79 251–300 Oregon State University Oregon Corvallis
=79 251–300 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute New York State Troy
=79 251–300 Saint Louis University Missouri St. Louis
=79 251–300 Syracuse University New York State Syracuse
=79 251–300 University of Tennessee, Knoxville Tennessee Knoxville
=79 251–300 Tulane University Louisiana New Orleans
=79 251–300 Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Virginia Blacksburg
=92 301–350 University of Alaska Fairbanks Alaska Fairbanks
=92 301–350 University of Cincinnati Ohio Cincinnati
=92 301–350 University of Connecticut Connecticut Mansfield
=92 301–350 George Mason University Virginia Fairfax
=92 301–350 Medical College of Wisconsin Wisconsin Milwaukee
=92 301–350 University of Nebraska-Lincoln Nebraska Lincoln
=92 301–350 University of Oregon Oregon Eugene
=99 351–400 Binghamton University, State University of New York New York State Binghamton
=99 351–400 Drexel University Pennsylvania Philadelphia
=99 351–400 University of Houston Texas Houston
=99 351–400 University of Missouri Missouri Columbia
=99 351–400 University of Montana Montana Missoula
=99 351–400 University of Nebraska Medical Center Nebraska Omaha
=99 351–400 University of New Mexico New Mexico Albuquerque
=99 351–400 San Diego State University California San Diego
=99 351–400 University of South Carolina South Carolina Columbia
=99 351–400 University of South Dakota South Dakota Vermillion
=99 351–400 Temple University Pennsylvania Philadelphia
=99 351–400 University of Texas at San Antonio Texas San Antonio
=99 351–400 Washington State University Washington Pullman
=99 351–400 Wayne State University Michigan Detroit
=113 401–500 American University Washington DC
=113 401–500 Florida International University Florida Miami
=113 401–500 Georgia State University Georgia Atlanta
=113 401–500 Howard University Washington DC
=113 401–500 University of Idaho Idaho Moscow
=113 401–500 Lehigh University Pennsylvania Bethlehem
=113 401–500 Louisiana State University Louisiana Baton Rouge
=113 401–500 University of Maryland, Baltimore County Maryland Baltimore
=113 401–500 University of San Francisco California San Francisco
=113 401–500 State University of New York Albany New York State Albany
=123 501–600 University of Arkansas Arkansas Fayetteville
=123 501–600 Auburn University Alabama Auburn
=123 501–600 Kansas State University Kansas Manhattan
=123 501–600 Kent State University Ohio Kent
=123 501–600 Missouri University of Science and Technology Missouri Rolla
=123 501–600 Montana State University Montana Bozeman
=123 501–600 New Jersey Institute of Technology New Jersey Newark
=123 501–600 New Mexico State University New Mexico Las Cruces
=123 501–600 University of North Carolina at Greensboro North Carolina Greensboro
=123 501–600 Oklahoma State University Oklahoma Stillwater
=123 501–600 Portland State University Oregon Portland
=123 501–600 University of Texas at Arlington Texas Arlington
=123 501–600 University of Toledo Ohio Toledo
=123 501–600 University of Tulsa Oklahoma Tulsa
=123 501–600 University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Wisconsin Milwaukee
=138 601–800 California State University, Long Beach California Long Beach
=138 601–800 Clemson University South Carolina Clemson
=138 601–800 Florida Institute of Technology Florida Melbourne
=138 601–800 Miami University Ohio Oxford
=138 601–800 Oakland University Michigan Rochester
=138 601–800 Ohio University Ohio Athens
=138 601–800 Rochester Institute of Technology New York State Rochester
=138 601–800 University of Southern Mississippi Mississippi Hattiesburg
=138 601–800 University of Texas at El Paso Texas El Paso
=138 601–800 Texas Tech University Texas Lubbock
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About profesorbaker

Thomas Baker is the Past-President of TESOL Chile (2010-2011). He enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics. The source and inspiration for his writing comes from his family.
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