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
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
Top 5 universities in the United States
Scroll down to view the full table of the best American universities
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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|
|3||5||Massachusetts Institute of Technology||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|
|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|
|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|
|=36||=90||Ohio State University||Ohio||Columbus|
|38||=94||Georgetown University||–||Washington DC|
|39||=99||Michigan State University||Michigan||East Lansing|
|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|
|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|
|61||189||Arizona State University||Arizona||Tempe|
|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||Oregon Health and Science University||Oregon||Portland|
|=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||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||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||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||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||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|