The Best Gay-Friendly Schools

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In order to be considered for this ranking, a school had to appear on either The Advocate’s list of the 100 best schools for LGBT students or InsideCollege.com’s list of gay-friendly campuses. Both of those lists are based on subjective information from experts. We then evaluated the schools that made the cut by several broad measures of academic achievement: selectivity or the percent of applicants admitted; and average SAT and ACT scores of enrolled first-time students. And the result is a list of schools with great academic standards and a campus atmosphere that is friendly to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students.

 About Our Rankings
 
Contributing editor Peter Bernstein and researcher Courtney Kennedy drew on dozens of sources to compile these rankings including information from the National Center for Education Statistics, The Washington Monthly, and College Prowler. A portion of the data they used is represented in the following school profiles, but for the full methodologies, see our FAQ here. And if you’re not a rankings fan, take a look at this piece by Colin Diver, the president of Reed College, about why schools dislike rankings and how families can use them wisely as part of their college decision-making process.

university-penn-ed13jpg Minicola / Courtesy of University of Pennsylvania

The University of Pennsylvania, a private Ivy League college in Philadelphia is on seven of Newsweek’s “best of” lists, ranking 13th on our list of most desirable colleges; eighth on the list of most desirable urban colleges; second for most desirable large campus; sixth in schools best for future power brokers; first for gay-friendliness and diversity; and finally, 18th among the 25 best colleges for the super-smart.

Admission is competitive, with just 17 percent of the 22,718 applicants for the class of 2013 receiving acceptance letters. Additionally, 96 percent of the students admitted for the fall 2009 school year were from the top 10 percent of their graduating high-school class and scored an average of 1520 on the SAT. Penn retains 95 percent of its students each year, and data shows that 88 percent of students graduate from the school in four years.

The undergraduate population at the school is 10,337, with 84 percent of students coming from outside Pennsylvania. The campus consists of 51 percent women and minorities make up 39.6 percent: After Caucasians at 37 percent, Asian-Americans are the next populous at 16 percent, followed by African-Americans at 7 percent and Hispanics at 5 percent. The student-to-faculty ratio is 6 to 1.

Tuition for the 2009–2010 school year was $53,250 with 61 percent of students receiving some form of financial aid.

uc-berkley-ed13 Courtesy of University of California, Berkeley

The University of California’s Berkeley campus landed on quite a few of Newsweek’s “best of” lists—five to be exact. The school is among the most desirable urban schools (No. 16), most desirable large schools (No. 5), most diverse (No. 18), best gay-friendly (No. 2) and best for climate plus academics (No. 9).

That the school nabbed the number 2 spot on Newsweek’s gay-friendly list is no surprise to students. “Berkeley is home to a proud LGBTIQQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer and Questioning) community, which has a large presence on campus and makes the environment feel more tolerant,” writes one student on CollegeProwler.com.

The public school has an undergraduate enrollment of just over 25,500, 53 percent of who were women in the fall of 2009. At 42 percent, the Asian-American community makes up the majority of the student body, while Caucasians make up 31 percent, followed by Hispanics at 12 percent and African-Americans at 4 percent. The student-to-faculty ratio is 15 to 1.

Tuition at the University of California, Berkeley for the 2010–2011 school year is $12,461 for in-state students (more than three-quarters of Berkeley’s student body hails from the school’s home state) and $35,340 for out-of-state residents, with 65 percent of all undergraduates receiving some form of aid. What’s more, Berkeley claims to educate more economically disadvantaged students than all of the Ivy League universities combined, with 29 percent of its students receiving Pell Grants.

oberlin-ed13 Courtesy of Oberlin College

Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio, is a truly unique place, as it combines a selective four-year liberal arts college with an internationally renowned Conservatory of Music. Founded in 1833, it was also the first coeducational college to grant bachelor degrees to women and the first to admit black students on equal footing with white students.  It was also a station on the Underground Railroad and is the alma mater of the first black elected to the U.S. Congress.  With such laudable founding principles, it’s no surprise that Oberlin is the third most diverse school on Newsweek’s list.  

With high marks from The Advocate and InsideCollege.com, Oberlin College also takes spot No. 3 for gay-friendliness.  

Nearly three-quarters of Oberlin’s classes enroll fewer than 20 students, with an 11 to 1 student-to-faculty ratio in the College of Arts and Sciences and an impressive 8 to 1 ratio in the conservatory. This commitment to individual attention helps the school land spot No. 19 on Newsweek’s list of most desirable suburban schools. (Cleveland is about 35 miles away.)

Of the 2,888 students enrolled in the fall of 2009, 55 percent were women and 20 percent were students of color.  While the bulk of Oberlin’s students are from within the United States, just 9.1 percent are from Ohio. Tuition for the 2009–2010 school year was $39,686.

new-york-university-ed13 Courtesy of New York University

Since its inception in 1831—with a student body of just 158 in its first semester—New York University in New York, New York, has grown to include more than 40,000 students, roughly 19,000 of who are undergraduates. That, and its location in a city of more than 8 million people, has landed it on Newsweek’s list of most desirable urban schools (No. 23) and most desirable large schools (No. 10).  

Internationally known for its ever-expanding Tisch School of the Arts, which offers BFAs in film and theatre, the school attracts a diverse population, landing it at No. 5 on Newsweek’s list.  It is also on Newsweek’s list of best gay-friendly schools (No. 4). “When you think of diversity in college, NYU epitomizes the concept,” writes one student on CollegeProwler.com, who gave the school an A+ in diversity. In the fall of 2009, the most recent year data was available, African-Americans made up 4 percent of the school, Hispanics 8 percent and Asian-Americans 19 percent, second only to whites at 44 percent. Nine percent of its students came from outside the U.S.

Tuition at NYU was $38,765 in fall 2009.

university-michigan-ed13jpg Martin Vloet / Courtesy of University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

Coming in at No. 24 on Newsweek’s list of most desirable urban campuses and No. 11 among the most desirable large campuses, The University of Michigan-Ann Arbor finds itself exactly where students would expect. “Nearly every academic area is in the top 10, the sports teams warrant immediate respect, the social life is right with the times, and there are so many ways in which to become involved. It’s almost impossible to become a couch potato here,” writes one student on CollegeProwler.com. No wonder the school also comes in at No. 15 for future power brokers. Noted for its gay-friendliness by both The Advocate and InsideCollege.com positions the school at No. 5 for that ranking.

The public school admitted close to 50 percent of its 29,965 applicants in 2009. Some of those students went on to join the nearly 26,000 undergraduates on campus, which offers a 12 to 1 student-to-faculty ratio.

The student body is comprised of mostly Caucasians, at 65 percent. At 12 percent, Asian-Americans are the next most populous race on campus, followed by African-Americans at 6 percent and Hispanics at 4 percent. The university retains 96 percent of its students, according to National Center for Education Statistics data.

In-state tuition for the 2009–2010 school year was $11,659 and $34,937 for non-Michigan residents. Almost 80 percent of students received aid that year.

american-university-ed13 Jeff Watts / Courtesy of American University

It may be called American University and located in the U.S. capital, but this college is as international as they come. The private, liberal arts school draws about 6 percent of its student body from 139 countries outside the United States and sends many of its students back into the world through robust study-abroad programs. The largest undergraduate program is international studies, with nearly 1,700 of its 6,200 undergrads majoring in that field. Not surprising for a school that was ranked by Princeton Review as No. 1 on its list of schools with “the most politically active students.”
 
Though American University is affiliated with the United Methodist Church, the school has 23 faiths represented by student groups, from Buddhist and Hindu to Muslim and Unitarian Universalist. Five percent of its student body is Asian, four percent is African-American, four percent is Hispanic and 62 percent are women. It lands at No. 6 on Newsweek’s list of most diverse colleges.
 
With praise from both The Advocate and InsideCollege.com, Newsweek also ranks the school the sixth best gay-friendly in the nation.  AU students averaged a 30 on the ACT and a 1370 on the SAT.

penn-state-ed13 Courtesy of Penn State University

Affectionately referred to as simply “State” by many students, Penn State was formerly known as the biggest party school in America. Such fervent school pride can most likely be attributed to the university’s perennially successful athletic programs, which receive nearly annual mentions from the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics. So loyal are alumni to their alma mater that the Penn State Alumni Association has been the largest dues-paying alumni association in the world since 1955. But despite the strong presence of athletics on campus, Penn State has also maintained a tradition of academic achievement, leading the Big Ten with 3,069 students selected for Academic All-Big Ten honors.

But Newsweek honors this school for slightly different reasons. With praise for its gay-friendly culture from both The Advocate and InsideCollege.com, PSU - specifically, their main campus at  University Park  - takes seventh place on Newsweek’s list of gay-friendly schools. Its students aren’t surprised: “So proud to be a Penn Stater!  The LGBT community here is great.  Most other students are pretty open-minded as well,” wrote one student in response to the school’s inclusion on The Advocate’s list.

Approximately 38,000 undergraduates enjoy a 17:1 student-to-faculty ratio. Although tuition rates vary by campus, program and residency, Pennsylvanian undergraduates eading to main campus can expect to pay around $14,412 for the 2010–2011 academic year, while tuition for non-residents will be around $26,276.

umass-amherst-ed13 Courtesy of University of Massachusetts Amherst

The University of Massachusetts-Amherst is No. 8 on Newsweek’s list of the best gay-friendly colleges. “You can find any kind of background here, whether you are speaking about ethnicity or religion,” writes one student on CollegeProwler.com. “Additionally, the campus is definitely more liberal and is very accepting to gays and lesbians.”

The student body is evenly divided between men and women. At 71 percent, Caucasians make up the majority of the campus population, followed by Asian-Americans at 8 percent, African-Americans at 5 percent and Hispanics at 4 percent.

Founded in 1863, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst is the flagship campus of the UMass system. The school had 20,873 students enrolled as of the fall of 2009, and each year it accepts 67 percent of its 29,452 applicants.

Tuition, room and board for the 2009–2010 academic year at the public school were $19,804 for in-state students and $31,301 for non-Massachusetts residents.

Indiana-university-bloomington-ed13 Courtesy of Indiana University

With more than 40,000 students, participation in the Big Ten and a 2,000-acre campus renowned for its beauty, Bloomington-based Indiana University is one of the biggest state schools in the country. Thanks to the school’s reputation for gay-friendliness coupled with its academic credentials, the school places ninth on Newsweek’s list of schools where gays get As, just one more accolade the school has racked up since its founding in 1820.

Of the 40,000-plus students who attend Indiana University, more than 31,000 are undergrads. The school accepts approximately 73 percent of applicants, and those who attend averaged a 29 on the ACT and 1260 on the SAT. The student-to-faculty ratio is 18:1.

In-state students spent nearly $9,000 on tuition for the 2009–2010 academic year, while out-of-state students paid around $26,000. More than three-quarters received financial aid. The student body is evenly split between men and women.

princeton-university-ed13 Courtesy of Princeton University

Founded in 1746, Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey, is the fourth-oldest college in the United States (Harvard, founded in 1636, is the oldest, followed by the College of William & Mary and Yale, respectively).
 
The Ivy finds itself on a slew of Newsweek’s “best of” lists, ranking among the best schools for diversity (No. 9), best gay-friendly (No. 10), most desirable overall (No. 4), as well as the second most desirable suburban school in the country. Its output of two presidents, three senators and eight billionaires lands it at No. 5 for future power brokers, and with 20 percent of its student body on varsity teams, Princeton earns 14th place on schools for jocks.  
 
Princeton admitted just 10.1 percent of students who applied in 2009, 95percentof whom were in the top 10 percent of their high-school class. No wonder it comes in at No. 4 for brainiacs. The school currently has 5,047 undergraduates and boasts a 5:1 student-to-faculty ratio. American minorities make up roughly 32 percent of the undergraduate student body. Men only have a slight edge over women when it comes to enrollment numbers.
 
Tuition for the 2009–2010 school year was $50,620. Currently, 58 percent of Princeton’s students receive financial aid, with aid grant for the class of 2013 averaging $35,309.

stanford-ed13 Linda A. Cicero / Courtesy of University of Stanford

Stanford University, already a power player among the nation’s top universities, can now add some more accolades to its roster. The private liberal arts Ivy in Stanford, California, which claims fearless inquiry and action as its mission, has landed spots on seven of Newsweek’s college ranking roundups: most desirable overall (No. 3), most desirable suburban school (No. 1), most diverse (No. 16), best for power brokers (No. 4), best for brainiacs (No. 6), best gay-friendly (No.11) and the most favorable climate amongst intellectual power houses (No. 2).
 
The school had 30,429 students apply for a spot on “The Farm”, a nickname for Stanford’s campus, and Stanford admitted just 9 percent of those applicants to the class of 2013, enrolling 1,694 freshmen for fall 2010. Females made up 49 percent of the freshman class. While all 50 states are represented in the class of 2013, nearly 40 percent of students hail from California.
 
Asian-Americans make up 23 percent of Stanford’s diverse student body, followed by Mexican-Americans and other Hispanic (12 percent), African-Americans (10 percent), international students (10 percent) and American Indians or Alaskan Natives (2 percent).
 
Tuition at Stanford is currently around $37,000 per year, and 80 percent of students in the 2008–2009 school year (the most recent year data was available) received aid. Perhaps a wise investment—27 of its alums are billionaires.

Columbia University has sealed its position as a “best value” school, thanks to strong value rankings in US News, Kiplinger, Princeton Review and Forbes, which have cast the school as offering high-quality academics at a reasonable price.  

Located in New York City’s Upper West Side, Columbia University was established by royal charter in 1754 as King’s College and remains one of the premier schools in the United States. Newsweek plants it at No. 6 on the Most Desirable Schools list as well as the fourth most desirable urban school.  Twelfth on Newsweek’s schools for brainiacs, The Ivy League school is highly selective, with only 11 percent of applicants admitted as students. The fewer than 8,000 undergrads that enroll enjoy a student-to-faculty ratio of 6:1.  

All that individual attention seems to pay off—third on the list for future powerbrokers, Columbia produces alums who frequently find themselves in illustrious positions. With a gay-friendly culture (No. 12 on the list) and non-whites representing more than one-third of its students, Columbia is the 17th most diverse school in Newsweek’s rankings.   

Though the school’s tuition and fees for the 2009–2010 academic year totaled more than $41,000, more than half of Columbia’s student population receives financial aid, many of them institutional grants. The school’s endowment neared $6 billion in 2009.

pomona-college-ed13 Courtesy of Pomona College

Small in size, Pomona College is big on diversity, bright students and kudos—it has consistently ranked among the top ten American liberal arts colleges by U.S. News & World Report, has similarly been granted high marks from Forbes, and now places 11th among Newsweek’s most desirable schools, fourth most desirable suburban school and second most desirable small school.  

The Claremont, California–based private college has only 1,500 undergrads; they major in the arts, humanities, social sciences or natural sciences in a desert setting within an hour of the Pacific Ocean, the Mojave Desert, the San Gabriel Mountains and Los Angeles. Unsurprisingly, Pomona was No. 5 for Newsweek’s list of academically rigorous schools with terrific weather. Though its Southern California location is a world away from the ivied East Coast universities its founders emulated, the school prides itself on its 7:1 student-to-faculty ratio, intimate classes and overall academic excellence. Only 16 percent of applicants are accepted (averaging ACT scores of 34 and SAT scores of 1560), which helps explain why Pomona College is No. 15 on the list of schools for brainiacs.  

Its 50/50 gender breakdown, gay-friendly atmosphere, and racially, geographically and socioeconomically mixed student body makes Pomona the 20th most diverse school and the thirteenth among the best gay-friendly schools on Newsweek’s lists.

Brown-university-campus-ed13 Courtesy of Brown University

Founded in 1764, stalwart Brown University is still considered one of the nation’s elite institutions of higher learning. This Ivy gains several distinctions in Newsweek’s rankings, including tenth most desirable school in the country and sixth most desirable urban school.  And with 92 percent of its students coming from the top 10 percent of their high-school class, Brown is ranked No. 9 for brainiacs.   

Established even before the United States, the school was the first in the nation to accept students regardless of their religious background, and the tradition of diversity carries on today—it’s No. 2 on Newsweek’s list of diverse schools—as only about 45 percent of the school’s students are white, with 16 percent of Asian heritage, 7 percent African-American and 8 percent Latino or Hispanic. The student body is 52 percent female.  Brown is also the fourteenth best gay-friendly school.

Yet, getting through the doors of this citadel of intellect and broad-mindedness is an elusive quest; only around 14 percent of those who apply are accepted. The school’s 6,000 undergrads on average scored a 33 on the ACT and 1540 on the SAT. The Providence, Rhode Island–based school charged about $39,000 for full-time undergraduate tuition and fees during the 2009–2010 academic year, according to U.S. Department of Education estimates.

Founded in 1965, the University of California-Santa Cruz is a relatively young public institution, and yet has managed to snag a spot on Newsweek’s list of top 20 colleges for climate and academics.  The school is also ranked the 15th best gay-friendly in the nation.

In a roundup that seems to speak further to UCSC’s broad-minded atmosphere, the most popular majors in the fall of 2008, the most recent year data was available, were psychology, art, business management economics, literature and environmental studies, respectively.

The University of California, Santa Cruz has an undergraduate enrollment of just over 16,000. Women hold the majority here, however slightly, at 53 percent. The student body is largely Caucasian (50 percent), followed by Asian-American (22 percent), Hispanic (17 percent) and African-American (3 percent). Tuition for in-state students totals $29,385, while non-California residents can expect to pay $52,263 in the upcoming 2010–2011 school year.

swarthmore-college-ed13 Eleftherios Kostans / Courtesy of Swarthmore College

Swarthmore College’s numerous accolades belie its small size, as the private college, located just outside of Philadelphia, appeared on several of Newsweek’s “best of” lists, ranking eighth among small schools, ninth among suburban schools, and fifth among schools for brainiacs.  With women slightly outnumbering men and more than a third of its student body represented by ethnic minorities, Swarthmore is the fourth most diverse school on Newsweek’s list. If that weren’t enough, the school was also ranked by Newsweek as the 16th best gay-friendly college in the country and the 21st most desirable school overall.

It’s clear why: For academics, the college claims that 87 percent of its students ranked in the top 10 percent at their high schools, averaging 33 on the ACT and 1520 on the SAT. For those seeking an intimate setting, Swarthmore’s 399-acre campus is home to fewer than 1,500 undergrads and its 7:1 student-to-faculty ratio keeps class sizes small.

If that weren’t enough to attract students, its $1 billion endowment gives the college the 14th largest per-student endowment among all U.S. colleges and universities, affording Swarthmore the opportunity to admit students regardless of their financial need. No surprise it’s a competitive school, accepting only 16 percent of applicants.

duke-university-ed13 Chris Hildreth / Courtesy of Duke University

Adding to numerous accolades since its founding in 1838, Newsweek counts Duke University as the 22nd most desirable school in the country and the ninth most desirable urban school. Newsweek also ranks Duke among its brainiac schools, at No. 14—its students averaged a 34 on the ACT and a 1540 on the SAT and 90 percent come from the top 10 percent of their high-school class.

With African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asians accounting for nearly 40 percent of its student body and an appearance on The Advocate’s gay-friendly list, Duke takes eighth place among the most diverse schools in the nation and 17th for the best gay-friendly. Counting billionaires, Fortune 100 CEOs and high-ranking politicians among its alumni ranks makes Duke the seventh best school for future power brokers.

Located in Durham, North Carolina, about half of its 14,000-strong student body is comprised of undergraduates, and the school has a student-to-faculty ratio of 10:1.

Tuition and fees for the 2009–2010 academic year was nearly $39,000, a nearly 4 percent increase from the previous year, and only about 22 percent of applicants are admitted.

rice-university-ed13 Courtesy of Rice University

If Newsweek had a list for colleges with the most intriguing provenance, Rice University in Houston, Texas, would most certainly be on it. In 1900, William Marsh Rice, a wealthy investor, was murdered for his money by his lawyer and valet. Luckily, they were found out before they could abscond with the dough, and the funds eventually helped establish the institution that now bears the murdered man’s name. Rice University opened September 23, 1912, on the anniversary of Rice’s death, with just 77 students and about a dozen faculty.

While there isn’t an “intriguing provenance” list, there are several other lists upon which Rice University appears. It made Newsweek’s roundup of most desirable colleges overall (No. 25), most desirable urban schools (No. 10), best for brainiacs (No. 20), and best gay-friendly (No. 18).

Rice University prides itself on its 5 to 1 student-to-faculty ratio and its tuition—$31,430 in 2009—which it says is “substantially less” than what’s charged at “comparable private institutions.” In 2009, the school had 3,279 undergraduates, about half of who were from Texas. The male-to-female ratio was nearly even, and these students were predominantly white, followed by Asian-American, Hispanic, multi-racial, African-American and Native American.

harvey-mudd-college Kevin Mapp / Courtesy of Harvey Mudd College

With only 700 undergraduates, Harvey Mudd College ranks 12th on Newsweek’s Most Desirable Small Schools list.  Its location in Claremont, California, also makes it the tenth most desirable suburban school and No. 4 on Newsweek’s list of schools combining great weather with great minds. Harvey Mudd is one of the seven associated Claremont Colleges, which its founders modeled after England’s Oxford University; other schools include Pomona, Scripps and Claremont McKenna.

Harvey Mudd students average 1560 on the SATs and 94 percent place in the top 10 percent of their high schools, with only 28 percent of applicants accepted. Though its focus on math, science and engineering make it sound like a technical institute, Harvey Mudd is a private liberal arts college that aims to offer student instruction beyond its nine core science and math-based majors by nurturing interests in the arts and offering instruction in the humanities, history and politics. Newsweek also ranks Harvey Mudd 19th among the top 25 gay-friendly schools in the United States.

cornell-college-ed13 Courtesy of Cornell College

In addition to being named by Newsweek as the 24th most desirable school in the country and the third most desirable large school, Cornell University ranks 25th for brainiacs. This well-rounded package also comes in at No. 11 for athletes and No. 20 for gay-friendliness.

The school has more than 20,000 students, nearly 14,000 of them undergraduates. To be counted among the 21 percent of accepted applicants, you’ll need an average 33 on the ACT and 1500 on the SAT. Notable alumni include one U.S. senator, two fortune 100 CEOs and eight billionaires, as ranked by Forbes.

About 9 percent of students play on one of 30 varsity sports teams at this Ithaca, New York–based school. The school also has about 90 intramural sports.

Co-founder Ezra Cornell’s mission to establish in 1865 an institution “where any person can find instruction in any study” is maintained today with a diverse student body that is 49 percent white, 16 percent Asian, 5 percent black and 6 percent Hispanic. The school is among the best for women in science, counting among its graduates five “women of NASA” and six eminent female physicists.

Tuition and fees neared $38,000 for the 2009–2010 academic year, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

tufts-university-ed13 Winslow Martin / Courtesy of Tufts University

Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, five miles northwest of downtown Boston, lands at No. 15 on Newsweek’s list of best schools in suburbia and No. 21 on the list of the best gay-friendly schools. As one student writes on CollegeProwler.com, “There is an active lesbian/gay and bisexual/transvestite group, and Tufts is a fairly friendly place for an alternative lifestyle.”

In fact, Tufts is working to improve that “fairly friendly” rating. Tufts president Lawrence S. Bacow believes that first and foremost, “a great university is defined by its people.” In 2007, he announced the appointment of an executive director for institutional diversity.  According to CollegeProwler.com, white students make up 55 percent of the student body, followed by Asian-Americans (11 percent) and Hispanics and African-Americans (each 6 percent).

Fall 2009 figures show the private college enrolled 5,111 undergraduates who paid $40,342 in tuition, with 45 percent receiving aid.

norrthwestern-ed13 Courtesy of Northwestern University

Northwestern University has come a long way since its first building opened in 1855, providing a learning space for just 10 students and two faculty members. Today, Northwestern has 16,337 students, more than half of them undergraduates, and 2,500 full-time faculty members. The university spans three campuses: two on Lake Michigan in Evanston, Illinois, and one in Chicago.
U.S. News & World Report continues to rank the school’s undergraduate program as one of the best in the country, and now, it’s also on Newsweek’s list of colleges for brainiacs, at No. 23.

The school also ranks 18th for future power brokers, having graduated no less than nine billionaires and three Fortune 100 CEOs. Not bad for a school whose annual tuition and fees for 2009–2010 were $25,392.  And with high marks from InsideCollege.com, the school is deemed the 22nd best gay-friendly in the country.

Northwestern admitted 27 percent of its 25,369 applicants to be part of the class of 2013. That class ended up with a near-even split of male and female students, 22 percent of whom are Asian-American, seven percent Hispanic, six percent African-American and less than one percent American Indian. Based on past figures, one could expect 86 percent of those students to graduate within four years.

university-of-southern-california-ed13 Mark Berndt / Courtesy of University of Southern California

Founded in 1880, the University of Southern California started out with just 53 students and ten teachers. Today, the private college welcomes around 17,000 undergraduates each year who enjoy a 9:1 student-to-faculty ratio, making the college the fourth most desirable large campus and the 15th most desirable urban school on Newsweek’s lists.

Unsurprisingly, given the locale for which it’s named, the school also comes in at No. 10 on the list of schools that feature both terrific weather and a smart student body. USC also ranks 19th on the list of schools best for future power brokers and 23rd on the list of best gay-friendly colleges.

Admission to the university is competitive, as USC admitted just 24 percent of its 35,753 applicants in the fall of 2009. Admitted students have an average weighted GPA of 4.05 with an average 1470 on their SATs. Meanwhile, 72 percent of students graduate within four years.

The campus population consists of 50 percent women and 60 percent of students come from within California. Caucasians make up 44 percent of the student body, Asian-Americans 24 percent, Hispanics 13 percent, and African-Americans 5 percent.

Tuition for the 2009–2010 school year was $53,617, with 76 percent of students receiving some form of aid that year.

georgetown-university Courtesy of Georgetown University

Founded in 1789 by a priest, Georgetown University is the oldest Catholic university in the United States. Deemed the 14th most desirable urban school, Georgetown is renowned for its academic excellence: Students posted an average score of 32 on the ACT and 1460 on the SAT, and three-quarters of students graduated in the top 10 of their high school classes. Coming in at No. 16 on Newsweek’s list of schools for brainiacs, Georgetown University has produced four Rhodes Scholars, among many other distinguished award winners. Gaining eighth place on Newsweek’s list of best power-broker colleges, Georgetown counts among graduates 20 members of the House, two presidents, six senators, one Fortune 100 CEO and one billionaire.

Its melting-pot hometown of Washington, DC, might contribute to the school’s all-inclusive atmosphere.  Georgetown comes in at No. 23 on Newsweek’s list of most diverse schools, and No. 24 on the nation’s best gay-friendly colleges.

The school’s 7,000 undergraduates make up just less than half of the student body and attend one of four undergraduate schools, spread across three campuses. The school offers an 11:1 student-to-faculty ratio. Students paid on average $39,000 to attend for the 2009–2010 academic year, a 3 percent increase from the previous year, according to U.S. Department of Education data.

The University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois, finds itself on five of Newsweek’s “best of” lists: At No. 12, the private institution is one of the nation’s 25 most desirable urban colleges; ten Rhodes scholars and four Nobel Prize winners put it in the top 10 (No. 8) of colleges for the super-smart. The university comes in at the No. 13 spot on the list of most diverse colleges and No. 25 for gay friendliness; and finally, with seven senators and ten billionaires among its alumni, the school is tenth on the list of colleges best for future power brokers.

The university has just over 5,000 undergraduates—99 percent are age 24 or younger. The student body is evenly split between men and women, and 45 percent of those students are Caucasian, 14 percent Asian or Pacific Islander, 9 percent Hispanic, and 6 percent African-American. The school, which sees 92 percent of its students graduate, retains 98 percent of its first-year students.

Tuition for the 2009–2010 school year was $56,630. About 71 percent of students at the University of Chicago receive some form of financial aid.

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