The 50 Best Colleges in Big Cities

Going to college in a big city can be the best of both worlds. Schools can provide the sense of community that supports students as they spread their wings to see what urban life has to offer.

Of course, attending college in a big city can be expensive, finding a decent place to live nightmarish, and the pace frenzied. But the payoff can be remarkable. Students gain real-life experience, professional contacts, internships, job opportunities, or join community projects and inner-city activism, none of which could be found in a classroom or on a remote bucolic campus.

Best colleges in big cities
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To make it work, schools play a critical role in exploring areas for involvement, designing partnerships, and encouraging students. Some schools arrange for students to work with residents who may be homeless or facing other challenges. Others help students become involved in politics, neighborhood empowerment, or extending a helping hand to schools.

There are schools who emphasize experiential learning, designing curriculums that send students into the big-city workforce to supplement their academics. Going to school in a big city can also mean laying the groundwork for work after graduation, maybe in tech start-ups or at Fortune 500 companies. Some big-city schools take great pride in how many of their students are employed or are in graduate or professional schools soon after graduation.

On a less academic note, students in big cities get to enjoy an urban wealth of restaurants, bars, brew pubs, art museums, and musical performances.

Stacker decided to take a look at the best colleges in big cities using 2021 Niche rankings. Colleges in cities with populations of more than 300,000 were considered, drawing population data as of 2019 from the Census Bureau. Niche ranks schools based on a variety of factors including academics, admissions, financial value, and student life. Niche's methodology can be found here.

Read on for the best big-city schools in the country.

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#50. Point Loma Nazarene University
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50. Point Loma Nazarene University

- Location: San Diego, California
- Students: 2,611
- Acceptance rate: 74%
- Graduation rate: 75%
- Student to faculty ratio: 14:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $50,900
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 91%

Point Loma Nazarene University, known as PLNU, is located on a 90-acre San Diego campus that overlooks the Pacific Ocean, and it has graduate and adult education locations elsewhere in San Diego County and in Bakersfield. The Christian school encourages students to become involved in the local community through ministries that offer tutoring and aid the area's homeless population.

#49. Lewis & Clark College
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49. Lewis & Clark College

- Location: Portland, Oregon
- Students: 1,904
- Acceptance rate: 72%
- Graduation rate: 77%
- Student to faculty ratio: 11:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $46,200
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 92%

Located in South Portland, Lewis & Clark taps into the city's arts, business, history, and politics as education resources for students. It attaches a Connect-Portland (PDX) designation to courses linked to its location, such as classes in housing, health studies, music, the legal system, public policy, and music.

48. University of Arizona

- Location: Tucson, Arizona
- Students: 28,972
- Acceptance rate: 85%
- Graduation rate: 65%
- Student to faculty ratio: 15:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $47,300
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 92%

The University of Arizona gets rave reviews for its beautifully landscaped grounds in the heart of downtown Tucson. The city's arts, music, and cultural scene are big draws for students.

47. University of Portland

- Location: Portland, Oregon
- Students: 3,743
- Acceptance rate: 77%
- Graduation rate: 81%
- Student to faculty ratio: 11:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $58,800
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 96%

The University of Portland sits on a bluff overlooking the Willamette River on the outskirts of the city. The school encourages students to utilize the location for real-life opportunities such as teaching in Portland area classrooms and working in hospitals and medical clinics.

#46. University of Cincinnati
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46. University of Cincinnati

- Location: Cincinnati, Ohio
- Students: 23,712
- Acceptance rate: 77%
- Graduation rate: 71%
- Student to faculty ratio: 17:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $42,300
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 92%

The University of Cincinnati is considered a leader in cooperative education, allowing students to alternate traditional academic semesters with semesters working at full-time, paid jobs. Students in the program graduate with significantly less debt than is typical, as well as getting business experience and making professional connections in some 1,300 participating companies. The city is known for its theater, ballet, museums, historic breweries, and its zoo.

45. American University

- Location: Washington D.C.
- Students: 8,207
- Acceptance rate: 36%
- Graduation rate: 79%
- Student to faculty ratio: 11:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $61,000
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 92%

American University students flock to its School of Public Affairs and its School of International Service, which is ranked one of the nation's best international affairs schools. Students typically take advantage of their Washington D.C. surroundings, from attending congressional hearings to landing internships on Capitol Hill.

#44. University of St. Thomas - Minnesota
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44. University of St. Thomas - Minnesota

- Location: St. Paul, Minnesota
- Students: 6,137
- Acceptance rate: 81%
- Graduation rate: 76%
- Student to faculty ratio: 14:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $56,800
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 96%

The University of St. Thomas - Minnesota not only has its main campus along an avenue of Victorian homes in St. Paul but also a location in downtown Minneapolis. Students can develop professional ties to the community and explore job possibilities at the region's corporations and businesses, especially from the schools located in Minneapolis: the Opus College of Business, School of Law, School of Education and the Dougherty Family College, which offers two-year associate degrees.

43. Fordham University

- Location: New York, New York
- Students: 9,229
- Acceptance rate: 46%
- Graduation rate: 83%
- Student to faculty ratio: 13:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $59,200
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 92%

Fordham University's main campus is a leafy 85 acres in New York City's Bronx borough, with Gothic-style buildings and grassy courtyards. Located separately on an eight-acre campus in Manhattan, near Lincoln Center, are its schools of business, law, education, social service, and others. Historically, Fordham students have landed internships at some 3,500 New York City-based companies.

#42. Milwaukee School of Engineering
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42. Milwaukee School of Engineering

- Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
- Students: 2,478
- Acceptance rate: 62%
- Graduation rate: 65%
- Student to faculty ratio: 13:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $71,300
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 97%

Milwaukee School of Engineering is just minutes from the shores of Lake Michigan and the pedestrian RiverWalk that connects three lively riverfront neighborhoods. It's a school known for serious hard-working students, but with jazz in the park on Cathedral Square next door and plenty of restaurants, breweries, and other nightlife nearby.

41. Rhodes College

- Location: Memphis, Tennessee
- Students: 1,945
- Acceptance rate: 45%
- Graduation rate: 80%
- Student to faculty ratio: 10:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $53,600
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 92%

Rhodes College emphasizes service, and most of its students become involved in the Memphis community, supporting its residents and helping improve its neighborhoods. Living in Memphis means enjoying its blues and rock 'n' roll scene—and its renowned barbecue.

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40. University of San Diego

- Location: San Diego, California
- Students: 5,761
- Acceptance rate: 49%
- Graduation rate: 81%
- Student to faculty ratio: 14:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $60,000
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 92%

At the University of San Diego, more than two-thirds of the students participate in its extensive study abroad programs, choosing from among 44 countries. The campus is just minutes from the city and the beach, where students can enjoy the surf and sun year round.

39. Saint Louis University

- Location: St. Louis, Missouri
- Students: 6,691
- Acceptance rate: 58%
- Graduation rate: 79%
- Student to faculty ratio: 9:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $56,500
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 94%

In the middle of St. Louis, a city known for its baseball, beer, and barbecue, SLU's north and south campuses are linked by Prospect Yards, a burgeoning new business and entertainment district. The school also is involved with university-industry initiatives in the nearby Cortex Innovation District known for nurturing tech start-ups.

Loyola Marymount CA
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38. Loyola Marymount University

- Location: Los Angeles, California
- Students: 6,548
- Acceptance rate: 44%
- Graduation rate: 80%
- Student to faculty ratio: 10:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $61,300
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 93%

LMU is just minutes from Marina del Rey, Venice Beach, and Santa Monica. Its School of Film and Television in particular gives students access to the entertainment industry, providing internships and work opportunities and drawing award-winning directors, producers, and editors as faculty members.

37. University of Tulsa

- Location: Tulsa, Oklahoma
- Students: 3,171
- Acceptance rate: 36%
- Graduation rate: 72%
- Student to faculty ratio: 11:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $48,500
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 91%

Located in the heart of oil country, UT is popular with students who want to study mining and petroleum engineering, focusing on drilling, production, and management. For off-campus fun, the city has an array of historic neighborhoods such as its Deco district, the Blue Dome entertainment district, and the revitalized Tulsa Arts District.

36. Yeshiva University

- Location: New York, New York
- Students: 2,643
- Acceptance rate: 55%
- Graduation rate: 82%
- Student to faculty ratio: 7:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $58,500
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 82%

At Yeshiva, the undergraduate curriculum combines Jewish studies with liberal arts and sciences. Students say the school provides a supportive religious setting amid the vast opportunities offered by New York City.

35. University of South Florida

- Location: Tampa, Florida
- Students: 25,457
- Acceptance rate: 48%
- Graduation rate: 75%
- Student to faculty ratio: 23:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $43,500
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 91%

At the University of South Florida, many students focus on nursing and medical studies, benefitting from the school's partnerships with area hospitals. In the city of Tampa, there is the historic Ybor City neighborhood and miles of bayfront pathways for running, cycling, skating, and walking, while the Gulf Coast beaches are close by.

34. Occidental College

- Location: Los Angeles, California
- Students: 1,962
- Acceptance rate: 37%
- Graduation rate: 86%
- Student to faculty ratio: 9:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $50,600
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 89%

Just a few miles from downtown Los Angeles, the school known as Oxy takes advantage of the city's possibilities with internships, professional opportunities, and community partnerships. Students might teach in city schools or conduct marine biology research in the ocean or explore desert geology. The Los Angeles area is rich with beaches, canyons, and mountain wilderness to explore.

33. Colorado College

- Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado
- Students: 2,089
- Acceptance rate: 14%
- Graduation rate: 83%
- Student to faculty ratio: 10:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $45,400
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 91%

Colorado College's acclaimed attraction is its block plan, in which students take one course at a time for several weeks. The plan allows for immersion into topics, unlike more typical course structures. Off campus, there are historic neighborhoods like Old Colorado City and the Old North End and urban spots for hiking and biking like Palmer Park.

32. Texas Christian University

- Location: Fort Worth, Texas
- Students: 9,219
- Acceptance rate: 47%
- Graduation rate: 83%
- Student to faculty ratio: 13:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $52,800
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 94%

TCU has built a reputation for having many students employed soon after graduation, thanks in part to being in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metro area, listed by Forbes as one of the best employment and career locations in the country. Ft. Worth also offers spirited nightlife, with honky-tonk bars, swing, two-stepping, and line-dancing.

UPitt
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31. University of Pittsburgh

- Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
- Students: 18,392
- Acceptance rate: 57%
- Graduation rate: 83%
- Student to faculty ratio: 14:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $53,900
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 94%

The University of Pittsburgh is renowned for its research prowess, producing top-notch scientists and medical professionals and a legacy of award-winning scholarship. Pittsburgh's fun spots include its green riverfront parks, industrial warehouse spaces in the Strip, and nightlife on the South Side.

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30. Trinity University

- Location: San Antonio, Texas
- Students: 2,399
- Acceptance rate: 29%
- Graduation rate: 76%
- Student to faculty ratio: 9:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $54,900
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 93%

At Trinity University, students can participate in community-based work study where they are employed at local schools, nonprofits, and government agencies. Trinity's Center for Experiential Learning and Career Success links academic learning, work in the community, and career planning, and the Trinity University Volunteer Action Community, known as TUVAC, connects students to volunteer opportunities at the area's community service programs.

29. George Washington University

- Location: Washington D.C.
- Students: 11,102
- Acceptance rate: 41%
- Graduation rate: 82%
- Student to faculty ratio: 13:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $69,600
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 92%

George Washington University is just blocks from the U.S. State Department, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the White House, so it's no wonder its students are drawn to studying politics and international affairs. The city offers a vast array of opportunities for students to get involved in government, nonprofits, and the media.

28. University of Minnesota Twin Cities

- Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
- Students: 29,939
- Acceptance rate: 57%
- Graduation rate: 83%
- Student to faculty ratio: 17:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $51,900
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 94%

The University of Minnesota Twin Cities has built a Center for Community-Engaged Learning that creates partnerships with area non-profit groups, giving students opportunities to volunteer or become involved in civic programs. Students also can take advantage of the urban area's cultural offerings such as the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Guthrie Theater, and Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

27. University of Washington

- Location: Seattle, Washington
- Students: 29,332
- Acceptance rate: 52%
- Graduation rate: 84%
- Student to faculty ratio: 20:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $57,700
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 91%

The University of Washington in Seattle is a large school, with a thriving Greek life and an extensive choice of clubs to join as well. Students often are attracted to the region's outdoor activities, with hiking, skiing, and climbing in easy reach.

Ohio State
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26. The Ohio State University

- Location: Columbus, Ohio
- Students: 42,776
- Acceptance rate: 54%
- Graduation rate: 86%
- Student to faculty ratio: 19:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $46,100
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 94%

Students at The Ohio State University, which has more than 46,000 undergraduates on its urban campus, can choose from among more than 160 majors or design their own. Sports are popular, and the university's powerhouse football team plays in the NCAA's Big Ten Conference. Students describe OSU as a small town inside a big city, the largest in Ohio.

25. North Carolina State University

- Location: Raleigh, North Carolina
- Students: 22,820
- Acceptance rate: 45%
- Graduation rate: 82%
- Student to faculty ratio: 14:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $52,500
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 94%

Situated in North Carolina's respected Research Triangle, NC State excels in sciences, technology, engineering, and math. It has built a Centennial Campus of public and private partnerships that involves students in accelerating start-ups. Raleigh is often cited as one of the best cities for young professionals and for finding jobs in technology and health care.

24. Southern Methodist University

- Location: Dallas, Texas
- Students: 6,519
- Acceptance rate: 47%
- Graduation rate: 81%
- Student to faculty ratio: 11:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $60,700
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 93%

Southern Methodist University has a reputation for honoring long-held traditions and building alumni support, which for students means opportunities for internships and jobs. Popular majors are business, social sciences, engineering, and communication. Students tap into Dallas for its arts and culture, but the campus supplies plenty of social life, like celebrating its football games with its unique version of tailgating called boulevarding.

23. Reed College

- Location: Portland, Oregon
- Students: 1,420
- Acceptance rate: 39%
- Graduation rate: 76%
- Student to faculty ratio: 9:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $42,200
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 88%

Reed College is unique, with no fraternities, sororities, or varsity sports. The academics are considered rigorous, and students are graded on a pass or no-pass basis. It's five miles from downtown Portland, known for its cafe culture, artisans, breweries, and environmental activism.

22. The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art

- Location: New York, New York
- Students: 854
- Acceptance rate: 15%
- Graduation rate: 91%
- Student to faculty ratio: 8:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $64,900
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 93%

Cooper Union is best known for its prestigious art, architecture, and engineering programs. Its campus is located in downtown Manhattan, in the city's East village, a neighborhood known for dive bars, traditional Ukrainian food, and community gardens.

Tulane Tree
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21. Tulane University

- Location: New Orleans, Louisiana
- Students: 7,260
- Acceptance rate: 13%
- Graduation rate: 86%
- Student to faculty ratio: 8:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $61,700
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 91%

Tulane is known as a party school, but students steer toward serious-minded, practical majors like finance, business, and marketing. With an unrivaled music, bar, and restaurant scene, New Orleans can be summed up by its motto of "laissez les bon temps rouler"—let the good times roll.

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20. Macalester College

- Location: St. Paul, Minnesota
- Students: 2,074
- Acceptance rate: 32%
- Graduation rate: 91%
- Student to faculty ratio: 10:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $47,600
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 91%

At Macalester, more than 60 courses feature partnerships with organizations in St. Paul and Minneapolis, giving students hands-on experiences interning in the state legislature or accompanying community public-health workers conducting outreach. The Twin Cities are artsy and green-minded, with St. Paul considered a little quieter than Minneapolis.

19. Case Western Reserve University

- Location: Cleveland, Ohio
- Students: 5,237
- Acceptance rate: 27%
- Graduation rate: 84%
- Student to faculty ratio: 11:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $74,600
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 94%

Many students go to Case Western Reserve because of its highly rated engineering programs. For entertainment in Cleveland, there are brew pubs, rock 'n' roll clubs, and beach parties on the shores of Lake Erie.

18. University of Texas - Austin

- Location: Austin, Texas
- Students: 37,515
- Acceptance rate: 32%
- Graduation rate: 86%
- Student to faculty ratio: 19:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $58,200
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 93%

Austin is UT's main campus, and the advantages of the school are its opportunities to study almost any subject taught by top-ranked faculty. The city provides a medley of live music venues, vintage shops, block parties, and afternoons floating on Barton Creek.

BU
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17. Boston University

- Location: Boston, Massachusetts
- Students: 16,978
- Acceptance rate: 19%
- Graduation rate: 88%
- Student to faculty ratio: 10:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $65,300
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 93%

Boston University is one of the country's biggest schools, with more than 17,000 undergraduates and more than 35,000 students overall at its urban campus. With its size comes the chance to choose from more than 300 programs of study. Boston each year is home to more than 150,000 students, making it a mecca of activities like kayaking the Charles River, jogging the Esplanade, and cheering on the Red Sox at Fenway Park.

16. New York University

- Location: New York, New York
- Students: 25,872
- Acceptance rate: 16%
- Graduation rate: 85%
- Student to faculty ratio: 9:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $61,900
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 91%

Popular at New York University are the programs in acting, writing, film, and television at the Tisch School of the Arts. Tisch alumni include Alec Baldwin, Lady Gaga, Chandra Wilson, and Adam Sandler. NYU is located in historic Greenwich Village, famous for its brownstones, cobblestone streets, dining, and shopping.

15. Northeastern University

- Location: Boston, Massachusetts
- Students: 14,156
- Acceptance rate: 18%
- Graduation rate: 89%
- Student to faculty ratio: 14:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $67,400
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 95%

Northeastern focuses on experiential learning through its co-op program, in which students mix semesters of academics with semesters of full-time work. More than 2,000 employers have gotten involved in the program. Home to some three dozen colleges and universities, Boston is teeming with things to do for students who like sports, the arts, pubs, and cafes.

#14. Barnard College
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14. Barnard College

- Location: New York, New York
- Students: 2,584
- Acceptance rate: 12%
- Graduation rate: 92%
- Student to faculty ratio: 9:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $57,900
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 90%

Students say they like Barnard College is a close-knit women's school with small classes, yet with access to the resources at its partner school, Columbia University. Barnard is located in Morningside Heights, a student-oriented neighborhood with easy access to all that New York City has to offer.

13. Emory University

- Location: Atlanta, Georgia
- Students: 7,012
- Acceptance rate: 16%
- Graduation rate: 90%
- Student to faculty ratio: 9:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $66,000
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 92%

Besides having an interest in liberal arts, undergraduate students go to Emory for its well-respected Goizueta Business School and Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing. Emory's campus lies in a wooded neighborhood of Atlanta, where students can become involved in programs affiliated with the Georgia Research Alliance and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Baseball's Atlanta Braves and football's Falcons games draw big crowds, and a 22-mile green pedestrian path called the Beltline connects neighborhoods.

#12. Georgia Institute of Technology
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12. Georgia Institute of Technology

- Location: Atlanta, Georgia
- Students: 14,310
- Acceptance rate: 21%
- Graduation rate: 90%
- Student to faculty ratio: 19:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $79,100
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 95%

Georgia Tech is highly rated for its engineering program, and graduates say their degrees are highly valued in the job market. The campus is close to Atlanta's arts venues, museums, parks, and business district of high-tech start-ups and international corporations.

11. Georgetown University

- Location: Washington D.C.
- Students: 7,029
- Acceptance rate: 14%
- Graduation rate: 95%
- Student to faculty ratio: 11:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $93,500
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 92%

A big draw to Georgetown is the Walsh School of Foreign Service for graduate and undergraduates. Its majors include international political economy, global business, and culture and politics. Off-campus, Georgetown's riverfront neighborhood is lively, and Washington offers infinite options for students interested in domestic politics, international affairs, and the law.

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10. University of California - Los Angeles

- Location: Los Angeles, California
- Students: 30,969
- Acceptance rate: 12%
- Graduation rate: 92%
- Student to faculty ratio: 18:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $60,700
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 89%

More students apply to UCLA than to any other school in the country—it got more than 135,000 applications for the fall 2019 semester. UCLA students favor majors in biology, business economics, political science, and psychology. The campus is bordered by the neighborhoods of Bel Air, Brentwood, and Beverly Hills, and students can be found hiking the area's canyons, volunteering at a food bank, or auditioning for a role in a television show or movie.

9. Carnegie Mellon University

- Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
- Students: 6,425
- Acceptance rate: 15%
- Graduation rate: 90%
- Student to faculty ratio: 5:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $83,600
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 91%

Carnegie Mellon is strong in sciences, engineering, and mathematics, and its architecture school is considered one of the best. Among Pittsburgh's attractions are Pirates' baseball games at PNC Park, where the view from center field is the skyline of the downtown cultural district, and boaters float on the Allegheny River with a view of the scoreboard. For football fans, Heinz Field is nearby, overlooking the point where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers meet to form the Ohio River.

Johns Hopkins
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8. Johns Hopkins University

- Location: Baltimore, Maryland
- Students: 5,762
- Acceptance rate: 11%
- Graduation rate: 93%
- Student to faculty ratio: 6:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $73,200
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 91%

Johns Hopkins is known worldwide for its medical programs, research, and hospitals, and for undergraduates, it's a good place to prepare for medical school. Typically, about 70% of Johns Hopkins students applying to medical schools are accepted. Bar crawling in Baltimore's lively neighborhoods like Fells Point, Canton, and Brewers Hill offers a break from the books.

7. University of Southern California

- Location: Los Angeles, California
- Students: 19,622
- Acceptance rate: 11%
- Graduation rate: 92%
- Student to faculty ratio: 9:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $74,000
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 92%

USC attracts students interested in the film industry, business, and aerospace engineering. It jointly runs a Quantum Computation Center with Lockheed Martin Corp., and its highly sophisticated research could be applied in fields of aerospace, medical imaging, and robotics. Off-campus attractions for USC students are L.A.'s trendy clubs, bars, restaurants, and shops.

6. University of Chicago

- Location: Chicago, Illinois
- Students: 6,847
- Acceptance rate: 6%
- Graduation rate: 95%
- Student to faculty ratio: 5:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $68,100
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 92%

The University of Chicago is considered one of the best schools in the country, and it is recognized especially for its economics, public policy, and political science courses. The school encourages students to utilize and support their urban surroundings with a multitude of programs in civic engagement, community service, and partnerships through Chicago's South Side.

#5. Washington University in St. Louis
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5. Washington University in St. Louis

- Location: St. Louis, Missouri
- Students: 7,139
- Acceptance rate: 14%
- Graduation rate: 95%
- Student to faculty ratio: 7:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $70,100
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 94%

Washington University draws top students with such programs as Beyond Boundaries, which allows for creative interdisciplinary studies. In the city's Cortex Innovation District, Washington University students can participate in COLLAB, a unique university-industry collaboration focusing on cybersecurity, engineering, and information technology.

Columbia University
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4. Columbia University

- Location: New York, New York
- Students: 7,701
- Acceptance rate: 5%
- Graduation rate: 95%
- Student to faculty ratio: 6:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $83,300
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 89%

Students at Columbia often major in social sciences, and two big attractions are its film school and its journalism school, both of which send graduates into top jobs in their fields. Its historic campus is located just minutes from Central Park, midtown Manhattan, Harlem, and shores of the Hudson River.

3. Vanderbilt University

- Location: Nashville, Tennessee
- Students: 6,833
- Acceptance rate: 9%
- Graduation rate: 93%
- Student to faculty ratio: 7:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $69,000
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 94%

Vanderbilt is strong in liberal arts, and students tend to pick majors in economics, humanities, and social sciences. Sororities and fraternities play a big role in campus life. But off campus, musicians, singers, songwriters, and artists make the city a popular place to live.

2. University of Pennsylvania

- Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Students: 10,448
- Acceptance rate: 8%
- Graduation rate: 96%
- Student to faculty ratio: 6:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $85,900
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 91%

The University of Pennsylvania is an Ivy League school with a vast range of academic subjects to choose from. It's in the heart of Philadelphia, a vibrant city known for its food, art museums, sports teams, and history.

#1. Rice University
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1. Rice University

- Location: Houston, Texas
- Students: 3,942
- Acceptance rate: 9%
- Graduation rate: 93%
- Student to faculty ratio: 6:1
- Median earnings six years after graduation: $65,400
- Employment rate two years after graduation: 92%

Sports, especially baseball, are big at Rice, which has more than a dozen Division I varsity athletic teams. But the school is highly selective academically, especially in areas of computer and information sciences, chemical engineering, and economics. Students are drawn to Houston, the nation's fourth largest city, for its Fortune 500 jobs and its start-up possibilities.

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