Pennsylvania is the 5th most populous state in the U.S. and is one of America’s original 12 colonies. It has a rich academic history and is home to the University of Pennsylvania, America’s first university. Pennsylvania receives students from across the world annually who want to attend college. We know that looking for details of the best colleges on individual websites is quite hectic, and that’s why we have done all the research to find the ten best colleges in the state.
2021’s Best Colleges in Pennsylvania
- Swarthmore College
- University of Pennsylvania
- Haverford College
- Carnegie Mellon University
- Lehigh University
- Lafayette College
- Franklin and Marshall College
- Bryn Mawr College
- Bucknell University
- Villanova University
It is a private liberal arts college that was founded in 1864. Swarthmore students take general courses for the first two years before specializing in a major for the last two years in college. This approach gives them a better understanding of the various disciplines, broadens their outlook on life, and makes their minds agile. Students have access to professors, resources, and research opportunities. They also have internship opportunities that prepare them to join the workforce after graduation. Swarthmore takes diversity seriously and has an affluent community with students and professors from various backgrounds. 95% of students live on campus, and 60% of students volunteer. Swarthmore has seven libraries, 100 clubs & organizations, and 22 varsity sports teams.
It ranks 3rd in national liberal arts colleges, 2nd in best value schools, 4th in best undergraduate teaching, and 42nd in most innovative schools.
It has an acceptance rate of 9% and a graduation rate of 94% and is one of the best colleges in Pennsylvania. Swarthmore College has adopted a test-optional policy for students applying into the 2021-2022 admissions cycle. It also offers optional interviews, and students who do not take the interview will not lose.
Students pay $55,856 for tuition and books per year, except they are eligible for financial aid. Swarthmore students received between $1000 to $55,074 in awards for financial assistance in the 2019/2020 academic year. 56% of students received financial aid within the same year and the average aid awarded for jobs/scholarships was $56,048.
74% of Swarthmore graduates get employed upon graduating.
Here are some programs at Swarthmore:
- Data science
University of Pennsylvania
The University of Pennsylvania (Penn) is a private research university that was established in 1740. It is one of the colonial colleges in Pennsylvania and also an Ivy League school. Penn boasts of highly educated professors who work with students to help them achieve outstanding results. Penn educators encourage students to be creative, independent yet work smoothly in teams and challenge them to follow their passion and be diligent while at it. Penn adopts an interdisciplinary approach towards problem-solving and has multiple research opportunities for its students from over 100 countries around the globe. It has an Action Plan for Faculty Diversity and Excellence and a dynamic and inclusive campus environment, among which 13% of its students are first-generation college students. Additionally, Penn is actively working towards finding lasting solutions to combat climate change.
It ranks 8th in national universities, 14th in best value schools, 26th in most innovative schools, and 48th in best undergraduate teaching.
It is toughest among PA colleges and universities to get into with a 9% acceptance rate. It has a 95% graduation rate. First-year and transfer students are currently not required to submit SAT or ACT scores. Those who do not offer will not be at a disadvantage.
Tuition costs 57,770 per year. Penn offered an average amount of $54,301 in financial aid to 46% of its students in the 2018/2019 academic year. It has awarded $2 billion in financial assistance to over 22,000 students since 2004.
Here are some programs at Penn:
- Behavioral economics
- Nutrition science
Haverford college is a liberal arts college in Pennsylvania that was founded in 1833. It is renowned for its honor code, academic rigor, and its beautiful campus. It is one of the good colleges in PA, and it instills values such as honesty, resilience, and diligence in its students. 98% of students live on campus out of its 1,373 students. The small student population makes teaching and learning more accessible, more interactive, and more productive. Students have access to well-groomed educators whose years of experience are evident in their teaching methods. Every student can be an active member in class and participate in research and internships to prepare for the world after graduation. Students participate in its over 140 student organizations and clubs, volunteer in the community, and manage budgets.
Haverford college ranks 16th in national liberal arts colleges, 14th in best undergraduate teaching, 23rd in best value schools, and 46th in undergraduate research/creative projects.
It has a 16% acceptance rate and a 90% graduation rate. Haverford is adopting a 3-year test-optional policy from Fall 2021.
Students pay $56,952 for tuition and $752 for other fees annually. Over 50% of Haverford college students received grants in the 2018/2019 academic year.
Here are some majors:
- Environmental studies
Carnegie Mellon University
Carnegie Mellon University was founded in 1900. It is a private research university that is a merger of the Mellon Institute of Industrial Research and the Carnegie Institute of Technology. It makes the list of the best colleges in PA, and for a good reason. Carnegie educators use a rigorous curriculum that has been tested and proven to produce results over the years. Students participate in real-life projects, internships and study industry topics to train them and perfect their skills. It has 13 Turing awards and 43 Goldwater Scholars.
It ranks among the best cybersecurity universities in the world. Additionally, Carnegie ranks 25th in national universities, 5th in most innovative schools, 29th in best undergraduate teaching, and 30th in best value schools.
It has a 15% acceptance rate and a 90% graduation rate. Carnegie has extended its test-optional policy for first-year applicants into Fall 2022.
Carnegie students pay $57,119 for tuition and fees annually. Students can receive merit-based and need-based financial aid.
Carnegie offers courses in the humanities, technology, research that promote creativity and innovation.
Here are some majors:
- Artificial intelligence
- Biomedical engineering
- Civil engineering
- Psychology and biological sciences
- Technical writing
Lehigh University is a private university that focuses on research and innovation. It was founded in 1865 and currently has a student population of 5,047. It has a rigorous academic community, and educators use a curriculum that is tailored towards excellence and innovation. Students learn how to be self-sufficient while working in teams that professors in different departments sometimes head. Lehigh has student advocacy centers and offers students support. It has clubs and organizations that students run and encourages all students to be proactive.
Lehigh ranks 49% in national universities, 13th in best undergraduate teaching, 29th in best value schools, and 45th in best engineering programs. Additionally, Lehigh ranks 21st in best financial aid, according to the Princeton Review.
Lehigh has a 32% acceptance rate and an 89% graduation rate. It has a test-optional policy for applicants who want to enroll in the 2022/2023 and 2013/2024 academic years.
Tuition at Lehigh costs $56,980 per year. However, 90% of Lehigh students with family incomes less than $75,000 received financial aid. Lehigh also offered an average of $47,745 in need-based financial aid in the 2019/2020 academic year. Additionally, over 50% of current students receive financial aid.
Lehigh graduates have an average starting salary of $67,000 annually.
These are some majors:
- Computer science
- French and francophone studies
- Global studies
- Population health
It is a private college that emphasizes liberal arts and was founded in 1826. It is located in Pennsylvania and has a satellite college in New York City. Lafayette offers students an opportunity to better themselves, become masters of the courses they choose, and experience life in an inclusive and diverse community. It has a center for innovation that offers students learning opportunities through workshops, coursework, mentorship, competition, and funding. Undergraduate students can participate in research programs under the supervision of seasoned professors. Most students live on campus and participate in an array of cultural, sports, social and cultural activities all year round.
Lafayette ranks 38th in national universities, making it one of the top colleges in Pennsylvania. It is 96th in best value schools and 206th in top performers on social mobility.
Lafayette has a 31% acceptance rate and an 89% graduation rate. It has adopted a test-optional policy for Fall 2022 and Fall 2023 applicants. However, this does not imply students who do not submit test scores will be at a disadvantage.
Students are expected to pay $55,874 for tuition annually and new students have to pay a matriculation fee of $750. Students can apply for financial aid if they face financial restrictions. Lafayette budgets for grants, scholarships, loans, and work-study aid for eligible students.
Lafayette offers students 51 areas of students and here are some of those programs:
- Africana studies
- Computer science
- Film and media studies
- Policy studies
- Women’s gender and sexuality studies
Franklin and Marshall College
Franklin and Marshall (F&M) is a private liberal arts college that was founded in 1787. It encourages students to be optimistic, pragmatic, and daring. The principled nature of academic staff combined with F&M’s personalized education curriculum encourages students to be ambitious and futuristic. The F&M community is inclusive, kind, and values the common good of all its members. It recognizes and accepts different identities and promotes networking and communication among students and members of staff.
It ranks 42nd in national universities, 31st in best value schools, 44th in best undergraduate teaching.
Franklin and Marshall College is one of the best universities in Pennsylvania with a 30% acceptance rate and an 87% graduation rate. It has always been test-optional and continues to maintain this policy.
Tuition at F&M costs $58,800 annually, but eligible students can receive financial aid. F&M offers only need-based financial aid and 65% of all its students are recipients.
Here are some programs:
- Africana studies
- Cognitive science
- Environmental studies
- Public policy
Bryn Mawr College
Bryn Mawr is one of the top PA colleges that is centered on the liberal arts curriculum. It was founded in 1885 as a college for women. Since its founding, Bryn Mawr has produced exceptional graduates who have a strong desire to build healthy and profitable relationships with other members of the community. Current students participate in research, fieldwork, internships, and community work. They are innovative and are guided by vibrant scholars whose talent and zeal to teach are evident in their interactions with students. There are events, clubs, organizations, and a host of other activities to keep students entertained throughout the school year.
It ranks 30th in national liberal arts colleges, 7th in best undergraduate teaching, 19th in first-year experiences, and 37th in best value schools.
Bryn Mawr has a 33% acceptance rate and an 83% graduation rate. It has a test-optional policy for international students, U.S. citizens, and permanent residents.
Although tuition costs 54,440 annually, students can apply for need-based financial assistance. Eligible students will receive financial aid to help find their education.
Being a women-only school, Bryn Mawr offers academic programs that empower, train, and direct women towards a more productive life while in school and after graduation.
Some of these programs are:
- Film studies
- Women’s studies
Bucknell University is a private liberal school in Pennsylvania that was founded in 1846. It offers a range of recreational activities, academic programs, and empowering events to shape various aspects of its students’ lives. Students have room to explore a sea of options to discover their passions and focus on their interests. Bucknell has a Female institute that was opened in 1852 and has since trained women and prepared them for the workforce through internships, research, and practical sessions. Bucknell is one of the best universities in PA because of its academic rigor and inclusive community that promotes equity and diversity.
Bucknell even has active social media accounts such as TikTok to promote creativity and give a glimpse of what it’s like to be a part of the university community.
It ranks 38th in national liberal arts colleges, 7th in most innovative schools, 55th in best undergraduate teaching, and 99th in best value schools.
It has a 34% acceptance rate and an 88% graduation rate. Applicants can choose to or to not submit their test scores because Bucknell is test-optional.
Students pay $59,477 to cover the cost of tuition for one year. However, Bucknell offers an average need-based financial aid package of $41,000. Students are encouraged for financial aid in the form of grants, loans, scholarships, and work-study.
Bucknell has 3 colleges that have over 60 programs for its students.
Some of the programs are:
- Animal biology
- Business analytics
- Electrical engineering
- Global management
- Markets, innovation, & design
Villanova University is a private research university that is founded on the values and beliefs of the catholic church. Villanova offers a personalized and supportive environment that promotes learning and creativity. Additionally, it offers hands-on research, experiential learning, and a rich faculty comprised of experienced staff. Villanova’s rich alumni network helps fresh graduates find their way into the workforce and encourage current students to be their best selves. Being a Christ-centered school, Villanova promotes discipline, kindness, empathy, and social justice.
It ranks 49th in national universities, 23rd in best value schools, 71st in best schools for veterans, and 78th in best colleges for veterans.
Villanova has a 28% acceptance rate and a 90% graduation rate. It has a test-optional policy for 2021/2022 applicants, but students who choose to submit test scores are free to do so.
Freshmen entering the 2021/2022 academic year have to pay $58,290 for tuition. Eligible students can get merit-based scholarships or need-based grants. Students may have to apply for some merit-based scholarships but not all.
Below are some programs students can study at Villanova University:
- Peace and justice
- Theology and religious studies
Why Study in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania has a rich and intriguing history centered on the pre and post-colonial era. It has a beautiful landscape and offers opportunities to domestic and international students to explore and have the time of their lives. Pennsylvania has an array of top-notch colleges that makes it difficult to point out the best college in PA. Its colleges are some of the best in the country with outstanding results and inclusive communities.
The best colleges in Pennsylvania all offer a range of professional programs that are needed in today’s world. They have high educational standards, promote creativity, and leave room for nonacademic activities. These colleges have firm values which they instill into students year after year. Their high graduation rate is proof of just how good students are. Apply to a college in PA today!