The 30 best colleges in America, based on how much they cost and how much you'll make after graduating

Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via Getty ImagesMIT and Harvard University topped the list of the best colleges to attend in 2021.
  • Niche, a research firm that tracks K-12 and higher education, released its annual list of the best colleges to attend in 2021. The company assessed off 12 factors, including value for financial investment and academic rigour.
  • MIT, Harvard, and Stanford were the top three, in that order.
  • Below are the top 30 universities to attend in 2021.
  • Also listed is acceptance rate, average cost to attend, undergraduate enrollment, and how much students earn six years after graduating.
  • Niche reported each college’s estimate of the average cost to attend after financial aid for students receiving grant or scholarship aid.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.


30. Carleton College — Northfield, Minnesota

tmphoto98/Shutterstock

Acceptance rate: 20%

Net cost to attend: $US32,336

Undergraduate enrollment: 2,077

Median earnings 6 years after graduating:$US54,200


29. University of Virginia — Charlottesville, Virginia

Jeff Zelenvansky/Getty Images

Acceptance rate: 26%

Net cost to attend: $US17,845

Undergraduate enrollment: 15,990

Median earnings 6 years after graduating:$US61,200


28. Harvey Mudd College — Claremont, California

Ted Soqui/Corbis/Getty Images

Acceptance rate: 14%

Net cost to attend: $US38,768

Undergraduate enrollment: 887

Median earnings 6 years after graduating:$US88,800


27. Georgia Institute of Technology — Atlanta, Georgia

Facebook/SchellerCollege

Acceptance rate: 22%

Net cost to attend: $US16,950

Undergraduate enrollment: 14,318

Median earnings 6 years after graduating:$US79,100


26. Bowdoin College — Brunswick, Maine

Bowdoin College/Facebook

Acceptance rate: 10%

Net cost to attend: $US24,831

Undergraduate enrollment: 1,825

Median earnings 6 years after graduating:$US65,500


25. Georgetown University — Washington, DC

Sharkshock/Shutterstock

Acceptance rate: 15%

Net cost to attend: $US28,509

Undergraduate enrollment: 6,990

Median earnings 6 years after graduating:$US93,500


24. University of California, Los Angeles — Los Angeles, California

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Acceptance rate: 14%

Net cost to attend: $US15,002

Undergraduate enrollment: 31,009

Median earnings 6 years after graduating:$US60,700


23. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor — Ann Arbor, Michigan

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Acceptance rate: 23%

Net cost to attend: $US16,856

Undergraduate enrollment: 29,245

Median earnings 6 years after graduating:$US63,400


22. Carnegie Mellon University — Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Carnegie Mellon University/Facebook

Acceptance rate: 17%

Net cost to attend: $US30,847

Undergraduate enrollment: 6,343

Median earnings 6 years after graduating:$US83,600


21. Johns Hopkins University — Baltimore, Maryland

Facebook/Johns Hopkins University

Acceptance rate: 11%

Net cost to attend: $US27,868

Undergraduate enrollment: 5,595

Median earnings 6 years after graduating:$US73,200


20. Pomona College — Claremont, California

Facebook/Pomona College of Admissions

Acceptance rate: 8%

Net cost to attend: $US16,988

Undergraduate enrollment: 1,559

Median earnings 6 years after graduating:$US58,100


19. University of Southern California — Los Angeles, California

AP Photo/Reed Saxon

Acceptance rate: 13%

Net cost to attend: $US36,161

Undergraduate enrollment: 19,194

Median earnings 6 years after graduating:$US74,000


18. Cornell University — Ithaca, New York

Lewis Liu/Shutterstock

Acceptance rate: 11%

Net cost to attend: $US28,890

Undergraduate enrollment: 15,175

Median earnings 6 years after graduating:$US77,200


17. University of Chicago — Chicago, Illinois

Jannis Tobias Werner/Shutterstock

Acceptance rate: 7%

Net cost to attend: $US33,003

Undergraduate enrollment: 6,600

Median earnings 6 years after graduating:$US68,100


16. University of Notre Dame — Notre Dame, Indiana

Facebook/notredame

Acceptance rate: 18%

Net cost to attend: $US30,229

Undergraduate enrollment: 8,607

Median earnings 6 years after graduating:$US78,400


15. Washington University in St. Louis — Saint Louis, Missouri

AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

Acceptance rate: 15%

Net cost to attend: $US27,931

Undergraduate enrollment: 7,146

Median earnings 6 years after graduating:$US70,100


14. Northwestern University — Evanston, Illinois

Northwestern University/Facebook

Acceptance rate: 8%

Net cost to attend: $US27,540

Undergraduate enrollment: 8,161

Median earnings 6 years after graduating:$US69,000


13. Dartmouth College — Hanover, New Hampshire

Sarah Rice for The Washington Post via Getty ImagesStudents at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire in June 2019.

Acceptance rate: 9%

Net cost to attend: $US23,394

Undergraduate enrollment: 4,357

Median earnings 6 years after graduating:$US75,500


12. Columbia University — New York, New York

Rob Kim/GettyThe Columbia University campus is seen on May 21, 2020.

Acceptance rate: 6%

Net cost to attend: $US21,220

Undergraduate enrollment: 7,666

Median earnings 6 years after graduating:$US83,300


11. Vanderbilt University — Nashville, Tennessee

Reuters

Acceptance rate: 10%

Net cost to attend: $US23,596

Undergraduate enrollment: 6,789

Median earnings 6 years after graduating:$US69,000


10. University of Pennsylvania — Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

University of Pennsylvania/Facebook

Acceptance rate: 8%

Net cost to attend: $US26,266

Undergraduate enrollment: 10,605

Median earnings 6 years after graduating:$US85,900


9. Brown University — Providence, Rhode Island

Facebook/Brown University

Acceptance rate: 8%

Net cost to attend: $US27,238

Undergraduate enrollment: 6,735

Median earnings 6 years after graduating:$US67,500


8. California Institute of Technology — Pasadena, California

Facebook/California Institute of Technology – Caltech

Acceptance rate: 7%

Net cost to attend: $US26,361

Undergraduate enrollment: 948

Median earnings 6 years after graduating:$US85,900


7. Rice University — Houston, Texas

Facebook/RiceUniversity

Acceptance rate: 11%

Net cost to attend: $US23,202

Undergraduate enrollment: 3,899

Median earnings 6 years after graduating:$US65,400


6. Princeton University — Princeton, New Jersey

John Greim / Getty Images

Acceptance rate: 5%

Net cost to attend: $US16,192

Undergraduate enrollment: 5,321

Median earnings 6 years after graduating:$US74,700


5. Duke University — Durham, North Carolina

AP Photo/Michael Perez

Acceptance rate: 9%

Net cost to attend: $US19,785

Undergraduate enrollment: 6,659

Median earnings 6 years after graduating:$US84,400


4. Yale University — New Haven, Connecticut

Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

Acceptance rate: 6%

Net cost to attend: $US18,748

Undergraduate enrollment: 5,939

Median earnings 6 years after graduating:$US83,200


3. Stanford University — Stanford, California

Linda A Cicero/Stanford University/Facebook

Acceptance rate: 4%

Net cost to attend: $US17,271

Undergraduate enrollment: 7,087

Median earnings 6 years after graduating:$US94,000


2. Harvard University — Cambridge, Massachusetts

Collin Binkley/AP PhotoThe John Harvard statue at Harvard University adorned with a face mask.

Acceptance rate: 5%

Net cost to attend: $US17,590

Undergraduate enrollment: 7,210

Median earnings 6 years after graduating:$US89,700


1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology — Cambridge, Massachusetts

AP Photo/Elise Amendola

Acceptance rate: 7%

Net cost to attend: $US18,971

Undergraduate enrollment: 4,557

Median earnings 6 years after graduating:$US104,700

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