The 24 best public colleges in America

Cornell University fansCornell University/FacebookCornell University, which operates both as a public and private university, earned our top spot for best public school in the country.

We recently released our seventh annual list of the best colleges in America, which included schools from every corner of the US.

Here, we’ve narrowed down our results to look at the best public schools in the country.

To determine the rankings, we asked over 1,000 Business Insider readers to choose the
colleges that best prepare their students for success after graduation. We then combined those results with each school’s average SAT score from the college-data website College Board and the median starting salary from the employer-information website PayScale to come up with the final ranking. You can read the full methodology here.

Please note that this list drew from our original survey on the best colleges in the US, where survey respondents chose from a limited pool of what we perceived to be the top 100 schools in the US.

Did your school make the cut this year? Read on to find out.

Find out how your salary stacks up on PayScale.

24. University of Connecticut

University of Connecticut/Facebook

Average SAT score: 1885

Median starting salary: $US51,700

UConn has a built-out career services office, with resources both on campus and online. The online portal features a number of internship, co-op, and full-time job opportunities with companies like Pepperidge Farm, JetBlue, Unilever, and UBS, as well as a number of resources to help students apply and place there.

23. University of California at Irvine

University of California, Irvine/Facebook

Average SAT score: 1740

Median starting salary: $US49,300

Part of the prestigious University of California system, UCI is known for its top-rated research programs, which provide opportunities for both undergraduate and graduate students alike to participate in research projects. And although it's a large school, the student to faculty ratio remains low -- only 19:1 -- and 50% of classes have 20 or fewer students.

22. University of California at Davis

UC Davis/Facebook

Average SAT score: 1815

Median starting salary: $US50,800

UC Davis graduates enter a network of over 200,000 living alumni when they complete their degrees. While still in school, students have access to 104 major choices, preparing them for careers in everything from landscape architecture to microbiology to nutrition science.

21. University of California at Santa Barbara

UC Santa Barbara/Facebook

Average SAT score: 1880

Median starting salary: $US47,000

Rated a top 10 public school by US News, UCSB is a renowned research university -- one of only 62 schools to be recognised by the Association of American Universities -- and home to 11 national centres and institutions specialised in science, including the Southern California Earthquake Center and the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics. Even for students not interested in the sciences, UCSB offers majors in music, anthropology, linguistics, and more.

19. University of Florida

University of Florida/Facebook

Average SAT score: 1890

Median starting salary: $US48,800

Last year, 488 companies interviewed almost 10,000 UF students for jobs through the Gainesville-based school's career resource center. Students' efforts in this area paid off too -- top employers for the class of 2014 included elite companies like General Electric, Deloitte, and Ernst & Young.

18. Clemson University


Average SAT score: 1875

Median starting salary: $US51,400

The 2016 Princeton Review ranked Clemson's career services program No. 1 in the country. The career center also runs a Cooperative Education Program, in which students can alternate semesters of academic work with 'paid, career-related, engaged-learning experience,' according to the Clemson website. The 2015 Princeton Review also ranks the school No. 1 for the best alumni network.

17. Ohio State University


Average SAT score: 1885

Median starting salary: $US48,000

Ohio State undergraduates can choose from over 200 majors, including pre-professional programs in law, medicine, and occupational therapy. For those who aren't sure what direction to take -- or realise they want a completely new major -- the Columbus-based school's 'university exploration' program matches students up with an advisor who assists them in discovering the path that best suits their interests.

16. University of California at San Diego

UC San Diego/Facebook

Average SAT score: 2018

Median starting salary: $US50,600

UCSD, located in sunny La Jolla, is a leading research university that secured over $US1 billion in funding for 2015. Tangibly, the school's research efforts are felt through things like the more than 200 patents and 16 startups that came UCSD in 2014.

15. College of William and Mary

The College of William & Mary/Facebook

Average SAT score: 2040

Median starting salary: $US44,600

In their post-undergraduate years, alumni from the College of William and Mary earn doctorates at a higher rate than any other public university in the country. The research university in Williamsburg, Virginia, also boasts three US presidents among its notable alumni: Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and John Tyler.

14. University of Wisconsin at Madison


Average SAT score: 1935

Median starting salary: $US48,500

The University of Wisconsin at Madison offers 4,793 courses across more than 150 departments, giving students the chance to find what interests them most, even if it's a niche subject like food science or zoology. The school also encourages undergraduates to participate in hands-on research, whether it's assisting a faculty member or designing their own project.

13. Pennsylvania State University

Penn State/Facebook

Average SAT score: 1780

Median starting salary: $US51,500

Pennsylvania's only land-grant university, Penn State has an extensive alumni network of more than 645,000 Nittany Lions around the world. The school's alumni association connects everyone through an advanced online network that enables alumni to make professional connections, hire fellow Penn Staters, and more.

12. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill/Facebook

Average SAT score: 1950

Median starting salary: $US46,100

The first public university in the US, UNC was named the No. 6 overall best undergraduate business program in the country by US News, with top programs in management, marketing, and entrepreneurship as well. These curriculums translate into the real world too: UNC students and faculty have founded more than 150 active businesses, spurring hundreds of careers and creating thousands of jobs worldwide.

11. Purdue University


Average SAT score: 1780

Median starting salary: $US55,400

Indiana's land grant university has a stellar track record of students pursuing their dreams after graduation: 85% of students surveyed from the class of 2013 found themselves employed full-time or in graduate school. Purdue alumni employers range from large corporations like Amazon, PepsiCo, and Disney to government entities and universities.

10. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign/Facebook

Average SAT score: 2030

Median starting salary: $US55,000

Located about 140 miles south of Chicago, the University of Illinois is home to one of the largest public-university library collections in the world, with more than 24 million volumes across over 20 area-studies libraries. Students can take advantage of more than 400 study-abroad programs in more than 60 countries.

9. University of Texas at Austin

The University of Texas at Austin/Facebook

Average SAT score: 1900

Median starting salary: $US52,200

Ranked No. 17 for top public universities in the country by US News and Money magazine, UT has nearly half a billion alumni all toting Longhorn pride, including award-winning actor Matthew McConaughey, filmmaker Wes Anderson, journalist Walter Cronkite, and many members of the Bush family. More than 15 of UT's undergraduate programs are ranked in the top 10 nationally.

8. University of California at Los Angeles


Average SAT score: 1975

Median starting salary: $US50,300

Ranked the 40th-best college in the country on our main list, the second-best public college in the country, and the eighth-best college in the world by US News, UCLA sums up its mission in three words: education, research, and service. Students learn in and out of the classroom, study abroad, and take advantage of a wide range of internships in their disciplines of choice.

7. United States Military Academy

West Point - The US Military Academy

Average SAT score: 1880

Median starting salary: $US75,100

Getting into the Military Academy at West Point, located in the eponymous New York town, is no small feat: The Academy accepts only about 9% of applicants. For accepted students, each major -- ranging from American politics to nuclear engineering -- is specifically tailored to train 'officer-leaders of character to serve the Army and the Nation.' West Point was ranked No. 29 on our main list.

6. University of Virginia

University of Virginia/Facebook

Average SAT score: 2025

Median starting salary: $US54,100

US News named UVA -- which is located in Charlottesville -- the No. 2 public school and the No. 6 undergraduate business program in the country. Research is also an important part of the school's curriculum, and it has 1.5 million square feet of research facilities, labs, and studio space, as well as $US26 million in research awards from corporate partners.

5. United States Naval Academy

United States Naval Academy/Facebook

Average SAT score: 1913

Median starting salary: $US80,700

As a military school, the Annapolis, Maryland-based Naval Academy rigorously prepares students for a career in the Navy, with a focus on military education, professional training, character development, and physical fitness. The Academy, which ranked No. 26 on our main list, boasts a trove of notable alumni, including 52 astronauts, 48 Rhodes Scholars, and President Jimmy Carter.

4. Georgia Institute of Technology

Average SAT score: 2080

Median starting salary: $US61,700

Considered the smartest public college in America, Georgia Tech is known for its top-rated engineering, industrial design, and architecture programs.

'Atlanta is the technological hub of the South, and Georgia Tech is a major reason for this, attracting among the best technology students from around the world,' one survey respondent said.

2. University of California at Berkeley

UC Berkeley/Facebook

Average SAT score: 2035

Median starting salary: $US59,500

The top strictly public school on our list, Berkeley is also ranked the No. 1 public university in the country by US News. Students can choose between 170 departments and programs across 12 colleges, and even at a big school 73% of undergraduate classes seat 30 students or fewer. It ranked at No. 15 on our main list.

1. Cornell University

Cornell University/Facebook

Average SAT score: 2130

Median starting salary: $US58,200

Interestingly, Cornell is both a public and private school. The individual colleges within the university all operate autonomously, with some receiving direct funding from New York State.

Cornell strives to contribute to the world's knowledge in a way that 'prioritises public engagement to help improve the quality of life in our state, the nation, the world.' The Ithaca, New York-based school offers 80 fields of study and an active career-services office, which connects students with alumni for mentoring, networking, jobs, and internships. The Ivy ranked at No. 11 on our main list.

Find out how your salary stacks up on PayScale.

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