Best universities in the United States 2021

Find the best universities in the United States through Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings data

September 2 2020
Stanford University, Best universities in the United States 2016

Thinking about studying in the US can be overwhelming?because there are so many options.

We thought you might like to know the top universities in the US based on the highly respected?Times Higher Education?World University Rankings 2021.

There are 181 US universities and colleges among the world’s best and so wherever you want to study in the US, a top university will not be far away. Almost all states and?about 130 cities are represented in the best US universities list.

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California is the most represented state among the best?US universities, with 15 institutions, followed by 13 universities in New York, 12 universities in Texas and 10 universities in Massachusetts.?

The universities at the very top of the ranking are concentrated in these popular destinations,?which are well known for their higher education opportunities; the top five are based in California and Massachusetts.

It’s important to note that we also produce a separate US College Rankings in partnership with the?Wall Street Journal?designed with students in mind. At the heart of the US College Rankings is a student survey, taken by more than?170,000 students across the US and capturing the things that are?most important to prospective students, such as teaching quality,?learning environment, resources, diversity on campus and whether a student would recommend their institution.?

You can see?the?full US College Rankings here, or scroll all the way down to see the top 10.?

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Top 5 universities in the US

1. Stanford University

Based in Palo Alto, right?beside?Silicon Valley, Stanford University has had a prominent role in encouraging the region’s tech industry to develop.

Many faculty members, students and alumni have founded successful technology companies and start-ups, including Google, Snapchat and Hewlett-Packard.

In total, companies founded by Stanford alumni make $2.7 trillion (£2.2 trillion) each year.

The university is often referred to as “the Farm” because the campus was built on the site of the Stanford family’s Palo Alto stock farm. The campus covers 8,180 acres, but more than half of the land is not yet developed.

With its distinctive sand-coloured, red-roofed buildings, Stanford’s campus is thought to be one of the most beautiful in the world. It contains a number of sculpture gardens and art museums, and a public meditation centre.

As might be expected from one of the best universities in the world, Stanford is highly competitive. The admission rate stands at just over 5 per cent.

Of the 16,000 students – most of whom live on campus – 22 per cent are international.

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2. Harvard University

Harvard is probably the best known university in the world,?topping?the?Times Higher Education?reputation rankings?most years.

Founded in 1636, it is the oldest higher education institution in the US.

About?21,000 students are enrolled, a quarter of whom are international. Although tuition is expensive, Harvard’s financial endowment allows for plenty of financial aid for students.

The Harvard Library system is made up of 79 libraries and counts as the largest academic library in the world.

Among many famous alumni, Harvard can count eight US presidents, 158 Nobel laureates, 14 Turing Award winners and 62 living billionaires.

Unlike some other universities at the top of the list, Harvard is at least equally reputed for arts and humanities as it is for science and technology, if not more so.?

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3. California Institute of Technology (CalTech)

Relative to the tiny size of its student population, CalTech has an impressive number of successful graduates and affiliates, including 39 Nobel laureates, six Turing Award winners and four Fields Medallists.

There are?about 2,200?students at CalTech, and the primary campus in Pasadena, near Los Angeles, covers 124 acres. Almost all undergraduates live on campus.

Across the six faculties, there is a focus on science and engineering.

In addition to Nobel laureates and top researchers, the CalTech graduate community includes a number of politicians and public advisers, particularly in?the areas of science, technology and energy.

All first-year students belong to one of four houses as part of the university’s alternative model to fraternities and sororities.?A number of house traditions and events are associated with each house.

The university has the highest proportion of students who continue on to pursue a PhD, and the?figure?of the CalTech postgraduate has filtered into popular culture; all the main characters in the TV comedy?The Big Bang Theory?work or study at CalTech.

Caltech: ‘uniquely difficult but a?wonderful place to study’

4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

MIT also cultivates a strong entrepreneurial culture, which has seen many alumni found notable companies such as Intel and Dropbox.

Unusually, the undergraduate and postgraduate programmes at MIT are not wholly separate; many courses can be taken at either level.

The undergraduate programme is one of the country’s most selective, admitting only 8 per cent of applicants. Engineering and computer science programmes are the most popular among undergraduates.

Thirty-three per cent of the 11,000 students are international, hailing from 154 countries.

Famous alumni include astronaut Buzz Aldrin, former UN secretary general Kofi Annan and physicist Richard Feynman.?

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5. University of California, Berkeley

The University of California, Berkeley is a public research university located in the San Francisco Bay Area, California.?

It is part of the University of California system, and is in fact the oldest campus within the system, having been founded in 1868.

Berkeley has an impressive catalogue of achievements counting 107 Nobel laureates, 25 Turing Award winners, 14 Fields Medallists, 28 Wolf Prize winners, 103 MacArthur Fellows, 25 Pulitzer Prize winners, 19 Academy Award winners and 207 Olympic Medals. Many politicians have also studied at the university.

The university’s official colours are blue and gold: where blue represents the California sky and ocean and gold the “Golden State” of California.?

There are more than 1,000 student groups at the university covering interests and activities?such as sports, politics and arts and crafts.?

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Top universities in the United States 2021?

Click each institution to view its full?World University Rankings 2021?results.

World University Rank 2021? US Rank 2021 University City State
?2? 1 Stanford University Stanford California
?3? 2 Harvard University Cambridge Massachusetts
?4? 3 California Institute of Technology Pasadena California
?5? 4 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge Massachusetts
?7? 5 University of California, Berkeley Berkeley California
?8? 6 Yale University New Haven Connecticut
?9? 7 Princeton University Princeton New Jersey
?10? 8 University of Chicago Chicago Illinois
?12? 9 Johns Hopkins University Baltimore Maryland
?13? 10 University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia Pennsylvania
?15? 11 University of California, Los Angeles Los Angeles California
?17? 12 Columbia University New York City New York
?19? 13 Cornell University Ithaca New York
?=20? 14 Duke University Durham North Carolina
?22? 15 University of Michigan-Ann Arbor Ann Arbor Michigan
?24? 16 Northwestern University Evanston Illinois
?26? 17 New York University New York City New York
?28? 18 Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh Pennsylvania
?29? 19 University of Washington Seattle Washington
?33? 20 University of California, San Diego San Diego California
?38? 21 Georgia Institute of Technology Atlanta Georgia
?44? 22 University of Texas at Austin Austin Texas
?48? 23 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Champaign Illinois
?49? 24 University of Wisconsin-Madison Madison Wisconsin
?50? 25 Washington University in St Louis St. Louis Missouri
?53? 26 University of Southern California Los Angeles California
?=54? 27 Boston University Boston Massachusetts
?=56? 28 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chapel Hill North Carolina
?61? 29 Brown University Providence Rhode Island
?=64? 30 University of California, Davis Davis California
?68? 31 University of California, Santa Barbara Santa Barbara California
?=80? 32 Ohio State University (Main campus) Columbus Ohio
?=85? =33 Emory University Atlanta Georgia
?=85? =33 University of Minnesota Minneapolis Minnesota
?90? 35 University of Maryland, College Park College Park Maryland
?=94? 36 Purdue University West Lafayette West Lafayette Indiana
?=98? 37 University of California, Irvine Irvine California
?=101? 38 Dartmouth College Hanover New Hampshire
?105? 39 Michigan State University East Lansing Michigan
?=111? 40 Vanderbilt University Nashville Tennessee
?=114? 41 Penn State (Main campus) State College Pennsylvania
?117? 42 University of Virginia (Main campus) Charlottesville Virginia
?120? 43 Georgetown University ? Washington D.C
?=121? 44 Case Western Reserve University Cleveland Ohio
?=124? 45 University of Arizona Tucson Arizona
?=124? =45 Rice University Houston Texas
?=131? 47 University of Colorado Boulder Boulder Colorado
?=133? 48 University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh campus Pittsburgh Pennsylvania
?=140? 49 Indiana University Bloomington Indiana
?=147? 50 University of Rochester Rochester (NY) New York
?=152? 51 University of Florida Gainesville Florida
?=155? 52 Tufts University Medford Massachusetts
?166? 53 Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey New Brunswick New Jersey
?169? 54 University of Alabama at Birmingham Birmingham Alabama
?=170? 55 University of Notre Dame Notre Dame Indiana
?=176? 56 Northeastern University Boston Massachusetts
?=184? 57 Arizona State University (Tempe) Tempe Arizona
?=187? 58 George Washington University ? Washington D.C
?197? 59 Texas A&M University College Station Texas
?201–250? =60 Brandeis University Waltham Massachusetts
?201–250? =60 University of California, Santa Cruz Santa Cruz California
?201–250? =60 University of Hawai’i at Mānoa Honolulu Hawai'i
?201–250? =60 Howard University ? Washington D.C
?201–250? =60 University of Iowa Iowa City Iowa
?201–250? =60 University of Massachusetts Amherst, Boston, Dartmouth, Lowell, Worcester Massachusetts
?201–250? =60 University of Miami Coral Gables Florida
?201–250? =60 University of South Florida (Tampa) Tampa Florida
?201–250? =60 University of Utah Salt Lake City Utah
?201–250? =60 Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Blacksberg Virginia
?251–300? =70 University at Buffalo Buffalo New York
?251–300? =70 University of California, Riverside Riverside California
?251–300? =70 University of Cincinnati Cincinnati Ohio
?251–300? =70 Florida State University Tallahassee Florida
?251–300? =70 George Mason University Fairfax Virginia
?251–300? =70 University of Illinois at Chicago Chicago Illinois
?251–300? =70 University of New Mexico (Main campus) Albuquerque New Mexico
?251–300? =70 Nova Southeastern University Davie Florida
?251–300? =70 Oregon Health and Science University Portland Oregon
?251–300? =70 State University of New York Albany Albany New York
?251–300? =70 Wake Forest University Winston-Salem North Carolina
?251–300? =70 William & Mary Williamsburg Virginia
?301–350? =82 Boston College Boston? Massachusetts
?301–350? =82 University of California, Merced Merced California
?301–350? =82 University of Colorado Denver Denver Colorado
?301–350? =82 University of Delaware Newark (DE) Delaware
?301–350? =82 Illinois Institute of Technology Chicago Illinois
?301–350? =82 North Carolina State University Raleigh North Carolina
?301–350? =82 University of Oregon Eugene Oregon
?301–350? =82 Rush University Chicago Illinois
?301–350? =82 Stony Brook University Stony Brook New York
?301–350? =82 Syracuse University Syracuse New York
?301–350? =82 Temple University Philadelphia Pennsylvania
?301–350? =82 The University of Tennessee-Knoxville Knoxville Texas
?301–350? =82 University of Texas at Dallas Richardson Texas
?301–350? =82 Tulane University New Orleans Louisiana
?301–350? =82 Washington State University Pullman Washington
?351–400? =97 Drexel University Philadelphia Pennsylvania
?351–400? =97 University of Kansas Lawrence Kansas
?351–400? =97 Wayne State University Detroit Michigan
?401–500? =97 University of Alaska Fairbanks Fairbanks Alaska
?401–500? =97 American University ? Washington D.C
?401–500? =97 Clark University Worcester Massachusetts
?401–500? =97 Colorado School of Mines Golden Colorado
?401–500? =97 Colorado State University, Fort Collins Fort Collins Colorado
?401–500? =97 University of Connecticut Mansfield Connecticut
?401–500? =97 University of Denver Denver Colorado
?401–500? =97 Florida International University Miami Florida
?401–500? =97 University of Georgia Athens Georgia
?401–500? =97 Georgia State University Atlanta Georgia
?401–500? =97 Iowa State University Ames Iowa
?401–500? =97 University of Kentucky Lexington Kentucky
?401–500? =97 University of Missouri-Columbia Columbia Missouri
?401–500? =97 Missouri University of Science and Technology Rolla Missouri
?401–500? =97 University of Nebraska-Lincoln Lincoln Nebraska
?401–500? =97 Oklahoma State University Stillwater Oklahoma
?401–500? =97 Oregon State University Corvallis Oregon
?401–500? =97 University of South Carolina-Columbia Columbia South Carolina
?401–500? =97 University of Tulsa Tulsa Oklahoma
?501–600? =119 Binghamton University, State University of New York Binghamton New York
?501–600? =119 Hofstra University Hempstead New York
?501–600? =119 University of Houston Houston Texas
?501–600? =119 Louisiana State University Baton Rouge Louisiana
?501–600? =119 University of Montana Missoula Montana
?501–600? =119 University of Nebraska Medical Center Omaha Nebraska
?501–600? =119 New Jersey Institute of Technology Newark (NJ) New Jersey
?501–600? =119 Northern Arizona University Flagstaff Arizona
?501–600? =119 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Troy New York
?501–600? =119 Stevens Institute of Technology Hoboken New Jersey
?501–600? =119 University of Texas at San Antonio San Antonio Texas
?601–800? =130 University of Alabama Tuscaloosa Alabama
?601–800? =130 University of Alabama in Huntsville Huntsville Alabama
?601–800? =130 University of Arkansas Fayateville Arkansas
?601–800? =130 Auburn University Auburn Alabama
?601–800? =130 University of Central Florida Orlando Florida
?601–800? =130 Chapman University Orange California
?601–800? =130 Clemson University Clemson South Carolina
?601–800? =130 Creighton University Omaha Nebraska
?601–800? =130 University of Idaho Moscow Idaho
?601–800? =130 Kansas State University Manhattan Kansas
?601–800? =130 Lehigh University Bethlehem Pennsylvania
?601–800? =130 University of Maryland, Baltimore County Baltimore Maryland
?601–800? =130 University of Missouri-St Louis St. Louis Missouri
?601–800? =130 Montana State University Bozeman Montana
?601–800? =130 University of Nevada, Las Vegas Las Vegas Nevada
?601–800? =130 New Mexico State University (Main campus) Las Cruces New Mexico
?601–800? =130 University of North Carolina at Greensboro Greensboro North Carolina
?601–800? =130 Ohio University (Main campus) Athens Ohio
?601–800? =130 University of Rhode Island South Kingstown Rhode Island
?601–800? =130 San Diego State University San Diego California
?601–800? =130 University of Texas at Arlington Arlington Texas
?601–800? =130 Texas Tech University Lubbock Texas
?601–800? =130 University of Toledo Toledo Ohio
?601–800? =130 Western Washington University Bellingham Washington
?601–800? =130 University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Milwaukee Wisconsin
?601–800? =130 Worcester Polytechnic Institute Worcester Massachusetts
?801–1000? =156 Baylor University Waco Texas
?801–1000? =156 Bowling Green State University Bowling Green Ohio
?801–1000? =156 Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University Tallahassee Florida
?801–1000? =156 Florida Atlantic University Boca Raton Florida
?801–1000? =156 Florida Institute of Technology Melbourne Florida
?801–1000? =156 Kent State University Kent Ohio
?801–1000? =156 Louisiana Tech University Ruston Louisiana
?801–1000? =156 Marquette University Milwaukee Wisconsin
?801–1000? =156 University of Memphis Memphis Tennessee
?801–1000? =156 Miami University Oxford Ohio
?801–1000? =156 Mississippi State University Starkville Mississippi
?801–1000? =156 The New School New York City New York
?801–1000? =156 Old Dominion University Norfolk Virginia
?801–1000? =156 Portland State University Portland Oregon
?801–1000? =156 Rochester Institute of Technology Rochester (NY) New York
?801–1000? =156 University of South Dakota Vermillion South Dakota
?801–1000? =156 Southern Illinois University Carbondale Carbondale Illinois
?801–1000? =156 University of Texas at El Paso El Paso Texas
?1001+? =174 California State University, Long Beach Long Beach California
?1001+? =174 East Carolina University Greenville North Carolina
?1001+? =174 James Madison University Harrisonburg Virginia
?1001+? =174 Morgan State University Baltimore Maryland
?1001+? =174 University of North Carolina Wilmington Wilmington North Carolina
?1001+? =174 Oakland University Rochester? Michigan
?1001+? =174 Texas State University San Marcos Texas
?1001+? =174 Western Michigan University Kalamazoo Michigan

Top 10 universities in the US (THE/WSJ?US College Ranking 2020)

WSJ/THE?US College Rank 2020 University City State
1 Harvard University Cambridge Massachusetts
2 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge Massachusetts
3 Yale University New Haven Connecticut
4 University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia Pennsylvania
=5 California Institute of Technology Pasadena California
=5 Princeton University Princeton? New Jersey
=7 Brown University Providence Rhode Island
=7 Stanford University Stanford California
9 Cornell University Ithaca New York
10 Duke University Durham? North Carolina

Read more: Best universities in the world?

Reader's comments (4)

California Institute of Technology has filed a lawsuit against Apple. Like this way, many universities generate more revenue. Microsoft once gave $521 M, Apple last year gave $256 M and so on. No doubt, they are pioneer universities of the world and found a new way to make money. I found an article which I want to share with you about universities specially Technical one. Here is the link, must read it.
Hard to believe that THE ranks UC Berkeley (10th out of 980) international institutions while US News ranks UC Berkeley (20th out of 310) USA institutions.
Sir hello ... I want to say that I join USA university to continue my study in mass communication because I like to do master in it but my financial problem does not give me permission to do it so I hope and optimism that the uni of USA will take me serious and know about my problem I am from Pakistan live in Lahore but my parents can't take my admission in uni of Punjab because of many reasons
Sorry to hear about your problems, but I have never heard of a prospective student addressing American universities en masse (as a group). At least, I'm assuming this is what you intend by the terms "USA university" and "uni of USA". If there is an actual university by those names, then it's news to me. Have you considered addressing the admissions office at specific universities? I won't mention any names, but you might discover that some universities are much more open to accomodating foreign students than others. I've noticed that many universities like to brag about having students from X number of nations. In fact, I have seen several instances where state colleges charge a higher tuition to American students from out-of-state, than they do to students from out-of-country (i.e. foreign students)! Also, your English is not bad (assuming it is not your native language) and this reflects a significant amount of study on your part, which is good. However, I'm thinking that your proficiency in written English may be slightly less than that which is expected by most American universities. I would add that with some additional improvement you could soon reach an acceptable level for college studies. Please understand that mine is not a "professional" opinion on your English ability, and I could certainly be wrong about this. But I did attend and graduate with honors from an American university. In any case, this advice is intended to be helpful and not hurtful. Good luck to you!

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