Best universities in the United States 2018

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

September 5 2017
Stanford University, Best universities in the United States 2016

Thinking about studying in the US can be overwhelming, especially since there are so many options of where to study.

We thought you might like to know which are the top universities in the US based on the highly respected Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2018.

The best universities and colleges in the US number almost 160, and wherever you want to study in America, a top university will not be far away. Almost all the states are represented in the best US universities list. Approximately 130 different cities appear in the ranking.

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California is the most represented state among the best American universities with 13 universities followed by 11 universities in New York, 11 universities in Texas and nine universities in Massachusetts. 

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

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Top 5 universities in the US

=1. California Institute of Technology (CalTech)

Relative to the tiny size of the student population, CalTech has an impressive number of successful graduates and affiliates, including 34 Nobel prizewinners, six Turing Award winners, five Fields Medalists and a number of national awards.

There are only approximately 2,000 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 alumni community also includes a number of politicians and public advisers, particularly in positions that deal with science, technology and energy.

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

The university has the highest proportion of students who continue on to pursue a PhD, and the trope 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.

Best universities in California

=1. Stanford University

Based right next to Silicon Valley – or Palo Alto – Stanford has had a prominent role in encouraging the high-tech industry to develop in the area.

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 each year.

The university is often referred to as “the Farm”, as 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 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 in addition to faculty buildings 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 currently stands at just over 5 per cent.

Of the 15,000 students – most of whom live on campus – 22 per cent are international.

The 10 most beautiful universities in the US 

3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

A long-standing rival of CalTech, 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 different countries around the world.

Famous alumni include astronaut Buzz Aldrin, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and physicist Richard Feynman. Graduates are prevalent throughout science, politics, economics, business and media.

Women in STEM: stories from MIT students

4. Harvard University

Harvard University is probably the best-known university in the world, coming top in the Times Higher Education reputation rankings most years.

It was founded in 1636, and is the oldest higher education institution in the US.

There are approximately 20,000 students enrolled, a quarter of whom are international. Although the cost of tuition is expensive, Harvard’s financial endowment allows for plenty of financial aid for students.

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

Among many famous alumni, Harvard can count eight US presidents, about 150 Nobel laureates, 13 Turing Award winners and 62 living billionaires.

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

Brits in America: Heading to Harvard

5. Princeton University

Like Harvard, Princeton is a prestigious Ivy League university with a history stretching back more than 200 years.

Princeton’s distinctive social environment includes private “eating clubs” – which function as both social houses and dining halls. Many of the clubs are selective and competitive, but others simply require undergraduates to sign up.

There are fewer than 8,000 students enrolled at Princeton, and just over a quarter are international.

Princeton’s campuses, in New Jersey, are located about an hour away from both New York City and Philadelphia.

Degree courses have strictly specified requirements. All students are required to do independent research as part of their degrees, and some must take a foreign language course.

The application process is highly selective. Unlike most US universities, Princeton does not now offer an early decision application route.

Renowned Princeton alumni include US presidents, astronauts, businessmen, Olympians and numerous award-winners. Physicist Richard Feynman attended as a graduate student, as did mathematicians John Nash and Alan Turing.

Studying at Princeton University

Compare US universities with other regions

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Top universities in the United States 2018 

Click each institution to view its full World University Rankings 2018 results

US Rank 2018 World University Rank 2018 University State City
=1 =3 California Institute of Technology California Pasadena
=1 =3 Stanford University California Stanford
3 5 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Massachusetts Cambridge
4 6 Harvard University Massachusetts Cambridge
5 7 Princeton University New Jersey Princeton
6 9 University of Chicago Illinois Chicago
7 =10 University of Pennsylvania Pennsylvania Philadelphia
8 12 Yale University Connecticut New Havem
9 13 Johns Hopkins University Maryland Baltimore
10 14 Columbia University New York State New York City
11 15 University of California, Los Angeles California Los Angeles
12 17 Duke University North Carolina  Durham
13 18 University of California, Berkeley California Berkelely
14 19 Cornell University New York State Ithaca
15 20 Northwestern University Illinois Evanston
16 21 University of Michigan Michigan Ann Arbor
17 24 Carnegie Mellon University Pennsylvania Pittsburgh
18 =25 University of Washington Washington Seattle
19 =27 New York University New York State New York City
20 31 University of California, San Diego California San Diego
21 33 Georgia Institute of Technology Georgia Atlanta
22 37 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Illinois Champaign
23 43 University of Wisconsin-Madison Wisconsin Madison
24 49 University of Texas at Austin Texas Austin
=25 =50 Brown University Rhode Island Providence
=25 =50 Washington University in St Louis Missouri St. Louis
27 53 University of California, Santa Barbara California Santa Barbara
28 =54 University of California, Davis California Davis
=29 =56 University of Minnesota Minnesota Minneapolis
=29 =56 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill North Carolina Chapel Hill
31 60 Purdue University Indiana West Lafayette
32 66 University of Southern California California Los Angeles
33 69 University of Maryland, College Park Maryland College Park
=34 =70 Boston University Massachusetts Boston
=34 =70 Ohio State University Ohio Columbus
36 77 Pennsylvania State University Pennsylvania State College
37 =83 Michigan State University Michigan  East Lansing
38 =86 Rice University Texas Houston
39 89 Dartmouth College New Hampshire Hanover
40 98 Emory University Georgia Atlanta
41 99 University of California, Irvine California Irvine
=42 =100 University of Colorado Boulder Colorado Boulder
=42 =100 University of Pittsburgh Pennsylvia Pittsburgh
44 =105 Vanderbilt University Tennessee  Nashville
45 =113 University of Virginia Virginia Charlottesville
46 =117 Indiana University Indiana Bloomington
47 =123 Georgetown University - Washington D.C
48 =126 Arizona State University Arizona Tempe
49 =143 University of Florida Florida Gainesville
50 =150 University of Notre Dame Indiana Notre Dame
51 =153 University of Rochester New York State Rochester (NY)
52 158 Case Western Reserve University Ohio Cleveland
53 =159 Texas A&M University Texas College Station
54 161 University of Arizona Arizona Tucson
55 =162 University of California, Santa Cruz California Santa Cruz
56 168 University of Alabama at Birmingham Alabama Birmingham
57 =169 Tufts University Massachusetts Medford
58 172 Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey New Jersey New Brunswick
59 186 University of Miami Florida Coral Gables
60 191 University of Massachusetts Massachusetts Amherst, Boston, Dartmouth, Lowell, Worcester
61 193 Northeastern University Massachusetts Boston
62 =198 University of California, Riverside California Riverside
=63 201–250 Brandeis University Massachusetts Waltham
=63 201–250 University of Cincinnati Ohio Cincinnati
=63 201–250 University of Delaware Delware Newark (DE)
=63 201–250 Florida State University Florida Tallahassee
=63 201–250 George Washington University - Washington D.C
=63 201–250 University of Hawai’i at Mānoa Hawai'i Honolulu
=63 201–250 University of Iowa Iowa Iowa City
=63 201–250 University of Texas at Dallas Texas Richardson
=63 201–250 University of Utah Utah  Salt Lake City
=72 251–300 University at Buffalo New York State Buffalo
=72 251–300 Clark University Massachusetts Worcester
=72 251–300 University of Colorado Denver Colorado Denver
=72 251–300 Colorado School of Mines Colarado Golden
=72 251–300 University of Illinois at Chicago Illinois Chicago
=72 251–300 North Carolina State University North Carolina Raleigh
=72 251–300 University of Oregon Oregon Eugene
=72 251–300 Oregon Health and Science University Oregon Portland
=72 251–300 University of South Florida Florida Tampa
=72 251–300 Stony Brook University New York State Stony Brook
=72 251–300 Syracuse University New York State Syracuse
=72 251–300 Wake Forest University North Carolina Winston-Salem
=72 251–300 William & Mary Virginia Williamsburg
=85 301–350 University of Alaska Fairbanks Alaska Fairbanks
=85 301–350 Boston College Massachusetts Newton
=85 301–350 University of Connecticut Connecticut Mansfield
=85 301–350 University of Denver Colorado Denver
=85 301–350 George Mason University Virginia Fairfax
=85 301–350 University of Houston Texas  Houston
=85 301–350 Iowa State University Iowa Ames
=85 301–350 University of Nebraska-Lincoln Nebraska Lincoln
=85 301–350 Oregon State University Oregon Corvallis
=85 301–350 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute New York State Troy
=85 301–350 Rush University Illinois Chicago
=85 301–350 University of Tennessee, Knoxville Tennessee Knoxville
=85 301–350 Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Virginia Blacksburg
=85 301–350 Washington State University Washington Pullman
=99 351–400 University of Alabama Alabama Tuscaloosa
=99 351–400 American University - Washington D.C
=99 351–400 Colorado State University Colorado Fort Collins
=99 351–400 Drexel University Pennsylvania Philadelphia
=99 351–400 University of Georgia Georgia Athens
=99 351–400 Georgia State University Georgia Atlanta
=99 351–400 University of Kansas Kansas Lawrence
=99 351–400 University of South Carolina South Carolina Columbia
=99 351–400 Temple University Pennsylvania Philadelphia
=99 351–400 Tulane University Louisiana New Orleans
=99 351–400 University of Vermont Vermont Burlington
=99 351–400 Wayne State University Michigan Detroit
=111 401–500 Binghamton University, State University of New York New York State Binghampton
=111 401–500 Florida International University Florida Miami
=111 401–500 Hofstra University New York State Hempstead
=111 401–500 Louisiana State University Louisiana Baton Rouge
=111 401–500 University of Maryland, Baltimore County Maryland Baltimore
=111 401–500 University of Missouri Missouri Columbia (MO)
=111 401–500 University of Montana Montana Missoula
=111 401–500 University of Nebraska Medical Center Nebraska Omaha
=111 401–500 Northern Arizona University Arizona Flagstaff
=111 401–500 University of Oklahoma Oklahoma Northern
=111 401–500 Saint Louis University Missouri St. Louis
=111 401–500 San Diego State University California San Diego
=111 401–500 University of Texas at San Antonio Texas San Antonio
=111 401–500 University of Tulsa Oklahoma Tulsa
=111 401–500 University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Wisconsin Milwaukee
=126 501–600 University of Arkansas Arkansa Fayetteville
=126 501–600 Creighton University Nebraska Omaha
=126 501–600 Kent State University Ohio Kent
=126 501–600 Lehigh University Pennsylvania  Bethlehem 
=126 501–600 Missouri University of Science and Technology Missouri  Rolla 
=126 501–600 Montana State University Montana  Bozeman 
=126 501–600 New Jersey Institute of Technology New Jersey Newark (NJ) 
=126 501–600 Oklahoma State University Oklahoma Stillwater 
=126 501–600 University of South Dakota South Dakota  Vermillion 
=126 501–600 Stevens Institute of Technology New Jersey  Hoboken 
=126 501–600 University of Texas at Arlington Texas  Arlington 
=126 501–600 Texas Tech University Texas  Lubbock 
=126 501–600 University of Toledo Ohio  Tuledo 
=139 601–800 Auburn University Alabama Auburn 
=139 601–800 Baylor University Texas Waco 
=139 601–800 University of Dayton Ohio  Dayton 
=139 601–800 Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Florida  Daytona Beach 
=139 601–800 Florida Atlantic University Florida  Boca Raton 
=139 601–800 Florida Institute of Technology Florida  Melbourne 
=139 601–800 Kansas State University Kansas  Manhattan 
=139 601–800 Marquette University Wisconsin  Milwaukee 
=139 601–800 Mississippi State University Mississippi  Starkville 
=139 601–800 New Mexico State University New Mexico  Las Cruces 
=139 601–800 University of North Carolina at Greensboro North Carolina  Greenboro 
=139 601–800 Old Dominion University Virginia  Norfolk 
=139 601–800 Portland State University Oregon  Portland 
=139 601–800 Rochester Institute of Technology New York State  Rochester (NY) 
=139 601–800 University of Texas at El Paso Texas El Paso 
=154 801–1000 California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo California San Luis Obispo
=154 801–1000 Oakland University Michigan  Rochester (MI) 
=154 801–1000 University of Southern Mississippi Mississippi  Hattiesburg 
=154 801–1000 Texas State University Texas  San Marcos 

Read more: Best universities in the UK 


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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