Best universities in New York

Explore the top universities in New York using data from the Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education US College Rankings

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November 12 2020
What is the best university in New York?

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New York, New York, the city that never sleeps. What better place to spend your student years? Four years won’t be nearly enough time to exhaust all there is to see and do in New York City but if you’re up to the challenge, it’s definitely worth a try.

Just exploring the city’s museums is an education in itself, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim. Each of the city’s neighbourhoods has its own individual character and you’re bound to find your favourite spot. You might get a taste for the hipster lifestyle in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg, or become a regular urban rambler on the well-trodden path of New York’s High Line, in the contemporary art district of Chelsea.

For theatre fans, students in New York will often benefit from reduced ticket prices to the opera, Broadway and off-Broadway performances. Universities slightly outside the city offer the best of both worlds, with the community spirit and rural setting of a campus university with New York City an easy drive or bus journey away. While the State of New York is often overshadowed by the city that shares its name, the Finger Lakes region in particular is one of the most picturesque areas of countryside in New England. 

Choosing a university in New York can be a daunting task, so I've collected the best universities in the state based on the Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education US College Rankings 2021 to help you decide. 


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1. Cornell University

Cornell University, founded in 1865, is an Ivy League university that consistently performs highly in world rankings. Cornell University’s 2,300-acre campus is located in the picturesque Finger Lakes region of New York State.

The campus is vast enough to contain hiking trails for students to explore. Nearby Ithaca has a reputation for being a favourite with foodies.

One of the university’s traditions is the annual Dragon Day parade in late March. Architecture students parade a giant dragon across the campus where it is pitted against a phoenix created by students from the rival College of Engineering.

The university has a number of locations in New York City, including Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Science in Upper Manhattan.

2. Columbia University

Located in Upper Manhattan, Columbia University is the fifth oldest university in the country and the oldest in New York State. The university was founded in 1754 as King’s College. Post-revolution, the institution was renamed Columbia College and in 1896 became Columbia University to reflect the collection of colleges that had been brought together, including Barnard College for women in 1891.

Joseph Pulitzer founded Columbia’s prestigious School of Journalism in 1912. In the 1930s, Columbia School of Law produced two Supreme Court Chief Justices, Charles Evans Hughes and Harlan Fiske Stone. The Columbia University campus on Morningside Heights has been home to the university since 1897. The architect Charles Follen McKim was inspired by the classical architecture of ancient Greece. Columbia University Medical Centre has its own 20-acre campus in Washington Heights, two miles further north. 

3. New York University

Among the top institutions in New York City is New York University, located in the heart of Manhattan. Washington Square Park is the epicentre of New York University activity with many of the university’s halls and academic buildings nearby. Departments are located across the river in downtown Brooklyn.

Founded by the statesman Albert Gallatin in 1831, the university was established to serve students from all walks of life. Today, New York University is among the top universities in the US in terms of academic rankings. It is also one of the largest private universities in the country with more than 44,000 students, and is a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities.

One of the university's annual traditions is the Strawberry Festival, a chance for students to celebrate the end of exams and enjoy a slice of the longest strawberry cheesecake in New York City. 


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Best universities in New York 2021

Click each institution to view its full World University Rankings 2021 profile

US College Rank 2021 New York Rank  2021 University City
9 1 Cornell University Ithaca
=15 2 Columbia University New York
27 3 New York University New York
49 4 University of Rochester Rochester
50 5 Colgate University Hamilton
52 6 Barnard College New York
=56 7 Hamilton College Clinton
62 8 Vassar College Poughkeepsie
=94 9 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Troy
=98 10 Skidmore College Saratoga Springs
=121 11 University at Buffalo Buffalo
=124 =12 Stony Brook University Stony Brook
=124 =12 Syracuse University Syracuse
132 14 Union College Schenectady
143 15 Yeshiva University New York
=158 16 Binghamton University, State University of New York Vestal
161 17 Rochester Institute of Technology Rochester
=162 18 Hobart and William Smith Colleges Geneva
=175 19 Sarah Lawrence College Bronxville
=183 20 Fordham University Bronx
=187 21 St Lawrence University Canton
=193 22 State University of New York Albany Albany
200 23 Clarkson University Potsdam
=220 24 Hofstra University Hempstead
223 25 Ithaca College Ithaca
=227 =26 Adelphi University Garden City
=227 =26 Pratt Institute Brooklyn
=229 28 CUNY City College of New York New York
=248 29 CUNY Bernard M. Baruch College New York
=259 30 Molloy College Rockville Centre
=264 31 Bard College Annandale-On-Hudson
=264 32 New York Institute of Technology Old Westbury
=276 =33 CUNY Hunter College New York
=276 =33 Manhattan College Riverdale
=285 34 Pace University-New York New York
=298 =35 SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry Syracuse
=298 =35 Siena College Loudonville
=310 37 The New School New York
=315 38 Hartwick College Oneonta
=323 39 Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences Albany
327 40 CUNY Queens College Queens
=339 41 St John Fisher College Rochester
=358 42 CUNY Brooklyn College Brooklyn
=360 43 Canisius College Buffalo
=377 44 SUNY New Paltz New Paltz
=382 45 Nazareth College Rochester
389 46 Wagner College Staten Island
=397 47 Le Moyne College Syracuse
401-500 =48 Alfred University Alfred
401-500 =48 CUNY Lehman College Bronx
401-500 =48 Iona College New Rochelle
401-500 =48 Long Island University Brookville
401-500 =48 Marist College Poughkeepsie
401-500 =48 SUNY Buffalo State Buffalo
401-500 =48 St John's University-New York Queens
501-600 =55 CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice New York
501-600 =55 Daemen College Amherst
501-600 =55 Manhattanville College Purchase
501-600 =55 College of Mount Saint Vincent Bronx
501-600 =55 Niagara University Niagara University
501-600 =55 SUNY College at Brockport Brockport
501-600 =55 SUNY Cortland Cortland
501-600 =55 SUNY Geneseo Geneseo
501-600 =55 SUNY Oneonta Oneonta
501-600 =55 SUNY Oswego Oswego
501-600 =55 SUNY Plattsburgh Plattsburgh
501-600 =55 St Bonaventure University Saint Bonaventure
> 600 =67 CUNY College of Staten Island Staten Island
> 600 =67 D'Youville College Buffalo
> 600 =67 Marymount Manhattan College New York
> 600 =67 Mercy College Dobbs Ferry
> 600 =67 SUNY Alfred State College Alfred
> 600 =67 SUNY Farmingdale State College Farmingdale
> 600 =67 SUNY at Fredonia Fredonia
> 600 =67 SUNY Potsdam Potsdam
> 600 =67 SUNY Purchase College Purchase
> 600 =67 The College of Saint Rose Albany
> 600 =67 Touro College New York

Read more: Best universities in the world

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