Best universities in the United States 2019

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

September 26 2018
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 which are the top universities in the US based on the highly respected Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2019.

There are more than 170 US universities and colleges among the world’s best, and wherever you want to study in the US, a top university will not be far away. Almost all states and approximately 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 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. Stanford University

Based in Palo Alto, right beside Silicon Valley, Stanford 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 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 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.

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2. 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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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 72 Nobel Laureates, six Turing Award winners and four Fields Medallists.

There are 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 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. 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 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

4. Harvard University

Harvard University 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.

Approximately 20,000 students are 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 libraries and counts as the largest academic library in the world.

Among many famous alumni, Harvard can count eight US presidents, 157 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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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.

Fewer than 8,000 students are 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 strict 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 offer an early decision application route.

Renowned Princeton alumni include US presidents, astronauts, businesspeople and Olympians. 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 2019 

Click each institution to view its full World University Rankings 2019 results

US Rank 2019 WUR Rank 2019 University City State
1  3  Stanford University Stanford California
2  4  Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge Massachusetts
3  5  California Institute of Technology Pasadena California
4  6  Harvard University Cambridge Massachusetts
5  7  Princeton University Princeton New Jersey
6  8  Yale University New Haven Connecticut
7  10  University of Chicago Chicago Illinois
=8  =12  Johns Hopkins University Baltimore Maryland
=8  =12  University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia Pennsylvania
10  15  University of California, Berkeley Berkeley California
11  16  Columbia University New York City New York
12  17  University of California, Los Angeles Los Angeles California
13  18  Duke University Durham North Carolina
14  19  Cornell University Ithaca New York
15  20  University of Michigan Ann Arbor Michigan
16  24  Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh Pennsylvania
17  25  Northwestern University Evanston Illinois
18  27  New York University New York City New York
19  28  University of Washington Seattle Washington
20  30  University of California, San Diego San Diego California
21  34  Georgia Institute of Technology Atlanta Georgia
22  39  University of Texas at Austin Austin Texas
23  43  University of Wisconsin-Madison Madison Wisconsin
24  50  University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Champaign Illinois
25  52  University of California, Santa Barbara Santa Barbara California
26  53  Brown University Providence Rhode Island
27  54  Washington University in St Louis St. Louis Missouri
28  56  University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chapel Hill North Carolina
29  =59  University of California, Davis Davis California
30  64  Purdue University West Lafayette Indiana
31  66  University of Southern California Los Angeles California
=32  =71  University of Minnesota Twin Cities Minneapolis Minnesota
=32  =71  Ohio State University Columbus  Ohio
34  =74  Boston University Boston Massachusetts
35  81  Pennsylvania State University State College Pennsylvania
36  =82  University of Maryland, College Park College Park Maryland
37  =84  Emory University Atlanta Georgia
38  86  Rice University Houston Texas
39  =93  Michigan State University East Lansing Michigan
40  =96  University of California, Irvine Irvine California
41  =99  Dartmouth College Hanover New Hampshire
42  107  University of Virginia Charlottesville Virginia
43  109  Georgetown University   Washington D.C
44  =110  University of Pittsburgh Pittsburgh Pennsylvania
45  =114  University of Colorado Boulder Boulder Colorado
46  =121  Vanderbilt University Nashville Tennessee
47  =123  Arizona State University Tempe Arizona
48  =132  Case Western Reserve University Cleveland Ohio
49  =146  Indiana University Bloomington Indiana
50  152  Tufts University Medford Massachusetts
51  =156  University of Florida Gainesville Florida
53  =159  University of Arizona Tucson Arizona
54  =163  University of Rochester Rochester (NY) New York
55  =167  University of California, Santa Cruz Santa Cruz California
56  =171  Texas A&M University College Station Texas
57  =173  University of Notre Dame Notre Dame Indiana
58  =176  Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey New Brunswick New Jersey
58  179  University of Alabama at Birmingham Birmingham  Alabama
60  =181  George Washington University   Washington D.C
61  =184  Northeastern University Boston Massachusetts
=62  201–250  Brandeis University Waltham Massachusetts
=62  201–250  University at Buffalo Buffalo New York
=62  201–250  University of California, Riverside Riverside California
=62  201–250  University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Honolulu Hawai'i
=62  201–250  University of Iowa Iowa City Iowa
=62  201–250  University of Massachusetts Amherst, Boston, Dartmouth, Lowell, Worcester Massachusetts
=62  201–250  University of Miami Coral Gables Florida
=62  201–250  University of Utah Salt Lake City Utah
=62  201–250  William & Mary Williamsburg Virginia
=71  251–300  University of Cincinnati Cincinnati Ohio
=71  251–300  Clark University Worcester Massachusetts
=71  251–300  Colorado School of Mines Golden Colorado
=71  251–300  University of Delaware Newark (DE) Delware
=71  251–300  Florida State University Tallahassee Florida
=71  251–300  University of Illinois at Chicago Chicago Illinois
=71  251–300  North Carolina State University Raleigh North Carolina
=71  251–300  Oregon Health and Science University Portland Oregon
=71  251–300  University of South Florida Tampa Florida
=71  251–300  Stony Brook University Stony Brook New York
=71  251–300  Syracuse University Syracuse New York
=71  251–300  University of Texas at Dallas Richardson Texas
=71  251–300  Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Blacksburg Virginia
=71  251–300  Wake Forest University Winston-Salem North Carolina
=85  301–350  University of Alaska Fairbanks Fairbanks Alaska
=85  301–350  American University   Washington D.C
=85  301–350  Boston College Boston Massachusetts
=85  301–350  University of Colorado Denver Denver Colorado
=85  301–350  University of Connecticut Mansfield Connecticut
=85  301–350  University of Denver Denver Colorado
=85  301–350  George Mason University Fairfax Virginia
=85  301–350  University of Houston Houston Texas
=85  301–350  University of New Mexico Albuquerque New Mexico
=85  301–350  Oregon State University Corvallis Oregon
=85  301–350  University of Tennessee, Knoxville Knoxville Texas
=85  301–350  Tulane University New Orleans Louisiana
=85  301–350  Washington State University Pullman Washington
=85  301–350  Wayne State University Detroit Michigan
=99  351–400  University of California, Merced Merced California
=99  351–400  Drexel University Philadelphia Pennsylvania
=99  351–400  Hofstra University Hempstead New York
=99  351–400  Iowa State University Ames Iowa
=99  351–400  University of Kansas Lawrence Kansa
=99  351–400  University of Nebraska-Lincoln Lincoln Nebraska
=99  351–400  Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Troy New York
=99  351–400  Rush University Chicago Illinois
=99  351–400  Temple University Philadelphia Pennsylvania
=99  351–400  University of Vermont Burlington Vermont
=109  401–500  University of Alabama Tuscaloosa Alabama
=109  401–500  University of Alabama in Huntsville Huntsville Alabama
=109  401–500  Colorado State University Fort Collins Colorado
=109  401–500  Florida International University Miami Florida
=109  401–500  University of Georgia Athens Georgia
=109  401–500  Georgia State University Atlanta Georgia
=109  401–500  University of Kentucky Lexington Kentucky
=109  401–500  University of Montana Missoula Montana
=109  401–500  University of Nebraska Medical Center Omaha Nebraska
=109  401–500  New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology Socorro New Mexico
=109  401–500  Northern Arizona University Flagstaff Arizona
=109  401–500  University of Oklahoma Northern Oklahoma
=109  401–500  University of South Carolina Columbia South Carolina
=109  401–500  State University of New York Albany Albany New York
=109  401–500  University of Tulsa Tulsa Oklahoma
=109  401–500  University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Milwaukee Wisconsin
=124  501–600  Binghamton University, State University of New York Binghamton New York
=124  501–600  Creighton University Omaha Nebraska
=124  501–600  University of Idaho Moscow Idaho
=124  501–600  Kent State University Kent Ohio
=124  501–600  Lehigh University Bethlehem Pennsylvania
=124  501–600  Louisiana State University Baton Rouge Louisiana
=124  501–600  University of Maryland, Baltimore County Baltimore Maryland
=124  501–600  Missouri University of Science and Technology Rolla Missouri
=124  501–600  Montana State University Bozeman Montana
=124  501–600  New Jersey Institute of Technology Newark (NJ) New Jersey
=124  501–600  Oklahoma State University Stillwater Oklahoma
=124  501–600  Saint Louis University St. Louis Missouri
=124  501–600  San Diego State University San Diego California
=124  501–600  Stevens Institute of Technology Hoboken New Jersey
=124  501–600  University of Texas at San Antonio San Antonia Texas
=124  501–600  University of Toledo Toledo Ohio
=124  501–600  Worcester Polytechnic Institute Worcester Massachusetts
=141  601–800  University of Arkansas Fayetteville Arkansas
=141  601–800  Auburn University Auburn Alabama
=141  601–800  Baylor University Waco Texas
=141  601–800  University of Central Florida Orlando Florida
=141  601–800  University of Dayton Dayton Ohio
=141  601–800  Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Daytona Beach Florida
=141  601–800  Fordham University New York City New York
=141  601–800  Kansas State University Manhattan Kansas
=141  601–800  Louisiana Tech University Ruston Louisiana
=141  601–800  Marquette University Milwaukee Wisconsin
=141  601–800  Mississippi State University Starkville Mississippi
=141  601–800  University of Nevada, Las Vegas Las Vegas Nevada
=141  601–800  New Mexico State University Las Cruces New Mexico
=141  601–800  University of North Carolina at Greensboro Greeboro North Carolina
=141  601–800  Old Dominion University Norfolk Virginia
=141  601–800  Portland State University Portland Oregon
=141  601–800  Rochester Institute of Technology Rochester (NY) New York
=141  601–800  University of San Diego San Diego California
=141  601–800  University of South Alabama Mobile Alabama
=141  601–800  University of South Dakota Vermillion South Dakota
=141  601–800  University of Texas at Arlington Arlington Texas
=141  601–800  University of Texas at El Paso El Paso Texas
=141  601–800  Texas Tech University Lubbock Texas
=141  601–800  Western Washington University Bellingham Washington
=141  601–800  West Virginia University Morgantown West Virginia
=166  801–1000  California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo San Luis Obispo California
=166  801–1000  East Carolina University Greenville North Carolina
=166  801–1000  Florida Atlantic University Boca Raton Florida
=166  801–1000  Florida Institute of Technology Melbourne Florida
=166  801–1000  Oakland University Rochester (MI) Michigan
=166  801–1000  Texas State University San Marcos Texas
172  1001+  University of Southern Mississippi Hattiesberg Mississippi

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. http://www.greyb.com/how-universities-can-generate-revenue/ 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. http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/rankings/national-universities
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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