Most-recommended universities in the United States

Find the US universities that students were most likely to recommend using Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education’s US College Rankings data

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October 15 2019
Most recommended universities in the United States

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When considering prospective universities, testimonials from fellow students can bear a significant weight on your final decision. After all, who better to evaluate an institution’s teaching, social life and amenities than the students who are experiencing it first hand?

This is why, in the WSJ/THE US College Rankings 2020 student survey, we asked students: “If a friend or family member were considering going to university, based on your experience, how likely or unlikely are you to recommend your college or university to them?” Students gave their colleges a score between 0 and 10, with 0 being “not at all likely” and 10 being “extremely likely”.

We analysed the answers to this question, looking at the universities that had the highest average scores to determine which institutions were the most likely to be recommended by students across the United States.


Best public universities in the United States
Best liberal arts colleges in the United States
Best private universities in the United States
Best universities in Florida
Best universities in California
Best universities in Washington DC


Top 5 most-recommended universities

1. Samford University

Samford University is a private Christian university in Homewood, Alabama.

Students from 44 states and 30 different countries attend Samford University, with 66 per cent of the undergraduate student body coming from outside the state of Alabama.

Having been founded in 1841, it is one of the oldest higher education institutions in the United States.

The university hosts a weekend called Connections specifically for incoming students. A team of 100 returning students guide new students through the weekend, which encompasses activities on and off campus, including dances and meals in local restaurants.

2. James Madison University

James Madison University is a public research university in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

The institution has 35 halls of residence, and several of those provide services other than just accommodation. For example, Chandler Hall offers a basement dining facility and a computer lab.

There are more than 350 clubs and organisations for students to choose from, such as the Student Government Association, the speech team, a variety of sports teams and the student-run newspaper, The Breeze.

The university aims to be a national model for student engagement in three separate strands: engaged learning, community engagement and civic engagement.

3. University of Notre Dame

The University of Notre Dame is a private Catholic research university in Notre Dame, Indiana.

There are more than 400 student clubs at the university, and they span many different areas of interest and backgrounds including diverse faith practices, sports clubs, academic debate, foreign affairs and much more.

There are also nine student-run media outlets, among them three newspapers, a radio and television station as well as several magazines and journals.


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=4. University of Mary Hardin-Baylor

The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor is a Christian co-educational university located in Belton in the state of Texas.

There are a number of student activities that take place throughout the school year, such as the Crusader Knights and the Easter Pageant. The university also encourages students to submit their ideas for future student-led activities.

There are also a number of fitness classes and sports leagues that students can get involved with.

=4. University of Wisconsin-River Falls

The University of Wisconsin-River Falls is a public liberal arts university located in River Falls, Wisconsin.

The university created the St Croix Institute for Sustainable Community Development in 2011, which aims to encourage the development of sustainable community development principles.

There are a number of student events that are organised throughout the year, among them the 48-hour film fest, the RADD Jazz series, a summer concert series and many smaller daytime and weekend programmes.


Top 20 most-recommended universities in the United States

Click each institution to view its full World University Rankings 2020 profile

Most-Recommended Rank 2020 WSJ/THE US College Rank 2020 University City State
1 =170 Samford University Birmingham Alabama
2 =279 James Madison University Harrisonburg Virginia
3 32 University of Notre Dame Notre Dame Indiana
=4 >600 University of Mary Hardin-Baylor Belton  Texas
=4 >600 University of Wisconsin-River Falls River Falls Wisconsin
=6 16 Rice University Houston Texas
=6 =7 Stanford University Stanford California
8 2 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge Massachusetts
=9 =105 Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Blacksburg Virginia
=9 3 Yale University New Haven Connecticut
11 501-600 Biola University La Mirada California
=12 401-500 Cedarville University Cedarville Ohio
=12 401-500 Utah State University Logan Utah
14 =199 Fairfield University Fairfield Connecticut
15 >600 University of Southern Indiana Evansville Indiana
16 1 Harvard University Cambridge Massachusetts
17 =107 University of Virginia (Main campus) Chrolttesville Virginia
=18 =93 Skidmore College Saratoga Springs New York
=18 147 University of Georgia Athens Georgia
20 43 Wesleyan University Middletown Connecticut

Read more: Secrets of the US colleges where students graduate happy

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