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The 10 Best and Most Prestigious Universities in Pennsylvania

Simone Du Toit - September 01, 2022

If you are researching the best universities in Pennsylvania, look no further. In this guide, we rank the top 10 universities in Pennsylvania and provide information on each school to help you make your college decision.

Whether you are looking for academic opportunities, online programs, or a college education experience, Pennsylvania has something for all prospective students. Incoming students can take advantage of ample opportunities for professional development and vibrant campus life to build their academic careers at the most prestigious universities in Pennsylvania.

How We Defined Pennsylvania University Rankings

The schools were ranked based on a number of factors, including quality of academics and residential life, average tuition, graduation rates, News and World Report rankings, academic variety of programs, and enrollment data.

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Pennsylvania Universities Ranked: Top 10 Universities in Pennsylvania

  1. University of Pennsylvania
  2. Carnegie Mellon University
  3. Pennsylvania State University
  4. Thomas Jefferson University
  5. Villanova University
  6. Lehigh University
  7. Temple University
  8. Duquesne University
  9. Haverford College
  10. Swarthmore College

The Best Colleges and Universities in Pennsylvania, Explained

Person in red university gown celebrating successful life at college or university. Best Universities In Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania has endless opportunities for higher education.

Pennsylvania has both private and public universities. These learning institutions offer great academics, as well as residential life, Greek life, student organizations, clubs, and athlete programs, for a well-rounded student life experience.

It is important to note that academic institutions have varying admissions requirements. Programs may request a school diploma, an admissions essay, or exam results for proof of academic performance. Even for test-optional institutions, make sure to research admissions requirements and average acceptance rate on the school website.

1. University of Pennsylvania

  • US News National Ranking: #8
  • Campus Location(s): Philadelphia
  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 10,106
  • Graduation Rate: 96%

The University of Pennsylvania can trace its roots back to 1740. It was founded by Benjamin Franklin and is one of eight Ivy League schools in the country. The university is grounded in liberal arts and sciences and offers study in technical fields. It has four undergraduate and 12 graduate schools.

With a student-to-faculty ratio of six to one, students have opportunities for hands-on learning with one-on-one attention from professors when they need it. Greek life at the university offers lots of opportunities for incoming students to experience a social life with more than 40 organizations and over 3,000 members.

2. Carnegie Mellon University

  • US News National Ranking: #25
  • Campus Location(s): Pittsburgh
  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 6,865
  • Graduation Rate: 89%

Carnegie Mellon University is a private institution and international research school. It is a renowned institution with a lot of influential faculty and many notable affiliates and awards, including 20 Nobel Prize winners and 13 Turing Award winners. It offers academic courses in technical fields, liberal arts, and sciences. Many programs are available as online courses.

Subjects such as environmental studies, American studies, and art history are available. Carnegie Mellon University is a test-optional institution.

3. Pennsylvania State University

  • US News National Ranking: #63
  • Campus Location(s): University Park, Abington, Altoona, Monaca, Erie, Reading, Media, Carlisle, DuBois, Lemont Furnace, Malvern, Middletown, McKeesport, Hazleton, Center Valley, Mont Alto, New Kensington, Schuylkill Haven, Dunmore, Sharon, Dallas, York
  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 40,639
  • Graduation Rate: 57%

Pennsylvania State University is one of the larger universities on this list and the only land-grant institution in Pennsylvania. It is a top-ranked research university spread over 14 campuses, including the world campus, Penn State Wilkes-Barre, and Penn State Great Valley campuses. Penn State Hazelton has a 104-acre campus overlooking the Conyngham Valley.

Penn State offers incoming students over 160 baccalaureate degree programs, over 90 associate degree programs, and over 190 graduate degree options. These include undergraduate majors, doctoral programs, and academic opportunities in liberal arts education.

Penn State offers a variety of events and 1,041 clubs and organizations that provide endless opportunities for active and exciting student life. The Penn State Health multi-hospital health system spans 29 counties in Pennsylvania serving patients and communities.

4. Thomas Jefferson University

  • US News National Ranking: #148
  • Campus Location(s): Center City, East Falls Philadelphia, Dixon Horsham
  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 3,783
  • Graduation Rate: 91%

Thomas Jefferson University, home of Sidney Kimmel Medical College, is a professional university created through a merger of Philadelphia University and Thomas Jefferson University. This four-year institution offers undergraduate programs, graduate programs, master’s degrees, doctoral programs, research, scholarships, and doctor’s professional practice.

Thomas Jefferson University has a robust student life with clubs and organizations, including Greek life, performing arts, community service, and more. It offers in-person and online distance education programs.

5. Villanova University

  • US News National Ranking: #49
  • Campus Location(s): Villanova
  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 7,047
  • Graduation Rate: 92%

Villanova University was founded in 1842 with an Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition. It offers academic programs that prepare students to create positive change for the future.

Areas of study rooted in liberal arts and sciences include the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Villanova School of Business, College of Engineering, College of Nursing, College of Professional Studies, and Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law. It offers online programs to provide educational opportunities for students with different schedules.

6. Lehigh University

  • US News National Ranking: #49
  • Campus Location(s): Bethlehem
  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 5,451
  • Graduation Rate: 87%

Lehigh University has been around for over 150 years and offers 2,300 programs, including online programs, 111 undergraduate degree programs and majors, 87 research-based PhD programs, professional masters programs, and certificate programs. It has a robust social scene with over 150 clubs, 40 intramural and club sports, and 23 fraternities and sororities.

The student body is split relatively evenly with a 54 to 46 percent male to female ratio, and 93 percent of the undergraduate students attend campus activities. Lehigh University has three campuses in Bethlehem, which are the Asa Packer Campus, Murray H Goodman Campus, and Mountaintop Campus.

7. Temple University

  • US News National Ranking: #103
  • Campus Location(s): North Philadelphia, Harrisburg
  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 26,081
  • Graduation Rate: 75%

Temple University has multiple campus locations, including online distance learning offering education. You can attend graduate, undergraduate programs, certificate, or non-credit courses. Student life is active with loads of student organizations and clubs, including Temple University Bands and Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), which create a sense of community.

8. Duquesne University

  • US News National Ranking: #148
  • Campus Location(s): Pittsburgh Pennsylvania,
  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 5,112
  • Graduation Rate: 78%

Duquesne University is known as one of the nation’s top Catholic universities. It was founded 140 years ago and is the only Spiritan institution within higher education in the country. The student-faculty ratio is 14 to one, providing the opportunity for hands-on learning and one-on-one attention from award-winning faculty.

Duquesne University offers a broad range of opportunities for incoming students to complete bachelor’s degrees , master’s degrees, doctoral programs, and athletic programs. They also offer online distance education programs. Duquesne University students have access to a beautiful campus and 250 recognized student organizations for active student life.

9. Haverford College

  • US News National Ranking: #16 (Best Liberal Arts Colleges ranking)
  • Campus Location(s): Haverford
  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 1,307
  • Graduation Rate: 89%

Haverford College is located just outside the hub of Philadelphia and is a leading liberal arts college. 98 percent of undergraduate students live on campus. They are renowned for strong academics, a beautiful 200-acre arboretum campus, and an honor code created and governed by the students.

Undergraduate students can take courses from the Tri-College and Quaker Consortium at Haverford, Bryn Mawr College, and Swarthmore College. They also offer online courses and are ranked by the US News and World Report as the 16th best liberal arts college in the United States.

10. Swarthmore College

  • US News National Ranking: #3 (National Liberal Arts Colleges ranking)
  • Campus Location(s): Swarthmore
  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 1,437
  • Graduation Rate: 97%

Swarthmore College is one of the Tri-College and Quaker Consortium partners. Together with Bryn Mawr College and Haverford College, they offer 40 courses in hands-on education. Students can design their majors with more than 600 courses offered on campus every year.

The school has a seven-to-one student-to-faculty ratio, and an impressive 95 percent of undergraduate students live on campus. It does not offer online programs and is ranked as the second-best liberal arts college in Pennsylvania.

Is a University in Pennsylvania Right for You?

Yes. If a university in Pennsylvania meets your educational needs and financial capabilities, then this college decision is right for you. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that obtaining a college education to acquire formal education and certification can help you avoid unemployment and secure high-paying careers .

If a university is not your educational path, consider attending a bootcamp to pursue technical certification. The average cost of attendance is around $11,727, as opposed to an average post-secondary education cost of $24,623 . These programs train students to be job-ready candidates. The best bootcamps offer valuable job services as well.

Best Universities in Pennsylvania FAQ

Do universities in Pennsylvania offer financial aid?

Yes. Most offer student loans through the US Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid and may offer academic scholarships, annual scholarships, and more. Make sure you check out the pages dedicated to financial aid.

Are all universities following the COVID-19 guidance?

Yes. All of the universities in this article follow the guidance given on each website dedicated to COVID-19 guidance. Make sure you check them.

Which is the best liberal arts college or university in Pennsylvania?

The best liberal arts colleges and universities in Pennsylvania are Haverford College, Swarthmore College, Bryn Mawr College, and Thomas Jefferson University.

Can a bootcamp help me get ready for job opportunities?

Yes. According to Career Karmas’ State of the Bootcamp Market Report 2021 , people that acquire technical certification from a bootcamp have secured job opportunities with top companies such as Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft.

About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.

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Simone Du Toit

About the author: Simone has worked in management for over 20 years and uses her experience hiring, coaching, and supporting others to help Career Karma readers thrive in their new careers. Along with her managerial experience, Simone has taught English as a second language to students in Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia. She holds certificates in Retail Leadership Development and Teaching English as a Foreign Language.

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