Nearly 20 million students attend college across the United States. The best colleges in the US offer exceptional academic experiences and are often dedicated to research and discovery. Top colleges offer a range of undergraduate majors, master’s degrees and doctoral programs. In this article, you will learn how college rankings work, the most common types of colleges and which are the top universities in the USA. 


How Many Colleges are in the United States? 

There are over 4300 colleges and universities in the US. From elite private schools to large public universities, there is something out there for every student. Colleges can be categorized into four-year and two-year institutions. Four-year colleges lead to a bachelor’s degree, while two-year schools often lead to an associate degree or a certificate.  

Four-year colleges and universities: 

Four-year institutions can be broadly categorized by public and private schools.  

About half of the colleges in the US are public institutions. When most people think of public schools, they think of large universities. However, public schools can vary in size and feel. The reason these colleges and universities are called “public” schools is because they are typically funded by state governments. This often means that in-state students have reduced tuition.  

Private schools, on the other hand, are not funded by the government. Private donations and funding sometimes allow these institutions to offer generous financial aid packages to students despite higher sticker prices. Another feature of private colleges and universities is that they often have smaller student bodies compared to public schools. This means that students can benefit from small class sizes and more personalized attention from their professors.

Four-year colleges can be further separated into specific categories. For example, Liberal Arts colleges focus heavily on programs like literature, history, languages and social sciences. Arts colleges specialize in fine, visual and performance arts. Students can also explore schools that have special focuses like religiously affiliated colleges or ones that have special missions like Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) or Hispanic-serving Institutions (HSIs). 

Two-year colleges and universities: 

Community colleges make up another large portion of colleges in the US. These 2-year colleges usually offer Associates degrees and vocational programming. They are usually conveniently located in cities and communities. This makes community colleges accessible options for students looking for a cost-friendly way to earn credits or enter a vocational career. 


How are the Top Colleges in America Chosen? 

Appily determines “Best Colleges” based on publicly-available information from the US Department of Education. Several factors include, but are not limited to, data about admitted students’ academic calibers, students’ expected career outcomes after graduation, and colleges’ investments toward making their institution accessible to all students. 


Explore the Best Universities in the US with Appily! 

Below, you will find our list of best universities and colleges. Research the lists below. You can also create a Appily account to start saving them to your list. 

Wondering where you stand when applying to the best universities in the USA? See your chances when you make a Appily account. You’ll also be able to get insights into your target, reach, and likely schools.