Best universities in Pennsylvania 2024

Discover the leading universities in Pennsylvania using insights from the Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education US College Rankings. Pennsylvania, often called the Keystone State, is strategically located near various regions. It borders Lake Erie and Canada to the north, the Mason-Dixon Line to the south, New York to the east, and Ohio and West Virginia to the west.

Pennsylvania’s cost of living is around the national average, with housing costs being relatively affordable. Students can enjoy cultural landmarks such as the Curtis Institute of Music, the Academy of Music, and the Philadelphia Orchestra’s Kimmel Center. The Walnut Street Theatre, operational since 1809, is the oldest in the English-speaking world.

1. University of Pennsylvania

The University of Pennsylvania (Penn or UPenn) is a prestigious Ivy League research university in Philadelphia, founded around 1740. It is one of the nine colonial colleges established before the US Declaration of Independence. Benjamin Franklin, the founder and first president, envisioned an educational program that prepared leaders in commerce, government, and public service, akin to a modern liberal arts curriculum.

UPenn spans a 302-acre campus with 200 buildings and boasts several historical firsts, including the country’s first student union, double-decker college football stadium, and the world’s first collegiate business school – the Wharton School. The university is affiliated with over 25 Nobel laureates and notable alumni such as President William Henry Harrison, Nigerian President Nnamdi Azikiwe, and Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah. Prominent figures like designer Tory Burch, linguist Noam Chomsky, and singer John Legend also studied at UPenn.

2. Carnegie Mellon University

Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), located in Pittsburgh, was founded by industrialist Andrew Carnegie. Initially the Carnegie Technical Schools, it became the Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1912 and merged with the Mellon Institute of Industrial Research in 1967.

CMU has campuses in Pittsburgh, Silicon Valley, and Doha, Qatar, and offers degree programs across continents, including Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and Latin America. The university maintains Scottish traditions, reflecting its founder’s heritage, with bagpipe playing and a kilt-wearing student marching band known as the “Band without Pants.”

3. Swarthmore College

Swarthmore College, established in 1864 by Quakers, is named after Swarthmoor Hall in England, a 17th-century manor that was central to the Quaker movement. Swarthmore was the first co-educational college in the US and offers over 40 courses of study, allowing students to design their own majors.

The college, located 11 miles southwest of Philadelphia, has a student-faculty ratio of 8:1, fostering a personalized learning environment. The Honors Program emphasizes independent learning and is assessed through exams by external experts. Unique traditions include the Crum Regatta and the McCabe Mile.

4. Haverford College

Founded in 1833 by Quakers, Haverford College emphasizes peace, integrity, community, and equality. Now a co-educational institution, Haverford is known for its picturesque 200-acre campus with gardens and an arboretum.

The college offers 31 majors across humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. It hosts several research centers and adheres to a student-governed honor code. Haverford students actively participate in college governance, budget management, and club organization.

5. Lehigh University

Lehigh University, founded in 1865 by businessman Asa Packer, is a private research university located in Bethlehem. The 2,300-acre campus is one of the largest private university campuses in the US, situated 100 miles from both Philadelphia and New York City.

Lehigh comprises four colleges: arts and sciences, business and economics, education, and the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science. The university emphasizes entrepreneurial and interdisciplinary learning and is the largest employer in Bethlehem, securing around $74 million annually in grants and scholarships. Lehigh was the sixth university globally to receive NGO status from the UN, offering 56 UN-related programs annually.

By exploring these top universities, students can find diverse educational opportunities and rich cultural experiences in Pennsylvania.

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