These Incredible Colleges Are Often Overlooked On National Ranking Lists

What makes a college worth attending? There are many things, and each student is looking for something different in their college experience. One of the problems with lists that rank colleges as a whole and not on their individual areas of excellence is that some colleges are always underrepresented. This list aims to correct that. None of the colleges on this list are Ivy League institutions, but they all are able to say that they’re outperforming Ivy League colleges in some areas.

Of course, some college statistics prove that various colleges are leading in some ways. Graduate employment rates, graduation rates, credentials of the professors and financial aid opportunities are always strong indicators of an amazing college. Therefore, this list selects colleges that have all of those things but which usually miss out on the top rankings due to the name recognition of colleges like Harvard or Stanford.

The truth about college in the present day is that there are more variety and opportunity than ever before. It’s just that with traditional college rankings, those diverse colleges that are more suitable to a certain kind of student struggle to stand out. But not on this list. Instead, the colleges that usually get overlooked are shown as the fantastic places they truly are.

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Every single college on this list has managed to achieve something remarkable. Each college has its own unique offering that means that some students, who aren’t suitable for the most oversubscribed colleges, will find them to be perfect. But it could be that none of the colleges on this list is the right choice for you. Luckily, this list can still be a vital resource in your college search. Each entry has a detailed summary that explains why the college is underrated. These have been included so that you can find similarities with your own college options.


The first step in researching this article was to find several popular lists of the best colleges in America. Then we disqualified any college that appears in the top 50 of any of those lists.

After this, we started researching other colleges that have strong graduation rates, generous financial aid opportunities, incredible professors and wide-ranging graduate prospects. Lastly, we looked for the things that make them stand out that could feasibly make them more desirable for potential students than any of the top colleges on the popular top college lists.

The colleges that made it into the final ranking came from lists that rank colleges just by one statistic, such as graduation rates, graduate employability, professor quality, and financial aid.

15. Providence College

Providence, Rhode Island


The Global Studies Program at Providence College, which teaches students about internationalization, was the primary reason why Providence College won the Senator Paul Simon Spotlight Award. It won this award because its education proactively encourages students to create positive changes in the world, no matter what career paths they eventually choose. Additionally, 98% of the graduating students of 2017 were able to find employment or enroll into further education. College Navigator states that 83% of students who enroll into Providence College graduate within four years, and 86% graduate by six years.

14. Juniata College

Huntingdon, Pennsylvania


The support on hand at Juniata College is second to none. In fact, every single student who attends the college works closely with two academic advisers. Thanks to this approach, in just the last five years, students and graduates of Juniata have won 12 Fulbright fellowships, five Goldwater awards, two Amgen scholarships and eight Benjamin Gilman scholarships. Additionally, 90% of students find employment or enroll in graduate school within six months of graduation. Juniata College also enjoys a 74% four year graduation rate and an 79% six year graduation rate, according to College Navigator .

13. Wheaton College

Wheaton, Illinois


91% of Wheaton College’s class of 2017 was working or in further education within six months of graduation. And the graduates had landed good positions in some of the top companies in the world, such as Amazon, Bloomberg, USA Today, and Google. The college attributes its success to its Christian centered education. All aspects of the college’s academics are tied into this Christian approach. The college’s four year graduation rate is an impressive 77%. The six year graduation rate is an amazing 87%, according to College Navigator.

12. Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Worcester, Massachusetts


Students at Worcester Polytechnic Institute are encouraged to think as differently as possible. The college even states that “Even if an idea seems crazy, we’d love to hear it!” Many of the students who attend this college are trendsetters, and they are able to access all they could want to nurture their visions, such as skill-based workshops, solvathons, guidance, mentorship, competitions and more. And the college doesn’t confine these activities to its home town. In fact, it has over 50 global project centers located across six continents. The four year and six year graduation rates at the college are 82% and 87% respectively, according to College Navigator .

11. St. Lawrence University

Canton, New York


Graduates of St. Lawrence University’s class of 2019 have gone on to find employment at places like The Bank of America, IBM, Tory Burch and other leading organizations. Those who have gone on to further study have enrolled into colleges such as Cornell University, Georgetown University and University of Michigan. And many of the students who enroll into St. Lawrence University manage to complete their degree in as little time as possible, with the four year graduation rate being 76%, according to College Navigator.

10. Kalamazoo College

Kalamazoo, Michigan


The New York Times education editor and Colleges That Change Lives publisher Loren Pope claimed that “At no Ivy institution are the students so deeply engaged, so broadly prepared, or so heavily invested in a sense of community as at Kalamazoo. In short, no Ivy school is likely to have as much impact on a youth’s development.” A large part of this community feel is based upon experiential education. In fact, 71% of students used the colleges’ Center for Career and Professional Development, and 70% of students participate in international and intercultural experiences during study. The four year graduation rate at Kalamazoo College is 72% according to College Navigator, although that rate fell to 69% in 2019.

9. Babson College

Babson Park, Massachusetts


US News doesn’t name Babson College as one of its top 50 colleges in America, but it does consider the college to be the best place to study entrepreneurship. It’s also a fantastic institution for graduate career building. In fact, from 2013 to 2018, over 500 employers engaged in on campus recruiting events at the college. Over this same space of time, the college gave out more than $195 million in grants and scholarships to its students. College Navigator also notes that Babson College has a four year graduation rate of 89% and a six year graduation rate of 91%.

8. Bentley University

Waltham, Massachusetts


Bentley University is primarily known as a business school. However, its education incorporates “technology and the arts and sciences,” which means that students can thrive in a variety of career settings. While Bentley doesn’t top any national university rankings, The Princeton Review does say that it excels in one area: internship placements. Thanks to this approach, 99% of the college graduates are in work or in further education within six months of graduation. The four year graduation rate at Bentley College is 82%, and the six year graduation rate is 89% according to College Navigator.

7. Webb Institute

Glen Cove, New York


Every student who enrolls into Webb Institute gets 100% of their tuition covered by a scholarship. It also has a number of scholarships that students can apply for to help pay for their room, board and living expenses. It only offers education in engineering, but the free education should mean that it appeals to anyone interested in this subject matter! It also manages to graduate 73% of its students within six years, according to College Navigator . Webb Institute is also located on an amazing campus. It sprawls over 26 acres and even has its own private beach. And if this weren’t good enough, then it’s just 25 miles east of Manhattan.

6. Muhlenberg College

Allentown, Pennsylvania


Thanks to a strong alumni network , Muhlenberg College offers “four years of college, a lifetime of opportunities.” This network includes a career center that helps students find meaningful employment as early as a student’s first year, a mentor network of thousands of alumni who provide career coaching to current students, multiple pathways to internships and much more. And students who attend Muhlenberg College are almost certain to get to the point where they can use these career resources upon completion of their degree, as it has an 82% six year graduation rate according to College Navigator.

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5. St. Olaf College

Northfield, Minnesota


Few colleges in America are as dedicated as St. Olaf College in getting students to learn outside of the classroom. For instance, students enrolled into the college’s Media and the Environment degree spend a whole semester producing videos for non-profits. This highly practical approach to education is really paying off for St. Olaf College Students. College Navigator notes that 86% of students graduate within six years. And the college’s practical emphasis has really helped these students with their education. In fact, 88% of alumni agree that out of classroom interactions with faculty “contributed to their personal growth, values and attitudes.”

4. Santa Clara University

Santa Clara, California


The education and feel of Santa Clara University are unique. That’s because it “blends high tech innovation with a social consciousness.” It does this by being based in the heart of Silicon Valley while teaching from a Jesuit perspective. Therefore, anyone who is both interested in technology and making the world a better place is perfectly suited to this institution! The college is also gaining in prominence, in US News’s rankings. In the most recent list, it placed at 54 th , its highest ever ranking, making it just about eligible to be on this list. College Navigator also notes that Santa Clara University’s six year graduation rate is 91%.

3. Yeshiva University

New York City, New York


Almost all of the students who enroll into Yeshiva University go on to graduate. College Navigator notes that the college’s six year graduation rate is 83%. Niche also states that the college’s professors are the 46 th best of any American college. The students and faculty are able to learn and teach in some of the finest facilities in New York City, such as the 223,000 square foot Michael F. Price Center for Genetic and Translational Medicine/Harold and Muriel Block Research Pavilion.

2. Ithaca College

Ithaca, New York


Ithaca College shares the same home town as the much more famous Cornell University. However, while Ithaca College does not have the same prestige as Cornell University, it does have an amazing six year graduation rate , at 79%, according to College Navigator. Many of the college’s alumni have gone on to achieve incredible things. For instance, Christopher H. Toone graduated in 2013 and has since become an athletic trainer for the US Ski Team and the CEO of a nonprofit that is working to eradicate poverty.

1. University of Mary Washington

Fredericksburg, Virginia


Though University of Mary Washington doesn’t make the top 50 of any of the general best college lists, it has many things that make it an amazing place to study. For instance, the faculty at the college are some of the brightest in the country. In fact, eight University of Mary Washington faculty members have even won Fulbright Awards, and 86% of faculty members have a doctorate or an equivalent level of degree. One-third of students also take part in study abroad opportunities thanks to the college approving 147 programs in 51 countries. And if that weren’t good enough, then the college also gives out $41 million in financial assistance every year. College Navigator  states that the college’s graduation rate is 66%.

More Rankings of Interest:

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