To identify the Best Colleges in Washington DC for 2017-2018 we averaged the latest results from the most respected college ranking systems with thousands of real student review scores from around the web to produce a unique College Consensus rating for each school. You won’t find a more comprehensive ranking of the top colleges and universities in Washington DC anywhere. Read more about our rankings methodology and sources at our about page.
Colleges & Universities in Washington DC
The best colleges and universities in Washington, DC, are an integral part of national life and learning. Any institution located in the District is going to be highly political, and the colleges and universities that have made DC their home are, across the board, elite, rigorous, and exemplary. George Washington’s dream of an official national university never came to pass, but George Washington University 64 took up the call a generation later, while American University 62 sought to accomplish the same task in the 20th century. With world-class research in business, science, medicine, and law, the private research universities of DC funnel straight into the needs of the federal government.
Washington, DC, is also home to two of the world’s finest Catholic universities, Georgetown University 70 and the Catholic University of America 55 , representing the nation’s first Catholic school, and the nation’s only papal-approved Catholic college, respectively. The nation’s capital is also home to one of the most renowned historically black universities – and the only fully comprehensive HBCU in the US – Howard University 58 , and the nation’s only comprehensive university for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, Gallaudet University 65 . The nation’s capital is the people’s city, and offers educational opportunities of the very highest level for everyone.
Here are the top colleges and universities of the Nation’s Capital.
The first Catholic college in America, Georgetown University is also one of the oldest colleges in the nation, founded in 1889. The Jesuit order, and Catholics in general, had been persecuted by the British government in the colonial era (including the expulsion of Jesuits from the Maryland colony), but the Church persisted in providing education in secret. After the American Revolution, the Church was free to establish the first American Bishop, John Carroll, who established a college in what was then Georgetown, MD, before Washington, DC was founded. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, Georgetown developed a reputation as one of the most influential universities in the US, from medicine to government, and today Georgetown University is one of the most selective and respected private research universities outside of the Ivy League.
Ranked a top 20 national university by U.S. News & World Report, Georgetown University is a globally-renowned institution. With more than 17,000 students – the vast majority of them graduate students – Georgetown is home to some of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious professional schools, including Medicine, Dentistry, Nursing, Law, and Foreign Affairs. Georgetown is particularly significant for its contributions to government; one of the most politically-influential institutions in the US, Georgetown is the alma mater of a high proportion of the nation’s ambassadors, diplomats, and other government professionals. For students planning a career in leadership, Georgetown University is one of the best possible choices in the nation, and Washington, DC’s top university.
Gallaudet University is one of the most unique and influential institutions of its kind in the world – the first college designed especially for deaf and hard-of-hearing students, and still the only university founded to be entirely accessible for the deaf. Gallaudet was founded by federal charter as a grammar school for deaf children in 1857; its first superintendent, Edward Gallaudet, was honored in the name of the college in 1954. Over more than a century and a half, Gallaudet has pioneered deaf and disability education, not only in Washington or in the US, but around the world, hosting conferences and setting up educational centers for deaf children and youth around the world. Gallaudet is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as a top 25 regional institution, and the #2 most innovative college in the US.
Gallaudet is committed to racial and able diversity, multiculturalism, and inclusiveness; as a school primarily for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, Gallaudet is bilingual, with classes in both American Sign Language and English. Gallaudet is the only university in the US with comprehensive degrees in American Sign Language, and more than 50 undergraduate and graduate degree programs are designed to help Gallaudet’s students develop their skills for professional careers in the 21st century, including technology, research, and international study. Hearing students are accepted into graduate programs. For deaf and hard-of-hearing students in America and throughout the world, there is no institution like Gallaudet.
George Washington University
Founded in 1812, George Washington University is a central part of life in Washington, DC, one of the most politically active and influential institutions in the US. While George Washington had advocated for a national university in the capital, and left a bequest in his will for the institution, the university named for him was delayed due to a lack of funds. Over the next two centuries, GWU established critical programs in medicine, law, government, and physics – GWU was central to the development of atomic energy in the 1930s and 40s. Today, George Washington University is ranked one of the nation’s top institutions by U.S. News & World Report and the Princeton Review, and is known as one of the best colleges in the world for becoming a millionaire.
George Washington University is the largest research institution in the DC region, and the only Carnegie Classification top-tier research university in the nation’s capital. With its location in Washington, DC, it comes as no surprise that GWU would be one of the top universities in the US for fields related to government, such as public policy and administration, media and public affairs, and political management, as well as business, education and human development, and international affairs. The School of Engineering and Applied Sciences is also one of the nation’s best. GWU leverages its location and connections to offers more than 12,000 internship opportunities for students, and is well-known as one of the best universities in the nation for job market success, making George Washington university easily one of Washington, DC’s top universities.
Led by the efforts of Methodist Bishop John Fletcher Hurst, American University was founded in 1892, but did not open for students until 1914, after two decades of seeking adequate funding. Originally, American University was solely a graduate school, offering master’s and doctoral degrees, and courses were interrupted for both World Wars, when the campus was used for training and even weapons tests (ordnance is still occasionally discovered on campus). Over the 20th century, American developed an abiding relationship with the federal government, including the Department of Defense and the CIA, and American’s reputation as a research university is authoritative. American University is ranked in the top 75 national universities by U.S. News & World Report, and is noted as one of the most politically active schools in the nation.
American University’s connections with Washington have made it one of the nation’s best universities for fields of study related to government, international business, and public health. The School of International Service, for example, is the largest and one of the most prestigious schools in the field, graduating more foreign policy experts than nearly any other university. Other leading institutions include the Kogod School of Business, ranked one of the top business schools in the nation by U.S. News, and one of the best business schools for women by the Princeton Review. The Washington School of Law has the distinction of being the first law school founded by and for women (though it soon became coeducational). For all the areas of study that make government work, American University is one of Washington, DC’s top universities.
Founded in 1867, Howard University is one of the nation’s most prominent historically black universities. Named for its founder and first president, General Oliver Otis Howard, Howard University was founded by the Congregationalist Church to education African-American ministers for the denomination, but from its beginning Howard was open to all races, genders, and religions. Howard was instrumental in the Harlem Renaissance and the Civil Rights Movement, and was the alma mater of countless African-American leaders, from Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall to novelist Toni Morrison. Howard is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the #2 HBCU in the nation, and a top tier national university.
Howard offers more than 120 bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees, from business and law to theater and the fine arts. Over its century and a half, Howard has been one of the leading producers of black leadership, with a School of Law that has educated Supreme Court justices, senators, and Civil Rights giants. Howard has also distinguished itself in STEM, from engineering to medicine; the School of Medicine is one of the most respected in the world, and a leader in producing women surgeons, as well as a model for providing medicine to underprivileged populations. Howard also graduates more African-American doctoral graduates than any other university, making it not only one of Washington, DC’s top universities, but a world-changer.
Catholic University of America
The Catholic University of America is the national Catholic college, approved Pope Leo XIII and founded by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops – the only such university in the US. CUA is located in Washington, DC’s Brookland neighborhood, the center of American Catholicism, nicknamed “Little Rome” because of the many Catholic institutions in the area. The vision for the Catholic University of America was a Catholic institution that reflected the best values of the United States and the Catholic Church, with research in science and the humanities driven by faith, liberty, and pluralism. CUA is ranked in the top tier of national universities by U.S. News & World Report, and has been named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll.
Catholic University was founded just as a graduate school, originally offering master’s and doctorate degrees, and focusing on research; undergraduate education was added in 1904. As a Catholic institution, CUA is dedicated to the Catholic faith, and to the liberal arts tradition of education, emphasizing leadership, ethics, and responsibility to humanity – a stance exemplified when Catholic University defied Washington, DC’s segregation to admit African-American students from its outset. CUA emphasizes professional preparation and personal development, with spiritual growth underlying all programs. Catholic University has also been widely named a best value, making it one of the smartest higher ed choices in Washington, DC.