To identify the Best Colleges in Georgia 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 Georgia anywhere. Read more about our rankings methodology and sources at our about page.
Colleges & Universities in Georgia
The best colleges and universities in Georgia are like Georgia itself – inviting, exciting, and surprisingly cozy, from the smallest liberal arts college to the largest research university. Georgia has an embarrassment of riches in every category of higher education. Georgia’s major public research universities, including the University of Georgia 69 (America’s first public university) and Georgia Tech 68 (the preeminent STEM institution in the South), are both globally-recognized models of their class. Emory University 68 , numbered among the Southern Ivies, demonstrates the potential of the private research university, combining elite academic rigor with community outreach and service.
Georgia is also a prime destination for top liberal arts institutions, both public and private. Two of the nation’s most esteemed and prestigious historically black colleges – Morehouse College 60 and Spelman College 65 – are at home in Atlanta, and together represent the dreams of Georgia’s freedmen and women. From trusted Christian colleges like Covenant College, to innovative experimenters like Berry College 68 and Agnes Scott College 63 , Georgia’s liberal arts institutions have a reputation for excellence that makes them some of the best in the South.
Here are the top colleges and universities of the Peach State.
University of Georgia
Founded in 1785, the University of Georgia was the first public university chartered by a state after the American Revolution, though it splits the title “first public university” with the University of North Carolina, which was founded second, but admitted students first. Building a campus modeled on the great universities of New England (especially Yale), the University of Georgia began admitting students in 1801 and quickly became Georgia’s cultural and educational heart. Today, UGA is a public research university at the highest Carnegie Classification level, the flagship of the University System of Georgia, and one of the top 20 public universities in the nation as ranked by U.S. News & World Report.
The University of Georgia has been named a Public Ivy – a public university with the quality and reputation of the Ivy League – and UGA is one of the leading research institutions in the South. The UGA student body is over 36,000 strong, with 17 schools and colleges, nearly 150 degree programs, and a host of research centers to work and learn. The North Campus is a National Register of Historic Places district, and Athens, GA, regularly ranks at the top of most-loved colleges towns, with a vibrant art and music scene. From one of the nation’s biggest Division 1 NCAA football programs, to one of the world’s most prestigious academic publishing houses, UGA is not just Georgia’s top university, but a model of public higher education.
One of the institutions regularly named as the Southern Ivies – the elite, private research universities that represent the South’s most prestigious schools – Emory University was founded in 1836 by the Methodist Episcopal Church (now part of the United Methodist Church). Emory, like much of Georgia, was devastated by the Civil War, and struggled to survive until a northern philanthropist, impressed by the college president’s denunciation of slavery, donated a large amount of money in 1880 to pay off Emory’s debts. That set Emory off in the right direction, enabling the college to open nursing, technology, theology, and other programs that would help the institution reach university status in 1915. Today, Emory is located in metropolitan Atlanta, and is ranked the #20 university in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.
Emory is a prominent, private research university, with one of the largest endowments in the nation (top 25) and the highest Carnegie Classification for research. Emory is especially known for healthcare and medicine, with Emory Healthcare standing as the largest medical system in the state of Georgia, including seven hospitals and many research centers. The Woodruff School of Nursing is one of the oldest and most prestigious in the US as well. In other professional studies, Emory’s law school and business school are among the most prominent in the nation, with deep ties to Atlanta’s massive business, industry, and government sectors. Emory is a worldwide leader, standing as not only one of Georgia’s top universities, but one of the greatest institutions of learning and research ever.
Georgia Institute of Technology – known to the world as Georgia Tech – was founded in 1885 by two influential businessmen and former Confederate officers who saw the Industrial Revolution as the future of the South. Though the South was largely founded on agriculture, Georgia Tech helped turn Atlanta, and Georgia in general, toward industry and business, first offering degrees in mechanical engineering, then growing steadily into a major STEM research university. Over time, Georgia Tech has become one of the most prominent sources of scientists and entrepreneurs in the South. Today, Georgia Tech is central to research and learning in Atlanta and stands as a nationally-ranked institution – a top 10 public university, according to U.S. News & World Report.
From its beginnings as a technical institute, Georgia Tech has focused almost exclusively on the sciences, especially engineering. The university consists of six colleges – Computing, Design, Engineering, Sciences, Business, and Liberal Arts – but academic programs are highly interdisciplinary and there is a great deal of overlap between the colleges. Engineering and business are Georgia Tech’s strongest suits, having been deeply involved in the growth of Atlanta as a business and technology hotbed; the Scheller College of Business is one of the best in the world for tech and industrial business. Georgia Tech is also highly diverse, ranked as a national leader in producing African-American engineers and scientists. Meeting Atlanta’s, Georgia’s, and America’s needs for nearly a century and a half, Georgia Tech is easily one of Georgia’s best universities.
Mount Berry, GA
From its founding in 1902, Berry College was designed to be different. Founder Martha Berry, daughter of a local business leader, created the college for the rural residents north of Rome, GA, which would come to be known as Mount Berry in her honor. Learning that there was no school for academic or religious instruction in the area, Berry opened an industrial school for boys, intending to make a practical education available for boys who showed promise but could not afford schooling. For many years, students could pay for their tuition by working around the campus, even constructing buildings, and even today all students are guaranteed a job on campus to offset their expenses. Berry has been named a top up-and-coming school by U.S. News & World Report.
Built on 27,000 acres of mountains and forests, Berry College’s campus has been named one of the most beautiful in the world by Travel & Leisure magazine, but all that space and land has more impact than just aesthetic; besides outdoor recreation, Berry’s campus provides opportunities for research and community engagement. As a traditional liberal arts college, Berry focuses on providing the best undergraduate education, with a 12:1 student:faculty ratio and a strong tradition of student support. In particular, the Campbell School of Business and the Charter School of Education are regarded as two of the best programs of their kind in the South. Berry College has been making education accessible and practical for over a century, making it a model for Georgia’s best colleges.
Lookout Mountain, GA
Covenant College took the long way from its founding city of Pasadena, CA, to its home at the top of Lookout Mountain, GA. Founded in 1955, Covenant weathered several ruptures and splits in the Presbyterian Church, moving first to the Midwest, then to the South. However, Covenant became the place where the Presbyterian Church in America came together through reconciliations and mergers between denominations, and Covenant is now the official college of the PCA, drawing Presbyterian students from across the US and the world. U.S. News & World Report ranks Covenant one of the top 10 regional colleges in the South.
With its motto, “In All Things Christ Preeminent,” Covenant puts its dedication to Reformed Presbyterian faith front and center. Christian belief is incorporated into all of Covenant’s curriculum, and “The Christian Mind,” a course designed around the integration of faith and learning, is the centerpiece of Covenant’s freshman foundational studies. Covenant also maintains a 13:1 student:faculty ratio, giving faculty the opportunity to become mentors and guides to all students, a hallmark of the liberal arts format that has given Covenant a high retention rate and an impressive level of student satisfaction. With as much as 16% of the student body made up of international students, it’s clear that Covenant is one of Georgia’s best global colleges.
Founded in 1881 as the Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary, Spelman College began with a radical mission – to provide educational opportunity for young women born in slavery, many of whom began their schooling illiterate and impoverished. While the black community of Atlanta dug deep in their pockets to support the school, the vision impressed philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, who visited the seminary and paid off all of its debts in 1884. In return, the school was renamed in honor of the Spelmans, the family of Rockefeller’s wife, Laura Spelman Rockefeller. Today, Spelman is ranked the #1 historically black college by U.S. News & World Report, and is recognized by Forbes as one of the top 10 women’s colleges in the nation.
As the oldest historically black women’s liberal arts college, Spelman has had an outsized impact on learning and culture, not only in Atlanta, but nationwide – alumni include legendary author Alice Walker, as well as numerous Civil Rights leaders, entrepreneurs, business leaders, and judges. Spelman is the top college in the US for graduating African-American women in the sciences, and is #2 for graduates who go on to medical school; it is also one of the top Fulbright and Truman Scholars institutions. Spelman is known for academic rigor, excellence, and challenge, and with a 12:1 student:faculty ratio, Spelman is also known for student support. With the highest graduation rate of all HBCUs, Spelman asks a lot of its students, and receives much more in return.
Georgia College and State University
Georgia College & State University was founded in 1889 as the Georgia Normal and Industrial College, a school to prepare young women for careers as schoolteachers, or for job training in technical fields. Over the years, as educational and professional opportunities for women increased, the school developed into a full liberal arts college, then became the coeducational Georgia College. As part of the University System of Georgia, the institution earned a new designation, taking on the role of the state’s preeminent public liberal arts college, the “Georgia College” and “State University” halves of its name denoting its heritage and status. Today, GCSU is recognized as one of the top 10 public regional institutions in the South, as well as a top online educator.
Georgia College’s roots are in the traditional liberal arts, and top-quality undergraduate education is still its main emphasis. With more than 40 bachelor’s degree programs, GCSU has a wide variety of options available to students, including education (its original program), business, health sciences, and pre-professional programs like pre-law and pre-med. GCSU is also a strong master’s institution, with more than 25 graduate programs. In recent years, Georgia College has become well known throughout Georgia, and in national rankings, as an online educator, offering top-ranked online programs like the MBA, nursing, and education master’s and bachelor’s degrees; GCSU has also developed a reputation as a great value, making GCSU not only one of Georgia’s best colleges, but one of the South’s best investments.
Agnes Scott College
Founded in 1889, Agnes Scott College began as the Decatur Female Seminary, a women’s school intended to prepare young women for careers as schoolteachers – at the time, the only professional route generally open to women. Agnes Scott retains its affiliation with the Presbyterian Church, but is not considered a religious school. Often named among the Seven Sisters of the South – a loose grouping of prestigious women’s colleges considered the equivalent of the famed Seven Sisters of New England – Agnes Scott is one of the most elite institutions in the region. U.S. News & World Report has named Agnes Scott one of the most innovative colleges in the nation, as well as a top value.
Agnes Scott is known for its intensive, challenging undergraduate education; rooted in the traditional liberal arts, the Agnes Scott curriculum emphasizes interdisciplinary learning, critical thinking, and undergraduate research. The college partners with several colleges in the area, including Emory and Georgia Tech, to provide degree programs it cannot sustain on its own, including nursing and engineering. Meanwhile, an incredibly low 10:1 student:faculty ratio guarantees students can develop mentoring relationships with some of the most decorated faculty in the South. Named one of the top Colleges that Pay You Back by the Princeton Review, Agnes Scott College is synonymous with value, making it one of the best educational choices in Georgia.
Georgia’s oldest private university, Mercer University began in 1833 as Mercer Institute, a boy’s prep school named for its first patron and trustee, Jesse Mercer. In only 5 years, the school had grown into a college, and began a long period of growth. Mercer opened one of the first law schools in the South, the George School of Law, in 1873, and over the course of the 20th century became a comprehensive undergraduate and graduate research university. Mercer was a consistent presence in U.S. News & World Report’s top 10 regional institutions in the South for nearly two decades, until reaching the top tier of national universities in 2017. In addition, Mercer has been honored with the Carnegie Foundation’s Community Engagement Classification, and named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll.
Mercer University is known for its top-notch undergraduate education, including an influential Great Books program, and offers a wide array of degree programs. However, it is in Mercer’s world-class professional schools that the Mercer reputation has been made, from the George School of Law to the Stetson School of Business & Economics. Mercer is home to the only private engineering school in Georgia, and the top private education school as well; in addition, Mercer is considered a leader in health sciences, with highly-ranked schools of medicine, pharmacy, and nursing, and deep connections throughout Georgia’s healthcare system. Besides its academic excellence, Mercer has long been ranked by Forbes and the Princeton Review as a best value for its balance of excellence and affordability.
Often seen as a sibling institution to the all-female Spelman College, Morehouse College is a historically black men’s liberal arts college in Atlanta, GA. Morehouse was founded in 1867 as Augusta Institute, a school for recently freed slaves to learn theology and education to become pastors and teachers. Just over a decade later, the school moved from Augusta to Atlanta, briefly sharing space with Spelman in Atlanta’s Friendship Baptist Church. In time, Morehouse’s liberal arts grounding and academic rigor set it apart from other African-American institutions, which were largely focused on agriculture and trades, and Morehouse became a central institution in the Civil Rights movement (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was one prominent alumnus).
Today, Morehouse is ranked as a top 5 historically black college, and a top-tier national liberal arts college, by U.S. News & World Report. Morehouse is widely recognized as one of the most challenging, academically demanding colleges in the nation, and is the top producer of black male Rhodes Scholars and Fulbright Scholars; in addition, Morehouse has been noted as a top feeder school for the most elite graduate institutions, as well as a top undergraduate educator for African-Americans who go on to doctoral degrees in medicine and STEM. Morehouse is also known for its entrepreneurial and innovative spirit, ranked at the top for entrepreneurship by Forbes. No matter the field, Morehouse College graduates have what it takes to dominate, making it one of Georgia’s most impressive colleges.