To identify the Best Colleges in Maryland 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 Maryland anywhere. Read more about our rankings methodology and sources at our about page.
Colleges & Universities in Maryland
The best colleges and universities in Maryland are built on the long, proud history of one of the oldest American states. Maryland was the birthplace of religious freedom, one of the first states to ratify the Constitution, and the state that donated the land for Washington DC, and no other state in the union has capitalized on that history quite like Maryland. Maryland depends on the federal government, and public institutions like smaller regional members of the University System of Maryland are crucial to educating future managers, professionals, and workforce for government, healthcare, and education. The leadership of Maryland’s industry, along with some of the most important research being done for government agencies like NASA and the National Institutes of Health, is built in the major research universities, the University of Maryland 64 and Johns Hopkins University 72 .
Maryland also has a strong tradition of small liberal arts colleges. Some of Maryland’s finest colleges, like Mount St.Mary’s University 59 , were founded by Maryland’s strong Catholic population, while others, like St. John’s College 70 , St. Mary’s College of Maryland 64 , and Hood College 59 , are nationally-renowned, innovative, and progressive institutions that have helped revolutionize and shape higher education, not only in Maryland, but in the US. All told, Maryland’s best colleges and universities have a tremendous responsibility, one for which they are entirely up to task.
Here are the top colleges and universities of the Old Line State.
Loyola University Maryland
Named in honor of the Society of Jesus founder, Ignatius of Loyola, Loyola University Maryland is one of the foremost Catholic universities in the US. Not to be confused with Loyola University in Chicago, IL, Loyola Maryland was founded in 1852 – and, notably, was the first university in America named for Ignatius. Part of the prestigious Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, Loyola Maryland has roots in Maryland’s deep Catholic heritage (the state was founded as a safe haven for Catholic immigrants) and has long been tied to the life and culture of Baltimore. Ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the #3 regional university in the North, Loyola Maryland is also one of the highest-rated institutions in the nation for community service, student financial support, and 4-year graduation rate.
As a Jesuit university, Loyola Maryland is noted for academic excellence, as well as rigor and challenge; the Jesuit order prioritizes learning, and Loyola’s curriculum is steeped in both the traditional liberal arts, and the most current professional learning. Bound by “cura personalis,” the Jesuit concept of education for the whole person, Loyola Maryland places emphasis on intellectual and spiritual development, and while students need not be Catholic, Jesuit values are encouraged. The Sellinger School of Business and Management, in particular, is one of the most acclaimed in the region, especially for business law. With the quality students typically expect from Catholic education, and 21st century professional expertise, Loyola University Maryland leads Maryland’s best universities.
Johns Hopkins University
The name Johns Hopkins University is synonymous with excellence and innovation. The first modern research university, Johns Hopkins was named for its first major donor, the entrepreneur Johns Hopkins (who made what was then the largest donation ever to a university, $7 million). Founded in 1876, the spirit of boldness and service that John Hopkins was known for extended to the university that carried his name, as the first university to intentionally combine high-level research with undergraduate and graduate instruction, providing the model for every research institution that followed. Today, Johns Hopkins University is ranked in the top 10 national universities by U.S. News & World Report.
Johns Hopkins University, of course, is widely recognized as the finest medical and healthcare school in the nation, if not the world; the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, School of Nursing, the Bloomberg School of Public Health, as well as the Johns Hopkins Hospital, are all ranked among the very best institutions of their kind. Less known, but just as elite, the Johns Hopkins Peabody Institute is also one of the most elite music conservatories in the world. Johns Hopkins is also highly recommended for its excellent student support and mentorship, as students work alongside some of the world’s most decorated faculty, including Nobel Prize winners. From any perspective, Johns Hopkins University is easily Maryland’s top university.
St John's College
One of America’s oldest schools, St. John’s College became a college in 1784, but roots back to a boy’s prep school founded in 1696, well before the American Revolution. Early on, St. John’s was considered a public institution, and was non-denominational due to a loose association with the Freemasons. Though it was expected to become part of the University of Maryland (which was still just an idea), St. John’s eventually became an independent, private liberal arts college. St. John’s refused to participate in national rankings for many years, but after choosing to submit data in 2014, St. John’s College has consistently been ranked in the top 75 national liberal arts colleges by U.S. News & World Report, and is widely considered one of the finest institutions in the northeast.
St. John’s College is notable for their Great Books program, an alternative liberal arts format that builds the curriculum on the influential books of western civilization rather than specific subjects. Pulling together the most important writers of the Classical, Medieval, Renaissance, Enlightenment, and modern eras, students are steeped in philosophy, history, theology, literature, and music in an interdisciplinary form. Graduate students also have the option of a master’s degree in Eastern Classics, a Great Books program of Asian writings, or a Master of Arts in traditional liberal arts subjects. For students who want a unique, self-motivated education from some of the most trusted faculty in the nation, St. John’s College is one of the best colleges in Maryland.
University of Maryland-College Park
College Park, MD
The flagship of the University System of Maryland, the University of Maryland is the Washington DC region’s foremost public research institution and one of the most influential public universities in the Northeast. Founded in 1856 as an agricultural college, UMD became part of the federal land-grant system a few years later, focusing on agriculture and mechanics and setting the stage for the university’s later dominance in engineering and business programs. Today the University of Maryland is ranked in the top 20 public universities at the national level by U.S. News & World Report, with many individual programs recognized even higher within their fields.
The University of Maryland has benefitted most from its closeness to Washington, DC, which has provided ample opportunities for partnerships with government agencies, nonprofits, and industry. That means that UMD has a far better than average relationship with entities like the National Institutes of Health and NASA, building the Clark School of Engineering into one of the most acclaimed institutions in its field, while connections with industry have helped turn the Smith School of Business into a national leader. Considering the centrality of the media to Washington DC life, it should come as no surprise that the Merrill College of Journalism is also one of the most influential in the US. The University of Maryland leads the region as Maryland’s best public university.
St Mary's College of Maryland
St. Mary's City, MD
Founded in 1840 at the site of Maryland’s first colony and original capitol – St. Mary’s City – St. Mary’s College of Maryland was originally a women’s boarding school. St. Mary’s was dedicated to accessibility and fairness from its beginning, making an active policy of keeping tuition and fees much lower than other similar institutions. Half of its students even attended for free. In 1868 St. Mary’s College began receiving funding from the state of Maryland, and in time became a fully public institution. Today, St. Mary’s College is a small, public liberal arts institution designated by Maryland as the state’s honors college, accepting Maryland’s top high school students.
As Maryland’s official honors college, St. Mary’s curriculum is held to a higher standard than typical public colleges. This curriculum is guided by the principles the college calls the St. Mary’s Way, which emphasizes cooperation and personal integrity. With its foundations in the traditional liberal arts, St. Mary’s offers students the opportunity for close mentorship with a 10:1 student:faculty ratio and small class sizes. With strong student support, it’s no surprise that St. Mary’s College has the highest 4-year graduation rate in Maryland, and one of the highest in the nation. St. Mary’s College is the definitive example of a top Maryland college.
The first college chartered after the American Revolution – making it the oldest American college after the nine Colonial Colleges formed before the war – Washington College was founded in 1782. Named for then-General George Washington, with his personal blessing (and a donation), Washington College was originally a men’s college, and the original board included numerous Founding Fathers. Washington College, like St. John’s College, was originally intended to be part of a public Maryland university, a university that never actually materialized, but eventually grew into a prestigious private liberal arts college. Today, Washington College is ranked in the top 100 national liberal arts colleges by U.S. News & World Report, and has been named one of the happiest colleges in the US (based on student satisfaction).
As a small liberal arts college, with around 1400 students, Washington College is particularly known for its programs in business and the social sciences. Nearly the whole student body – 85% – receive need-based or merit scholarships, making Washington College one of the best values in the region as well. The vast majority of the student body is made up of traditional-aged, residential students, in the liberal arts tradition, and a low student:faculty ratio of 12:1 makes sure students have access to their professors in a personal way. Washington’s rural campus is a short drive to Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, DC, giving students a wide variety of options for internships and post-graduation employment. All these opportunities make Washington College one of Maryland’s top colleges.
Founded in 1885 by the Episcopal Methodist Church (now part of the United Methodist Church), Goucher College was originally slated to be a small seminary, until Baltimore’s bishop determined that a full baccalaureate college would bring more prestige and dignity to the growing city. The new school took over the facilities of a shuttered women’s college and opened as the Women’s College of Baltimore City. While the college began in downtown Baltimore, it moved to the suburb of Towson in the 1950s, and became coed in the 1980s. Today, Goucher is ranked among the top tier of national liberal arts colleges, and well-respected throughout the northeast by employers.
As a traditional liberal arts college, Goucher’s primary emphasis is on undergraduate education, and the college is renowned for the quality of its bachelor’s programs. The focus of Goucher’s curriculum, in the liberal arts heritage, is on critical thinking, problem-solving, and collaboration, built on the foundations of literature, languages, history, and sciences. Since 2010, Goucher has become known as one of only two colleges in the US that requires students to take part in a study-abroad program. Goucher also has a small and growing graduate program, offering around 10 master’s degrees. With all of its offerings, Goucher College is easily one of the best colleges in Maryland.
Mount St Mary's University
Founded in 1808, Mount St. Mary’s University was originally a Catholic boarding school, but its year of opening makes it the second-oldest Catholic college in the United States. The school remained a boarding school for only a year, though, when the Catholic seminary in Pigeon Hill, Pennsylvania was closed and its faculty transferred to Mount St. Mary’s. That opened the school up to offer college classes for local residents as well as prospective priests, and Mount St. Mary’s grew over the course of the 19th century into one of the most respected colleges in the region. Today, U.S. News & World Report ranks Mount St. Mary’s one of the top 30 regional universities in the north, carrying on a two-century-old tradition of excellence.
Mount St. Mary’s remains deeply, proudly Catholic; more than two-thirds of the student body is Catholic, and all students learn about Catholic doctrine and theology in their core curriculum. The majority of Mount St. Mary’s students are traditional-aged undergraduates, and their classical liberal arts curriculum is supported by a solid 12:1 student:faculty ratio, perfect for the kind of intellectual and spiritual guidance Mount St. Mary’s students expect from their professors. Master’s programs include an MBA from the Bolte School of Business, one of the strongest in the region. With a deep grounding in faith and eyes to the future of work and life, Mount St. Mary’s is the definition of a best Maryland university.
Hood College was founded by the Reformed Church of the United States as a women’s college in 1893. The founding was somewhat unusual; the previously coed Mercersburg College was shifting to an all-male school, necessitating some Reformed institution for the displaced women. Named for the philanthropist who donated land for the college’s campus, Margaret Scholl Hood, Hood College’s reputation grew steadily throughout the 20th century, and the college began accepting men as commuting students and graduate students in 1971. Today, Hood is fully coeducational, and recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of the North’s top 30 regional universities.
The Hood College curriculum is dedicated to bringing together the best aspects of traditional liberal arts education with the most current professional studies to prepare students for critical thinking and adaptability in their careers. Hood also puts service and leadership at a premium in all of its degree programs, undergraduate and graduate alike. Hood offers 33 bachelor’s, 18 master’s, and one doctorate degree program in Organizational Leadership. Plus, Hood is just a short drive between Washington DC and Baltimore, in the I-270 technology corridor, giving Hood’s graduates three strong job market destinations. It’s all part of what makes Hood College one of the best colleges in Maryland.
Maryland’s first normal school – the 19th century standard for teacher’s education, in which student teachers learned first-hand in real classrooms – Towson University was founded in 1866. Originally located in downtown Baltimore, the normal school moved to the Towson suburb when demand became too great for the downtown facilities to handle. Towson was progressive and innovative from the beginning, and quickly became a model for teacher’s education through the region. Towson became a full four-year college in the 1930s, and gradually grew into a regional state university. As of 2017, Towson is ranked the #14 best regional university for the North by U.S. News & World Report, a great showing in a fiercely competitive region.
With well over 20,000 students, Towson is one of the largest universities in Maryland, and thanks to its heritage as a teacher’s college, is still the biggest educator of Maryland’s schoolteachers. The College of Business and Economics is also one of Towson’s most esteemed programs, and is the only college in the US offering a specialized degree in e-Business, while the College of Health Professions is one of only 100 schools nationwide that offers a gerontology degree at the bachelor’s level. Towson is a critical regional educator, providing opportunity for Maryland’s future teachers, leaders, and professionals, as well as for working adults.