To identify the Best Colleges in Washington DC for 2021 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.
If you’re interested in online schools, check out our ranking of the Best Online Colleges in Washington DC. You can also find out more about college financial aid with our list of the Top 5 Washington DC Scholarships.
Georgetown UniversityWashington, DC
George Washington UniversityWashington, DC
American UniversityWashington, DC
Howard UniversityWashington, DC
The nation’s capital is not a place for the weak; that’s as true of higher education as it is true of the Congressional floor, or the lobbies and committee rooms where the real work of government gets done. Life in the Beltway is hard, and a survival of the fittest atmosphere saturates every aspect. Obviously, Washington DC is the seat of government, but much more goes on in government than just law-making and courtroom machinations. There are all of the businesses that come to the capital to be close to the place where the regulations are made; there are the nonprofits and NGOs that depend on government grants and oversight to do the jobs that need to be done at the community level; there is healthcare and medical research, and even entertainment and tourism. And of course, there is higher education, preparing all of the professionals who make the whole carrousel go round.
Surveying the Best 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. There are no public universities in Washington, DC, ranked by the College Consensus; the University of the District of Columbia, a historically black college that developed from the city’s normal school for African-American teachers, does not have sufficient published rankings to generate a Consensus score. The private universities that are ranked, are exemplary, all ranking among the best national research universities and brimming with other accolades.
George Washington’s dream of an official national university never came to pass, but George Washington University took up the call a generation later. One of the most politically influential universities in the nation, GWU has educated perhaps more government officials than any other institution outside of the Ivy League since its founding in 1821. It has also established deep connections to the federal government, its agencies, and the private industry that revolves around the Beltway. What GWU set out to do in the 19th century, American University sought to accomplish in the 20th century,building impressive schools of business, public policy, international service, and law, while creating a web of networking within the halls of government. With world-class research in business, science, medicine, and law, these top two private research universities, two of the best universities in Washington DC, funnel straight into the needs of the federal government.
The best colleges in Washington DC, also include not one but two of the world’s finest Catholic universities, Georgetown University and the Catholic University of America, both ranking among the best Catholic colleges and universities in America. Georgetown represents the nation’s first Catholic school, while the Catholic University of American is the nation’s only papal-approved Catholic college. Like the private research universities above, neither of these Catholic colleges has been shy about its influence in government; Georgetown has even seen two of its alumni – Lyndon B. Johnson and Bill Clinton – in the highest office in the land.
The nation’s capital is also home to one of the best historically black universities – and the only fully comprehensive HBCU in the US – Howard University. Originally intended to be a seminary for the Congregationalist Church, Howard became a full college quickly; being in Washington, DC, Howard also quickly became politically active, and by the time the 20th century rolled around, established itself as a center of the Civil Rights movement. From Alain Locke, author of The New Negro, to Stokely Carmichael, who introduced “Black Power” to the world, Howard has made the black voice heard in the District of Columbia.
The Future of the Best Colleges in DC
So what does the future of higher education in the District look like? To cop a phrase: Forget it, Jake, it’s DC. The big machine of American government keeps humming, no matter what party is in what office, and for students who want to get on that train, the best colleges in Washington DC are always going to be the first and best option. From Georgetown to Howard, these are the universities with the pipeline straight into the heart of the Federal City, and if you can make the grade, there’s a reward waiting for you at the end.