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2023 Best Small Colleges Top 100 Consensus Ranked Small Colleges & Uni­ver­si­ties 2023

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BEST SMALL COLLEGES

Do you want a close-knit, nurturing college environment? College Consensus can show you where to find it with our ranking of the best small colleges. With our Top Consensus ranking of the 2023 Best Small Colleges, College Consensus turns the focus on the little guys – schools with 3000 students or less. The best small colleges in the US are not small in reputation, and they’re not small in influence; in fact, some of the best small colleges in America are also among the most exceptional, with national and international recognition for their overall excellence.

Methodology: Ranking the Best Small Colleges

College Consensus rankings combine the results of the most respected college ranking systems with the averaged ratings of thousands of real student reviews from around the web to create a unique college meta-ranking. This approach offers a comprehensive and holistic perspective missing from other college rankings. Visit our about page for information on which rankings and review sites were included in this year’s consensus rankings.

The Small Colleges category is limited to schools with 3000 undergraduate students or less. The Best Small Colleges are listed in descending order according to their College Consensus Score. Ties are ordered alphabetically.

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92.3
College Consensus
87.4
Student Consensus
97.3
Publisher Consensus
Last Accessed: March, 2023
Full time undergraduates
2135
90.5
College Consensus
88.6
Student Consensus
92.5
Publisher Consensus
Last Accessed: March, 2023
Full time undergraduates
1411
89.1
College Consensus
83.6
Student Consensus
94.7
Publisher Consensus
Last Accessed: March, 2023
Full time undergraduates
1971
88.9
College Consensus
82.8
Student Consensus
95.1
Publisher Consensus
Last Accessed: March, 2023
Full time undergraduates
987
88.9
College Consensus
86.5
Student Consensus
91.3
Publisher Consensus
Last Accessed: March, 2023
Full time undergraduates
1948

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88.7
College Consensus
86.7
Student Consensus
90.8
Publisher Consensus
Last Accessed: March, 2023
Full time undergraduates
1756
88.6
College Consensus
84.7
Student Consensus
92.4
Publisher Consensus
Last Accessed: March, 2023
Full time undergraduates
2381
88.5
College Consensus
82.9
Student Consensus
94.1
Publisher Consensus
Last Accessed: March, 2023
Full time undergraduates
1649
87.3
College Consensus
85.1
Student Consensus
89.6
Publisher Consensus
Last Accessed: March, 2023
Full time undergraduates
2835
86.9
College Consensus
85.6
Student Consensus
88.2
Publisher Consensus
Last Accessed: March, 2023
Full time undergraduates
2049

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85.4
College Consensus
85.3
Student Consensus
85.6
Publisher Consensus
Last Accessed: March, 2023
Full time undergraduates
1419
85
College Consensus
80.5
Student Consensus
89.6
Publisher Consensus
Last Accessed: March, 2023
Full time undergraduates
1853
84.7
College Consensus
88.9
Student Consensus
80.4
Publisher Consensus
Last Accessed: March, 2023
Full time undergraduates
1821
84.6
College Consensus
82.5
Student Consensus
86.8
Publisher Consensus
Last Accessed: March, 2023
Full time undergraduates
902
84.2
College Consensus
85.2
Student Consensus
83.2
Publisher Consensus
Last Accessed: March, 2023
Full time undergraduates
1973
83.9
College Consensus
84.1
Student Consensus
83.7
Publisher Consensus
Last Accessed: March, 2023
Full time undergraduates
2262
83.7
College Consensus
85.5
Student Consensus
81.9
Publisher Consensus
Last Accessed: March, 2023
Full time undergraduates
2032
83.2
College Consensus
86.6
Student Consensus
79.7
Publisher Consensus
Last Accessed: March, 2023
Full time undergraduates
2498
83
College Consensus
81.1
Student Consensus
84.9
Publisher Consensus
Last Accessed: March, 2023
Full time undergraduates
683
81.4
College Consensus
83.9
Student Consensus
78.9
Publisher Consensus
Last Accessed: March, 2023
Full time undergraduates
2554
81.2
College Consensus
73.4
Student Consensus
89
Publisher Consensus
Last Accessed: March, 2023
Full time undergraduates
1073
80.4
College Consensus
76.2
Student Consensus
84.7
Publisher Consensus
Last Accessed: March, 2023
Full time undergraduates
1451
79.7
College Consensus
84.8
Student Consensus
74.6
Publisher Consensus
Last Accessed: March, 2023
Full time undergraduates
1421
79.1
College Consensus
77
Student Consensus
81.1
Publisher Consensus
Last Accessed: March, 2023
Full time undergraduates
2706
78.9
College Consensus
81.9
Student Consensus
75.9
Publisher Consensus
Last Accessed: March, 2023
Full time undergraduates
1718

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78.8
College Consensus
77.1
Student Consensus
80.4
Publisher Consensus
Last Accessed: March, 2023
Full time undergraduates
1645
77.9
College Consensus
83.9
Student Consensus
71.8
Publisher Consensus
Last Accessed: March, 2023
Full time undergraduates
2512
77.8
College Consensus
85.3
Student Consensus
70.2
Publisher Consensus
Last Accessed: March, 2023
Full time undergraduates
2206
77.7
College Consensus
80.3
Student Consensus
75.1
Publisher Consensus
Last Accessed: March, 2023
Full time undergraduates
2127
77.3
College Consensus
80.7
Student Consensus
73.9
Publisher Consensus
Last Accessed: March, 2023
Full time undergraduates
1670
77
College Consensus
77.2
Student Consensus
76.8
Publisher Consensus
Last Accessed: March, 2023
Full time undergraduates
2496
76.9
College Consensus
78.9
Student Consensus
74.8
Publisher Consensus
Last Accessed: March, 2023
Full time undergraduates
2200
76.7
College Consensus
69.6
Student Consensus
83.8
Publisher Consensus
Last Accessed: March, 2023
Full time undergraduates
1432
76.6
College Consensus
84.1
Student Consensus
69.1
Publisher Consensus
Last Accessed: March, 2023
Full time undergraduates
1132
76
College Consensus
79.5
Student Consensus
72.6
Publisher Consensus
Last Accessed: March, 2023
Full time undergraduates
2145
75.7
College Consensus
76.1
Student Consensus
75.3
Publisher Consensus
Last Accessed: March, 2023
Full time undergraduates
2190
75.3
College Consensus
78.8
Student Consensus
71.7
Publisher Consensus
Last Accessed: March, 2023
Full time undergraduates
1868
75
College Consensus
83.8
Student Consensus
66.2
Publisher Consensus
Last Accessed: March, 2023
Full time undergraduates
1104
74.8
College Consensus
82.5
Student Consensus
67.1
Publisher Consensus
Last Accessed: March, 2023
Full time undergraduates
1700
74.8
College Consensus
87.9
Student Consensus
61.7
Publisher Consensus
Last Accessed: March, 2023
Full time undergraduates
1626
74.6
College Consensus
81.8
Student Consensus
67.5
Publisher Consensus
Last Accessed: March, 2023
Full time undergraduates
2307
74.3
College Consensus
70.3
Student Consensus
78.2
Publisher Consensus
Last Accessed: March, 2023
Full time undergraduates
610
73.4
College Consensus
75.9
Student Consensus
71
Publisher Consensus
Last Accessed: March, 2023
Full time undergraduates
1466
73.4
College Consensus
83.5
Student Consensus
63.3
Publisher Consensus
Last Accessed: March, 2023
Full time undergraduates
2655
73
College Consensus
80.5
Student Consensus
65.4
Publisher Consensus
Last Accessed: March, 2023
Full time undergraduates
2591
72.6
College Consensus
78.3
Student Consensus
66.9
Publisher Consensus
Last Accessed: March, 2023
Full time undergraduates
1222
72.4
College Consensus
78.2
Student Consensus
66.7
Publisher Consensus
Last Accessed: March, 2023
Full time undergraduates
2399
71.9
College Consensus
81.4
Student Consensus
62.4
Publisher Consensus
Last Accessed: March, 2023
Full time undergraduates
2905
71.9
College Consensus
83.8
Student Consensus
59.9
Publisher Consensus
Last Accessed: March, 2023
Full time undergraduates
1524
71.5
College Consensus
74.3
Student Consensus
68.8
Publisher Consensus
Last Accessed: March, 2023
Full time undergraduates
1452

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Why Choose a Small College? Academics and Culture

First and foremost, there’s a strong argument to be made for the academic advantages of a small college. Time and again, studies have shown that people learn more effectively in small classes; it’s a fact that the top small universities have been touting for years. While, in a large university, you may find yourself in a gigantic lecture hall with hundreds of other students, too far away to even make out the professor’s facial expression, in a small college you’re likely to take classes with just a handful of people. That closeness means you get to know your classmates and instructors well, engage in meaningful discussion, and have the opportunity to have your questions answered directly.

Small classes at a small college also means a small student:faculty ratio – the number of students per faculty member. A professor at a large university can’t get to know all of her students closely, much less work with them one-on-one; but at a small college, where they may be just 10-12 students for every professor, there’s a greater opportunity for mentorship, guidance, and connection. In a small college, you’re far more likely to have to chance, for instance, to work alongside a faculty member on a research project, or to find a professor who can give you personalized attention and help.

The culture of a small college is entirely different from the culture of a large college, too. That doesn’t mean that the best small colleges don’t have their rabid sports rivalries, or riotous fraternity parties (they definitely do). What it means is that it’s much easier to form a close-knit community, one where students feel connected to the whole student body rather than just their clique or in-group. Small colleges can have other benefits, as well; with a small student body, they can pay more attention to amenities, so some of the best small colleges also offer the best college dining halls and the best college dorms in the nation. At a large college, students can often feel disconnected and lost; at a small college, students can feel more connected. A large university is where you go to school; a small college is where you live.

How Do We Rank the Best Small Colleges?

College Consensus isn’t like any other college ranking agency out there. Bringing together the rankings of reputable sites like U.S. News & World Report, the Wall Street Journal, and WalletHub with the most trustworthy student review sites on the internet (including Niche, Cappex, and Unigo), College Consensus works to get the full picture. Instead of just focusing on one set of data, College Consensus is an aggregate ranking, combining all of a given school’s published rankings for the Publisher Ranking, and adding in the testimony of students for the Student Rating. From those two numbers, we create the Consensus Rating, which we then use to rank schools in all sorts of combinations.

Our criteria for selecting the Best Small Colleges is fairly simple: these are the colleges and universities throughout the US that have student bodies of 3000 or less. That’s an arbitrary cutoff, sure; plenty of large colleges are proud of their ability to give students an experience like a small college, and there’s no particular reason a school with 3000 students is any different than a school with 4000 students. But the essential thing here isn’t how many students there are – it’s how the top small universities serve students in a special way. The Top Consensus Ranked Small Colleges put students first, providing the traditional college experience that leaves fond memories, lifelong friendships, and a sense of alumni pride that carries through for your 50th-anniversary reunion and beyond.

What’s Different About the College Consensus Ranking?

While other rankings take the narrow view – whether it’s strictly surveys of faculty, or reams of cold, hard data, or the perspective of students – College Consensus is the only college ranking organization that looks at the full range of published rankings and student reviews. That means we take all voices seriously, from the impartial experts to the students experiencing the real world of college on the ground. Other methods give an advantage to certain kinds of schools, especially the ones with the biggest marketing budgets and the most famous names, but College Consensus is interested in getting the fullest picture possible. Read more about our ranking methodology and sources on our about page.

Related:

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