The 10 best universities in the USA

Every year, the British company Quacquarelli Symonds analyzes the best universities in the USA and around the world, compiling a ranking of colleges. According to the QS World University Rankings 2024, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is in the top spot! But other universities also demonstrate America's educational excellence: 11 of the top 25 universities worldwide are located in the United States.

Are you dreaming of an exchange with the brightest minds in America while studying at a renowned US college? We give you an overview of the 10 best universities in the USA.

#1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Number one in the USA, number one in the world: the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge leads the QS World University Ranking 2024. When it was founded in 1861, the technical university near Boston was still a small community of science enthusiasts who wanted to improve the world with their research. Meanwhile, the university has grown into a true educational giant.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a leader in research on artificial intelligence and climate phenomena, as well as the fight against HIV and cancer. MIT students are integrated into research activities early in their studies and are highly sought after in the job market. Although MIT's focus remains on science and engineering, it also offers degree programs in humanities and social sciences, architecture, management, and economics.

The majority of students live in the student dorms on the MIT campus, which stretches along the Charles River basin. Art and culture are omnipresent on campus. There are 12 museums and galleries, a symphony orchestra, and several choirs. MIT students are also top-notch when it comes to sports. About 20 % of them are members of a team called the "MIT Engineers," who are active in 33 different sports.

MIT facts
Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Founding: 1861
Students: about 11,300
Nobel Prize winners*: 97
Famous graduates: Buzz Aldrin, Richard Feynman, Kofi Annan, Benjamin Netanjahu
Tuition fees**:  about $ 63,000

#2. Harvard University

Harvard University in Cambridge

Eight US presidents, countless other political decision-makers, Supreme Court justices, corporate CEOs, and influential people from the worlds of science and culture: the long list of famous Harvard graduates reads like a "Who's Who" of the American elite!

In its long history, the renowned university in Cambridge near Boston has not only educated some of the most famous Americans but also collected quite a few records. Founded in 1636, Harvard University is the oldest institution of higher education in the United States, and Harvard's library was the first in the country.

A full 161 Nobel Prize winners studied, researched, or taught in the characteristic brick buildings of Harvard University, which therefore leads not only the American but also the global ranking. Like most American universities, Harvard is divided into several economically independent institutions. Studies are offered in a wide variety of disciplines - from law, politics, and economics to medicine, the natural sciences, languages, and the arts.

As one of the eight elite universities of the Ivy League, Harvard is also one of the most competitive universities in the field of sports. “Harvard Crimson” teams have won national titles in American Football, golf, soccer, ice hockey, and lacrosse.

Harvard facts
Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Founding: 1636
Students: about 23,700
Nobel Prize winners*: 161
Famous graduates Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Michael Bloomberg, Mark Zuckerberg
Tuition fees**: about $ 55,000

#3. Stanford University

Stanford University Campus

The campus of Stanford University is located in sunny California, about 60 km from San Francisco. The university is also extremely strong in research and particularly shines with its courses in the fields of high-tech and IT. Stanford has more winners of the Turing Award ("Nobel Prize for information technology") than any other university in the world.

Stanford graduates have played a significant role in the economic rise of nearby Silicon Valley, which is home to many major technology companies. Still, Stanford University maintains close ties with companies in Silicon Valley and throughout the entire Bay Area. Furthermore, the Stanford University Board of Trustees even supports and encourages promising students and graduates to start their own businesses.

Life on the Stanford campus offers plenty of cultural variety. It is the setting for the well-known art museum "Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts," several sculptures by French sculptor Auguste Rodin, and the 360° concert hall "Bing Concert Hall," which is known for its excellent acoustics. Students benefit from more than 100 music, dance, and theater events each year.

Of course, sports are not overlooked at Stanford. Traditionally, the football team "Stanford Cardinals" enjoys particularly great interest. Stanford Stadium, which belongs to the university, has already hosted the Super Bowl and, since its renovation in 2006, provides space for 50,000 American Football fans.

Sanford University facts
Location: Stanford, California
Founding: 1891
Students: about 16,400
Nobel Prize winners*: 84
Famous graduates Herbert Hoover, Sandra Day O’Connor, Condoleeza Rice, Tiger Woods
Tuition fees**: about $ 59,000

#4. University of California Berkeley (UCB)

University of California Berkeley

Students at the University of California Berkeley (UCB), which was founded in 1868, not only enjoy a breathtaking view of the nearby San Francisco Bay but also an excellent range of educational and research opportunities. Berkeley is considered the flagship of the ten research universities affiliated with the University of California System and is home to some world-renowned institutes such as the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute and the Space Sciences Laboratory.

In its long history, Berkeley University has produced 99 Nobel Prize winners, 23 Turing Award winners, and 14 Pulitzer Prize winners. Among Berkeley's most famous professors was J. R. Oppenheimer, who led the Manhattan Project to develop the first atomic bomb in the 1940s.

The Berkeley campus covers an area of more than 1,232 hectares and has numerous historic buildings in the Beaux-Arts style, as well as student dormitories and cultural facilities. The majority of students are undergraduates, which gives campus life a youthful and lively atmosphere. Sports fans can enjoy American Football or rugby. Also, the "Golden Bears" from Berkeley have won several medals in Olympic rowing competitions.

UCB Facts
Location: Berkeley, California
Founding: 1868
Students: about 45,000
Nobel Prize winners*: 99
Famous graduates: Robert McNamara, Jennifer Granholm, Earl Warren, Jack London
Tuition fees**: about $ 46,000
The American Dream recommends:

Studying in the USA is not a bargain. However, the amount of tuition fees depends not only on the type of university but also on whether you are enrolled as an out-of-state or in-state student. As a Green Card holder, you are not only allowed to live and study in the USA indefinitely, but you also have an advantageous in-state status, which can save you up to 80 % on tuition fees!

Every year, the US government gives away 55,000 of the popular Green Cards to America lovers from all over the world through the Green Card Lottery.

Learn everything about the Green Card Lottery

#5. University of Chicago

The University of Chicago

Geographically largely isolated from the renowned universities on the East Coast, the University of Chicago has established itself as one of the best universities in the USA. Over the years, its research has consistently differentiated and distinguished itself from Ivy League universities through individual approaches.

Chicago University enjoys an excellent reputation, especially in the fields of economics, sociology, law, and literature. Furthermore, the university is characterized by great internationality, as 25 % of the students come from abroad.

The Chicago campus offers a colorful mix of over 400 associations in sports, arts, culture, and religion. Most famous are the student film society "Doc Films" and the bowling team, which has won numerous national championships. The sports teams of the University of Chicago are called "Maroons."

University of Chicago facts
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Founding: 1890
Students: about 16,400
Nobel Prize winners*: 100
Famous graduates Milton Friedman, Carl Sagan, David Rockefeller, Bernie Sanders
Tuition fees**: about $ 67,000

#6. University of Pennsylvania

The University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia

The University of Pennsylvania, also known as Penn or UPenn, was founded in 1740 by none other than Benjamin Franklin. His goal was to ensure the education of future generations in the arts, sciences as well as in practical skills.

Today, UPenn still maintains a strong focus on interdisciplinary learning and stands out from other universities by offering many unique courses, dual degree programs, and a high level of academic flexibility. UPenn even provides online study programs through the Penn State World Campus.

The University of Pennsylvania proudly claims that an above-average number of its graduates hold positions as CEOs or executives in Fortune 500 companies. Thanks to the variety of opportunities and good career prospects, UPenn is highly sought after among college applicants, and there is extremely fierce competition for admission.

Those who make it to college get to call the University Park campus in West Philadelphia their new home, where most of UPenn's research institutes are located. Students have access to several cultural centers, museums, restaurants, bars, and even a movie theater. The "Penn Quakers" teams compete in 33 sports, including fencing, basketball, lacrosse, and rowing.

University of Pennsylvania facts
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Founding: 1740
Students: about 28,000
Nobel Prize winners*: 36
Famous graduates: William Harry Harrison, Donald Trump, Noam Chomsky, Elon Musk
Tuition fees**: about $ 66,000

#7. Cornell University

Princeton University in New Jersey

In the heart of the idyllic Finger Lakes region in New York State stretches the campus of Cornell University. Here, co-founder Ezra Cornell wanted to establish a university in which "every person can be taught every subject." Accordingly, the subjects of study offered at Cornell University are diverse. The university has always been open to students of all backgrounds and interested in new disciplines. For example, Cornell was the first American college to teach modern Far Eastern languages.

Student life can be enjoyed at Cornell University! Not only does the main campus on East Hill in Ithaca offer a magnificent view of the entire city and Cayuga Lake, the surrounding region is also filled with natural beauty. Lakes, green spaces, and forests invite you to sail, hike, and relax. There are also numerous cafes, restaurants, bars, and more on and around the Cornell campus.

Sports enthusiasts and nature-loving students can choose from activities like cave explorations, rope climbing, skateboarding, and fitness. "Cornell Big Red" teams compete in 36 sports with other Ivy League members.

Cornell University facts
Location: Ithaca, New York
Founding: 1865
Students: about 25,600
Nobel Prize winners*: 61
Famous graduates: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anthony Fauci, Tsai Ing-wen, Christopher Reeve
Tuition fees**: about $ 66,000

#8. California Institute of Technology

California Institute of Technology

With only 2,400 students, the California Institute of Technology, or in short Caltech, is extremely small compared to its big rival MIT. But research at the technical university in Pasadena is academically highly productive. Around 300 professors provide intensive support for students, who are mainly in postgraduate studies.

The California Institute of Technology prioritizes courses in the natural sciences of biology, physics, and chemistry, as well as engineering and medicine. Caltech is also known for its achievements in space exploration. For example, the university houses the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where space probes from NASA are monitored.

The Caltech campus is located in close proximity to Old Town Pasadena and the lively Pasadena Playhouse District. Also, there is no shortage of recreational activities and events on the campus itself. Music, theater, and fine arts are as much a part of students' daily lives as the 13 competitive sports in which the "Caltech Beavers" teams compete.

Caltech facts
Location: Pasadena, California
Founding: 1891
Students: about 2,400
Nobel Prize winners*: 76
Famous graduates: Howard Hughes, William Shockley, John McCarthy, Harrison Schmitt
Tuition fees**: about $ 63,000

#9. Yale University

Yale University in New Haven

If you get accepted at Yale University, you're in for a great career. Yales's graduates include five US presidents, 19 Supreme Court justices, and numerous foreign heads of state. Samuel F. B. Morse, the inventor of the Morse code, former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and current Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen, also graduated from Yale.

The university is world-famous for its renowned Yale Law School, which is considered the most selective law faculty in the United States. Equally outstanding is the library system of the Yale University Library, which today comprises nearly 15 million volumes distributed over 15 university buildings.

Picturesque New Haven offers students the perfect balance to everyday college life. The city and the Yale campus are filled with museums, galleries, and public art. In addition, there are the Yale Cabaret, the student-run theater-restaurant, and top-notch sports programs, including tennis, polo, sailing, and more. Teams from the "Yale Bulldogs" have won national championships in golf, swimming, and fencing.

Yale facts
Location: New Haven, Connecticut
Founding: 1701
Students: about 12,000
Nobel Prize winners*: 65
Famous graduates: William Howard Taft, Bill Clinton, George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush
Tuition fees**: about $ 65,000

#10. Princeton University

Princeton University in New Jersey

Just a few miles from New York City, the quiet little town of Princeton is filled with the ivy-covered historic faculty buildings of America's fourth-oldest university. Princeton University is best known today as the academic haven of Albert Einstein, who researched and taught here at the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS).

Princeton's educational focus is on the social sciences, the humanities, the natural sciences, and engineering. The university is also famous for beautiful green spaces, an abundance of neo-Gothic style buildings, and the Lewis Library designed by star architect Frank Gehry. Convenient: The "Dinky Shuttle" shuttle trains run between Princeton, Philadelphia and New York City every hour.

At Princeton University, students benefit from a vibrant campus community and a variety of academic, social, and cultural programs. Opportunities to get involved while studying are many and diverse, ranging from writing literary publications to beekeeping to singing in the a capella choir. In terms of sports, the consistently strong lacrosse teams of the "Princeton Tigers" are a major highlight.

Princeton University facts
Location: Princeton, New Jersey
Founding: 1746
Students: about 7,900
Nobel Prize winners*: 69
Famous graduates: James Madison, Woodrow Wilson, Michelle Obama, Jeff Bezos
Tuition fees**: about $ 66,000

More USA tips

Would you like to learn even more about outstanding achievements and records in America? Follow us to the 10 most livable cities or the 10 most visited national parks in the USA!

*Total number of Nobel Prize winners associated with the university (both faculty and alumni)
** Out-of-State-Student, Undergraduate

Green Card Lottery

Win one of 55,000 Green Cards in the official Green Card Lottery of the US authorities!