Lily Fang 7 min read 11th Grade, 12th Grade, School Rankings

15 Best Colleges for History Majors

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Studying history in college prepares students to think critically, conduct original research, and write effectively. These skills prepare you for a broad range of careers beyond academia, including business, government, law, marketing, and finance.

 

In this post, you’ll find a ranked list of the best colleges for history majors, what’s unique about each school’s history department, and what it takes to get into these colleges. See the complete list of top schools for history majors.

 

Top 15 Best Colleges for History Majors

 

Click on the school to jump to a description of its history department.

 

School Name Location Acceptance Rate (2019) Middle 50% SAT Scores Middle 50% ACT Scores
1. Amherst College Amherst, MA 11.3% 1420-1530 31-34
2. Princeton University Princeton, NJ 5.8% 1460-1570 33-35
3. Williams College Williamstown, MA 12.6% 1420-1540 32-35
4. Swarthmore College Swarthmore, PA 8.9% 1380-1530 31-35
5. Yale University New Haven, CT 6.1% 1470-1560 33-35
6. Harvard University Cambridge, MA 4.5% 1460-1580 33-35
7. University of Chicago Chicago, IL 6.2% 1500-1560 33-35
8. Wellesley College Wellesley, MA 21.6% 1370-1510 31-34
9. Northwestern University Evanston, IL 9.1% 1450-1540 33-35
10. Pomona College Claremont, CA 7.4% 1410-1530 32-35
11. Stanford University Stanford, CA 4.3% 1440-1550 32-35
12. UC Berkeley Berkeley, CA 16.8% 1350-1540 30-35
13. Oberlin College Oberlin, OH 40.2%
(non-conservatory);
27.5% for conservatory
students
1340-1530 31-34
14. Brown University Providence, RI 7.1% 1440-1550 32-35
15. Scripps College Claremont, CA 32.0% 1330-1470 30-33

1. Amherst College

Location: Amherst, MA

Acceptance Rate: 11.3%

Total Undergrad Enrollment: 1,855

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1420-1530 SAT, 30-34 ACT

 

Amherst College is a top liberal arts college in Western Massachusetts with an open curriculum, meaning that there are no general education requirements. As long as students fulfill their major requirements, they can take whatever courses they like. History majors at Amherst must complete nine courses spread across different timelines and geographic areas. They must also complete a research seminar course culminating in a 20-25 page research paper.

 

Learn more about Amherst College and what it takes to get accepted.

 

2. Princeton University

Location: Princeton, NJ

Acceptance Rate: 5.8%

Total Undergrad Enrollment: 5,267

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1460-1570 SAT, 33-35 ACT

 

Ivy League Princeton is one of the most prestigious schools in the nation, and is just an hour outside of NYC. Princeton approaches history from an interdisciplinary and research-based perspective. The Princeton History department maintains close ties with other programs, such as Gender & Sexuality Studies and Hellenic Studies. Princeton history students must also complete two Junior Papers and a senior thesis.

 

Learn more about Princeton and what it takes to get accepted.

 

3. Williams College

Location: Williamstown, MA

Acceptance Rate: 12.6%

Total Undergrad Enrollment: 2,073

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1420-1540 SAT, 32-35 ACT

 

Williams College is located in rural Western Massachusetts, and is one of the best liberal arts colleges in the U.S. The college is known for its tutorial-style classes, which are modeled off of the tutorial system at the University of Oxford. In these classes, there are only two students with one professor, and much of the coursework is done independently. History majors at Williams are required to take at least one advanced tutorial or advanced seminar. They are also encouraged to design their own concentration within the major, develop proficiency in a foreign language, and study abroad.

 

Learn more about Williams and what it takes to get accepted.

 

4. Swarthmore College

Location: Swarthmore, PA

Acceptance Rate: 8.9%

Total Undergrad Enrollment: 1,559

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1380-1540 SAT, 31-35 ACT

 

Located just 30 minutes from Philly, Swarthmore is another top liberal arts college. The school is part of the Tri-College and Quaker Consortiums, allowing Swatties to also take classes at Haverford College, Bryn Mawr College, and the University of Pennsylvania. 

 

History students at Swarthmore have access to the rich historical institutions in Philadelphia, as well as the college’s own collections, which feature Quaker history and antiwar materials. The department offers grants that allow students to conduct summer research around the world on a topic of their choosing. History majors are also encouraged to study a foreign language and to study abroad.

 

Learn more about Swarthmore and what it takes to get accepted.

 

5. Yale University

Location: New Haven, CT

Acceptance Rate: 6.1% 

Total Undergrad Enrollment: 5,964

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1470-1560 SAT, 33-35 ACT

 

Yale is an extremely prestigious Ivy League school located between Boston and NYC. The History department at Yale boasts exceptionally accomplished faculty who have won awards such as the Pulitzer Prize, National Humanities Medal, and National Book Award. Students can choose between a “Global” or “Specialist” track, and all must complete a one- or two-semester Senior Essay. Standout students may also be eligible for a combined B.A./M.A. degree in History after only eight semesters of study.

 

Learn more about Yale and what it takes to get accepted.

 

6. Harvard University

Location: Cambridge, MA

Acceptance Rate: 4.5%

Total Undergrad Enrollment: 6,788

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1460-1580 SAT, 33-35 ACT

 

Harvard is one of the most selective and best-known colleges around the world. The school is located right next to Boston, Massachusetts, a city full of history and historical resources. Havard’s History department offers joint concentrations (majors) in topics such as History & Anthropology and East Asian History. Courses are also organized into clusters, based on theme and career preparation. About 25% of Harvard History majors go on to careers in business, with 25% in law school, 10% to PhD programs, and 10% to government or the public sector. A large percentage of History students also study abroad.

 

Learn more about Harvard and what it takes to get accepted.

 

7. University of Chicago

Location: Chicago, IL

Acceptance Rate: 6.2%

Total Undergrad Enrollment: 6,552

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1500-1560 SAT, 33-35 ACT

 

UChicago is a top school often characterized by its quirky and intellectual student body. History majors at UChicago can choose among three tracks: research, capstone, or colloquium. Those in the colloquium track must write an original research paper of 15 pages, while those in the research track must complete a senior thesis of 40-50 pages. Students in the colloquium track may present their research however they wish, such as a documentary, podcast, or work of historical fiction.

 

Learn more about UChicago and what it takes to get accepted.

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8. Wellesley College

Location: Wellesley, MA

Acceptance Rate: 21.6%

Total Undergrad Enrollment: 2,534

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1370-1510 SAT, 31-34 ACT

 

Wellesley is the most selective all-women’s college in the country, and is just half an hour from downtown Boston. At this liberal arts college, History majors must complete nine required courses. Students are encouraged to gain a breadth of knowledge, but also to eventually specialize in a geographical area, time period, historical approach, or historical theme. There is also an interdepartmental degree in International Relations and History for interested students.

 

Learn more about Wellesley and what it takes to get accepted.

 

9. Northwestern University

Location: Evanston, IL

Acceptance Rate: 9.1%

Total Undergrad Enrollment: 8,231

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1450-1540 SAT, 33-35 ACT

 

Located just 30 minutes from Chicago, Northwestern is a top research university and member of the Big 10. History majors at Northwestern can choose between a Geographic or Global History concentration. The university has several grants for students to conduct original research during the summer or academic year, and has funding for students to present their work at professional conferences. Northwestern History majors end up in a variety of sectors, with 22% in communications, 17% in government/non-profit, 14% in business, 12% in law, and 10% in teaching.

 

Learn more about Northwestern and what it takes to get accepted.

 

10. Pomona College

Location: Claremont, CA

Acceptance Rate: 7.4%

Total Undergrad Enrollment: 1,679

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1410-1530 SAT, 32-35 ACT

 

A member of the Claremont College Consortium, Pomona is a highly-selective liberal arts college. The Pomona History department requires students to specialize and complete a senior thesis, but to also gain an understanding of both western and non-western history. Current students at Pomona say that studying history at the college is “as much about intellectual curiosity as it is about personal responsibility to learn about histories of oppression and resistance.” Pomona has a handful of research grants that allow History majors to conduct research abroad, or domestically.

 

Learn more about Pomona and what it takes to get accepted.

 

11. Stanford University

Location: Stanford, CA

Acceptance Rate: 4.3% 

Total Undergrad Enrollment: 7,087

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1440-1550 SAT, 32-35 ACT

 

Located in sunny California, Stanford is one of the hardest colleges to get into. Its history department offers six pathways, including: 

 

  • General History
  • Global Affairs and World History
  • History, Philosophy, and the Arts
  • History of Science and Medicine
  • Public History/Public Service
  • History and Law

 

There is also a Computer Science + History joint program that is currently not accepting new majors. History majors at Stanford have access to resources such as internship funding up to $2,000 and a student-run history-focused journal.

 

Learn more about Stanford and what it takes to get accepted.

 

12. UC Berkeley

Location: Berkeley, CA

Acceptance Rate: 16.8%

Total Undergrad Enrollment: 30,853

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1350-1540 SAT, 30-35 ACT

 

UC Berkeley is a top public university with an extensive history department, which covers almost all of recorded history and spans cultures across the world. History students at Berkeley must declare a field of concentration and have the freedom to define it themselves. They may also participate in an independent study project under the supervision of a professor.

 

Learn more about UC Berkeley and what it takes to get accepted.

 

13. Oberlin College

Location: Oberlin, OH

Acceptance Rate: 40.2% non-conservatory, 27.5% conservatory

Total Undergrad Enrollment: 2,785

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1340-1530 SAT, 31-34 ACT

 

Oberlin is a liberal arts college in Ohio best-known for its conservatory of music. Its academics are also rigorous, however, and the Oberlin department of history is no exception. History majors have the opportunity to participate in the History Design Lab, where students, faculty, and staff collaborate on original research projects. Projects often go outside a standard research paper to develop creative solutions for questions about history.

 

Learn more about Oberlin and what it takes to get accepted.

 

14. Brown University

Location: Providence, RI

Acceptance Rate: 7.1%

Total Undergrad Enrollment: 7,043

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1440-1550 SAT, 32-35 ACT

 

Brown is an Ivy League school just an hour from Boston. It’s one of the only research universities to have an open curriculum, meaning that students have no required courses outside their majors. 

 

History majors at Brown must take courses across time periods and geographic areas, while also choosing a field of focus. Students must also complete a capstone seminar. Those interested in publishing or reviewing historical essays can participate in the Brown Journal of History, a double-blind, peer-reviewed history journal. After Brown, 29% of students go on to careers in education & advocacy, 27% to finance/business/consulting, 15% to grad school (not law or STEM), and 10% to law. 

 

Learn more about Brown and what it takes to get accepted.

 

15. Scripps College

Location: Claremont, CA

Acceptance Rate: 32.0%

Total Undergrad Enrollment: 1,048

Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1330-1470 SAT, 30-33 ACT

 

Scripps is a tight-knit all-women’s college that’s part of the Claremont Consortium. History majors at Scripps have the freedom to define their own concentration. Research is foundational to the history major, as all students must write a research paper separate from their required senior thesis (all Scripps students must write a thesis). 

 

Learn more about Scripps and what it takes to get accepted.

 

There are many more schools that are great for history majors. See the complete list of best colleges for history.

 

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Lily Fang
Blog Editor at CollegeVine
Short bio
Lily Fang is 2018 grad of Amherst College with a degree in math and French. She has called three countries “home”: the U.S., France, and England. In her spare time, she trains for marathons and writes for her travel and running blog.