The 20 Best Colleges in Massachusetts

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New England weather is mercurial, but Massachusetts remains home to some of the world’s finest academic institutions. Between top-ranking liberal arts colleges (LACs) and internationally acclaimed universities, the Bay State has it all! Most schools are located near the state capital of Boston, which hosts ~250,000 students across 40+ universities and colleges, but don’t discount the rural regions—many of the nation’s greatest LACs are just a few hours west. Keep reading to learn more about the 20 best colleges in Massachusetts.

 

Our Ranking Methodology

 

Below is a list of the 20 best colleges in Massachusetts. The list was constructed with a focus on school quality, outcomes, and return on investment, along with considering a host of other factors such as retention rate, selectivity, endowment per student, student-faculty ratio, median earnings, and cost of attendance. You can find CollegeVine’s rankings in their entirety here.

 

The 20 Best Colleges in Massachusetts

 

1. Harvard University 

 

Location: Cambridge, MA

Acceptance Rate: 3.4%

Middle 50% SAT: 1460-1580

Middle 50% ACT: 33-35

Undergraduate Enrollment: 5,222

 

The oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and a brand name worldwide, Harvard is located in Cambridge—right across the river from Boston—and just a mile down the road from MIT. Undergraduates choose from 50 concentrations (majors) and devote a third of their college coursework to distribution requirements, with opportunities to take graduate-level courses and cross-register at neighboring schools. Harvard also has the largest endowment of any academic institution in the country, not to mention a record-breaking roster of famous alumni. 

 

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

 

2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

 

Location: Cambridge, MA

Acceptance Rate: 4.1%

Middle 50% SAT: 1510-1570 

Middle 50% ACT: 34-36

Undergraduate Enrollment: 4,361

 

With an unparalleled history of contributions to modern science and technology, MIT leads at the cutting edge of innovation and entrepreneurship worldwide. Undergraduates choose from 54 majors and complete a core curriculum of General Institute Requirements (GIRs), including eight semesters of courses in the humanities, arts, and social sciences. The vast majority of students also take graduate-level courses and participate in the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP). Expect a grueling workload alongside hacks, pranks, and tomfoolery. 

 

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

 

3. Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering

 

Location: Needham, MA

Acceptance Rate: 17.9%

Middle 50% SAT: 1500-1550

Middle 50% ACT: 34-35

Undergraduate Enrollment: 382

 

Founded recently in 1997, Olin has quickly risen to the top as one of the best engineering schools in the country. With a highly interdisciplinary and project-based curriculum, students can major in engineering (with concentration options like bioengineering, design, and robotics), electrical and computer engineering, or mechanical engineering. Culture is ruled by collaboration and the honor code. Cross-registration opportunities exist at neighboring Babson and Wellesley Colleges as part of the BOW Three College Collaboration. 

 

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

 

4. Williams College

 

Location: Williamstown, MA

Acceptance Rate: 15%

Middle 50% SAT: 1430-1540

Middle 50%ACT: 33-35

Undergraduate Enrollment: 1,962

 

Williams consistently ranks among the top LACs in the nation and hosts the most successful Division III program nationwide. Students enjoy Oxford-style tutorials across 36 majors and unique study-abroad opportunities due to a special relationship with Exeter College, Oxford. Williams may be ~160 miles from Boston, but it remains the “West Point of Wall Street” thanks to numerous alumni in finance. A particular strength in art history has also produced the deeply influential “Williams Art Mafia.”

 

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

 

5. Amherst College

 

Location: Amherst, MA

Acceptance Rate: 12%

Middle 50% SAT: 1410-1530

Middle 50% ACT: 31-33

Undergraduate Enrollment: 1,745

 

One of the top LACs in the country, Amherst is a member of the Five College Consortium and offers an open curriculum, allowing students to choose coursework free of distribution or core requirements. Double majors and interdisciplinary studies are accordingly commonplace, along with cross-registration opportunities at other consortium colleges. Alumni participation rates are among the highest in the country, with nearly half donating annually. Amherst also enjoys a rivalry with (relatively) nearby Williams and Wesleyan Colleges, making up the “Little Three.” 

 

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

 

6. Wellesley College

 

Location: Wellesley, MA

Acceptance Rate: 16%

Middle 50% SAT: 1370-1510

Middle 50% ACT: 31-34

Undergraduate Enrollment: 2,280

 

A historically women’s college just 12 miles away from Boston, Wellesley is one of the top LACs in the country and a member of the Seven Sisters. Economics, computer science, and political science lead the pack of 50+ majors, alongside cross-registration opportunities and double-degree programs with MIT and Olin. Besides a postcard-perfect campus, Wellesley boasts the largest endowment of any historically women’s college in the country and a famous alumni roster that includes Hillary Clinton, Madeleine Albright, and Madame Chiang Kai-Shek. 

 

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

 

7. Tufts University 

 

Location: Medford, MA

Acceptance Rate: 11%

Middle 50% SAT: 1400-1510

Middle 50% ACT: 32-35

Undergraduate Enrollment: 6,114

 

With over 200 programs across nine schools in the Boston area, Tufts is famous for its internationalist focus and emphasis on civic engagement. Besides hosting an array of study-abroad programs and the nation’s oldest graduate school of international relations, entering freshmen may participate in Tufts Civic Semester or Tufts 1+4, doing a service semester or year in a foreign country before starting at Tufts. Students also enjoy a wealth of research and extracurricular opportunities, along with easy access to Boston via the T. 

 

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

 

8. Smith College

 

Location: Northampton, MA

Acceptance Rate: 36%

Middle 50% SAT: 1350-1490

Middle 50% ACT: 31-34

Undergraduate Enrollment: 2,183

 

A member of both the Seven Sisters and the Five College Consortium, Smith offers incredible academic freedom thanks to an open curriculum and plentiful cross-registration opportunities. Besides 41 departments overseeing 50+ undergraduate majors, Smith’s graduate programs enroll applicants of all genders. Also the first historically women’s college to offer an engineering degree and join the NCAA, famous Smith alumni include Margaret Mitchell, Nancy Reagen, and Sylvia Plath. 

 

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

 

9. Boston College

 

Location: Chestnut Hill, MA

Acceptance Rate: 26%

Middle 50% SAT: 1410-1520

Middle 50% ACT: 33-35

Undergraduate Enrollment: 9,445 

 

“College” might be in the name, but don’t let that fool you! BC is actually a Jesuit research university with eight colleges and schools, conferring bachelor’s through doctoral degrees to over 14,000 students annually. The Chestnut Hill campus is a historic district featuring some of the country’s earliest Gothic architecture and has its own train stop on the MBTA’s Green Line, allowing students easy access into Boston proper. Division I athletics and an emphasis on service characterize the campus culture. 

 

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

 

10. Boston University

 

Location: Boston, MA

Acceptance Rate: 20%

Middle 50% SAT: 1340-1460

Middle 50% ACT: 30-34

Undergraduate Enrollment: 16,872

 

BU consists of 17 schools and colleges across three campuses, offering 300+ programs of study to undergraduates alone. Despite the large student population, the student-faculty ratio remains at an impressive 10:1 with an average class size of 27. Students may join BA/MA programs and take graduate-level courses, along with a required series of general education requirements known as BU Hub. You’ll also find Division I athletics and plentiful research opportunities at this prime location in the heart of Boston.  

 

Learn more about Boston University and what it takes to get accepted.

 

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11. Babson College

 

Location: Babson Park, MA

Acceptance Rate: 27%

Middle 50% SAT:

Middle 50% ACT: 1340-1490/30-33

Undergraduate Enrollment: 2,300

 

Ranked #1 for entrepreneurship in the country, Babson boasts both undergraduate and graduate schools of business just 15 miles west of Boston. All undergraduates earn a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration, selecting from 27 concentrations in fields like accounting, finance, and operations management. The yearlong Foundations of Management and Entrepreneurship course allows students to start a business in their first year of college, and Babson’s collaboration arrangement (nicknamed BOW) with neighboring Olin and Wellesley Colleges allows for ample cross-registration opportunities. 

 

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

 

12. College of the Holy Cross (Holy Cross)

 

Location: Worcester, MA

Acceptance Rate: 38%

Middle 50% SAT: 1300-1410

Middle 50% ACT: 29-32

Undergraduate Enrollment: 2,997

 

In addition to being one of the best colleges in Massachusetts, Holy Cross is one of the most prestigious Jesuit Colleges in the country and the only Jesuit school to focus entirely on undergraduate education. Holy Cross is located in Worcester, the second-largest city in Massachusetts and a sneaky-good college town (the city is home to eight colleges). Students at Holy Cross are afforded easy access to a variety of cultural and entertainment opportunities in town and Boston is just 60 miles away—a short drive or train ride—for those looking for a big city experience. 

 

Learn more about Holy Cross and what it takes to get accepted.

 

13. Mount Holyoke College

 

Location: South Hadley, MA

Acceptance Rate: 52.4%

Middle 50% SAT: 1320-1450

Middle 50% ACT: 27-30

Undergraduate Enrollment: 1,915

 

One of the Seven Sisters, Mount Holyoke is a prestigious LAC that welcomes female, transgender, and non-binary students and is founded on a belief grounded in the conviction that women can—and should—make a difference in the world. Despite the absence of students who identify as male, Mount Holyoke is home to an extremely diverse student body—roughly one in four students are international citizens and about one in four domestic students identify as a person of color (African American, Asian American, Latinx, Native American or Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, or multiracial). 

 

Learn more about Mount Holyoke and what it takes to get accepted.

 

14. Northeastern University (NU)

 

Location: Boston, MA

Acceptance Rate: 20%

Middle 50% SAT: 1430-1540

Middle 50% ACT: 33-35

Undergraduate Enrollment: 19,004

 

Northeastern is home to one of the oldest, best, and widest-ranging co-op programs in the country—an educational approach that blends classroom learning with paid on-the-job learning. Northeastern’s co-op program dates back to 1909 and more than 90% of graduates do at least one co-op. Co-op is expansive at Northeastern and includes opportunities in 148 countries across the globe. Gaining work experience while in college pays off for Northeastern grads—93% of NU graduates are employed or enrolled in graduate school nine months after graduation and NU ranks 175th (out of 1,978) on Payscale’s list of best value colleges. 

 

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

 

15. Brandeis University 

 

Location: Waltham, MA

Acceptance Rate: 33%

Middle 50% SAT: 1350-1470

Middle 50% ACT: 31-33

Undergraduate Enrollment: 3,493

 

Brandeis is rooted in Jewish history, experience, and values—it’s named after Louis Dembitz Brandeis, the first Jewish U.S. Supreme Court justice. That said, Brandeis is committed to inclusivity and welcomes students from all backgrounds, cultures, and religions. Just 31% of students identify their religion as Jewish, while 40% describe themselves as atheist, agnostic, or nothing in particular. Brandeis’s suburban 235-acre campus is located just outside of Boston, where students will find everything from world-class museums and dining to pro sports to a wide range of employment opportunities.  

 

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

 

16. Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) 

 

Location: Worcester, MA

Acceptance Rate: 59%

Middle 50% SAT: 1320-1450

Middle 50% ACT: 29-33

Undergraduate Enrollment: 4,892

 

A little over 50 years ago, WPI introduced the WPI plan, a refocusing of traditional technological education to a student-centered, project-based approach to learning. The WPI plan utilizes seven-week terms (four in the academic year and two over the summer) which allow students to take fewer courses at a time and study more in-depth. At the core of a WPI education are projects—at any given time, almost everybody on campus (including faculty) is working on at least one project. One thing that’s undeniable about the WPI plan is that it pays. WPI ranks 27th on Payscale’s best value colleges—two spots ahead of UPenn. 

 

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

 

17. Bentley University 

 

Location: Waltham, MA

Acceptance Rate: N/A

Middle 50% SAT: 1200-1350

Middle 50% ACT: 26-31

Undergraduate Enrollment: 4,061

 

One of the best colleges for business in New England, Bentley University offers 13 unique business majors ranging from Accountancy to Quantitative Economics. Bentley has its own trading room, and a student-run organization—The Bentley Investment Group (BIG)—manages a portion of the university’s endowment. Outside of business, Bentley also offers 13 majors in traditional arts and sciences such as English, History, and Philosophy. 

 

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

 

18. Emerson College 

 

Location: Boston, MA

Acceptance Rate: 40%

Middle 50% SAT: 1220-1380

Middle 50% ACT: 27-32

Undergraduate Enrollment: 3,813

 

Located in Boston’s theatre district, with campuses in Los Angeles and the Netherlands, Emerson is a liberal arts college devoted to communication and the arts. Emerson offers 25  majors, including:

 

  • Business of Creative Enterprise 
  • Comedic Arts
  • Journalism
  • Musical Theatre 
  • Sports Communication 

 

Emerson is home to its own student-run radio station, WERS, as well as Ploughshares, one of the country’s most renowned literary magazines.  

 

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

 

19. The University of Massachusetts – Amherst (UMass Amherst)

 

Location: Amherst, MA

Acceptance Rate: 65%

Middle 50% SAT: 1210-1370

Middle 50% ACT: 27-32

Undergraduate Enrollment: 24,233

 

UMass Amherst is the flagship of the Massachusetts University System. Founded as an agricultural school in the 1860s, today UMass Amherst offers almost 90 majors, ranging from Afro-American Studies to Veterinary Technology. UMass is a member of the Five College Consortium, which enables its students to take classes at four nearby liberal arts colleges—Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, and Smith Colleges—all of which count themselves among the best colleges in Massachusetts.  

 

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

 

20. Clark University 

 

Location: Worcester, MA

Acceptance Rate: 47%

Middle 50% SAT: 1160-1360

Middle 50% ACT: 27-32

Undergraduate Enrollment: 2,241 

 

Founded in 1887 as the first all-graduate institution in the country, it wasn’t until 1902 that undergraduates were welcomed at Clark. President Theodore Roosevelt delivered Clark’s first undergraduate commencement address in 1905—conferring 43 degrees. Today, Clark University delivers a rigorous liberal arts curriculum and offers more than 30 majors ranging from Ancient Civilization to Urban Studies. 

 

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

 

What Are Your Chances of Acceptance?

 

Massachusetts has no shortage of excellent schools. All of the colleges listed above are very selective and CollegeVine encourages you to build a balanced school list while shooting for the stars. Our free chancing engine can help you build your college list. It will calculate your chances of admission based on academic and extracurricular profiles, along with offering application tips. 

 

You may also have noticed that many LACs appeared on this list. If you’re interested in learning about similar institutions, take a look at the Top 10 Liberal Arts Colleges in New England.


Short Bio
A graduate of Northeastern University with a degree in English, Tim Peck currently lives in Concord, New Hampshire, where he balances a freelance writing career with the needs of his two Australian Shepherds to play outside.

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