What are your chances of acceptance?

Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
Duke University
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

The 20 Best Colleges in the South

Do you know how to improve your profile for college applications?

See how your profile ranks among thousands of other students using CollegeVine. Calculate your chances at your dream schools and learn what areas you need to improve right now — it only takes 3 minutes and it's 100% free.

Show me what areas I need to improve

What’s Covered:


Temperate weather, southern hospitality, and gorgeous landscapes encompassing everything from sandy beaches to pastoral countryside to rugged mountains are just a few reasons why people love the South. Another reason: the region’s schools, which include a handful of CollegeVine’s best public schools along with a collection of prestigious institutions known as the “Southern Ivies.”


Our Ranking Methodology


Below is a list of the 20 best colleges in the South. The list was constructed with a focus on school quality, outcomes, and return on investment (ROI), 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


20 Best Colleges in the South


1. Duke University 


Location: Durham, NC

Acceptance Rate: 4.3% (Regular Decision) 

Middle 50% SAT: 1480-1570

Middle 50% ACT: 33-35  

Undergrad Enrollment: 6,994


Rigorous academics, a well-known study abroad program, and incredible access to the “Research Triangle” (a geographic area home to Duke, North Carolina State University, and UNC-Chapel Hill, along with a variety of prominent businesses) is appealing to many high schoolers hopeful to attend Duke. Another draw is the university’s basketball team. The Blue Devils are the fourth-winningest men’s basketball team and have taken home five NCAA championships. The rivalry on the court between Duke and UNC-Chapel Hill (winner of six NCAA championships) has become one of the best in college sports. 


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


2. Rice University


Location: Houston, TX

Acceptance Rate: 9.3% 

Middle 50% SAT: 1460-1570

Middle 50% ACT: 34-36 

Undergrad Enrollment: 4,076 


Located in Houston, Texas, the most diverse city in the U.S., it comes as no surprise that Rice University is home to one of the most diverse student bodies in the country—USA Today ranks the university 23rd on its list of inclusive student bodies. Helping the school attract students from across the U.S. and globe, and making it one of the best colleges in the South, is its generous financial aid policy. Rice practices need-blind admissions and meets 100% of demonstrated need for domestic applicants. The school is need-aware for international applicants but will also meet 100% of their demonstrated need.  


Another factor keeping college affordable and accessible is Rice’s OpenStax Program, an initiative based at the university to create peer-reviewed, openly licensed textbooks, which are available in free digital formats. 


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


3. Vanderbilt University 


Location: Nashville, TN

Acceptance Rate: 10% 

Middle 50% SAT: 1470-1570

Middle 50% ACT: 33-35 

Undergrad Enrollment: 7,057

A Vanderbilt education is best described as excellent, affordable, and accessible. The university’s reputation for academic excellence is well deserved and it is commonly grouped among a collection of prestigious colleges in the southern U.S. known as the “Southern Ivies.” Helping Vanderbilt remain affordable and accessible are its student-friendly admissions and financial aid policies. For domestic students, Vanderbilt is need-blind, meets 100% of demonstrated need, and does not include loans in its financial aid packages.


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


4. Washington & Lee University


Location: Lexington, VA

Acceptance Rate: 24.5%

Middle 50% SAT: 1350-1500

Middle 50% ACT: 32-34

Undergrad Enrollment: 1,822


One of the defining traits of Washington & Lee University is its unique academic calendar, which is divided into two 13-week terms and an immersive four-week Spring Term. Spring Term provides students the opportunity to explore a topic in depth—they can choose from roughly 200 courses both on campus and abroad—and work hand-in-hand with their peers and professors. 


It’s hard to have a discussion about Washington & Lee University without mentioning its name: the school is named after Geroge Washington and Robert E. Lee—both of whom were slave owners and one the commander of the Confederate States Army—which is problematic for numerous reasons. Despite the controversy surrounding the university’s namesakes, it voted to keep the institution’s name as it is as recently as June 2021.  


Learn more about Washington & Lee University and what it takes to get accepted.


5. Emory University 


Location: Atlanta, GA

Acceptance Rate: 19.2% 

Middle 50% SAT: 1400-1510 

Middle 50% ACT: 31-34 

Undergrad Enrollment: 7,010


Emory offers its students the unique opportunity to attend both a small liberal arts college and a major metropolitan university. The university’s Oxford College, in Oxford, Georgia, (about 45 minutes from Atlanta) is a liberal-arts-focused two-year residential college known for its small class sizes and close student-faculty relationships where Emory freshmen and sophomores can begin their college careers. After two years at Oxford College, students head to the university’s main campus for their junior and senior years.   


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


6. Davidson College


Location: Davidson, NC

Acceptance Rate: 25% 

Middle 50% SAT: 1310-1460

Middle 50% ACT: 1290-1460/30-33 

Undergrad Enrollment: 1,983


Davidson’s Honor Code is at the foundation of everything from the classroom to campus life, and is one reason the school is among the best colleges in the South. The Honor Code dates back to the school’s founding in 1837 and every Davidson student agrees in writing to abide by it; in turn, there is a deep trust between students, staff, and faculty. Take-home and self-proctored tests are prevalent, as are efforts to reunite found belongings to the students who have lost them.  


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


7. University of North Carolina (UNC) Chapel Hill


Location: Chapel Hill, NC

Acceptance Rate: 23.5% 

Middle 50% SAT: 1270-1446

Middle 50% ACT: 27-33 

Undergrad Enrollment: 19,355 


UNC has earned a reputation as one of the finest public universities in the nation and one of the best colleges in the South. UNC is often grouped among a collection of colleges known for their superb academics and sterling reputations called the “Public Ivies.” UNC’s excellence is nothing new—it has the distinction of being the U.S.’s first public university (officially holding classes in 1795) and the only one to award degrees in the 18th century. 


Learn more about UNC-Chapel Hill and what it takes to get accepted.


8. Wake Forest University 


Location: Winston Salem, NC

Acceptance Rate: 32% 

Middle 50% SAT: 1300-1460

Middle 50% ACT: 30-33 

Undergrad Enrollment: 5,441

Wake Forest’s motto is “Pro Humanitate” (For Humanity) and something the university takes very seriously—more than half of Wake Forest students actively volunteer in the community. Helping facilitate student service is the Volunteer Service Corps (VSC). Founded in 1989, the VSC is partnered with over 55 community agencies and 35 student organizations and has set the ambitious goal to recruit and place every student as a volunteer.


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


9.  University of Virginia (UVA)



Location: Charlottesville, VA 

Acceptance Rate: 20.6% 

Middle 50% SAT: 1330-1490

Middle 50% ACT: 30-34  

Undergrad Enrollment: 17,311


Thomas Jefferson has a long list of illustrious achievements: author of the Declaration of Independence, third President of the U.S., and renowned inventor, just to name a few.  Another notable accomplishment of Jefferson’s was founding UVA. Jefferson was involved in everything from planning the curriculum and hiring the faculty to designing the school’s grounds and buildings. 


An interesting remnant of Jefferson’s influence on UVA is that students are referred to as first-years, second-years, and so on, rather than freshman, sophomores, etc. This is because Jefferson believed an education at UVA is just the beginning—people never stop learning.  


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


Discover your chances at hundreds of schools

Our free chancing engine takes into account your history, background, test scores, and extracurricular activities to show you your real chances of admission—and how to improve them.

10. Tulane University  


Location: New Orleans, LA  

Acceptance Rate: 9.7% 

Middle 50% SAT: 1360-1470

Middle 50% ACT: 30-34  

Undergrad Enrollment: 7,700


Located in the heart of New Orleans, Tulane offers unrivaled access to “one best big cities in the U.S.” A melting pot of many people and cultures, New Orleans is renowned for its music, food, and events, along with all the other characteristics you expect of a major metropolis: museums, pro sports, and a major airport. Tulane is also tightly connected with the New Orleans community and was the first research university in the nation to make community service a degree requirement. Last year, Tulane students performed more than 780,000 hours of community service in New Orleans. 


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


11. University of Richmond 


Location: Richmond, VA   

Acceptance Rate: 30.9% 

Middle 50% SAT: 1290-1440

Middle 50% ACT: 30-33  

Undergrad Enrollment: 3,291


The inclusion of the University of Richmond among the best colleges in the south is in part thanks in part to programs like the “Richmond Guarantee.” The Richmond Guarantee is a commitment to every undergraduate at Richmond which makes them eligible to receive a fellowship of up to $4,000 for an unpaid or underpaid summer internship or faculty-mentored research project. Other programs at the university, like Richmond’s “Promise to Virginia” (which provides grant-based financial aid equal to full-time tuition, room, and an unlimited meal plan to Virginia residents), ensure that students of all backgrounds are represented on campus. 


Learn more about the University of Richmond and what it takes to get accepted.


12. College of William and Mary 


Location: Williamsburg, VA   

Acceptance Rate: 36.5% 

Middle 50% SAT: 1360-1520

Middle 50% ACT: 31-34  

Undergrad Enrollment: 6,543


Founded in 1693, William and Mary is the second-oldest institution of higher education in the country—it’s named after the British monarchs ruling at the time and is the first and only American institution of higher education to receive a coat of arms from the College of Heralds. Today, William and Mary maintains its traditional title of “College,” despite it actually being a highly rated research university.  


Learn more about William & Mary and what it takes to get accepted.


13. University of Florida


Location: Gainesville, FL

Acceptance Rate: 31.1% 

Middle 50% SAT: 1310-1450  

Middle 50% ACT: 29-33

Undergrad Enrollment: 34,931


When people mention the University of Florida, thoughts typically turn to sunshine, alligators, and football. However, the school is also home to the largest student-run paper in the nation, The Independent Florida Alligator. The Alligator serves a regular audience of more than 50,000 readers and its alumni are employed in newsrooms across the country and include four Pulitzer Prize winners.  


In 2019, the University of Florida was the only school in the nation on the list of top 10 baccalaureate origin institutions both for Black and Hispanic PhDs in the natural sciences and engineering.


Learn more about the University of Florida and what it takes to get accepted.


14. Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech)



Location: Atlanta, GA

Acceptance Rate: 21.3% 

Middle 50% SAT: 1380-1520

Middle 50% ACT: 31-35

Undergrad Enrollment: 16,561


Life at Georgia Tech has changed a lot since its founding as an all-male industrial school in 1885. For example, the school’s inaugural class of 84 male students has grown to 16,000 undergraduates today, and in 1890, the first two engineers to receive their degrees from the school flipped a coin for the honor of going first. Despite not admitting women until 1952, females now make up over 30% of the student population.   


Learn more about the Georgia Institute of Technology and what it takes to get accepted.


15. University of Texas – Austin 


Location: Austin, TX

Acceptance Rate: 31.9% 

Middle 50% SAT: 1220-1450

Middle 50% ACT: 26-33

Undergrad Enrollment: 40,048


UT Austin is one of the largest schools in the nation—50,476 students (40,000+ of which are undergraduates) call the university home. They say everything is big in Texas, and that includes UT Austin’s undergraduate offerings. The University of Texas – Austin offers bachelor’s degrees in more than 170 fields—ranging from Architecture to Women’s and Gender Studies—through its 12 undergraduate colleges and schools. 


Learn more about the University of Texas – Austin and what it takes to get accepted.


16. Berea College


Location: Berea, KY

Acceptance Rate: N/A

Middle 50% SAT: N/A

Middle 50% ACT: N/A

Undergrad Enrollment: 1,652


Berea College is one of the country’s eight federally recognized work colleges—institutions that integrate work, learning, and service along with helping to reduce the cost of higher education. Nearly all (98%) of Berea’s domestic first-year students are Pell Grant eligible. The “Berea Tuition Promise” covers 100% of tuition costs, which for most Berea students adds up to over $176,000 across four years. On average, Berea students just pay an average of $1,000 toward housing, meals, and fees. 


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


17. Virginia Tech 


Location: Blacksburg, VA

Acceptance Rate: 65.7%

Middle 50% SAT: 1170-1370

Middle 50% ACT: 25-31

Undergrad Enrollment: 30,020 


Students at Virginia Tech will find a wide area of fields to study, as the school is home to eight undergraduate colleges and offers more than 110 bachelor’s degree programs. Virginia Tech’s motto is Ut Prosim, which means “that I may serve.” One way Virginia Tech students serve is in the Corps of Cadets—one of only two senior military colleges in the U.S. located within a major state university. In the 2018-2019 academic year, there were 1,127 cadets—about 4% of undergraduates.


Learn more about Virginia Tech and what it takes to get accepted.


18. University of South Florida (USF)


Location: Tampa, FL

Acceptance Rate: 49.2%

Middle 50% SAT: 1170-1310

Middle 50% ACT: 25-30

Undergrad Enrollment: 38,579


Looking to jump-start your college career? The University of South Florida is the college for you. Early Admission at USF is a form of dual enrollment through which eligible high school students are admitted to USF as full-time students for fall and spring semesters of their high school senior year and take courses with credit applied to both their baccalaureate degree and their high school diploma. On the other end of the age spectrum, Florida residents over 60 years old can take certain undergraduate and graduate classes for free. 


Learn more about the University of South Florida and what it takes to get accepted.


19. Spelman College 


Location: Atlanta, GA

Acceptance Rate: 52.5%

Middle 50% SAT: 1060-1190

Middle 50% ACT: 20-25

Undergrad Enrollment: 2,207


Founded in 1891, Spelman College is the oldest HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) in the nation. As one of the top HBCUs in the country, Spelman is often among a collection of colleges called the “Black Ivy League.” Spelman is a women’s college and a leader in the education of women of African descent. That said, you’ll find an abundance of diversity at Spelman—students from 43 states and 10 countries are found on campus. 


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


20. Furman University 


Location: Greenville, SC

Acceptance Rate: 55.3%

Middle 50% SAT: 1260-1382

Middle 50% ACT: 28-32

Undergrad Enrollment: 2,345 


Founded in 1826, Furman is the oldest private university in South Carolina and is known for its stunning campus which is commonly included among the best college campuses in the country. Since 1974, Furman students have been required to attend four Culture Life Programs (CLP) per semester. CLPs originate from the three areas of the university—religion, academics, and student life—and forge a sense of community.


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


What Are Your Chances of Acceptance?


Wondering what your odds of acceptance are at one of these great Southern schools? CollegeVine can help! Our free chancing engine considers factors like grades and standardized test scores along with elements such as extracurricular activities, awards, and achievements to predict your odds of acceptance at hundreds of schools in the South and across the country. 


Remember to build a balanced school list including safety, target, and reach schools to put yourself in the best position to find the perfect school for you. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today to get started!

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.