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Duke University
Duke University
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Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

Colleges with the Highest Graduation Rates + Why It Matters

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When you’re applying to college, there are many criteria you’ll take into account. Does the school have your intended major? Would you fit in with the student body? What’s the overall reputation and selectivity?


One important metric you shouldn’t overlook is the graduation rate. This can tell you a lot about the value of an education at a given college. Keep reading to find out which schools have the highest graduation rates and why they matter.


What Does A College’s Graduation Rate Tell You? Why is it Important?


When you’re choosing a college, an important measure of quality is the institution’s graduation rate. This is expressed as a percentage, reflecting the number of students who matriculated at that college as a freshman and ultimately graduated from the same school. Usually, institutions report their four-year or six-year graduation rate.


While some students need additional time due to changing majors, taking time off from school, working a part-time job, or dealing with extenuating personal circumstances, graduating in four years means fewer expenses (on tuition, room and board, supplies, and other fees), and getting started on your career earlier. It’s important to pay attention to which metric you’re looking at to get the full picture.


Ultimately, both metrics serve as important indicators of how much “bang for your buck” you’re getting. You’re investing an enormous amount of money and time into your degree, and if you don’t graduate, you won’t get the same return on investment. If you see that an institution has a high graduation rate, you can feel rest assured that your odds of completing your degree at that school are good.


However, it’s still important to remember that this is an imperfect metric to evaluate. Graduation rates don’t account for transfer students who started their college careers at another school, including two-year degree recipients. They also usually only include full-time students, and with many adults returning to school to continue their education these days, part-time students account for a larger percentage of the higher education community than ever before. 


Graduation rate is not the same as retention rate, which indicates the percentage of students who continue on from their first year to their second. This is also an important metric that can help you gauge a school’s quality, but it’s important to remember that students can leave an institution later in their college careers, too. 

Top 10 Colleges With the Highest Graduation Rate


According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, the colleges and universities in the United States with the highest six-year graduation rates include:


  1. Yale University (97.5%)
  2. Princeton University (97.3%)
  3. Harvard University (96.4%)
  4. Dartmouth College (95.9%)
  5. Harvey Mudd College (95.9%)
  6. University of Pennsylvania (95.7%)
  7. Duke University (95.4%)
  8. Bowdoin College (95.2%)
  9. University of Notre (95.2%)
  10. Amherst College (95.2%)


The below list, based on data from U.S. News, includes the colleges with the highest four-year graduation rates. 


College 4-Year Graduation Rate Location Acceptance Rate
Washington and Lee University 92% Lexington, VA 21%
United States Naval Academy 91% Annapolis, MD 9%
University of Notre Dame 91% Notre Dame, IN 18%
Davidson College 91% Davidson, NC 19%
Williams College 90% Williamstown, MA 13%
Babson College 89% Babson Park, MA 24%
Georgetown University 89% Washington, DC 15%
Pomona College 89% Claremont, CA 8%
University of Chicago 89% Chicago, IL 7%
University of Virginia 89% Charlottesville, VA 26%
Vanderbilt University 89% Nashville, TN 10%
Boston College 88% Chestnut Hill, MA 28%
Bowdoin College 88% Brunswick, ME 10%
Carleton College 88% Northfield, MN 20%
College of the Holy Cross 88% Worcester, MA 38%
Columbia University 88% New York, NY 6%
Cornell University 88% Ithaca, NY 11%
Hamilton College 88% Clinton, NY 16%
Haverford College 88% Haverford, PA 19%
Johns Hopkins University 88% Baltimore, MD 11%
Vassar College 88% Poughkeepsie, NY 25%
Washington University in St. Louis 88% St. Louis, MO 15%
Yale University 88% New Haven, CT 6%


Want to know your odds of getting into the top colleges with the highest graduation rates? Need some guidance as to which schools are right for you? CollegeVine can estimate your real chances of acceptance, help you create a college list, and more — all for free. Get started today!

Short Bio
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Slackjaw, Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket, and Funny-ish. View her work and get in touch at: www.lauraberlinskyschine.com.