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The Top 10 Most Underrated Colleges in the Mid-Atlantic

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We at CollegeVine hear a lot about college rankings. In fact, many students come to us with a college list compiled primarily based on traditional rankings like Forbes or the US News and World Report. Many great schools, however, exist beyond those popularized by college rankings.


Because every student is unique, it’s unlikely that every student is best served by the top-ranked colleges. Instead, we sometimes find that a student’s best fit college could even be one that they have never heard of before. To learn about our top 10 underrated colleges in the mid-Atlantic region, don’t miss this post.


How we put this list together:


Through our experiences working with thousands of students and colleges across the country, we have learned quite a bit about college ranking tools and the metrics used to weigh one college against another. While college rankings can do a great job of identifying specific schools that shine in traditional ways, they often don’t do as good of a job at recognizing colleges that excel in other ways.


At CollegeVine, when we measure success of a college, we like to look at college output. This means things like return on investment (ROI), job outcomes, and starting salaries. Many college rankings include these factors, but weigh input factors more heavily, like admissions selectivity and average SAT scores.


To determine our top ten underrated colleges in the mid-Atlantic, we considered the following factors:


  • Cost of attendance and generosity of financial aid & scholarships
  • One and five-year ROI after graduation
  • Financial performance of specific majors
  • Qualitative data on career outcomes like job placements and grad school progression


The Top 10 Most Underrated Schools in the Mid-Atlantic:


1. George Mason


George Mason University is located just outside of Washington, DC in Fairfax County, VA. This alone makes it attractive, as the DC job market is strong. Besides that, its broad course offerings, ranging from the humanities to pre-law programs, are well-rounded and respected. Although it only lands at the 124 ranking according to US News and World Report, it places in the top 75 for ROI and career outcomes.


George Mason’s outcomes are comparable to much higher-ranked area schools like George Washington (63) and American University (79), and its econ department is among the top in the country.  


2. West Virginia University


US News only places WVU at 204 nationally, and many students write it off due to its location. However, those who look more closely will be pleased to learn that West Virginia University is located just an hour’s drive from Pittsburgh and lands in the top 125 for ROI and career outcomes.


In addition, with a total cost of attendance of just $34k per year for out of state students, this choice is a very affordable option offering strong STEM and engineering programs.


3. Loyola Maryland


It doesn’t land in the top 300 according to US News and World Report, but Loyola Maryland can be a very attractive option, especially for business students who want access to the DC job market.


In fact, Loyola Maryland lands in the top 150 nationally for ROI and carer prospects. With over 95% of graduates employed or in graduate school, Loyola is a safe bet.


4. Ursinus College


Ursinus College is a liberal arts college just half an hour from Philadelphia, and around two hours from NYC. US News and World Reports ranks it at 90 in the Liberal Art Colleges category, but it lands in the top 40 for ROI and career outcome. Its special strength is its pre-med program. Ursinus also offers engineering partnerships with Columbia and Case Western.


Ursinus’ unique, year-long Common Intellectual Experience, required of all first year students, explores three central questions of the traditional liberal arts education: What should matter to me? How should we live together? How can we understand the world?


5. Virginia Tech


Virginia Tech is located about 4 hours way from Washington, DC and offers quality programs, especially in the STEM fields. US News and World Report ranks it 76, but it lands in the top 45 for ROI and career outcomes.


6. Drexel University


Drexel University is based in Philadelphia, which also means that NYC is a short hop away. Its cooperative education program offers students up to 18 months of full-time, paid work experience in their fields before they graduate. Though Drexel only ranks 102 according to US News and World Report, it still lands in the top 75 for ROI and career outcomes. In addition, it offers an attractive BS/MD program.


7. American University


American University offers high-quality programs in business, pre-law, and humanities, all in the heart of Washington, DC. Though US News and World Report only places it at 78, its ROI and career outcomes rank in the top 45.


8. North Carolina State University


North Carolina State University is the least known of the three schools referred to as the Research Triangle. The others, Duke and UNC Chapel Hill, land much higher in the rankings, but NCSU still holds its own as a public research university with quality programs in business and engineering.


NCSU offers access to the Raleigh-Durham job market and lands in the top 45 for ROI and career outcomes. US News ranks it at 80 among national universities.


9. Bucknell University


Bucknell University is a liberal arts college with strong programs in business and accounting. Its location in Lewisburg, PA means it is central to Philadelphia, NYC, and even Washington, DC. Though it lands at the 36 spot for liberal arts colleges according to US News, it is sometimes referred to as a “hidden Ivy” for the high quality of its educational program. It places in the top 15 of liberal arts colleges for ROI and career outcome.


10. University of Delaware


The University of Delaware offers a wide variety of quality programs, from business and pre-law to pre-med and engineering. US News and World Report places it at 89, but its ROI and career outcome land it in the top 60. Notable alumni include Nobel Prize winners, NASA scientists, and former Vice President Joe Biden. Graduates of UD enjoy the nearby resources of NYC and Philadelphia.


For More Information


Interested in discovering more underrated colleges? Check out the following blog posts:


The Top 10 Most Underrated Colleges in the US

The Top 10 Most Underrated Midwest Colleges

The Top 10 Most Underrated Computer Science Colleges In The US

The Top 10 Most Underrated West Coast Colleges


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Kate Sundquist
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.