10 of the Top Colleges in Pennsylvania

University of Pennsylvania

The view along Locust Walk at the University of Pennsylvania. Photo by Spiroview Inc / Shutterstock

By The Keystone Staff

May 11, 2023

From Ivy League institutions to top-ranked liberal arts colleges, Pennsylvania offers a diverse range of university options for students seeking a quality education.

Choosing a college is one of the most significant decisions a person can make, and it can be stressful. There are so many different things to consider, like the school’s academic reputation, campus resources, student life, post-graduate success—not to mention the tuition!

Pennsylvania natives know we’ve got some of the best public and private colleges in the country. These institutions offer a world-class education, excellent research opportunities, and supportive communities that prepare students for success in their careers and in their personal lives. 

Here are just a few of the best colleges and universities in the Keystone state.

University of Pennsylvania


The University of Pennsylvania is a private institution that consistently ranks among the top Ivy League schools in the nation and was founded in 1740. UPenn offers a wealth of majors and interdisciplinary programs with incredible opportunities for research, networking, and internships. Its faculty includes Nobel laureates, MacArthur fellows, and other distinguished scholars who are committed to advancing knowledge and improving the world. The University of Pennsylvania has a robust financial aid program that ensures students from all backgrounds can attend this prestigious institution.

Students at UPenn can take advantage of the numerous resources available on campus, including state-of-the-art research facilities, a vibrant student life, and a supportive community. The university is located in Philadelphia, a bustling city with a rich cultural heritage and thriving business community. Students can explore the city’s many museums, theaters, and restaurants, or participate in community service and outreach programs that make a real difference in people’s lives.

Fun Fact: Every year, the school hosts the Penn Relays, which is considered the biggest (and oldest) track and field event in the country. It began in 1895, and thousands of participants enjoy the event each year.

Swarthmore College


Swarthmore College is a highly selective institution that values a diverse and interdisciplinary approach to learning. Founded in 1864, it has a long tradition of academic excellence. Swarthmore focuses on intellectual curiosity, ethical and social responsibility, and active-learning experiences that encourage students to apply their rigorous academic training to real-world challenges. Its faculty includes nationally recognized scholars and researchers who are committed to advancing knowledge and improving society. 

Swarthmore has an extensive network of alumni who are leaders in various fields and have made significant contributions to the world. Some of the big names include physicist and astronaut Sally Ride, author Jonathan Franzen, and actor Stephen Lang.

The college is located in Swarthmore, a small borough in Delaware County known for being one of the best places to live in the state. Students enjoy spending time in the quaint downtown area, known as “The Ville,”  participating in community events and organizations, and visiting the local library.

Fun Fact: The college’s campus spans 425 acres and houses the popular Scott Arboretum, where you can see over 4,000 different varieties of plants. How cool is that?

Carnegie Mellon University


Carnegie Mellon University is a private research institution that is internationally renowned for its computer science and engineering programs. Founded in 1900, it has a long history of academic excellence and innovation. Carnegie Mellon offers a wide range of programs that deliver excellent results to students. Some famous alumni from the school include artist Andy Warhol, author Kurt Vonnegut, and several famous actors like Ethan Hawke, Ted Danson, Leslie Odom Jr., and Holly Hunter. 

Carnegie Mellon has world-class research and technology facilities, a renowned faculty, and an excellent culture of innovation driven by collaboration and interdisciplinary thinking. Its graduates are highly sought-after and have successful careers in various sectors.

The university is located in Pittsburgh, which provides students with the opportunity to explore the sprawling city during their downtime between classes and activities. They can catch a Pirates game at PNC Park, check out the amazing Carnegie Museum of Natural History, or take a walk through the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.

Fun Fact: One of the biggest scenes in “Dark Knight Rises” was filmed on the steps of the Mellon Institute. Students who were attending summer programs at the time were able to watch the filming of this major blockbuster movie.

Lehigh University


Lehigh University is a private research institution committed to delivering high-quality education that aligns with industry demands. Founded in 1865, Lehigh offers a range of undergraduate and graduate programs in various fields such as engineering, business, arts, and sciences. Its faculty has collectively received over 120 awards in 2020-2021 alone. Lehigh prides itself on its student-centered approach to learning, with a focus on experiential learning, research opportunities, and global engagement.

Students at Lehigh University have access to many resources on campus, including state-of-the-art research centers and institutes, an inclusive student life, and a community that’s committed to creating a welcoming environment for everyone. The university is located in Bethlehem, which is often celebrated for its industrial and colonial histories

Historical Fact: Two Lehigh University alumni, Charles Marshall and Howard McClintic, helped construct the world famous Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and the George Washington Bridge across the Hudson River. 

Haverford College


Haverford College, founded in 1833, is a small liberal arts institution that values academic rigor, intellectual curiosity, and social responsibility. Haverford has an intimate campus community and highly personalized education that encourages students to develop their talents and interests. At Haverford, students receive individualized attention and support from the faculty and staff to ensure their academic success and personal growth.

Students at Haverford College are encouraged to maintain a healthy balance between their academic courses and extracurricular activities. With over 145 clubs to choose from, as well as a unique array of campus living quarters, life at Haverford is designed to be accommodating.

The college is located in Haverford, a small town less than 10 miles from Philadelphia. Despite its proximity to a vibrant city, Haverford has a 6:1 tree to student ratio, so it feels far-removed from urban life while still offering its proximity to Philadelphia as a convenience to students.

Historical/Fun Fact: Haverford College has operated under an Honor Code since 1897. Students are responsible for their own education, meaning they can often take exams home and initiate dialogue within the school’s community, among many other things.

Pennsylvania State University


Pennsylvania State University is one of the largest and most diverse public research universities in the Keystone state. It offers more than 275 undergraduate and 300 graduate programs across various fields of study. Penn State has world-class research facilities, diverse student organizations, and an active alumni network that supports students to succeed in their endeavors. The university was also recently ranked 53rd among the best universities in the world by the Center for World University Rankings.

A vibrant campus life also helps Penn State stand out. Sports fans will appreciate the school’s highly regarded athletic programs, with the Nittany Lions competing in the NCAA Division I Big Ten Conference. Plus, there are over 1,000 student organizations catering to a wide range of interests. Club Dodgeball, anyone?

Fun Fact: The founders of Ben & Jerry’s, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, actually took an ice cream making correspondence course from Penn State back in 1977

University of Pittsburgh


The University of Pittsburgh is a premier public research university committed to excellence. Founded in 1787, it prides itself on providing an environment of exploration and discovery to its diverse student body. A broad range of undergraduate and graduate programs are available, including Arabic Language and Linguistics, Molecular Pharmacology, and Sustainable Engineering.

The University of Pittsburgh also has multiple student support services to help students achieve their academic and personal goals with confidence.

Fun Fact: Notable alumni include Hollywood superstar Gene Kelly, football legend Dan Marino, Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Muta Maathai, and writer Michael Chabon.

Temple University


Temple University is a large urban public research institution that is renowned for its distinctive programs and diversity. It offers over 400 undergraduate and graduate academic programs in various fields, including law, medicine, engineering, and liberal arts. 

Temple University has excellent student resources, research facilities, and a strong commitment to academic excellence and community service. Sustainability and safety are at the forefront of everything Temple has to offer, from clubs and organizations to the school’s dining halls.

Fun Fact: Temple University has several international campuses and programs, including those in London, Spain, Rome, South Africa, and Tokyo. It may be time to study abroad!

West Chester University


West Chester University is nationally recognized for its excellence in teaching, undergraduate research, and community engagement. Accelerated Bachelor’s to Master’s Degree programs are available for those looking to streamline their academic experience in History, Biology, Philosophy, and many other areas of study.

West Chester University fosters a global learning environment, with study abroad opportunities and a diverse student population that enhances the campus community.

Historical Fact: When West Chester University was founded in 1871, it was originally used as “an institute for teacher preparation.” Since then, it has grown exponentially and offers over 118 undergraduate programs and 80 graduate programs (plus four doctoral programs) in over 50 different fields of study.

Indiana University of Pennsylvania


Indiana University of Pennsylvania, commonly referred to as IUP, offers more than 140 undergraduate and graduate majors to students across 12 different colleges and schools. It is committed to providing a transformative educational experience that prepares students for a successful career in their chosen field.

Indiana University of Pennsylvania has a vibrant campus life that provides various social and cultural opportunities for students to explore their interests. Over 200 clubs and organizations are available to join, and support services are available for those with disabilities or students who are in need of childcare.

Historical Fact: IUP has always prided itself on being a progressive university when it comes to inclusion and diversity. The first woman to graduate from the school was Sarah Parke Morrison in 1869. Marcellus Neal was IU’s first African American graduate in 1895, and Frances Marshall was the school’s first female African American graduate in 1919.

READ MORE: Penn, Carnegie Mellon Rank Among Top Colleges According to US News


CATEGORIES: Uncategorized


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