Pennsylvania. Home to Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, and Pittsburgh, the Steel City, as well as many small cities and towns in between. From small-town colleges to big city universities, Pennsylvania offers plenty of options for students of all interests and preferences. College Magazine ranked the best colleges in Pennsylvania based on academics, student life, notable alumni, location and life after graduation.
Check out the top 10 colleges in Pennsylvania!
10. Indiana University of Pennsylvania
A small university just 60 miles from Pittsburgh, IUP offers an affordable education in a cozy environment. “IUP has given me the resources and skills to thrive beyond IUP,” sophomore Elizabeth Garraway said. “People should look into IUP if they want to have that close-knit family in their study. We truly work as a team.” For $13,831 a semester, students can pick from over 140 majors and become involved in one of over 30 Greek life organizations, some culturally based and committed to fostering relationships with peers, alumni and the community, including involvement with United Way, American Cancer Society, Indiana County Head Start and Make-A-Wish.
In fact, the IUP Greek community comes together every year to grant the wish of a terminally ill child of western Pennsylvania for the aforementioned organization. “Outside of the classroom, there are so many organizations, clubs and activities to make socializing easy,” Garraway said. “IUP is truly my home away from home.” Graduates can expect to earn an average salary of $45,600 when entering the workforce.
9. Carnegie Mellon University
Did you know Andy Warhol and Josh Groban went to Carnegie Mellon? With its 80 major options in colleges including the school of computer science, Carnegie Melon offers students research, coursework and extracurricular opportunities equivalent to those of a larger university. Its graphic design program was ranked the best of its kind by College Magazine. Students expect to earn an average salary of $70,900 after graduation. About 61 percent of students find full-time employment and 27.2 percent continue their education within a few months after finishing their undergraduate studies.
Students looking to get involved can join one of the campus’ 23 Greek life organizations, which contribute thousands of hours to community and philanthropic causes and hold traditional events such as Greek Sing and the Almost Midnight Breakfast. Additionally, multiple organizations support Carnegie Mellon’s program Pittsburgh Connection, an opportunity for students to become involved in the Steel City and western Pennsylvania community through recreational and conservational activities. With over 250 student organizations, such as 1000plus Day of Service, the Society of Women Engineers and Scotch’n’Soda Theatre, one of the U.S.’s oldest student theatre organizations, Carnegie Mellon provides several opportunities for student involvement outside of the classroom.
8. Lehigh University
A highly competitive university in Bethlehem, Lehigh graduates join an alumni network of 85,000 active members. Sarah Bombard, Senior Associate Director of Admissions and alumnus of Lehigh makes sure prospective students are aware of the legacy they will be joining when considering becoming a Mountain Hawk. “The alumni network helps provide career assistance, mentorship and even friendship,” Bombard said. “I’m proud of the innovative academic programs and our willingness to start new majors – and a brand-new College of Health. I’m proud of the growth that has and continues to take place in the areas of diversity and inclusion for students of all backgrounds.” Seventy percent of graduates find jobs upon graduation, averaging a salary of $67,000 while 23 percent of graduates continue their education.
Sports and Greek life organizations are popular social outlets for the Mountain Hawks. Lehigh offers 23 Division 1 programs and over 40 IM and club teams as well as 22 Greek organizations. In the classroom, students can pick from over 100 majors. “We’re looking for students who want to make a difference, apply what they’re learning in meaningful, empirical ways and who want to make connections with a community of scholars and alumni,” Bombard said. Lehigh offers an array of activities and coursework to students in a small city environment, and you can expect the full support of the alumni network post-graduation.
7. Susquehanna University
Located in Selinsgrove and home to the Riverhawks, Susquehanna University has a reputation for providing large school opportunities in a small school environment. Offering 48 majors, Susquehanna graduates earn an average of $52,500 ten years after enrollment. The alumni network stands at over 19,600 proud members and the athletic sector offers 23 division 3 teams as well as 8 club teams and multiple opportunities for IM leagues.
Susquehanna also offers 11 Greek life organizations, an area in which almost 30 percent of the student body participates. “I chose Susquehanna because as soon as I walked on campus, I felt like I was home,” freshman Bryleigh Felty said. “Another great thing about SU is the class sizes and location. It’s such a beautiful campus. I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.” However, what really sets Susquehanna apart from other colleges is their study abroad opportunities.
As part of their Global Opportunities (GO) program, the university requires students to study away from campus in one of their 100 programs in 55 countries. Dream of studying in India, China, Argentina, the Philippines or Ireland? Susquehanna wants to make that happen. If a student wants to design their own program, they can do just that by customing the duration, destination and education. How cool is that?
6. Kutztown University
Previously known as “The Teacher’s School,” Kutztown University sits in the small town that bares its name. “When I first toured Kutztown, I instantly fell in love with the campus and surrounding area,” freshman Kayla Sherry said. “It just felt like home to me.” While education is their bread and butter, Kutztown offers over 100 other major options, a high number for such a small school. For just $11,004 a semester, 93 percent of graduates are employed or enrolled in another program upon graduation, earning an average salary of $43,100. “It had everything I was looking for in a school including academics, distance from home, affordability, and involvement opportunities,” Sherry said. Kutztown provides an authentic and intimate environment, but also offers 21 Division 2 athletic programs as well as 17 club teams and multiple IM teams.
Also, there are 24 Greek life organizations at Kutztown, all of which focus on hazing prevention as well as developing leadership skills and friendships. “I talk about my school so often and love to tell prospective students about my experiences because I truly love where I’m at,” Sherry said. “I know for sure that I’ve made lifelong friends here. Kutztown really has it all, so if you want a home away from home, KU is your school!” Kutztown provides a small-town feel while being a stone throw away from Lehigh County and Philadelphia, giving students the opportunity to find both activities and forever friends in a tight-knit environment and resume building opportunities in large cities. Like Hannah Montana said, it’s the best of both worlds.
5. Temple University
In the heart of Philadelphia, Temple offers an affordable, quality higher education option to prospective students, especially those in the suburbs who may not have resources or funds to move to a college farther away. Notable members of an alumni association of over 307,000 members include Diplo, Jesse Williams and Bob Saget. With a 14:1 student to faculty ratio, Temple offers 86 majors with countless opportunities for experience in the City of Brotherly Love. “I chose to go to Temple because of the city atmosphere. I love how upbeat and diverse it is, and Temple is not too far away from Center City,” freshman Blessyn Marcelle said. “People should consider going here if they want to immerse themselves into the Philadelphia culture. It’s a really old city, and there’s plenty to explore.” Students have access to watching the Owls’ 19 Division one sports and Philadelphia’s professional teams compete. In addition, Temple fosters community involvement with local residents and businesses through their 32 Greek Life organizations, the STARS program and Big Brothers Big Sisters. “What I like most is how Temple does a lot of community outreach in north Philadelphia too, which makes the relationship between the student body and the surrounding neighborhoods stronger,” Marcelle said. If you’re looking to make a difference during your undergrad, check out Temple.
4. University of Pittsburgh
Pitt reigns supreme among colleges in the Steel City. Boasting an alumni network of over 331,000, the Panthers have 60 club sports teams and 14 fitness centers. Greek life at Pitt offers three councils and has over 2,000 members overall who are committed to bettering themselves academically. Participating in community service and philanthropy matters interest many Panthers, including the college’s dance marathon, the largest student-run philanthropy on campus.
Students rave about the opportunities presented by attending Pitt because of its city location. “I chose Pitt because I knew it had a lot of accredited science majors and opportunities, especially being in a city with so many hospitals and research facilities,” freshman Ashley Hillman said. “I thought I didn’t want to go to school in a city, however, after visiting Pitt’s campus I realized it didn’t feel like a completely urban campus.” With the city comes plenty of opportunities to have fun and get involved in everything Pittsburgh offers; some places even offer discounts to Pitt students through such organizations like Pitt Arts and the Port Authority. Hillman said, “Pitt has such a welcoming community with so many events for students to get to know each other and faculty.” Academics at Pitt are certainly stellar as well, offering 79 majors with an average salary after graduation of $45,438.
3. Villanova University
The Wildcats are known for more than just their storied basketball program. Located 45 minutes outside of Philadelphia, Villanova is home to 22 Division 1 teams as well as 30 club teams and a whopping five fitness centers. “When I visited Villanova on Candidate’s Day, I immediately felt welcomed by everyone-students, faculty and staff. The people would become my closest, most cherished friends,” said graduate student Taylor Lindenmuth. “The top-notch professors would become my mentors. The staff would become my supporters.” With a student-to-faculty ratio of 11:1 and there are over 123,000 active alumni members, you’ll have everything you need to find a job post-grad.
In fact, 75.5 percent of grads find full-time employment placement and 16 percent find placement in higher-learning programs. “I chose Villanova for undergrad for the academics… the internships, the Social Justice Documentary Program and the study abroad opportunities,” Lindenmuth said. Did the mention of Social Justice Documentary Program pique your interest? Through the program, students get the opportunity to study abroad and make a difference in the world. By filming and interviewing subjects based on their life experiences, Villanova students expose issues affecting populations internationally (like access to clean water) to the greater public. How cool is that?
In addition to the amount of fitness and athletic opportunities, students at Villanova get involved in one of 160+ clubs at the university, such as the Special Olympics and Girl Child Network World Wide. “Student considering Villanova should know that we [the students] care about each other,” Lindenmuth said. “You will be cared about, nurtured, challenged and inspired at Villanova.” Villanova offers students chances for extracurricular activities and education both on and off campus as well as around the world.
2. University of Pennsylvania
Welcome to the University of Pennsylvania, home of the Quakers! Despite the cumulative price of $76,826; these Ivy League graduates earn an average salary of $77,500 if they’re in the 77 percent full-time employment group, but 14 percent continue their education beyond undergraduate. 6:1 is the student to faculty ratio, a surprisingly small proportion for a larger school in Philadelphia. The Ivy League school offers 90 majors, ones that notable alumni such as Elon Musk, John Legend and Donald Trump found useful. While Penn’s academic programs are some of the best in the world, political science,–one of the oldest of its kind having been developed in the spiritual heart of the American Revolution–and biological sciences are the school’s most developed and popular majors.
The Quakers offer plenty of options when it comes to student life, including 33 Division 1 sports, 36 club teams and 48 Greek life organizations, which 25 percent of the student body participate in. The University is home to over 450 student-run clubs, the most popular being performing arts clubs, Greek life and religious groups, like PRISM Interfaith, Simply Chaos and the Penn Actuarial Society. An application process is typical of clubs affiliated with Penn in order to recruit students who are actually interested. The University of Pennsylvania holds its academic and extracurricular programs in high regard; motivated students will feel at home at Penn.
1. Penn State University
WE ARE…Get to know this chant if you’re planning on attending Penn State. This school is full of school spirit and the students here will let you know it. “I was on my way home from a lacrosse visit, but I drove through State College during the white out game and fell in love with the school spirit,” freshman Hailey Whalen said. “I knew this school was it for me.” Located in the small city of State College, attending University Park gives the best combination of a large school in a small community, for a small school price of $31,195 per year.
Not only does Penn State have the most majors out of any school in this ranking with 275, but it also has the largest alumni network in the world with over 700,000 active members. These members provide a strong foundation for graduates to find jobs right after receiving their degrees, with 82 percent finding full-time employment and an average salary of $55,200. Penn State gives students countless ways to improve their resumes with over 1,000 student organizations, including THON, an organization dedicated to ending childhood cancer and the largest student-run philanthropy in the world, raising over 11 million dollars towards funding the Four Diamond Foundation.
The Nittany Lions boast several successful varsity and club sports teams as well as numerous options for intermural teams, however, the student section for every varsity sport puts the college experience over the top. Whether it’s a White Out weekend for football, a Bryce Jordan match for wrestling, or an NCAA tournament matchup for soccer, Penn State students pack the stands, ready to cheer on their classmates with that unrivaled school spirit. Whether you’re in the classroom, Beaver Stadium or the State Theatre, you’ll feel the blue and white spirit all around you at Penn State.