Best public colleges in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is a state built on history and culture. It is known as the Keystone State—due to its foundational role in the inception of the United States—and the Quaker State—due to its association with William Penn and the Quaker faith. In addition to its rich history, the state boasts many of the top colleges and universities in the nation, ranging from large research universities to small liberal arts colleges.

Many of these universities and colleges were founded by the Quakers and still emphasize community camaraderie and service, alongside their high-level academic programs. Below is a list of the best colleges in Pennsylvania.

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Best Colleges in Pennsylvania

1. University of Pennsylvania (UPenn)

Location: Philadelphia, PA

Acceptance Rate: 6%

Middle 50% SAT: 1460-1570

Middle 50% ACT: 33-35

Undergraduate Enrollment: 9,872

Penn is an Ivy League school, consistently ranked as one of the top ten universities in the nation. One of the most renowned schools at the university is the Wharton School of Business, with Elon Musk and Warren Buffett at the top of its alumni roster. While Penn boasts top-tier academic programs, it is also often referred to as ‘the social ivy’ because of its lively student body. With its urban location in Philadelphia, Penn gives students access to vibrant bars, restaurants, museums, art galleries, and parks. While some view Penn as a safety ivy, others view it as a unique school that promotes a healthy balance of academic and social life. 

2. Swarthmore College

Location: Swarthmore, PA

Acceptance Rate: 9%

Middle 50% SAT: 1400-1530

Middle 50% ACT: 31-34

Undergraduate Enrollment: 1,437

Swarthmore is a private liberal arts college that was originally founded by the Quakers but lost its religious affiliation over a century ago. The college is known for its quirky and engaged student population. Since Swarthmore’s student body is small, the college fosters a tight-knit community. Students at Swarthmore have the unique opportunity to design their own majors and course plans if they choose to. Another unique opportunity offered to students is participating in the Tri-College and Quaker Consortium. Through the Consortium, Swarthmore students can take classes at Haverford College, Bryn Mawr College, and the University of Pennsylvania. 

3. Haverford College

Location: Haverford, PA

Acceptance Rate: 18%

Middle 50% SAT: 1370-1510

Middle 50% ACT: 32-35

Undergraduate Enrollment: 1,307

Haverford is another small liberal arts college that is part of the Tri-College and Quaker Consortium. Within the Consortium, Haverford and Bryn Mawr have a particularly strong relationship as they share many resources (like a newspaper and a radio station), and also mingle their academic programs. At Haverford, students benefit from a 9:1 student-to-faculty ratio, with 60% of faculty living on the Haverford campus. Additionally, Haverford is known for its Honor Code and for its dedication to meeting 100% of accepted students’ demonstrated financial need. 

4. Carnegie Mellon University

Location: Pittsburgh, PA

Acceptance Rate: 17%

Middle 50% SAT: 1460-1560

Middle 50% ACT: 33-35

Undergraduate Enrollment: 7,073

Carnegie Mellon is simultaneously an impressive school in technical fields, like engineering and computer science, and creative fields, like drama and architecture. Because of the school’s multifaceted academic success, it is characterized by a diverse student body—both with regards to race and ethnicity, student backgrounds, personalities, and programs of study. That said, common traits amongst all CMU students include passion and drive. CMU has name recognition with employers in most industries and graduates typically have great opportunities after obtaining their CMU degree. 

5. Lehigh University

Location: Bethlehem, PA

Acceptance Rate: 45%

Middle 50% SAT: 1280-1420

Middle 50% ACT: 29-34

Undergraduate Enrollment: 5,203

Lehigh is a distinguished private research university that excels in science, engineering, and business. While the school has a lower enrollment than other research universities, students have access to the courses, advising, research, and other resources offered by large research universities. Lehigh students can easily explore multiple interests due to the cooperation between the university’s five schools: the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Business, the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science, the College of Education, and the College of Health. There’s something for everyone at Lehigh. 

6. Lafayette College

Location: Easton, PA

Acceptance Rate: 41%

Middle 50% SAT: 1330-1440

Middle 50% ACT: 30-33

Undergraduate Enrollment: 2,725

Lafayette College offers an excellent private liberal arts education to students, though its academic prowess shines through its engineering and science programs. The school’s location gives students access to major metropolitan areas like New York City and Philadelphia, though its location is just the start of the school’s resources. Lafayette students are connected to an extensive alumni network and can easily find job opportunities, including research opportunities. The school has a very high medical school acceptance rate and a high freshman retention rate (indicating student satisfaction). 

7. Bryn Mawr College

Location: Bryn Mawr, PA

Acceptance Rate: 38%

Middle 50% SAT: 1260-1470

Middle 50% ACT: 26-32

Undergraduate Enrollment: 1,301

Bryn Mawr is the third and final (and only all-female!) part of the Tri-College and Quaker Consortium. Like the other schools in the Consortium, Bryn Mawr has intensive academics and its small student body fosters a close-knit community. Some women from Bryn Mawr say the college feels like one big sorority—they even have a traditional bonding week called Hell Week. Bryn Mawr is a small college town, but it is just twenty minutes away from Philadelphia, so students have easy access to the big city. 

8. Franklin & Marshall College (F&M)

Location: Lancaster, PA

Acceptance Rate: 38%

Median SAT: 1379

Median  ACT: 30

Undergraduate Enrollment: 2,426 

Franklin & Marshall is a private liberal arts college that focuses on research and innovative student programming. It is a selective school with bright students. Independence is emphasized at Franklin & Marshall and about two-thirds of students do an independent study or self-designed academic module before graduating. F&M residential life centers around five Harry Potter-style houses where students in each house share residence halls, dining facilities, and programming. Additionally, the college boasts its own art museum and a Writers House that functions as a literary performance space. 

9. Bucknell University

Location: Lewisburg, PA

Acceptance Rate: 37%

Middle 50% SAT: 1230-1390

Middle 50% ACT: 27-31

Undergraduate Enrollment: 3,695

Bucknell is an innovative liberal arts college on a gorgeous campus in central Pennsylvania. The university is made up of three schools—the College of Arts and Sciences, the Freeman College of Management, and the College of Engineering—and excels in technical fields in addition to the humanities. The student-to-faculty ratio at Bucknell is 9:1 and the average class size is 20 students. One unique aspect of residential life at Bucknell is that students can live in themed residential colleges that are tied to one of their first-semester classes. This allows students to live and learn alongside students who share their interests. Greek life is a popular interest at Bucknell and strongly influences the culture on campus as 41% of students participate in the Greek system. 

10. Villanova University

Location: Villanova, PA

Acceptance Rate: 30%

Middle 50% SAT: 1330-1460

Middle 50% ACT: 31-34

Undergraduate Enrollment: 7,037

Villanova is a private Catholic university that emphasizes community service, in addition to strong academic performance. The school offers 48 academic majors within 6 colleges. Student involvement at Villanova largely takes place through volunteering, with most students involved in events like the Special Olympics, Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, weekly service outings through the Campus Ministry, and service trips during academic breaks. When entering the Nova Nation, students describe how they feel immediately welcomed to the university’s caring community. 

Best public colleges in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus

University Park, PA  

Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus is a public university based in University Park, Pennsylvania. It is an institution with an enrollment of over 7,863 bachelor’s degree candidates. The admission criteria is somewhat competitive with the acceptance rate of 50%.

#1 in 2022 Best Public Colleges in Pennsylvania

University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh Campus

  Pittsburgh, PA  

University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh Campus is a public university based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It is an institution with an enrollment of over 4,019 bachelor’s degree candidates. The admission criteria is somewhat competitive with the acceptance rate of 59%.

#2 in 2022 Best Public Colleges in Pennsylvania

Temple University

 Philadelphia, PA  

Temple University is a public university based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is an institution with an enrollment of over 5,171 bachelor’s degree candidates. The admission criteria is somewhat competitive with the acceptance rate of 56%.

#3 in 2022 Best Public Colleges in Pennsylvania

Indiana University of Pennsylvania-Main Campus

Indiana University of Pennsylvania

4 Year  •  Indiana, PA

Indiana University of Pennsylvania-Main Campus is a public university based in Indiana, Pennsylvania. It is an institution with an enrollment of over 2,390 bachelor’s degree candidates. The admission criteria is somewhat competitive with the acceptance rate of 90%.

#4 in 2022 Best Public Colleges in Pennsylvania

West Chester University of Pennsylvania

West Chester, PA

West Chester University of Pennsylvania is a public university based in West Chester, Pennsylvania. It is an institution with an enrollment of over 2,630 bachelor’s degree candidates. The admission criteria is somewhat competitive with the acceptance rate of 68%.

#5 in 2022 Best Public Colleges in Pennsylvania

Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania

Bloomsburg, PA

Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania is a public university based in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. It is an institution with an enrollment of over 1,860 bachelor’s degree candidates. The admission criteria is somewhat competitive with the acceptance rate of 73%.

#6 in 2022 Best Public Colleges in Pennsylvania

Millersville University of Pennsylvania

Millersville University of Pennsylvania

  Millersville, PA

Millersville University of Pennsylvania is a public university based in Millersville, Pennsylvania. It is an institution with an enrollment of over 1,351 bachelor’s degree candidates. The admission criteria is somewhat competitive with the acceptance rate of 79%.

#7 in 2022 Best Public Colleges in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania State University-Penn State Erie-Behrend College

  Erie, PA

Pennsylvania State University-Penn State Erie-Behrend College is a public university based in Erie, Pennsylvania. It is an institution with an enrollment of over 1,052 bachelor’s degree candidates. The admission criteria is somewhat competitive with the acceptance rate of 88%.

#8 in 2022 Best Public Colleges in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania State University-Penn State Harrisburg

Pennsylvania State University-Penn State Harrisburg

Middletown, PA

Pennsylvania State University-Penn State Harrisburg is a public university based in Middletown, Pennsylvania. It is an institution with an enrollment of over 962 bachelor’s degree candidates. The admission criteria is somewhat competitive with the acceptance rate of 83%.

#9 in 2022 Best Public Colleges in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania State University-Penn State Lehigh Valley

Center Valley, PA

Pennsylvania State University-Penn State Lehigh Valley is a public university based in Center Valley, Pennsylvania. It is an institution with an enrollment of over 247 bachelor’s degree candidates. The admission criteria is somewhat competitive with the acceptance rate of 85%.

#10 in 2022 Best Public Colleges in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania State University-Penn State York

  York, PA

Pennsylvania State University-Penn State York is a public university based in York, Pennsylvania. It is an institution with an enrollment of over 287 bachelor’s degree candidates. The admission criteria is somewhat competitive with the acceptance rate of 82%.

#11 in 2022 Best Public Colleges in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania State University-Penn State Berks

Pennsylvania State University-Penn State Berks

Reading, PA

Pennsylvania State University-Penn State Berks is a public university based in Reading, Pennsylvania. It is an institution with an enrollment of over 694 bachelor’s degree candidates. The admission criteria is somewhat competitive with the acceptance rate of 85%.

#12 in 2022 Best Public Colleges in Pennsylvania

Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania

Slippery Rock, PA

Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania is a public university based in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania. It is an institution with an enrollment of over 1,597 bachelor’s degree candidates. The admission criteria is somewhat competitive with the acceptance rate of 71%.

#13 in 2022 Best Public Colleges in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania State University-Penn State Altoona

Pennsylvania State University-Penn State Altoona

Altoona, PA

Pennsylvania State University-Penn State Altoona is a public university based in Altoona, Pennsylvania. It is an institution with an enrollment of over 1,274 bachelor’s degree candidates. The admission criteria is somewhat competitive with the acceptance rate of 92%.

#14 in 2022 Best Public Colleges in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania State University-Penn State Hazleton

 Hazleton, PA

Pennsylvania State University-Penn State Hazleton is a public university based in Hazleton, Pennsylvania. It is an institution with an enrollment of over 204 bachelor’s degree candidates. The admission criteria is somewhat competitive with the acceptance rate of 93%.

#15 in 2022 Best Public Colleges in Pennsylvania

University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown

Johnstown, PA

University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown is a public university based in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. It is an institution with an enrollment of over 769 bachelor’s degree candidates. The admission criteria is somewhat competitive with the acceptance rate of 75%.

#21 in 2022 Best Public Colleges in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania State University-Penn State Worthington Scranton

Dunmore, PA

Pennsylvania State University-Penn State Worthington Scranton is a public university based in Dunmore, Pennsylvania. It is an institution with an enrollment of over 261 bachelor’s degree candidates. The admission criteria is somewhat competitive with the acceptance rate of 77%.

#22 in 2022 Best Public Colleges in Pennsylvania

Kutztown University of Pennsylvania

Kutztown University of Pennsylvania

Kutztown, PA

Kutztown University of Pennsylvania is a public university based in Kutztown, Pennsylvania. It is an institution with an enrollment of over 1,605 bachelor’s degree candidates. The admission criteria is somewhat competitive with the acceptance rate of 83%.

#23 in 2022 Best Public Colleges in PennsylvaniaAcceptance Rate83%Net Price$27,031SAT Range970-1140ACT Range18-24

University of Pittsburgh-Greensburg

University of Pittsburgh-Greensburg

Greensburg, PA

University of Pittsburgh-Greensburg is a public university based in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. It is an institution with an enrollment of over 433 bachelor’s degree candidates. The admission criteria is somewhat competitive with the acceptance rate of 73%.

#24 in 2022 Best Public Colleges in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania State University-Penn State Brandywine

Media, PA

Pennsylvania State University-Penn State Brandywine is a public university based in Media, Pennsylvania. It is an institution with an enrollment of over 430 bachelor’s degree candidates. The admission criteria is somewhat competitive with the acceptance rate of 87%.

#25 in 2022 Best Public Colleges in Pennsylvania

East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania

East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania

East Stroudsburg, PA

East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania is a public university based in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. It is an institution with an enrollment of over 1,292 bachelor’s degree candidates. The admission criteria is somewhat competitive with the acceptance rate of 83%.

#26 in 2022 Best Public Colleges in Pennsylvania

Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania

Shippensburg, PA

Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania is a public university based in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. It is an institution with an enrollment of over 1,218 bachelor’s degree candidates. The admission criteria is somewhat competitive with the acceptance rate of 83%.

#27 in 2022 Best Public Colleges in Pennsylvania

California University of Pennsylvania

California, PA

California University of Pennsylvania is a public university based in California, Pennsylvania. It is an institution with an enrollment of over 981 bachelor’s degree candidates. The admission criteria is somewhat competitive with the acceptance rate of 96%.

#28 in 2022 Best Public Colleges in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania State University-Penn State Schuylkill

Schuylkill Haven, PA

Pennsylvania State University-Penn State Schuylkill is a public university based in Schuylkill Haven, Pennsylvania. It is an institution with an enrollment of over 178 bachelor’s degree candidates. The admission criteria is somewhat competitive with the acceptance rate of 75%.

#29 in 2022 Best Public Colleges in Pennsylvania

Edinboro University of Pennsylvania

Edinboro University of Pennsylvania

Edinboro, PA

Edinboro University of Pennsylvania is a public university based in Edinboro, Pennsylvania. It is an institution with an enrollment of over 838 bachelor’s degree candidates. The admission criteria is somewhat competitive with the acceptance rate of 92%.

#30 in 2022 Best Public Colleges in Pennsylvania

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