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The 10 Best Universities in the US for 2021

In 2019, there were more than 1,000,000 international students in the United States, a testament to its highly-acclaimed post-secondary institutions. In fact, this country is home to some of the best universities in the world. 

Let’s examine the 10 best universities in the US for 2021, according to the latest Quacquarelli Symonds rankings.

For those who are unfamiliar, QS ranks universities based on a set of methodological metrics

  • Academic Reputation
  • Employer Reputation
  • Faculty/Student Ratio
  • Citations per Faculty
  • International Faculty Ratio 
  • International Student Ratio

If you are interested in studying in the US, the top 10 universities are as follows:

10. Columbia University

Global Ranking: 19

Columbia University campus

Cracking the top 10 is Columbia University, New York City’s Ivy League University. Dropping one place in the world rankings, Columbia scores a perfect 100 with QS for its ratio of student-to-faculty members. This might be a result of Columbia’s exclusivity, with an undergraduate acceptance rate of just 5.8%. 

Did you know?

Columbia University runs the highly distinguished Pulitzer Prize, an annual award for excellence in newspaper, magazine and online journalism, literature, and musical composition.

9. Cornell University

Global Ranking: 18 

Cornell University campus

Cornell fell two places this year, ranking at number 9 in the US. The university performs well in academic reputation, research output, and international faculty with 24% of its student body being international students. Although Cornell has a larger student-to-faculty ratio than other Ivy League institutions, its wide range of programs make it one of the best universities in the United States.

Did you know?

Cornell was the first university to teach modern Far Eastern languages; its Department of Asian Studies today teaches 19 classical and modern Asian languages.

8. Yale University

Global Ranking: 17

Yale University campus

Steady at 17th place in the global rankings this year is Yale University. One of the most popular universities in the world, Yale achieves almost perfect scores in student-to-faculty ratio, academic reputation, and employer reputation. In fact, Yale is ranked 13th in the world for graduate employability!

Did you know?

Yale University has educated five US presidents: William Howard Taft, Gerald Ford, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush.

7. University of Pennsylvania

Global Ranking: 16

University of Pennsylvania campus

The University of Pennsylvania rose to number 7 in this year’s US university rankings, primarily because of its academic reputation and student-to-faculty ratio. Located in the city of Philadelphia, UPenn is unique among Ivy League institutions for its diversity. 51% of students are visible minorities and 55% of all students are women.

Did you know?

The University of Pennsylvania has one of the highest numbers of graduates who go on to become Fortune 500 CEOs.

6. Princeton University

Global Ranking: 12

Princeton University campus

One of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the US, Princeton continues to rank high at the national and international level. The university’s research output is some of the highest in the world, earning a perfect 100 in the citations per faculty ranking. It is no surprise considering its faculty includes 27 Nobel Prize winners and it gives out 1,576 research funding awards.

Did you know?

Former US First Lady Michelle Obama graduated from Princeton with a Bachelor of Arts in 1985, majoring in sociology and minoring in African-American studies.

5. University of Chicago

Global Ranking: 9

University of Chicago campus

Based in the city’s urban centre, the University of Chicago is one of the best non-Ivy League institutions in the country. The University of Chicago scores especially high in academic reputation. Its research has led to groundbreaking discoveries, such as identifying the link between cancer and genetics. Today, the University of Chicago welcomes more than 16,000 students – both graduate and undergraduate – with a male to female ratio of 56:44. A quarter of all students are from overseas, a testament to the institution’s reputation.

Did you know?

In 1983, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, a faculty member at the University of Chicago, was the first person to propose the existence of black holes.

4. California Institute of Technology (Caltech)

Global Ranking: 4

California Institute of Technology (Caltech) campus

Located in the city of Pasadena, California, the California Institute of Technology (or Caltech) is one of the best universities on the West Coast. It also happens to be the smallest university in the US top 10. Climbing one spot in this year’s university rankings, Caltech achieves almost 100% on student-to-faculty ratio, citations per faculty, and international faculty indicators.

Did you know?

Caltech is home to the NASA-owned Jet Propulsion Laboratory and International Observatory Network, and has been a major hub of scientific research since the early 20th century.

3. Harvard University

Global Ranking: 3

Harvard University Library

Arguably the most famous university in the world, Harvard achieves perfect scores in academic and employer reputation. As the oldest higher-education institution in the United States (established in 1636), Harvard only accepts the academic elite, and the cost of attendance is comparatively high.

Nonetheless, Harvard continues to lag behind the competition when it comes to its international student population. In fact, international students only account for 15% of its overall student population. While this is disappointing, in nearly every other metric, Harvard is still one of the best universities in the world.

Did you know?

Harvard University’s Widener Library is the second largest library in the United States, with six floors above ground and four floors below.

2. Stanford University

Global Ranking: 2

Stanford University campus

Stanford earns perfect ratings in three categories, academic reputation, employer reputation, and faculty-to-student ratio, making it the second best university in the world. Unfortunately, like Harvard, Stanford performs poorly in the international students criteria, scoring only a 63.6/100.

Despite this drawback, Stanford continues to be one of the most esteemed and desirable institutions in the US. Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, home to Yahoo!, Google, Apple, and other tech giants, Stanford continues to be a “billionaire factory”, as its graduates are some of the most successful in the world.

Did you know?

Stanford has the highest number of Turing Award winners for a single institution.

The widely beloved chick flick, Legally Blonde, was written by Amanda Brown and based on her real experiences at Stanford Law.

1. MIT

Global ranking: 1

Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus

For nine years standing, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT, remains the top university in the US and across the world for 2021. MIT has perfect ratings in four of six ranking criteria: academic reputation, employer reputation, faculty-to-student ratio, and international faculty. It also scores close to 100% in research citations and international students.

Did you know?

MIT invented the world’s first computer in 1928. 

The first human cancer gene discovery took place at MIT.

Finally, a fun pop culture fact: Although Tony Stark, a fictional character in Marvel Comics, is said to have graduated from MIT “summa cum laude”, MIT does not have any class ranking for its students.


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