Thinking about studying in the US can be overwhelming because there are so many options.
We thought you might like to know the top universities in the US based on the highly respected Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2021.
There are 181 US universities and colleges among the world’s best and so wherever you want to study in the US, a top university will not be far away. Almost all states and about 130 cities are represented in the best US universities list.
Top 5 universities in the US
1. Stanford University
Based in Palo Alto, right beside Silicon Valley, Stanford University has had a prominent role in encouraging the region’s tech industry to develop.
Many faculty members, students and alumni have founded successful technology companies and start-ups, including Google, Snapchat and Hewlett-Packard.
In total, companies founded by Stanford alumni make $2.7 trillion (£2.2 trillion) each year.
The university is often referred to as “the Farm” because the campus was built on the site of the Stanford family’s Palo Alto stock farm. The campus covers 8,180 acres, but more than half of the land is not yet developed.
With its distinctive sand-coloured, red-roofed buildings, Stanford’s campus is thought to be one of the most beautiful in the world. It contains a number of sculpture gardens and art museums, and a public meditation centre.
As might be expected from one of the best universities in the world, Stanford is highly competitive. The admission rate stands at just over 5 per cent.
Of the 16,000 students – most of whom live on campus – 22 per cent are international.
2. Harvard University
Harvard is probably the best known university in the world, topping the Times Higher Education reputation rankings most years.
Founded in 1636, it is the oldest higher education institution in the US.
About 21,000 students are enrolled, a quarter of whom are international. Although tuition is expensive, Harvard’s financial endowment allows for plenty of financial aid for students.
The Harvard Library system is made up of 79 libraries and counts as the largest academic library in the world.
Among many famous alumni, Harvard can count eight US presidents, 158 Nobel laureates, 14 Turing Award winners and 62 living billionaires.
Unlike some other universities at the top of the list, Harvard is at least equally reputed for arts and humanities as it is for science and technology, if not more so.
3. California Institute of Technology (CalTech)
Relative to the tiny size of its student population, CalTech has an impressive number of successful graduates and affiliates, including 39 Nobel laureates, six Turing Award winners and four Fields Medallists.
There are about 2,200 students at CalTech, and the primary campus in Pasadena, near Los Angeles, covers 124 acres. Almost all undergraduates live on campus.
Across the six faculties, there is a focus on science and engineering.
In addition to Nobel laureates and top researchers, the CalTech graduate community includes a number of politicians and public advisers, particularly in the areas of science, technology and energy.
All first-year students belong to one of four houses as part of the university’s alternative model to fraternities and sororities. A number of house traditions and events are associated with each house.
The university has the highest proportion of students who continue on to pursue a PhD, and the figure of the CalTech postgraduate has filtered into popular culture; all the main characters in the TV comedy The Big Bang Theory work or study at CalTech.
4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
MIT also cultivates a strong entrepreneurial culture, which has seen many alumni found notable companies such as Intel and Dropbox.
Unusually, the undergraduate and postgraduate programmes at MIT are not wholly separate; many courses can be taken at either level.
The undergraduate programme is one of the country’s most selective, admitting only 8 per cent of applicants. Engineering and computer science programmes are the most popular among undergraduates.
Thirty-three per cent of the 11,000 students are international, hailing from 154 countries.
Famous alumni include astronaut Buzz Aldrin, former UN secretary general Kofi Annan and physicist Richard Feynman.
5. University of California, Berkeley
The University of California, Berkeley is a public research university located in the San Francisco Bay Area, California.
It is part of the University of California system, and is in fact the oldest campus within the system, having been founded in 1868.
Berkeley has an impressive catalogue of achievements counting 107 Nobel laureates, 25 Turing Award winners, 14 Fields Medallists, 28 Wolf Prize winners, 103 MacArthur Fellows, 25 Pulitzer Prize winners, 19 Academy Award winners and 207 Olympic Medals. Many politicians have also studied at the university.
The university’s official colours are blue and gold: where blue represents the California sky and ocean and gold the “Golden State” of California.
There are more than 1,000 student groups at the university covering interests and activities such as sports, politics and arts and crafts.