The top oldest university in the United States (Ranked and Reviewed)

oldest university in the United States

The oldest university in the United States is usually compared to the new generation of universities that follow behind.

This is because most people tend to think that an old university cannot perform better than the new ones in terms of teaching (theoretical vs practical), boring lecturers, grading system, and ability to move with educational trends.

Furthermore, a common belief holds that the older the wine, the sweeter it tastes.

Why You Need To Know About the Oldest University in the United States

Well, there may not be much of a reason for you to want to know about the oldest university in the united states, but for a start, some of the reasons are:

I. To be in the know about them.

II. To be able to support or dispute the saying “The older the wine the sweeter it tastes”.

III. To give you insight into the alumni of these universities, and how they have impacted the world.

Below are some of the oldest universities in the USA that you would find interest in.

Harvard University

We can’t talk about the oldest university in the United States without mentioning Harvard. 

This university was established in 1636 by a vote of the Great and General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Before being named Harvard University, it was known as Harvard college (as of 1639). 

The name Harvard stems from its being named after a deceased clergyman known as John Harvard, an alumnus of Cambridge University.

And this honor was awarded to him because he left the school a whooping sum of £779, and his library of some 400 volumes.

Rank:  Harvard is ranked No.5 in the world (QS world university ranking, 2022) with an overall score of 98.

Age has not played a fast one in Harvard. Being one of the oldest universities in the united states, it still maintains its pedigree

No. of courses offered: 3700

Some prominent alumni include John F. Kennedy, Mark Zuckerberg, Natalie Portman, Conan O’Brien, etc.

Acceptance Rate: 5%

College of William & Mary

The College of William & Mary is also one of the oldest universities in the United States.  

Officially Known as the college of William and Mary in Virginia.

This university was founded in the year 1693, by a letter patent issued by King William III and Queen Mary II.

Ranking: According to US news, this oldest university in the United States is ranked No.38 amongst national universities.

No of courses offered:  40 diverse courses

Some Prominent Alumni: Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, James Comey, John Marshall, Ellen Stofan, John Stewart, Patton Oswalt, etc.

Acceptance Rate: 42%

St. John’s College – Annapolis

St. John’s College is also one of the oldest universities in the United States. 

It is a private liberal arts college,  with dual campuses in Annapolis, Maryland, and Santa Fe, New Mexico. 

This university is the successor institution of King William’s School, a preparatory school founded in 1696.

Rank: This oldest university in the United States is ranked No. 67 in the National Liberal Arts Colleges.

No. of courses offered:  6

Some prominent alumni: Ben Sasse, Francis Scott Key, Ahmet Ertegün, Lhasa de Sela, Charles Van Doren, George Washington Parke Custis, Glenn Yarbrough, Michael Anton etc.

Acceptance rate:  61.4%

Yale University

This Ivy University is also among the oldest universities in the United States. 

It is a private Ivy League research university in New Haven, Connecticut. 

It was founded in 1701 as the Collegiate School and has since stood the test of time. 

Originally, Yale was created to tutor theology and sacred languages.

But with time, it incorporated other courses.

No of courses offered: Approximately 2000 courses

Rank: Ranked No.5 in the world university (US news)

Some prominent alumni:  Indira Nooyi, Meryl Streep, George H.W. Bush, Urjit Patel, Jodie Foster, Fareed Zakaria, Hillary Clinton, Ben Silbermann etc. 

Acceptance rate:  6.3%

Washington College

This is one of the oldest universities in the United States too. It was granted its charter in 1782. 

George Washington supported the founding of this university.

George supported them through financial support, and service to the Board of Governors and Visitors of the university.

Course offered: 5 incredible dual degree programs

Prominent Alumni: Arts and entertainment; James M. Cain, Linda Hamilton, Athletics; D’Arcy “Jake” Flowers, Bill Nicholson, Law and government; James Barroll Ricaud, Charles Hopper Gibson.

Acceptance Rate: 80%

University of Pennsylvania

This university is also one of the oldest universities in the United States. It is also among the Ivy League schools.

The establishment of this oldest university in the United States was in 1740.

The founder of this oldest university in the United States was Benjamin Franklin, and he advocated for an educational program that would train leaders in government, commerce, and public service.

Rank: No.8 in National Universities (US News)

Prominent Alumni: Anil Ambani; Donald Trump; Elizabeth Banks; Elon Musk; Ivanka Trump; John Legend; Noam Chomsky; Sachin Pilot; Sundar Pichai; Tory Burch etc.

Acceptance Rate: 9%

Moravian College & Moravian Theological Seminary

This oldest university in the united states is located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Moravian University is a private university. 

Historically, this college can trace its origin to 1742, when it was founded, by the Moravians.

It also claims to be the number sixth-oldest college in the United States.

Some prominent alumni: John Andretti, John Sterling, David Zinczenko, John Gorka, James M. Beck, Caroline Lockhart, William F. Badè, Emil Alexander de Schweinitz etc. 

Acceptance Rate: 78.95%

University of Delaware

The University of Delaware (UD) is a public research university in Newark, Delaware.

It has campuses in Newark, Dover, Wilmington, Lewes, and Georgetown.

It is a privately funded land-grant, sea-grant, and space-grant state-supported research university.

Courses offered: Three associate’s programs, 148 bachelor’s programs, 121 master’s programs and 55 doctoral programs across its eight colleges.

Some Prominent alumni: Johnny Weir, Tara Lipinski, Jill Biden, Elena Delle Donne, Annie Jump Cannon, Joe Biden, Rich Gannon, etc.

Acceptance Rate: 66%

Rank: Ranked No.346 in world global universities.

Washington College

This is one of the oldest universities in the United States too. It was granted its charter in 1782. 

George Washington supported the founding of this university.

George supported them through financial support, and service to the Board of Governors and Visitors of the university.

Courses offered: 5 incredible dual degree programs

Some Prominent Alumni: Arts and Entertainment; James M. Cain, Linda Hamilton, Athletics; D’Arcy “Jake” Flowers, Bill Nicholson, Law and government; James Barroll Ricaud, Charles Hopper Gibson.

Acceptance Rate: 80%.

University of Pennsylvania

This university is also one of the oldest universities in the United States.

It is also among the Ivy League schools.

This oldest university in the United States was established as the college of Philadelphia in 1740,

The founder of this oldest University in the United States is Benjamin Franklin, and he advocated for an educational program that would train leaders in government, commerce, and public service.

Rank: No.8 in National Universities (US News)

Prominent Alumni: Anil Ambani; Donald Trump; Elizabeth Banks; Elon Musk; Ivanka Trump; John Legend; Noam Chomsky; Sachin Pilot; Sundar Pichai; Tory Burch etc.

Acceptance Rate: 9%.

Princeton University

This university is a private Ivy League research university in Princeton, New Jersey. 

This university was founded in 1746 in Elizabeth as the College of New Jersey and is also one of the nine colonial colleges chartered before the American Revolution.

In 1747, it was moved to Newark,  then to its current location nine years later.

It was renamed Princeton University in 1896 after becoming a university.

Courses offered: 22 courses.

Some prominent alumni include John F. Kennedy, Michelle Obama, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jeff Bezos, Brooke Shields, etc.

Acceptance Rate: Around 6%

world rankings: #8 in Development Economics and #4 in Econometrics.

Washington and Lee University

Washington and Lee University is a private liberal arts college in Lexington, Virginia.

It was established in 1749 as the Augusta Academy and is one of the country’s oldest universities.

The number of courses offered is 36 majors and 37 minors.

Prominent Alumni: Tom Wolfe, Meriwether Lewis, Matt Bevin, Pat Robertson, Cy Twombly, Mike Henry, John Warner, Tom Robbins, etc.

Acceptance Rate: 24.5%

Ranking:  ranked No.11 in national liberal arts colleges

Columbia University

This university (referred to as Columbia) is a private Ivy League research university in New York City.

It was founded in 1754 as King’s College on the grounds of Trinity Church in Manhattan.

It is one of nine pre-Independence colonial colleges, seven of which are Ivy League.

Columbia was founded by George II of Great Britain. 

After the American Revolution, it was renamed Columbia College and placed under the control of a private board of trustees headed by former students Alexander Hamilton and John Jay.

The campus was relocated to Morningside Heights in 1896 and renamed Columbia University.

Number of courses offered: more than 100 majors

Prominent alumni include Barack Obama, Art Garfunkel, Jake Gyllenhaal, Amanda Peet, Julia Stiles, Alicia Keys, B.R. Ambedkar, etc. 

The acceptance rate of 6.7%.

Brown University

Brown University is a private Ivy League research university in Rhode Island.

It is the seventh-oldest college in the country, founded in 1764 as the College in the English Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.

On the Ivy League side, it has the oldest applied mathematics program in the country and the third-oldest medical program in New England.

In 1887, the university added master’s and doctoral studies, making it one of the first US universities to do so.

After student pressure, Brown adopted its open curriculum in 1969. 

Courses offered: over 80

Prominent Alumni: Emma Watson, Bobby Jindal, John Krasinski, John F. Kennedy, Julie Bowen, Allegra Versace, Leelee Sobieski, Jessica Capshaw, etc.

Acceptance Rate: 7.7%

Rank: Ranked # 14 in National Universities.

Rutgers University

Rutgers (officially Rutgers).  It is the State University of New Jersey, and it has four campuses in New Jersey.

Rutgers University was founded in 1766 as Queen’s College by the Dutch Reformed Church.

It is one of nine American colonial colleges founded before the American Revolution.

It was renamed Rutgers College in honor of Colonel Henry Rutgers, whose generous gift helped the school’s finances during a difficult period.

The New Jersey Legislature designated Rutgers as the State University of New Jersey in 1945 and 1956.

The number of courses offered: Over 150 undergraduate majors and 100 graduate majors.

Prominent Alumni:  Paul Wesley, James Gandolfini, Milton Friedman, Brandon Flynn, Roy Scheider, Kristin Davis, Mike Colter, Carli Lloyd, etc.

Acceptance Rate: Around 60%

Rank: New Brunswick is ranked #63 in national universities.

Dartmouth College

Dartmouth College is an Ivy League research university located in Hanover, New Hampshire.

Eleazar Wheelock founded it in 1769, making it the ninth oldest college in America and one of nine colonial colleges chartered before the American Revolution.

Dartmouth College was established to teach Native Americans Christian theology and English culture. At the turn of the century, Dartmouth College gradually restructured and rose from relative obscurity to national prominence.

Courses offered: more than 2100 undergraduate courses in liberal arts.

Prominent Alumni: Game of Thrones showrunner David Benioff, Shonda Rhimes, Mindy Kaling, Stranger Things star David Harbour, Connie Britton, comedian Rachel Dratch, and Mr. Rogers himself, Fred Rogers.

Acceptance Rate: 8.8%

Rank: Ranked No.13 in National Universities

The College of Charleston

The College of Charleston (CofC) is a public liberal arts college in Charleston, SC.

It is the oldest college in South Carolina, the 13th oldest in the country, and the country’s oldest municipal college.

Thomas Heyward Jr., Arthur Middleton, and Edward Rutledge were among the college’s founders.

Some Notable Alumni: Robert Mills, John Charles Fremont, Ludwig Lewisohn, Herbert Ravenel Sass, Burnet R, Frank Blair, George Rogers, James Edwards, etc.

Acceptance Rate: 74%

The number of courses offered: About 146 majors and minors.

Rank: Ranked No. 9 in regional universities in the south.

Salem College

Salem College is a private liberal arts college for women in Winston-Salem.

It began as a primary school, then an academy, and finally a college.

It is the oldest female educational institution still in operation, and the oldest women’s college in the South.

Although Salem is a women’s college, men aged 23 and older are admitted through the Martha H. Fleer Center for Adult Education and graduate programs.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges accredits it.

Prominent Alumni: Archie Talle, Celia Weston, Sarah Childress Polk, Fritz Coleman, Julia Howard, Meribeth Dayme, Carl D. Keith, etc.

Acceptance Rate: 85%.

Rank: No.136 in National Liberal Arts Colleges.

Dickinson College

Dickinson College is a Carlisle, Pennsylvania liberal arts college. 

It was founded in 1773 as Carlisle Grammar School and chartered on September 9, 1783, as the first college in the United States.

It was named after John and Mary Dickinson, who donated many of their libraries to the new college.

The number of courses offered is 46 majors plus minors.

Prominent Alumni: James Buchanan, Rosie O’Donnell, Roger B. Taney, Stephen Duncan, Rick Smolan, Clarence Muse, Bill Shuster, etc.

Acceptance Rate: 35%.

Rank: # 50 in National Liberal Arts Colleges. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Which school is the oldest in the world?

The oldest school in the world is the University of Bologna, and it was founded in 1088

The Oldest Public University in the United States

The oldest public university in the United States is the University of Georgia, and it became a charter in 1785.

Conclusion 

Being the oldest university in the United States does not, and cannot, affect the quality of education provided in the United States.

While the oldest university may give the impression that standards can be maintained despite time and age, learning flexibility can keep them relevant too.

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