The Best Colleges in Boston

Boston has long held a reputation as one of the most outstanding locations for higher learning in the US, if not the world. This, for the most part, owes to the area’s world-famous duo of colleges, Harvard and MIT. But beyond these two internationally renowned institutions, the Boston area is home to dozens of other colleges with very high academic standards and plenty to offer students with all interests and academic aspirations.

We reviewed dozens of Boston colleges to identify the very best of the best. We based our assessment on a range of factors, including cost, location, student life, available degrees, career prospects, financial aid opportunities, and student reviews.

Top Pick
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

This college is one of the most prestigious in the world, excels in the sciences, and boasts the best stats on graduate earnings of all Boston colleges.

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Having considered a large number of colleges in the Boston area, we chose Massachusetts Institute of Technology as our top pick. This world-famous college might be pricey and very competitive to get into, but it’s one of the largest producers of STEM professionals in the country and offers outstanding career prospects and earnings potential for its graduates.

The 5 Top-Rated Colleges in Boston

Editor's PicksCollegeRating
Best OverallMassachusetts Institute of Technology 4.6
Runner UpHarvard University 4.4
Best ValueBabson College 4.6
Best for AcademicsTufts University 4.6
Best for AthletesBoston College 4.4

*Ratings are from Niche.com at the time of publication and can change

Our Top Pick: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a relatively small institution with absolutely huge international repute. It has been at the forefront of academic innovation and excellence for decades and offers students not only a learning environment in which students are surrounded by some of the best minds on the planet but also the best career opportunities and earnings potential of all Boston colleges.

MIT is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts and has an enrollment of 4,510 undergraduate students. The acceptance rate for this university is a mere 7%, making it one of the most competitive universities in the country to get into.  MIT is renowned for its STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) programs, is considered a world leader in research in each of the above disciplines, and is currently ranked #1 in the list of the best universities in the world.

Career prospects for MIT graduates are outstanding, with average alumni starting salaries currently sitting at over $82,000.

MIT Key Features:

  • Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Excels in STEM subjects
  • Ranked #1 university in the world
  • Excellent career prospects
  • Urban campus extends over a mile along the Charles River

Our Runner Up Pick: Harvard University

Runner Up
Harvard University

This Ivy League college has been virtually synonymous with academic excellence for centuries and offers among the best career prospects of any college in the world.

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Harvard University is one of eight Ivy League schools and universally recognized as one of the most prestigious universities in the world. As is the case with its Cambridge neighbor, MIT, getting into Harvard is highly competitive and course fees are very high. However, these drawbacks are largely offset by the exceptional career prospects, learning environment, range of courses, and prestige Harvard offers. Additionally, Harvard’s large endowment ($39.2 billion) means is offers very generous financial aid packages.

Harvard confers 36 undergraduate degrees, 134 graduate degrees, and 32 professional degrees. Among its most popular programs for undergraduates are a BSc in Economics, a BA in History, and a BA in Political Science and Government.

Located in Cambridge, Harvard students can reach downtown Boston in under 15 minutes by train or little over 20 minutes by car.

Harvard University Key Features: 

  • Recognized as one of the best universities in the world by Forbes, the Princeton Review, and U.S. News and World Report
  • Offers 36 undergraduate degrees, 134 graduate degrees, and 32 professional degrees
  • Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • The Harvard Library is the world’s largest academic and private library system
  • Extensive financial aid opportunities
  • Excellent career prospects for alumni

Best Value College in Boston: Babson College

Best Value
Babson College

This private business school in Wellesley, Massachusetts is ideal for aspiring entrepreneurs and business moguls.

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Ranked #13 in the Niche list of Best Colleges for Business in America and #20 for Best Value Colleges in America, Babson College is a great choice for prospective students keen to get best the education in entrepreneurship available without racking up too much student debt.

A total of 49% of Babson students receive financial aid, with the average total aid awarded amounting to $36,717 per year, compared to a national average of just over $7,000. The graduation rate from Babson, moreover, currently stands at 92% and a highly impressive 91% of alumni are in employment 2 years after graduation. Add to that the fact that average earnings six years after graduation are over a whopping $96,000 per year (compared to a national average of just over $33,000) and it’s easy to understand why this small university is our top pick for value.

It might not have the most happening campus in the world or boast the best student life of colleges in the area, but for those who want to knuckle down and make a name for themselves in the business world, this is the place to be. (Though, we should add, reaching downtown Boston from the Babson campus takes little more than 15 minutes should you happen to need to let your hair down a little!).

Babson College Key Features:

  • Located in Wellesley, Massachusetts
  • Excels in entrepreneurship education
  • Over 100 student clubs and organizations
  • Most popular degrees include BSc in Business Administration, MBA, and MSc in Entrepreneurial Leadership

Best Boston College for Academics: Tufts University

Best for Academics
Tufts University

This private university in Somerville excels in engineering and the liberal arts and ranks as the ninth best colleges for art in the US.

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Tufts University is another of the Boston area’s highly prestigious institutions of higher learning, with a history dating back to 1852 and current ranking of #29 in national universities.

Located in Somerville, Massachusetts, this mid-size institution is just 4 miles from downtown Boston and offers over 80 degrees at the undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate level. Its most popular majors include Economics, Biology, and International Relations. At present, Tufts ranks #6 Best College for Public Health in America, #7 Best Colleges for International Relations in America, and #9 Best Colleges for Art in America.

While the net price of attending Tufts is almost double the national average, 45% of Tufts students receive an average of nearly $39,000 in total aid per year and Tufts alumni go on to earn an average starting salary of $51,200. Average earnings six years after graduation currently stand at a highly respectable $76,000 and 92% of Tufts alumni find employment within 2 years of graduation, compared to a national average of 83%.

Tufts University Key Features:

  • Located in Somerville, Massachusetts
  • Popular majors include Economics, Biology, International Relations, and Civil Engineering
  • Over 80 degree programs
  • Average tuition just over $33,000

Best College in Boston for Student Life: Boston College

Best for Student Athletes
Boston College

This private, Catholic college in Newton combines academic excellence with a wealth of student organizations and a surprisingly lively party scene.

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Boston College is a private, non-profit, Jesuit Catholic institution located in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts that is currently ranked in the top 50 national universities by both U.S. News and World Report. Again, this isn’t the cheapest of colleges out there, but 55% of Boston College students receive an average of nearly $41,000 in total financial aid per year and BC alumni go on to earn an average starting salary of $57,000. The graduation rate at BC is currently 92% and 94% of alumni find employment within 2 years of graduation. Average alumni earnings six years after graduations currently stand at an impressive $72,500.

This college also currently ranks #3 Best Catholic Colleges in America, #4 Best Colleges for Education in America, #5 Best Colleges for Accounting and Finance in America, and #29 Best Colleges for Student Athletes in America.

Boston College offers over 150 degrees at undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate level, the most popular of which include a BSc in Nursing, an MBA, and programs in Economics, Finance, and Psychology.

Boston College Key Features:

  • Located in Chestnut Hill, just 5.5 miles from downtown Boston
  • 29th best college for student athletes in the US
  • Has six newspapers, three broadcasting stations, three journals, and an undergraduate literary magazine
  • Popular majors include Nursing, Economics, Finance, and Psychology

Who Should Attend College in Boston

Other than being home to dozens of colleges that offer courses of all types for prospective students with all interests and at different stages in their academic and/or professional careers, Boston has a great deal to offer in terms of culture, student life, history, sports, and employment opportunities.

Going to school in Boston isn’t cheap, but those considering Boston for college will likely find themselves swayed in Beantown’s favor by the following:

  • It’s a young city – According to Boston Magazine, a quarter of a million college students reside in Boston and Cambridge, which makes it the youngest major metropolis in the US
  • Diversity – Almost 20% of the population of 18 to 34 year olds in Boston were born in another country
  • Cultural attractions – The best of these take the form of the Museum of Fine Arts, the Huntington Theater, and the Boston Ballet
  • Internship opportunities – Boston and the surrounding area are home to hundreds of companies that offer internship opportunities for college students and recent graduates
  • Earning potential – According to Social Explorer, 18 to 34 year olds make up 71% of all employed adults in Boston, compared to 65% in the rest of the country and Bostonians in full-time employment earn over $10,000 more than the national average
  • It’s a very walkable city – Whichever college you choose to attend, public transport and your feet are the best way to get around!
  • The sports scene – Boston’s sports teams are renowned for their fanatical fans and the atmosphere at Fenway Park or T.D. Garden is well worth sampling, even for those who aren’t huge sports fans

If you’re moving to a college town, then you won’t want to miss Life At College: 5 Keys To Finding Your Perfect College Town Apartment.

Top Pick
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

This college is one of the most prestigious in the world, excels in the sciences, and boasts the best stats on graduate earnings of all Boston colleges.

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Important Factors to Consider

  • Cost. Cost is usually the most important factor to consider when choosing a college, and prospective students should try to facilitate their search by determining how much they can afford to pay in tuition fees in order to narrow down the viable options. Attending college in Boston isn’t cheap, with several colleges falling into the $35k-plus category per year for tuition alone. Total costs will also vary by the length of program you choose.
  • Career prospects. Job placement rates should be one the first things you should check when weighing up your choices of college. According to Social Explorer, 18 to 34 year olds make up 71% of all employed adults in Boston, compared to 65% in the rest of the country, meaning that Boston is a great place to make a start in your career. Placement rates, however, will vary greatly from one college to another and we recommend surveying college prospectuses and web pages of individual schools to get a better idea of what career prospects look like for alumni of different schools and programs withing each college.
  • Available majors and degrees. We’d always highly recommend narrowing down your search for a suitable school by first finding those that offer your preferred area of study. While a school may have an outstanding reputation or lower fees or other desirable attributes, none of these will count for much if studying there means setting yourself off along a career path that is not the one you would have ideally chosen to pursue. School admission offices and also their websites or brochures can give you a full list of available programs at each institution.
  • Location. A college’s location can make the difference between enjoying your time at college or not. While for those who plan on commuting to college from home this isn’t a big consideration, for those who expect to relocate to undertake a degree, we’d highly recommend asking yourself a few questions prior to choosing a college. Are you more of a city person or a small-town or country person? Would you like to be near any specific attractions necessary for fun in your downtime from studying (mountains, lakes, the sea, culturally rich areas, etc.)? Are you going to be comfortable living a great distance from your family and friends? Finally, we’d also recommend visiting any colleges on your shortlist to get a feel for the area and see what it has to offer both on and off campus.
  • Financial aid opportunities. We don’t need to tell you that college isn’t cheap, but opportunities for financial aid for further study are now better than ever before. Financial aid can be attained in the form of a federal or state grant that you do not have to pay back, a federal student loan that must be paid back after graduation, or specific grants and scholarships awarded by the institution itself.  Again, narrowing down the colleges on your shortlist of viable options is likely to come down to how much and what type of financial aid you might be awarded. Financial aid awards can vary greatly from one institution to another and schools usually publish the number or percentage of students receiving financial aid on their websites along with the average of total aid awarded. These figures can allow you to decide whether or not attending any given college will be financially feasible.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many colleges are in Boston?

As mentioned in our introduction, Boston is home to 35 colleges, universities, and community colleges, and there are currently over 15o,000 enrolled students in the city – around 34% of the state of Massachusetts total college enrollment.

What is Boston famous for?

Boston has a very diverse array of features and highlights for which it is famous. The most notable of these include:

  • Fenway Park
  • The Boston Marathon
  • Harvard University
  • The Charles River
  • Its high quality of life (Deutsche Bank ranks it eighth in the world and highest in the US)
  • Boston baked beans – the popular regional dish that earned the city the nickname ‘Beantown’
  • Boston Museum of Fine Arts
  • The Boston Symphony Orchestra
  • The Boston Tea Party
  • Its colleges (!) – there are 35 of them!

What Ivy League college is in Boston?

Harvard University is Boston’s only Ivy League college. Founded in 1636, for almost four centuries this college has stood as one of the most distinguished and prestigious universities in the world and currently ranks number seven in the World University Rankings.

Is Boston safer than New York?

According to the Open Data Network, New York City’s total crime incident count is far greater than Boston’s. However, Boston’s crime rate per 100,000 people is higher than NYC’s in aggravated assault, rape, burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft, property crime, murder and manslaughter, robbery and violent crime.

Other Colleges in Boston We Reviewed

Top Pick
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

This college is one of the most prestigious in the world, excels in the sciences, and boasts the best stats on graduate earnings of all Boston colleges.

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We looked at 20 other colleges in the Boston area. Even though they didn’t make our 5 best colleges in Boston list, they’re the best of the rest and each is still a great option. The information you’ll need to compare each one is included with the listing.

*Quoted costs are the average cost for full-time students after deductions for students receiving financial aid in the form of non-repayable grants or scholarships, as reported by the college.

Value Colleges in Boston

Bentley University

Bentley University

Located in Waltham, MA, Bentley College is an affordable option with particularly impressive, highly ranked Accounting and Finance programs.

Key Features:

  • Located in Waltham, roughly 12 miles from downtown Boston
  • Ranked #9 in Best Colleges for Accounting and Finance in America
  • Ranked #32 Best Value Colleges in America
  • Popular degrees include Accounting and Finance, Actuarial Science, MBA, Marketing, and Business Support Services

Cost: $35,613

University of Massachusetts – Boston

University of Massachusetts Boston

This public college ranks as one of the best in the US for Information Technology and offer among the lowest tuition fees in the State of Massachusetts.

Key Features:

  • Located just 4.5 miles from downtown Boston
  • Popular majors include Business, Psychology, and Nursing Science, and Education
  • Ranked #9 Most Diverse Colleges in America

Cost: $10,991

Framingham State University 

Framingham State University

Although a bit of an outlier in terms of location, this very affordable institution has just about the liveliest student life in the state and more than 50 degree programs at undergraduate and graduate level.

Key Features:

  • Located in Framingham, 24 miles from Boston
  • Vibrant student life
  • Low tuition fees
  • Popular programs include Nursing, Business Administration, and Education

Cost: $12,226

Stonehill College

Stonehill College

This small, Catholic university ranks #42 Best Catholic College in America and 98% of alumni find work within 2 years of graduation.

Key Features:

  • Located in Easton, 25 miles from Boston
  • 99% of students receive financial aid (average $22,865)
  • Popular majors include Psychology, Criminology, and Biology

Cost: $33,583

Brandeis University

Brandeis University

This university offers undergrad degrees in 43 majors and over 25 degrees at graduate level and is home to the Heller School for Social Policy and Management, one of the nation’s best institutions for Social Work and International Development.

Key Features:

  • Located in Waltham, roughly 15 miles by car from Boston
  • Ranked #22 Best Colleges for Public Policy, #30 Best Colleges for Global Studies, and #44 Best Colleges for Film and Photography in America
  • 68% of students receive financial aid (average $35,487)
  • Hometoover 270 student organizations

Cost: $34,591

Massachusetts College of Art & Design

Massachusetts College of Art & Design

This small school in central Boston has a 145-year history of excellence in art and design and ranks #31 of Best Colleges for Art in America.

Key Features:

  • Centrally located, just 3 mils from downtown Boston
  • 98% of students receive financial aid
  • Popular programs include Illustration, Cinematography and Video Production, and Graphic Design

Cost: $22,043

Massachusetts College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences

Massachusetts College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences

This small, private college offers outstanding employment opportunities, financial aid, and earnings potential for graduates.

Key Features:

  • Located in Fenway-Kenmore, 3.5 miles from downtown Boston
  • $116,000 average earnings six years after graduation
  • Popular programs include Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Nursing, and Pre-Medicine Studies

Cost: $38,708

University of Massachusetts – Lowell

University of Massachusetts - Lowell

Located in Jack Kerouac’s hometown of Lowell, just 30 miles from central Boston, this very affordable college offers great value, lively student life, and ranks #89 of all public universities in the US (US News & World Report).

Key Features:

  • Located in Lowell, MA, just over 30 miles from central Boston
  • Popular majors include Business, Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Administration, and Information Science
  • UMass Lowell graduates earn the highest mid-career salaries of alumni from any public university in New England
  • 91% of students receive financial aid

Cost: $18,375

Colleges in Boston for Academics

Emerson College

Emerson College

Located in the Washington Street Theater District in central Boston, this small, private institution is one of the most liberal colleges in the US.

Key Features:

  • Located in central Boston
  • 76% of students receive financial aid
  • #29 Best College Locations in America
  • Popular majors include Cinematography and Video Production, Radio and Television, and Creative Writing

Cost: $41,984

Wheaton College

Wheaton College

This one’s a little out of the way, but for those more keen on immersing themselves in academic life than nearby attractions and their school’s party atmosphere, Wheaton has a lot to offer, including over 100 majors and merit-based financial aid.

Key Features:

  • Located in Wheaton, MA, 45 miles from central Boston
  • 99% of students receive financial aid
  • Average total award for financial aid is $31,592
  • Popular programs include Psychology, Economics, and Business

Cost: $31,814

Northeastern University

Northeastern University

This university offers almost 200 degree programs and ranks in the top ten of US colleges for Criminal Justice, Kinesiology and Physical Therapy, Design, and Architecture.

Key Features:

  • Located just 2.5 miles from downtown Boston
  • Has a wealth of student organizations, clubs, and sports teams
  • Lively social scene
  • 75% of students receive financial aid (average award is $34,600)
  • Popular programs include Nursing, Business Admin, and Economics

Cost: $41,200

Wellesley College

Wellesley College

This small, private women’s college is ranked #2 Best Women’s College in the US and has been ranked in the top five for best liberal arts colleges by U.S. News and World Report and the Princeton Review.

Key Features:

  • Located in Wellesley, 19 miles from Boston
  • Ranked #2 Best Women’s College and #59 Best Value Colleges in America
  • Popular majors include Economics, Biology, and Research and Experimental Psychology

Cost: $25,218

Simmons University

Simmons College

This private women’s college is ranked #10 Best Women’s Colleges in America, #18 Best College Locations in America, and offers undergraduate degrees in more than 50 areas of study.

Key Features:

  • Located near Fenway Park, just 3 miles from central Boston
  • 100% of students receive financial aid
  • Popular majors include Business Administration, Nursing, Kinesiology and Exercise Science, and Communications

Cost: $35,468

Boston University

Boston University

Located in Boston proper, this large university offers over 300 majors and minors and scores very highly in student life and extracurricular activities, with more than a dozen student-run publications and over a hundred student organizations.

Key Features:

  • Located in historic center of Boston
  • Graduates are ranked #21 globally for employability
  • #2 Best Colleges for Kinesiology and Physical Therapy in America
  • #9 Best Colleges for Education in America
  • Popular programs include Medicine, Business Administration, and Communications

Cost: $39,583

Wentworth Institute of Technology

Wentworth Institute of Technology

This private technological university offers a hands-on approach to learning that prepares students to become leaders in construction, business support, engineering, computer science, and many other fields.

Key Features:

  • Located just 3.5 miles from downtown Boston
  • 99% of students receive financial aid
  • 96% of alumni find employment within 2 years of graduation
  • Popular majors include Architecture, Construction Management, and Business Support Services

Cost: $37, 656

Colleges in Boston for Student Life

Berklee College of Music

Berklee College of Music

Ranked number 3 in the list of Best Colleges for Music and #49 for student life, this small, lively college in central Boston is the ideal choice for those who want to combine their passion for music with a vibrant social scene.

Key Features:

  • Located in central Boston
  • 70% of students receive financial aid
  • Popular programs include Music, Music Technology, and Music Performance

Cost: $41,382

Emmanuel College – Massachusetts

Emmanuel College - Massachusetts

This Catholic university in central Boston ranks #7 in Best College Locations in America and boasts over one hundred student clubs, activities, and organizations.

Key Features:

  • Located in Fenway, just 3 miles from downtown Boston
  • 100% of students receive financial aid
  • Over 100 co-curricular clubs, activities, and organizations on campus
  • Popular majors include Counseling Psychology, Biology, and Business

Cost: $31,448

Merrimack College

Merrimack College

Located just a short drive from central Boston in a leafy, residential setting, this private, Catholic college is one of the fastest-growing educational institutions in the country and offers over 100 academic programs.

Key Features:

  • Located in Andover, 24 miles from central Boston
  • 100% of students receive financial aid
  • Popular programs include Business, Human Development, and Marketing

Cost: $33,202

Suffolk University

Suffolk University

Located in the very heart of downtown Boston, this college is famed for its party atmosphere, active social scene, and outstanding Law program. It is ranked #26 in the Niche list of Best College Locations in America.

Key Features:

  • Located in downtown Boston
  • 93% of students receive financial aid
  • Popular programs include Communications, Marketing, Law, and Finance

Cost: $31,722

Bridgewater State University

Bridgewater State University

This public liberal arts institution is located 30 miles from Boston and 35 miles from Providence. It offers over 160 clubs and organizations,  fraternities and sororities, as well as a student-run newspaper and radio station.

Key Features:

  • Located in Bridgewater, 30 miles from central Boston
  • Popular majors include Psychology, Management Sciences and Information Systems, and Criminal Justice and Safety Studies
  • More than 90 areas of study
  • 93% of students receive financial aid

Cost: $16,667

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