The Best Colleges in Maine

Sometimes, the best colleges have been around for a really long time. Maine is host to historical colleges and universities, with many founded in the 1800s or earlier. Why is this significant? Historical universities stand the test of time, flourishing by changing with the times while remaining true to their roots.

We reviewed dozens of colleges in Maine to identify the best of the best. We looked at the school’s history, student satisfaction, academic standings, campus life, student athletics, and price. We dug a little deeper, and looked for schools that have something different than everyone else. After we composed our list, we sifted through the data to find the best.

Top Pick
Bowdoin College

Founded in 1794, Bowdoin College has continued to graduate top-notch students, with alumni consisting of judges, scholars, scientists, writers, diplomats, and entrepreneurs.

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We chose Bowdoin College in Brunswick as our favorite choice for the top spot. This college has been around for awhile, founded in 1794, but has continued to churn out high achievers, such as judges, scholars, writers, business leaders, and tech giants.

The 5 Top-Rated Colleges in Maine

Editor's PicksBrandRating
Best OverallBowdoin College 4
Runner UpColby College
3.5
Best ValueMaine Maritime Academy3
Best Student LifeUniversity of Maine3.5
Best AthleticsBates College 4

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

Our Top Pick: Bowdoin College

Bowdoin College deserves the top spot for its stellar academic programs, bustling campus life, and award-winning athletics department. Founded in 1794, this college revels in its deep history, and prides itself on remaining small. Though it is small, it is a highly-sought after college. The acceptance rate is low, but Bowdoin College has an unusual review process for student applications. Submitting test scores is optional; the school is much more interested in all aspects of the student.

Bowdoin College is an active research institution, with hundreds of students participating in research projects each year. It offers nearly 35 majors to choose from, including anthropology, chemistry, computer science, economics, education, and psychology. There are also learning and teaching programs, such as the Baldwin Mentors, The Writing Project, and the Quantitative Reasoning Program, to help students navigate their time at Bowdoin.

This college embraces a well-rounded student, and offers numerous opportunities to spread interests past class studies. With more than 100 student clubs and organizations, time outside the lecture hall is busy and engaging. Take part in activities surrounding academics, art, games, community service, health, politics, or sports. For the varsity athlete, Bowdoin College has an award-winning Division III league.

Yearly tuition and fees cost approximately $56,350, and $22,800 after financial aid. Bowdoin does not award financial aid with loans; all financial aid is in the form of grant money.

Bowdoin College Key Features:

  • Suburban environment on 207 acres
  • Student population is 1,805
  • Ninety-nine percent of faculty hold the highest degree in their area of study
  • More than 100 student clubs and organizations
  • NCAA Division III league

Our Runner Up Pick: Colby College

Runner Up
Colby College

Founded in 1813, Colby College is one of the most selective colleges in the U.S., offering students an academically-enriched environment to enhance their education.

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Our runner up choice is Colby College in Waterville. Though difficult to get into, this college provides students with the chance to get up-close and personal with their areas of study. The campus is centered on hundreds of acres, including a 128-acre arboretum, wildlife refuge, bog preserve, and lakefront property – all of which are used as part of environmental studies. The college also offers 56 majors to choose from, such as biology, education, government, psychology, and economics.

Students have the opportunity to get involved in research projects throughout the school year. Broaden your horizons by experiencing many interests across multiple disciplines. This college also gives students the opportunity to take part in more than 200 study abroad programs in more than 60 countries. But Colby College focuses on its surrounding neighbors as well, with many volunteer and community outreach programs.

Colby College has numerous clubs and organizations for students to join, including ballroom dancing, a cappella singing, cabaret productions, beekeeping, and equestrian. For the athlete, Colby offers intramural and club sports, and a Division III varsity sports league. Organized sports include skiing, squash, baseball, football, crew, and ice hockey.

Annual tuition and fees for this school are around $57,300, and $20,700 after grant aid.

Colby College Key Features:

  • Student population is 2,000
  • NCAA Division III league
  • Campus sits on 714 acres of rural land
  • Campus houses a wildlife refuge
  • More than 100 student clubs and organizations

Best Value College: Maine Maritime Academy

Best Value College in Maine
Maine Maritime Academy

Maine Maritime Academy is nestled on the coast, and offers students the unique opportunity to extend their education out to sea.

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The best value college in Maine is Maine Maritime Academy in Castine. Not only is it affordable, it has what most colleges don’t have – access to training at sea. With 60 vessels at its disposal, Maine Maritime Academy gives students the chance to work and train aboard many different boats and ships. In conjunction with the waterfront facilities, students have the unique opportunity to blend classroom learning with hands-on experience.

Departmental studies include arts and sciences, engineering, international business and logistics, marine transportation, and oceanography. Students can choose from a variety of majors, such as naval architecture, marine science, engineering technologies, and business. The most popular life experience at Maine Maritime Academy is the Regiment of Midshipmen. This program is mandatory for certain majors, and 60 percent of campus is involved.

Other popular activities include Greek life, student government, trivia night, and laser tag. With numerous student clubs and organizations to choose from, students at Maine Maritime Academy are quite active. For the athlete, this academy offers intramural, club, and varsity sports. Division III sports teams include basketball, football, sailing, swimming, rugby, and volleyball.

As the best value school, tuition and fees are much lower than our top two choices. For residents of Maine, annual tuition and fees are about $13,800. For those coming from out-of-state, annual tuition and fees are about $27,800.

Maine Maritime Academy Key Features:

  • Campus is 30 acres in a coastal town
  • Student population is around 950
  • NCAA Division III league
  • Hands-on education programs
  • 60 vessels for at-sea training

Best Student Life: University of Maine

Best Student Life
University of Maine

Founded in 1865, the University of Maine is the only public research university in the state.

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The University of Maine in Orono is our choice for the college with the best student life. Activities outside of class are popular on campus. There are more than 200 clubs and organizations students can be a part of. Keep busy with things like conferences, workshops, community programs, campus-wide events, recreation, and much more. There are plenty of opportunities for community engagement as well, like volunteering and interning.

Arts are central to the university, as is shown by the three museums that grace the campus. For those interested in taking their education to another level, the University of Maine gives students the chance to study abroad. And for those who need to stick close to home, a few degrees are offered completely online.

Greek life is a long-standing tradition on campus, with 13 percent of the student population making up the 26 fraternities and sororities. Campus recreation includes a fitness facility, intramural sports, outdoor activities, aquatics, and sport clubs. For the varsity athlete, the University of Maine is the only college in the state that has a Division I sports league.

The University of Maine has multiple schools and colleges, such as the College of Education and Human Development, Maine Business School, the College of Engineering, and the Honors College. Areas of study include accounting, business, education, communications, engineering, and health. The Graduate College includes more than 100 program choices, and 15 research centers. Research projects are available to both undergraduates and graduates.

Annual tuition and fees for Maine residents are roughly $11,400. If you’re coming from out-of-state, annual tuition and fees are about $31,750.

University of Maine Key Features:

  • Total undergraduate enrollment is 9,365 students
  • More than 200 clubs and organizations
  • NCAA Division I league
  • More than 100 academic degree programs
  • Campus is a 660-acre arboretum

Best Athletics: Bates College

Best Athletics
Bates College

Founded in 1855, Bates College has created many Olympians over the years.

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The best college in Maine for athletics is Bates College in Lewiston. Several alumni have competed in the Olympics in skiing, rowing, and track and field. The college also boasts numerous All-Americans and Senior Scholar Award winners. The women’s rowing team has won three straight National championships, as well as made history with three straight wins at the Head of the Charles in Boston. Other sports teams, as well as students in individual events, have also won championships.

About one-third of the student population is involved in varsity sports. Bates College has 12 athletic facilities on campus, including a squash center, pool, boathouse, and tennis center. But there’s also intramural and club sports for non-varsity athletes. The college offers physical education courses as well.

Bates College has more than 80 student clubs and organizations, including interests such as academic, creative arts, social justice, and health and wellness. Students at this college also have the opportunity to study abroad, and take part in numerous campus events. Bates has 37 majors for you to choose from, including biology, English, performing arts, psychology, and economics. Numerous academic resources are available for you to enhance your education, and individual research is strongly encouraged.

Annual tuition and fees are around $55,700. Most students receive financial aid and can expect annual costs to be about $25,200.

Bates College Key Features:

  • Student population is 2,000
  • NCAA Division III league
  • Campus size is 133 acres
  • Intramural and club sports available
  • 95 percent of students live on campus

Who Should Attend College in Maine

Maine is known for its sweeping coastline, rural inland, and plentiful seafood. If you’re a lover of the seasons and a big fan of a snowy winter, then Maine is the place to be. With plenty of outdoor activities, like hiking, skiing, sailing, and camping, college students keep busy when they’re not in class.

More importantly, Maine has some of the best seafood in the country. You’ll find fried clams, crab cakes, oysters, the iconic lobster roll, and infamous New England clam chowder. But you don’t even have to enter a restaurant. Seafood is often served from food trucks or clam shacks, making seafood a quick grab-and-go bite to eat, perfect for the busy college student.

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
Bowdoin College

Founded in 1794, Bowdoin College has continued to graduate top-notch students, with alumni consisting of judges, scholars, scientists, writers, diplomats, and entrepreneurs.

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Important Features to Consider

A college or university should have a few important features. Here’s what to consider when selecting a college or university to attend:

  • Where is it located? Where in the country, or world, a college is located is probably going to be the first thing you think about. Whether you’re itching for sun and heat, or would prefer your winters blanketed in snow, consider what location you want your college experience to be in. Once you know the general area you want, consider the environment the campus is located in. Are you up for a rural, city, coastal, or suburban setting?
  • What’s the size of the school? Do you want a small or large school? Small colleges can be located anywhere, but often have close-knit campus communities. Classes are typically more intimate, and there may or may not be any campus activities. Large universities often have classes in lecture halls, but campus life tends to be hopping.
  • What academic programs are offered? Of course you need to know what the college or university has for degrees and majors. It won’t matter where the school is located or what size it is if it doesn’t have the academic curriculum you’re looking for. While you’re checking out majors, see what other academic programs exist outside the classroom.
  • What activities are there to do on campus? Is there anything to do when you’re not in class? Most colleges have clubs, organizations, and events for a stimulating campus life. If you’re interested in getting involved in a particular activity, such as the newspaper or radio station, research whether a college offers this opportunity.
  • Is there an athletics department? If you’re a varsity athlete, make sure your college of choice offers your sport, and don’t forget to check which division the college is in. Even if you’re not a varsity athlete, many colleges provide a fitness center available to all students. Consider the facilities a campus has to help keep you active and in shape.
  • What makes this school stand out? What makes this school different than the others? Did it receive academic awards? Have alumni made it to the Olympics? Are faculty top in their field? Keep an eye out for the unique things a college may offer – something you may not find anywhere else.
  • How much will it cost me? When you’re factoring the cost of college, consider the total package. Most colleges break down their costs, which can appear overwhelming. Many offer financial aid in the form of grants, loans, or scholarships.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many colleges are in Maine?

According to the Maine Department of Higher Education website, there are 33 colleges, universities, and training academies in the state. Seventeen of the colleges are private, and eight are public colleges or universities. Seven of these public universities are in the University of Maine System.

How many community colleges are in Maine?

Seven community colleges belong to the Maine Community College System, according to the Maine Department of Higher Education website. This includes Central Maine, Eastern, Kennebec Valley, Northern Maine, Southern Maine, Washington County, and York County Community College.

What GPA do you need to get into University of Maine?

The University of Maine in Orono encourages students with a cumulative GPA of 2.0 or higher to apply for admission. Some programs require a minimum GPA of 2.3 to 2.5 or higher, and the nursing program requires a minimum GPA of 3.5.

The University of Maine in Augusta requires a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.0, depending on the program you are applying to. Some programs require a 3.0 GPA or higher.

The University of Maine in Fort Kent requires a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.0, but the RN to BSN nursing program requires a minimum of 2.5. The accelerated nursing program requires a minimum GPA of 3.2.

What town is University of Maine in?

The University of Maine has seven campuses. These campuses can be found in Orono, Augusta, Farmington, Fort Kent, Machias, Presque Isle, and Portland.

Other Colleges in Maine We Reviewed

Top Pick
Bowdoin College

Founded in 1794, Bowdoin College has continued to graduate top-notch students, with alumni consisting of judges, scholars, scientists, writers, diplomats, and entrepreneurs.

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We looked at 20 other colleges in Maine. Even though they didn’t make our 5 best colleges in Maine list, they’re the best of the rest and still great options for attending college. The information you need to compare each one is included with the listing.

Colleges in Maine Under $10K

University of Maine – Augusta

University of Maine at Augusta

The University of Maine at Augusta offers more than 30 academic degree programs, including more than 10 associate’s degrees. Areas of study include biology, aviation, cybersecurity, justice studies, nursing, and veterinary technology.

Key Features:

  • Student enrollment is roughly 5,500
  • Student activities include clubs, events, government, and more
  • On-campus fitness center is available

Cost: $8,000 for annual tuition and fees for in-state, $17,900 for out-of-state

University of Maine – Farmington

University of Maine at Farmington

Founded in 1864, the University of Maine at Farmington offers a variety of academic programs, such as business, education, humanities, social sciences, STEM, and the arts. Students have the option of five different multi-degree programs, like pre-law and social work.

Key Features:

  • Undergraduate population is 1,564 students on a 55-acre campus
  • NCAA Division III league for varsity sports
  • Student activities include concerts, movie nights, art exhibits, intramural sports, group fitness, and more

Cost: $9,300 for annual tuition and fees for in-state, $19,500 for out-of-state

University of Maine – Fort Kent

University of Maine at Fort Kent

Founded in 1878, the University of Maine at Fort Kent is well-known for its stellar athletic department and championship sports teams. The university offers multiple degree programs, such as applied forest management, biology, education, conservation law enforcement, and nursing.

Key Features:

  • Undergraduate population is 1,794 students on a campus size of 52 acres
  • Small, rural public university
  • Fitness facility on campus

Cost: $8,300 for annual tuition and fees for in-state, $12,600 for out-of-state

University of Maine – Presque Isle

University of Maine at Presque Isle

Founded in 1903, the University of Maine at Presque Isle offers 20 academic degree programs, such as accounting, agricultural science, cybersecurity, exercise science, and nursing. This university has won high accolades for its innovation.

Key Features:

  • Undergraduate student population is 1,554
  • Campus size is 150 ares in a rural setting
  • More than 30 student clubs and organizations

Cost: $8,400 for annual tuition and fees for in-state, $12,700 for out-of-state

University of Southern Maine

University of Southern Maine

Founded in 1878, the University of Southern Maine provides students with 26 graduate degrees and 53 majors in undergraduate degree programs. All first-year students are assigned to a Living Learning Community where they live in close proximity to others with similar interests.

Key Features:

  • Undergraduate population is 6,390 students
  • Campus size is 142 acres
  • Campus life is busy with sports, performing arts, and clubs and organizations

Cost: $9,900 for annual tuition and fees for in-state, $23,600 for out-of-state

Colleges in Maine Over $10K

University of New England

University of New England

Founded in 1835, the University of New England has six graduate colleges, and offers 40 undergraduate and 32 graduate degree programs. This university has two campuses in Maine – Biddeford and Portland.

Key Features:

  • Undergraduate enrollment is 4,449 students
  • Campus is situated on 540 acres
  • More than 90 student organizations, including NCAA Division III sports

Cost: $38,750 for annual tuition and fees, $33,200 after financial aid

Husson University

Husson University

Founded in 1898 and located in Bangor, Husson University resides on 208 acres. This university has four colleges, and offers 70 degree programs, 19 of which are offered at an accelerated rate.

Key Features:

  • NCAA Division III league
  • Undergraduate student population is around 3,000
  • More than 40 clubs and organizations

Cost: $18,300 for annual tuition and fees

St. Joseph’s College of Maine

St. Joseph's College of Maine

St. Joseph’s College of Maine is a private Catholic college situated on 474 acres on Sebago Lake in Standish. This college offers multiple degree programs, an honors program, and study abroad.

Key Features:

  • Student population size is approximately 1,000
  • Online programs are available
  • Majors include biochemistry, business administration, communications, criminal justice, and marine science

Cost: $36,700 for annual tuition and fees

Thomas College

Thomas College

Founded in 1894, Thomas College is housed on 120 acres in Waterville, and more than half of the students live on campus. This institution gives students the chance to graduate early with its 3-year degree program.

Key Features:

  • Total student population equals roughly 1,000
  • More than 40 campus activities, including recreational and intramural sports
  • NCAA Division III sports league

Cost: $27,700 for annual tuition and fees, $21,650 after financial aid

Specialized Colleges in Maine

College of the Atlantic

College of the Atlantic

College of the Atlantic is set in Bar Harbor, right on the coast, and campus includes two offshore island research stations. The college specializes in one degree – human ecology, but students design their own course path.

Key Features:

  • Student population is 350, but intentionally small
  • Many students are involved in international studies
  • Campus has two organic farms

Cost: $43,500 for annual tuition and fees, $20,200 after financial aid

Maine College of Art

Maine Media College

Founded in 1882, Maine College of Art lies in the heart of the Portland Arts District. It offers a Bachelor and Master of Fine Arts Degree with a variety of majors to choose from, such as animation and game art, graphic design, sculpture, and woodworking.

Key Features:

  • Student population is 470
  • Multiple student clubs are available, such as the cycling club, fiber arts group, the gardening club, and student senate
  • Multiple floors of the college have student art exhibits

Cost: $36,400 for annual tuition and fees

Maine College of Health Professions

Maine College of Health Professions

Founded in 1891, Maine College of Health Professions offers a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, and eight associate degree or certificate programs. This college provides a hands-on education, with access to simulation labs and connections to area hospitals.

Key Features:

  • Student to faculty ratio is 10:1
  • 100 percent job placement rate
  • 80 percent graduation rate

Cost: Programs range from $1,000 to $30,000

Maine Media College

Maine Media College

Rated as one of the top fine art graduate schools in the U.S., Maine Media College offers interdisciplinary certificates and degree programs, such as fine arts, visual storytelling, and film making. Workshops are also available, including photography, design, and writing.

Key Features:

  • Faculty include Oscar and Emmy Award winners
  • Located in Rockport
  • Low-residency program

Cost: $14,500 for annual tuition and fees for the graduate program

Unity College

Unity College

Unity College is an environmental college that focuses on sustainability science and leading the way in creating environmental leaders. Academic degree programs include adventure therapy, conservation law enforcement, earth and environmental science, and marine biology.

Key Features:

  • Campus sits on 225 acres in Unity
  • Degree programs available online
  • 716 undergraduate students

Cost: $30,000 for annual tuition and fees, $24,800 after financial aid

University of Maine – Machias

University of Maine at Machias

Located on the coast and across from the Machias River, the University of Maine at Machias focuses on environmental liberal arts. Situated on 243 acres, which include forests and trails, this university has 15 degree programs.

Key Features:

  • Undergraduate student enrollment is 675
  • Student activities include Greek life, varsity sports, and more than 15 organizations
  • Be the first to see the sunrise in the U.S.

Cost: $9,000 for annual tuition and fees for in-state, $16,000 for out-of-state

2-year Colleges in Maine

Central Maine Community College

Central Maine Community College

Central Maine Community College is situated on 135 acres in Auburn, overlooking Lake Auburn. Campus includes academic buildings, residence halls, a fitness center, and culinary arts center.

Key Features:

  • Student enrollment is about 3,000
  • More than 35 academic programs, including business, computer technology, and forensic science
  • Online programs available

Cost: $3,800 for annual tuition and fees for in-state

Eastern Maine Community College

Eastern Maine Community College

Eastern Maine Community College is located in Bangor, and houses multiple facilities, like classroom and lab buildings, a couple of residence halls, and a recreational center. Studies include business management, criminal justice, culinary arts, electricians technology, and medical assistant.

Key Features:

  • Campus size is 72 acres
  • More than 30 academic programs
  • Clubs and organizations available, such as anime night, international club, intramural sports, and student senate

Cost: $115 per credit hour for in-state, $209 for out-of-state

Northern Maine Community College

Northern Maine Community College

Northern Maine Community College offers 37 associate degree and certificate programs. Programs include arts and sciences, allied health, and trade and technical occupations.

Key Features:

  • Total student population is 805
  • Student activities include intramural sports
  • Organizations include student senate, international honor society, and game club

Cost: $3,800 for annual tuition and fees for in-state, $6,600 for out-of-state

Washington County Community College

Washington County Community College

Washington County Community College is nestled among 400 acres in Calais, overlooking St. Croix River, with a view of Canada. Areas of study include automotive technology, criminal justice, education, and heating technology.

Key Features:

  • Student population is 450
  • Campus facilities include the Outdoor Adventure Center
  • More than 20 academic programs

Cost: $3,600 for annual tuition and fees for in-state

York County Community College

York County Community College

York County Community College has multiple degree programs, such as animal care and management, business administration, culinary arts, digital media, and veterinary technology. One hundred percent online programs are also available, like behavioral health studies, information technology, and gerontology.

Key Features:

  • Enrollment is approximately 1,600 students
  • Clubs and organizations are available
  • Located in Wells

Cost: $3,800 for annual tuition and fees for in-state, $6,600 for out-of-state

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