The Best Colleges in Philadelphia

Whether you’re fresh out of high school or not, furthering your education is always a positive step. With an obscene amount of colleges in the U.S., the hardest decision is choosing where to go. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania has some of the top colleges in the country. It is also a thriving city with its very own college district, aptly named University City.

We reviewed dozens of colleges and universities in Philadelphia to create a list of the best the city has to offer. We looked at many different features to determine which schools stood out the most. Features like size, academics, athletics, organizations, and cost were factors in putting our list together.

Top Pick
University of Pennsylvania

The University of Pennsylvania has a graduation rate of 96 percent, and offers the best in academics, athletics, and student life.

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We chose the University of Pennsylvania as our top choice for the best college in Philadelphia. With high rankings for academics, athletics, and organizations, this university has the best of what schools provide. There’s a reason why the University of Pennsylvania is an Ivy League school.

The 5 Top-Rated Colleges in Philadelphia

Editor's PicksBrandRating
Best OverallUniversity of Pennsylvania 4
Runner UpHaverford College
4
Best ValueTemple University3.5
Best Student LifeSaint Joseph's University3.5
Best AthleticsVillanova University 3.5

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

Our Top Pick: University of Pennsylvania

The University of Pennsylvania has a staggering graduation rate of 96 percent, but admittedly it’s difficult to get into. It’s a large school – which says even more about its graduation rate – but has a 6:1 student-faculty ratio. It has four undergraduate schools and 12 graduate schools, including dental medicine, engineering, law, education, nursing, veterinary, and design. U.S. News & World Report rank this university as No. 1 in the country for business programs.

Alongside academics is an equally impressive athletics and sports recreation department, providing students with competitive team sports, intramural sports, yoga and fitness classes, and sports clubs like cricket, ice skating, ping pong, and curling. The university has its own ice rink and state-of-the-art training centers.

The University of Pennsylvania has a long, deep history, but aims to be innovative and progressive. It offers numerous clubs and organizations, including an extensive Greek life. Whether you’re into politics or multicultural activities, the university is steeped in art, culture, and the community. Campus life includes the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, an art gallery, museum, arboretum, and the Institute of Contemporary Art. Benjamin Franklin founded the library, and recent upgrades have digitized content.

The University of Pennsylvania is roughly $57,750 per year for tuition and fees. However, with financial aid, the average cost is $24,000.

University of Pennsylvania Key Features:

  • Ranked No. 1 in business programs by U.S. News & World Report
  • Ivy League school
  • Division I athletics
  • Undergraduate enrollment is just over 10,000 students
  • Prolific Greek life with more than 50 fraternities and sororities

Our Runner Up Pick: Haverford College

Runner Up
Haverford College

Though small, Haverford College boasts a graduation rate of 93 percent, and offers roughly 150 different student organizations.

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Haverford College is our runner up choice. Though it is a much smaller school than our top choice, Haverford also boasts a high graduation rate. But even though it’s small, students have the opportunity to take classes at neighboring colleges, as part of the four-college exchange program with Bryn Mawr College, Swarthmore, and the University of Pennsylvania.

A smaller school means smaller class sizes and a more involved student-teacher experience. More than half of the faculty live on campus in order to work more closely with their students. Haverford College has numerous areas of study available, as well as accelerated graduate degree programs. Forbes ranked this college No. 7 for the happiest and most successful alumni.

Campus life offers an array of clubs and organizations to join, with 98 percent of students living on campus. Choose from intellectual gatherings, recreational sports, student government, art, culture, games, and nonprofits to fill out your calendar. Haverford College also has a myriad of events scheduled throughout the school year.

Yearly tuition and fees for this college are about $56,700, but after financial aid, the average is $26,600.

Haverford College Key Features:

  • Undergraduate enrollment is approximately 1,350 students
  • Campus is located on 200 acres
  • Four-college exchange participation
  • Division III athletics
  • Happy and successful alumni

Best Value College: Temple University

Best Value
Temple University

With a tuition less than half than that of other top colleges, Temple University has a large campus, hundreds of organizations, and Division I athletics.

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The best value college in Philadelphia is Temple University. Though tuition is much less than our top two choices, Temple University does not lack in academics, student life, or athletics. The university is large and has 17 different schools to choose from. They also offer accelerated programs so you can earn your Bachelor’s and Master’s in a shorter amount of time. Likewise, if you’re a go-getter, they have dual degree programs.

Temple University is top rated for online MBA programs. They also offer many other graduate programs online. But if you’re looking for the campus life, choose from art, business, dentistry, education, engineering, law, medicine, pharmacy, or music and dance schools. You also have the opportunity to study abroad.

Student activities are abundant and include clubs, organizations, and events for those interested in art, education, politics, athletics, culture, religion, communication, and more. The school is involved in Division I for competitive team sports. There is no shortage of things to do, especially since Temple University is situated smack dab in the center of Philadelphia. But with all the campus has, you may never leave. The university even has its own food trucks.

Tuition and fees for a year at Temple University are around $19,750 for in-state students. After financial aid, however, the average price is $10,750.

Temple University Key Features:

  • Undergraduate enrollment is roughly 30,000 students
  • Located in the center of Philadelphia
  • Top rated college for online MBA programs
  • Offers evening degree programs
  • 400-acre campus

Best College for Student Life: Saint Joseph’s University

Best Student Life
Saint Joseph's University

Saint Joseph’s University offers students a bustling campus life with sororities, fraternities, and 90 other student organizations on 115 acres.

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Campus life at Saint Joseph’s University surpasses just academics. That’s why this school is our choice for the best college in Philadelphia for student life. Students at Saint Joseph’s get involved in the community, either through volunteering, Greek life, or ministry. It is also a Division I school for competitive team sports, and offers a wide selection of recreation, clubs, and activities.

If the Greek life is for you, fraternity brothers and sorority sisters make up 22 percent of the student population. Many of the men and women of Greek life are also Resident Assistants, Summer Scholars, APEX leaders, Collegiate Challenge Leaders, and athletes. And if the Greek life isn’t for you, there are numerous clubs and organizations to check out, including intramural and club sports. Apart from all things athletic, other organizations include improv, languages, music, nonprofits, and campus ministry.

But even though there are many things to do on campus, and it’s a short trip to downtown Philly, Saint Joseph’s is no slouch in the academics department. Earn a dual degree at what U.S. News & World Report has ranked No. 10 for the best regional university. Classes are on the small size and the student-teacher ratio is 11:1. With a few different schools to choose from, there is an opportunity for a wide range of classes.

Saint Joseph’s costs roughly $46,550 per year for tuition and fees, and about $34,000 after financial aid.

Saint Joseph’s University Key Features:

  • Undergraduate enrollment is roughly 4,500 students
  • Private Catholic institution
  • Graduation rate is 82 percent
  • Division I athletics
  • Ranked No. 4 by U.S. News & World Report for best colleges for veterans

Best College for Athletics: Villanova University

Best Athletics
Villanova University

The sport life is popular on this campus, with hundreds of student athletes named in the Big East All-Academic team.

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If you’re an athlete, chances are you want a college that excels in sports. Villanova University is our pick for the best college in Philadelphia for athletics. Sports is a big part of life on campus and this Division I university has seen more than 50 years of women’s athletics. Some of Villanova alumni have been Olympic medalists, national champions, as well as All-Americans. But more impressive than that is the high academic standards Villanova athletes live up to.

Villanova University has had 19 team national championships and more than 100 national titles for individual events. But student athletes have also won academic awards for achieving a 3.0 GPA or higher, most notably being named to the Big East All-Academic Team. There are also multiple fitness centers, as well as 30 club and intramural sports to choose from.

Academics are advanced as well, with 99 percent of the faculty holding the highest degree in their field. The university offers half a dozen schools to take classes from, including business, law, arts and sciences, engineering, nursing, and professional studies. Within each school is a wide range of classes students can take. There are also two libraries: the main library and the law library.

Villanova University has 260 clubs and organizations, and 19 on-campus eateries. The yearly tuition and fees are approximately $55,400, and $35,000 after financial aid.

Villanova University Key Features:

  • Undergraduate enrollment is around 6,500 students
  • Division I athletics
  • Private Catholic institution
  • Ranked high for various law programs
  • Forbes ranked this school high for both academics and athletics

Who Should Attend College in Philadelphia

Philadelphia isn’t just one of the largest cities in the U.S., it’s a popular college town ripe with exciting things to do. University City – the part of West Philly that houses the University of Pennsylvania, University of the Sciences, University of Contemporary Arts, Drexel University, Walnut Hill College, and the Restaurant School – is bustling with college students enjoying the myriad of attractions at their fingertips.

University City District is famous for its public gardens, farmer’s markets, outside concerts and plays, and art exhibitions from local students. There is no shortage of places to go with plenty of dining options, shopping, music venues, and theaters to pick from. The academic district also offers museums, memorials, and art galleries. Many of the small businesses cater to the college student, like the company that sells cookies to students at night who are up late studying.

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
University of Pennsylvania

The University of Pennsylvania has a graduation rate of 96 percent, and offers the best in academics, athletics, and student life.

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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:

  • Academics. The whole point of going to college is to further your education. So the academic programs being offered are of utmost importance when trying to decide where to go. Check out the listing of degree programs, majors, and areas of study to determine if a particular college has what you are looking for. Consider the classroom size and teacher-student ratio. Peruse the college catalog to see when classes are offered. You may want the option for online classes or to take classes in the evening.
  • Activities, clubs, and organizations. College isn’t just about getting a good education. It’s also about camaraderie and making friends. When you’re not in class, you may want to be involved in something else on campus. Consider the various clubs and organizations a college offers, and what campus activities you may be able to engage in.
  • Athletics. If you are a sports buff or an athlete, you will want to consider whether a college has an athletics department. And if you’re serious about joining a sports team while in college, consider which division program the college is connected to. Division I athletics is tougher competition than Division III. Some colleges have an intramural sports department as well.
  • Location, location, location. Where the college or university is located can make a big difference in your college experience. Consider what type of area you prefer: rural, urban, or suburban. Likewise, consider what type of transportation is available in those areas. If you don’t have a vehicle, you may not want to go to college in a rural setting. But if you choose a college in the city, you’ll probably want to walk or take public transportation.
  • Cost. Let’s face it, college is expensive, and cost is usually a factor in determining where you want to go. Consider the cost of tuition, any fees attached, and room and board, if applicable. Some colleges or universities also have differing tuition costs depending on if you live in-state, or are coming from out of state. Look into financial aid and grants a college may offer.
  • Admission requirements. When you’re looking for a college to attend, it helps to know what the requisites are for applying and what it takes to be accepted. Check out what scores you need, if you have to write an essay, what forms need filling out, what transcripts you may have to send, etc.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many colleges are in Philadelphia?

There are 115 colleges in Philadelphia. This number consists of 2-year and 4-year private and public colleges and universities. Six colleges are located in a 2-mile radius of downtown Philly.

What major colleges are in Philadelphia?

Philadelphia is home to many great schools. Some of the major colleges located in Philly are the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University, Swarthmore College, Haverford College, Bryn Mawr College, Temple University, Villanova University, University of the Sciences, and Saint Joseph’s University.

Bryn Mawr College, Swarthmore College, and Haverford College form a Tri-College Consortium, which allows students to take classes at any of the three private liberal arts colleges. The University of Pennsylvania also participates in this collaboration, making it a four-college exchange program available to qualifying students.

Is Philadelphia safe?

U.S. News & World Report ranks Philadelphia as the No. 1 destination to visit in Pennsylvania, determining the main tourist attraction sites as safe. However, it is recommended to be aware of your surroundings, as ‘good’ and ‘not-so-good’ neighborhoods are nestled close together. As is the case with most large cities, some parts may be more dangerous than others. Take precaution and use your street smarts.

What is the cheapest college in Pennsylvania?

There are a number of cheap colleges in Pennsylvania. Colleges and universities break down their costs in different ways. A college may register as inexpensive because its cost per credit is low, but the semester cost may be higher than another school. The yearly cost of college tuition may be inexpensive, but the per credit cost is higher than another institution. Some schools in Pennsylvania offer a cheaper rate to those who reside within the county the school is located in.

The cheapest 4-year school in Pennsylvania is East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania, located in East Stroudsburg. This institution offers a fixed rate for your four years of schooling. The in-state tuition and fees for the 2019-2020 school year are $4,252.

The cheapest 2-year school in Pennsylvania is Lehigh Carbon Community College, located in Schnecksville. This community college charges in-state students $3,855 for tuition and fees, for the school year 2019-2020.

Other Colleges in Philadelphia We Reviewed

Top Pick
University of Pennsylvania

The University of Pennsylvania has a graduation rate of 96 percent, and offers the best in academics, athletics, and student life.

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

Picturesque Campus

Bryn Mawr College

Bryn Mawr College

Bryn Mawr College is a female-only college that sits on 135 acres in a suburban setting. Students can take classes at Swarthmore College, the University of Pennsylvania, and Haverford College to round out their college experience.

Key Features:

  • Undergraduate enrollment is roughly 1,400 students
  • Division III athletics
  • Ranked as the No. 1 college in the U.S. by Business Insider

Cost: $54,400 per year for tuition and fees, $25,700 after aid

Eastern University

Eastern University

Eastern University resides atop 114 acres and offers students numerous academic subjects to major in. The most popular majors include early childhood education, business, and nursing.

Key Features:

  • Undergraduate enrollment equates to roughly 1,900 students
  • Division III athletics
  • Numerous clubs and organizations ranging from academic to spiritual

Cost: $33,850 per year for tuition and fees, $22,260 after aid

La Salle University

La Salle University

La Salle University sits on 133 acres and offers more than 100 clubs to participate in. The academic department has more than 40 majors to choose from.

Key Features:

  • Undergraduate enrollment is about 3,900 students
  • Private Catholic university
  • Division I athletics

Cost: $31,650 per year for tuition and fees, $26,000 after aid

Swarthmore College

Swarthmore College

Swarthmore is situated on 425 acres and students can take classes at Bryn Mawr College or Haverford College as well. This college offers more than 100 student organizations.

Key Features:

  • Undergraduate enrollment is approximately 1,570 students
  • Graduation rate is 94 percent
  • Division III athletics

Cost: $54,650 per year for tuition and fees, $20,500 after aid

Small Colleges in Philadelphia

Chestnut Hill College

Chestnut Hill College

Chestnut Hill College takes up 75 acres and offers students a wide range of academic programs. The college also offers numerous organizations, both recreational and academic, to give students the most out of their stay.

Key Features:

  • Undergraduate enrollment equals about 1,300 students
  • Private Catholic institution
  • Division II athletics

Cost: $37,200 per year for tuition and fees, $23,300 after aid

Peirce College

Peirce College

Peirce College offers most major programs online, as well as on campus. This college teaches subjects like business, management, marketing, computer science, and legal studies.

Key Features:

  • Undergraduate enrollment averages approximately 1,270 students
  • 100 percent online degrees
  • Adult students can earn credit from work experience

Cost: $15,000 per year for tuition and fees

Rosemont College

Rosemont College

Rosemont College is a small, private Catholic institution that resides on 56 acres. The school gives students a chance to earn a dual degree, with the choice of more than 20 academic programs, including business, marketing, and management.

Key Features:

  • Undergraduate enrollment is around 572 students
  • Division III athletics
  • Numerous clubs and organizations available

Cost: $19,900 per year for tuition and fees, $19,000 after aid

University of the Sciences

University of the Sciences

A small college on a small campus, the University of the Sciences is the first college of pharmacy in North America. It boasts a highly ranked Doctor of Pharmacy program.

Key Features:

  • Undergraduate enrollment equates to about 1,250 students
  • Division II athletics
  • More than 60 organizations to join, including 11 fraternities or sororities

Cost: $27,500 per year tuition and fees

University of Valley Forge

University of Valley Forge

This small private school rests on 102 acres and offers students a multitude of academic programs. The most popular subjects include divinity, ministry, communication, and social work.

Key Features:

  • Undergraduate enrollment is around 600 students
  • Division III athletics
  • Campus life offers activities such as concerts, plays, movie nights, and sports games

Cost: $22,000 per year for tuition and fees, $21,400 after aid

Large Universities in Philadelphia

Drexel University

Drexel University

Drexel University offers a comprehensive cooperative education program. More than 1,600 employers participate in the program.

Key Features:

  • Undergraduate enrollment is roughly 13,600 students
  • Division I athletics
  • More than 300 clubs and organizations, including more than 30 fraternities and sororities

Cost: $54,500 per year for tuition and fees, $37,000 after aid

West Chester University of Pennsylvania

West Chester University

West Chester University of Pennsylvania is a large public university that sits on 409 acres. The most popular subjects studied are business, management, and marketing.

Key Features:

  • Undergraduate enrollment averages 14,600 students
  • Division II athletics
  • Numerous clubs and organizations, as well as the Greek life

Cost: $10,000 per year for in-state tuition and fees

Philadelphia Colleges Less Than $40K

Cabrini University

Cabrini University

A private Catholic university, Cabrini University offers students a wide range of academic topics to major in, including biology, criminology, education, and nursing.

Key Features:

  • Undergraduate enrollment equals approximately 1,700 students
  • Division III athletics
  • More than 50 clubs and organizations

Cost: $32,800 per year for tuition and fees, $24,200 after aid

Gwynedd Mercy University

Gwynedd Mercy University

Gwynedd Mercy University is a private Catholic university that has 314 acres where students can major in health professions, business, education, and marketing.

Key Features:

  • Undergraduate enrollment is roughly 2,030 students
  • Division III athletics
  • Study abroad programs

Cost: $34,600 per year for tuition and fees, $22,100 after aid

Holy Family University

Holy Family University

Holy Family University is a small, private Catholic university that is situated on 47 acres. It offers students more than 40 academic programs to choose from.

Key Features:

  • Undergraduate enrollment equates to approximately 1,630 students
  • Division II athletics
  • More than 40 clubs and organizations

Cost: $31,000 per year for tuition and fees, $15,300 after aid

Lincoln University of Pennsylvania

Lincoln University

Lincoln University resides on 422 acres where public administration, social service, business, and management are popular choices for majors.

Key Features:

  • Undergraduate enrollment averages around 2,125 students
  • Division II athletics
  • Multitude of clubs and organizations

Cost: $11,270 per year for in-state tuition and fees

Neumann University

Neumann University

Neumann University is a private Catholic school that specializes in nursing. Other popular majors include business, management, and protective services such as homeland security and law enforcement.

Key Features:

  • Undergraduate enrollment is about 2,000 students
  • Division III athletics
  • Study abroad programs available

Cost: $33,000 per year for tuition and fees, $22,600 after aid

Philadelphia Colleges More Than $40K

Arcadia University

Arcadia University

With more than 75 subjects to study, Arcadia University offers the intimacy of small classes. The university also offers more than 100 study abroad programs.

Key Features:

  • Undergraduate enrollment equals approximately 2,160 students
  • Division III athletics
  • More than 90 student organizations

Cost: $44,400 per year for tuition and fees, $26,000 after aid

Thomas Jefferson University

Thomas Jefferson University

Thomas Jefferson University has a variety of college programs, such as architecture, health professions, nursing, and pharmacy.

Key features:

  • Undergraduate enrollment is around 3,600 students
  • Division II athletics
  • Campus life offers events, organizations, and recreational activities

Cost: $41,700 per year for tuition and fees, $28,500 after aid

Ursinus College

Ursinus College

Situated on 170 acres, Ursinus College offers 60 majors to choose from. The most popular subjects for students are biological and biomedical science, and the social sciences.

Key Features:

  • Undergraduate enrollment averages about 1,400 students
  • More than 100 organizations, including Greek life
  • Division III athletics

Cost: $53,600 per year for tuition and fees, $30,000 after aid

Widener University

Widener University

Widener University sits on 108 acres and offers more than 40 academic programs. With options for graduate programs in business, law, and education, Widener University has the only law school in Harrisburg.

Key Features:

  • Undergraduate enrollment comes in around 3,350 students
  • Division III athletics
  • More than 80 student organizations, including 10 fraternities and sororities

Cost: $47,300 per year for tuition and fees, $30,700 after aid

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