20 Best Deals on Colleges for High Achievers

In developing this ranking, we’ve examined 79 competitive small colleges in the United States that only accept high achievers. Our selection was made by taking the following factors into consideration: acceptance rates (0-30%), standardized test results (SAT & ACT), offered majors, awards, national/global recognition, graduation rates, campus location, and clubs and organizations. From among these 79 colleges, we selected the 20 where you may be able to get the best deal by comparing total expenses (sticker price) to the average net price as reported by the institution on College Navigator. The colleges that cover the greatest percentage made the final cut, and are ranked here accordingly.

20. Dartmouth College -- Hanover, NH



Total Expenses: $65,133
Net Price: $21,277
Percent Covered: 33%

Acceptance Rate: 12%

Founded in 1769 and boasting a 10.3 % acceptance rate, Ivy League Dartmouth College is considered one of the world’s best academic institutions. Situated on a 269-acre campus in the Upper Valley region of New Hampshire, this university has undergraduate and graduate programs, school of medicine, school of engineering, and school of business, making it a great choice for open-minded high achievers. Dartmouth students also enjoy an exceptional athletics and recreation department, a diverse student body, and 27,000 acres of New Hampshire’s north country for school/work/life balance.

19. Washington and Lee University -- Lexington, VA



Total Expenses: $60,084
Net Price: $20,700
Percent Covered: 34%

Acceptance Rate: 19%

Founded in 1749, Washington and Lee University is the nation's 9th oldest university, and is noted for accepting high achievers. It’s  in the Great Valley of Virginia between the Blue Ridge and the Allegheny Mountains. With a 19% acceptance rate, two undergraduate programs with 37 majors and 29 minors, and a graduate program, Washington and Lee University is among the nation’s top-tier liberal arts colleges. The University also has a career development center, dining services, and plenty of student activities/clubs/organizations for students to form connections and network .

18. Middlebury College -- Middlebury, VT



Total Expenses: $61,160
Net Price: $20,903
Percent Covered: 34%

Acceptance Rate: 17%

Middlebury College is a private liberal arts college with a 17% acceptance rate.  Situated in Vermont’s Champlain Valley, with the Green Mountains to the east and the Adirondacks to the west, it’s a great setting for students who enjoy spending time outdoors. Noted for its selective status, Middlebury also ranked as the fourth-best liberal arts college in the United States according to the 2016 edition of the U.S. News & World Report rankings. With students excelling in athletics and academics, Middlebury is great for higher achievers who enjoy learning, sports, and the outdoors.

17. Barnard College -- New York, NY



Total Expenses: $63,220
Net Price: $21,791
Percent Covered: 34%

Acceptance Rate: 20%

Located in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Barnard has about  2,500 female students. With a 20% acceptance rate, and graduates who have become leaders in the fields of business, government, the arts, and science, Barnard cultivates and grows minds for professional success. Since Barnard is located in New York City, students can also gain cultural experience by visiting Chinatown, Greenwich Village, Wall Street, the Museum of Modern Art, Carnegie Hall, Central Park, other boroughs, thousands of restaurants, and plenty more.

16. Colgate University -- Hamilton, NY



Total Expenses: $62,405
Net Price: $21,649
Percent Covered: 35%

Acceptance Rate: 26%

Founded in 1819, Colgate University has a reputation for being a college for high achievers with a 26% acceptance rate. Offering 54 majors and numerous minors to its 3,000 students, Colgate is ideal for students who want to get into Financial Services, Business, Technology, Education, and Health. Students who have gone on to graduate school have attended Columbia, NYU, Harvard, Cornell, Boston University, and other top-ranked institutions. Colgate has 54 undergraduate programs and more than 180 student organizations. In July 2008, Colgate was named fifth on Forbes' list of Top Colleges for Getting Rich, the only non-Ivy League college in the top 5

15. Haverford College -- Haverford, PA



Total Expenses: $64,226
Net Price: $22,409
Percent Covered: 35%

Acceptance Rate: 25%

Situated in Haverford, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia, this private coeducational liberal arts college has an acceptance rate of  23%. With almost all of its 1,200 students living on campus, along with the 9-1 student-faculty ratio, Haverford is a tightly knit community where individual attention is available for all students. Haverford also has over 140 clubs and organizations and 200 acres of award-winning architecture and landscaping for students to achieve work/school/life balance.

14. Swarthmore College -- Swarthmore, PA



Total Expenses: $62,405
Net Price: $22,557
Percent Covered: 36%

Acceptance Rate: 17%

Founded in 1864, Swarthmore College is known for giving its students the knowledge, insight, skills, and experience to become leaders in our economy. Situated on a 425-acre campus with rolling lawns, a creek, wooded hills, and hiking trails, Swarthmore is ideal for high achievers who enjoy spending time outdoors. In fact, Swarthmore’s campus was called “The Most Beautiful Campus in America” by Garden Design magazine. Swarthmore has an acceptance rate of 17% and an 8-1 student-faculty ratio to ensure individual attention.

13. Massachusetts Institute of Technology -- Cambridge, MA



Total Expenses: $61,030
Net Price: $22,212
Percent Covered: 36%

Acceptance Rate: 8%

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT, is a private research university located on a 168-acre campus along the northern bank of the Charles River basin. MIT was founded in 1861, and has an 8% acceptance rate, making it one of the most selective universities in the United States.  It prepares. As of 2015 MIT boasts 84 Nobel laureates, 52 National Medal of Science recipients, 65 Marshall Scholars, 45 Rhodes Scholars, 38 MacArthur Fellows, 34 astronauts, and 2 fields medalists affiliated with the institution.

12. Hamilton College -- Clinton, NY


Total Expenses: $61,770
Net Price: $22,392
Percent Covered: 36%

Acceptance Rate: 26%

Founded in 1793 and chartered in 1812, Hamilton College is the third oldest college in New York State.  The 1,350-acre campus on a hilltop overlooks the Village of Clinton. Hamilton College is known for preparing its students for lives full of meaning, purpose, and activity. The school prepares its students to think independently and engage in issues ethically and creatively. With a 9-1 student-faculty ratio, Hamilton helps high achievers reach their maximum potential by giving them individualized attention.

11. Davidson College -- Davidson, NC



Total Expenses: $60,921
Net Price: $22,457
Percent Covered: 37%

Acceptance Rate: 22%

Founded in 1837 Davidson College is one of the nation's highly selective universities that strives to develop the talents and potential of its students. It has a 22% acceptance rate.  The private liberal arts college has been ranked among the top 10 liberal arts colleges in the country by U.S. News & World Report. With small classes, personal attention is strongly encouraged between professors and students. In addition, 80% of the student body studies or works internationally to promote a culture of diversity and cultural awareness.

10. Claremont McKenna College -- Claremont, CA


Claremont McKenna College Kravis Center Architect: Rafael Viñoly Architects Location: Claremont, California

Total Expenses: $64,215
Net Price: $23,982
Percent Covered: 37%

Acceptance Rate: 11%

Founded in 1946 with an 11% acceptance rate, Claremont McKenna College is an independent, coeducational, and private liberal arts college that emphasizes economics, government, and public affairs. The 69-acre campus is 35 miles east of downtown Los Angeles and is perfect for high achievers who enjoy warm weather. Forbes Magazine has also ranked Claremont McKenna the 18th best college in the nation, the 6th best liberal arts college, and the 3rd best college in the West in the 2015 ranking.

9. Grinnell College -- Grinnell, IA



Total Expenses: $59,317
Net Price: $24,896
Percent Covered: 42%

Acceptance Rate: 28%

Founded in 1846, Grinnell College is a private, coeducational, residential liberal arts and sciences college. It is known for its rigorous academics and tradition of social responsibility.  Grinnell has 150 voting faculty, 95% of whom possess a doctorate or the terminal degree in their field.  Grinnell's open curriculum encourages students to take initiative and to assume responsibility for their own courses of study. The school is ranked 17th among all liberal arts colleges in the United States, and third highest for economic diversity according to U.S. News & World Report. Grinnell has an acceptance rate of 28% to ensure that their students are motivated and excited about their education and future.

8. Kenyon College -- Gambier, OH



Total Expenses: $62,160
Net Price: $26,734
Percent Covered: 43%

Acceptance Rate: 25%

Founded in 1824, Kenyon College is the oldest private liberal arts college in Ohio and is noted for its architecture and rural setting. With an acceptance rate of 25% and a curriculum rooted in the traditional liberal arts and sciences, Kenyon College pushes its students to learn and achieve more. In addition, the U.S. News & World Report has ranked Kenyon 25th among Liberal Arts Colleges in the United States, and Forbes magazine has ranked Kenyon 42nd overall, and 5th in the Midwest.

7. Lafayette College -- Easton, PA



Total Expenses: $61,905
Net Price: $27,019
Percent Covered: 65%

Acceptance Rate: 30%

Lafayette College, a private liberal arts college with a 34% acceptance rate, is situated on College Hill in Easton, Pennsylvania . The campus and environment fosters a free exchange of ideas to cultivate the intellectual, social, and personal skills of its students. With 95% of all graduates either finding employment, continuing their education, or interning within 6 months after graduation, Lafayette College motivates and equips its students with a professional skillset to contribute to our growing economy.

6. California Institute of Technology -- Pasadena, CA



Total Expenses: $60,990
Net Price: $26,910
Percent Covered: 44%

Acceptance Rate: 9%

Founded in 1891, the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) is a private university.  The 124-acre primary campus is  11 miles from downtown Los Angeles. Caltech is frequently referred to as one of the world’s best universities given the accomplishments of its alumni and faculty. These achievements include 34 Nobel Awards, 7 Crawford Laureates, 58 National Medal of Science Recipients, 13 National Medal of Technology and Innovation Recipients, 75 National Academy of Sciences members, 9 National Academy of Sciences/Institute of Medicine Members, and 15 California Scientist of the Year Faculty Recipients.

5. Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering -- Needham, MA


Olin, AC at Night

Total Expenses: $63,801
Net Price: $29,979
Percent Covered: 65%

Acceptance Rate: 12%

Founded in 1997, Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering (Olin College) is a private undergraduate engineering college. Boasting high selectivity, Olin College is ranked #2 in Best Classroom Experience, #3 in best College Dorms, #4 in Professors Get High Marks, #11 in Best Quality of Life, and #19 in Happiest Students according to The Princeton Review. Business Insider has also ranked this college #1 in “The Best 20 College Campuses in the US.”

4. Harvey Mudd College -- Claremont, CA



Total Expenses: $66,627
Net Price: $33,137
Percent Covered: 50%

Acceptance Rate: 14%

Harvey Mudd College was founded in 1955 and offers 11 undergraduate majors. With a student body of about 800, Harvey Mudd ranked #1 for the Best Undergraduate Engineering College by U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges list, as well as #1 among Colleges That Pay You Back and The Best Career Placement by the Princeton Review. Harvey Mudd is ideal for high achievers who strive for success.

3. Carleton College -- Northfield, MN



Total Expenses: $62,465
Net Price: $32,017
Percent Covered: 51%

Acceptance Rate: 23%

Carleton College is the fourth oldest private institution of higher education in Minnesota. The 1,040-acre campus in the historic river town of Northfield, Carleton is committed to encouraging their students to learn broadly and think deeply. It aims to prepare students to lead lives of learning that are professionally satisfying. Carleton has produced 104 National Science Graduate Fellows, 91 Fulbright Scholars, 24 NCAA Postgraduate Scholars, 21 Watson Fellows, 13 Goldwater Scholars, and 2 Rhodes Scholars.

2. Rice University -- Houston, TX



Total Expenses: $40,566
Net Price: $20,512
Percent Covered: 51%

Acceptance Rate: 15%

Founded in 1912, William Marsh Rice University is a private research university located on a 295-acre campus in the nation's fourth largest city, Houston, Texas. With a 15% acceptance rate, the University is widely recognized for its entrepreneurial activity, and was noted as the top-ranked business incubator in the world by the Stockholm UBI Index for 2013 and 2014. Rice’s athletic department competes in 14 NCAA Division I varsity sports, and has an exceptional jiu jitsu, water polo, and crew team.

1. Scripps College -- Claremont, CA



Total Expenses: $63,740
Net Price: $35,037
Percent Covered: 55%

Acceptance Rate: 28%

Founded in 1926, Scripps College is a liberal arts women’s college.  Scripps' 32-acre campus is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. With about 1,000 enrolled students, and a 27% acceptance rate, this university is highly selective and is ranked 7th among U.S. baccalaureate institutions credited with producing the greatest number of Fulbright students. The average class size of 16 allows professors to give specialized attention to each student.

By GCD Staff
Posted February 2016

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