15 Top NYC Colleges: How to Decide If They're Right for You


New York is the most populous US city, and there are dozens of colleges in New York City. Should you go to college in NYC? If you want to be close to Gray's Papaya, Madison Square Garden, Broadway, and Wall Street, then going to school in New York City might be a good option.

In this article, I'll provide you with a list of top-ranked colleges in NYC. Furthermore, I'll explain the benefits and disadvantages of attending college in New York City and offer some advice on deciding if you should attend college in NYC.


The 15 Top-Ranked Schools in NYC

I've listed the top-ranked colleges in NYC in the order of acceptance rate, from lowest to highest. I also include both their Forbes rankings for the best overall colleges and the individual US News rankings for each college.

The US News divides colleges into 4 categories for its rankings: National Universities, National Liberal Arts Colleges, Regional Universities, and Regional Colleges. I listed each school's category after its US News ranking. The majority of the most prestigious schools are in the National University or National Liberal Arts College category. The Regional Colleges and Universities are still good, but they're typically not as well-known nationally.

Forbes and US News use many variables to determine their rankings. Their ranking methodologies are different, but they both use factors like graduation rates and freshman retention rates in their ranking lists. Forbes focuses more on student outcomes and incorporates alumni salary and student debt in its rankings while US News focuses more on the academic reputations of colleges.

There are private and public colleges of varying sizes on the list. The CUNY colleges are the public colleges in New York City. There are 11 four-year CUNY colleges.

Also, some of the colleges on the list have a particular focus. Barnard is a women's college. Cooper Union offers programs exclusively in architecture, fine arts, and engineering. Manhattan College is a Roman Catholic school and Yeshiva University is a Jewish college.


School Acceptance Rate Forbes Ranking US News Ranking Average SAT Score Average ACT Score
Columbia University 6% #5 #18 (National Universities) 1530 34
Barnard College 11% #71 #18 (National Liberal Arts Colleges) 1490 33
New York University 13% #60 #25 (National Universities) 1510 34
Cooper Union 15% #155 #2 (Regional Colleges-North) 1460 33
CUNY—Lehman College 42% #297 #81 (Regional Universities-North) 1040 N/A
CUNY—Hunter College 46% #128 #21 (Regional Universities-North) 1240 N/A
CUNY—Baruch College 51% #66 #14 (Regional Universities-North) 1310 N/A
CUNY—Brooklyn College 51% #204 #63 (Regional Universities-North) 1140 N/A
Fordham University 58% #154 #72 (National Universities) 1390 32
CUNY—City College 60% #124 #151 (National Universities) 1070 N/A
CUNY—Queens College 61% #172 #58 (Regional Universities-North) 1140 N/A
Yeshiva University 62% #130 #67 (National Universities) 1330 28
The New School 66% #299 #127 (National Universities) 1200 N/A
Manhattan College 75% #229 #16 (Regional Universities-North) 1230 25
Pace University 88% #280 #234 (National Universities) 1220 26




Butler Library at Columbia University (Susan Sermoneta/Flickr)


Other Popular NYC Colleges

New York City is known for its prestigious art schools like the Pratt Institute, the Fashion Institute of Technology, and The Juilliard School.

Additional well-known colleges in New York include St. John's University and the other CUNY colleges.


Benefits of Going to College in New York City

If you go to one of the many colleges in NYC, you'll be able to reap all of these benefits.


You'll Never Be Bored

Many colleges are in remote locations. If you ever get tired of on-campus activities, there aren't a ton of options for off-campus fun. If you go to college in New York City, you'll be in one of the most vibrant, exciting cities in the world.

You'll have easy access to museums, plays, sporting events, bars, clubs, and restaurants. You can check out The Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Guggenheim. If you're a basketball fan, you can attend a New York Knicks or Brooklyn Nets game. You may want to check out the newest show on Broadway. If you're like me and you enjoy some programming on The Food Network, you'll probably be excited to try the restaurants of Bobby Flay and Marcus Samuelsson.

Many NYC colleges offer deals to students so they can take advantage of New York's cultural offerings. Through its Arts Initiative, Columbia University offers students free admission to over 30 museums and discounted rates to theater and musical performances. Similarly, NYU Ticket Central offers discounted tickets to movies, Broadway and off-Broadway shows, sporting events, musical performances, and more.



The Vine at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (ketrin1407/Flickr)


Internship and Job Opportunities

One huge advantage of going to college in NYC is that there are so many industries and companies that are based there. There are numerous opportunities for college students to get internships or jobs that will give them meaningful experiences and lead to employment after graduation. If you're interested in theater, fashion, journalism, or finance, there are few cities with more opportunities in those fields than New York.



If you go to a large state school in a college town, you'll probably be surrounded by mostly traditional college-aged students who are from the state in which the college is located.

In NYC, you'll be able to interact with tons of people from all over the world. There are more foreign-born immigrants who live in NYC than there are people who live in Chicago. You'll be able to explore the many different ethnic neighborhoods in NYC where you can experience the cuisines and cultures of different nationalities. Especially in today's global economy, graduating college with a global perspective and knowledge of different cultures can benefit you in your professional life.



At many colleges, students often complain that they feel like they're in a bubble or trapped in a very insulated environment, especially if they don't have a car and can't easily get off campus.

In New York, you'll have no issue exploring the city without a car. Between the subway, trains, cabs, and Uber, you shouldn't have any problem getting around the city or accessing other cities on the east coast. An added bonus is that the subway is pretty cheap and efficient.


The Food

Maybe I'm only emphasizing food because I really like to eat. When I was in college at Stanford, I remember being hungry late at night, and because I didn't have a car, I had to convince my roommate to take us to go get some grub. Our only real option off-campus at that time was Jack in the Box, a mediocre fast food establishment.

NYC is known for having some of the best restaurants in the world. There are cheap, tasty restaurants, food stands, and food trucks representing every type of food imaginable. If you live on campus and get sick of dorm food, you'll have access to so many different types of food at all hours. I'm a little jealous that I didn't have Shake Shack near me when I was in college.



You can even get chicken and waffles in NYC! (Arnold Gatilao/flickr)


Disadvantages of Going to College in New York City

While going to a New York City college can offer you many advantages and excitement, there are some potential downsides of going to school in NYC.



Since you're primarily in college to learn, you may find it distracting to try to study and go to class in the "City That Never Sleeps." Because you'll have access to so many social opportunities and entertainment options in New York City, you'll have to maintain discipline to ensure that you're taking care of your academic responsibilities.


Less School Spirit and Less of an On-Campus Community

At colleges in college towns, everything revolves around the college. People sport their school colors with pride, enthusiastically cheer on their sports teams, and seem to have a strong bond with the school.

At colleges in New York City, the colleges are a very small part of the city. Students are likely to spend less time on campus because they're out exploring the city and all it has to offer. There can be less of a sense of community going to school in such an urban environment.

Also, none of the colleges in NYC have big-time football programs, and athletics aren't a huge part of the college experience. If you want to experience cheering on your school in a stadium with 100,000 screaming fans, you won't get that at a New York City college. However, St. John's does have a storied basketball program, and they play some of their home basketball games in the historic Madison Square Garden.


New York City Is Expensive

Even though you can find cheap food, discounted tickets to events, and the subway doesn't cost much, almost everything you do off campus will cost you some money. If you have limited funds, you may not really be able to take advantage of what the city has to offer.

Furthermore, if you don't have money and your friends are going to fancy NYC restaurants and getting tickets to Broadway shows, that can make you feel isolated and negatively impact your college experience.

Additionally, housing in NYC is extremely pricey. If you don't live on campus, it can be very difficult to find an affordable place to live. You may end up having to live far from campus or in an undesirable location. As of 2022, the average rent of a one bedroom apartment within 10 miles of NYC was $2,059 per month.




NYC Can Feel Overwhelming

New York City has so many people and so much activity that it can feel like a bit much if you prefer being in an environment with a laid-back vibe. Especially if you're from a rural or suburban environment, being around so many people who seem to always be in a hurry can make you feel unsettled or claustrophobic.

Even simple tasks like getting groceries can become chaotic adventures due to the throngs of people. My friends who live in New York and love it enjoy a fast-paced lifestyle or are at least unaffected by the hustle and bustle of the city.


How Do You Decide If an NYC College Is Right for You?

If you've never been to New York City, you should try to visit before committing to attend a college in NYC. New York is such a unique place, and it's hard to determine if you'd enjoy living there for 4-6 years without ever having visited. Check out some of the different neighborhoods and the colleges there that interest you to get a feel for the city and what it would be like to go to school there.

If you love New York when you visit, then going to college there may be a good option for you. Keep in mind, though, that even if you enjoy a visit to New York City, it doesn't necessarily mean that you would enjoy living there. If you visit, try to imagine spending years there going through day-to-day activities to help determine if going to college there would be a good decision for you.

Also, take note of the specific locations of different NYC colleges. Each neighborhood within New York City has its own personality and offers a slightly different environment.

Remember that you're deciding on a college, and the location should only be one factor in your college search. You should also consider other factors in a college like the cost, its academic reputation, and the majors offered.

Try to find the school that's the best fit for you. Use guidebooks, search websites, and college finders to help you in the college selection process.

I believe that going to college in New York City is a great option for students who enjoy urban environments and thrive on the activity in a big city setting. Consider the benefits and disadvantages of attending college in New York City. Do the pros outweigh the cons for you? If so, then you may want to attend college in The Big Apple.



Michael Pick/Flickr


What's Next?

Maybe you're thinking the colleges in NYC aren't right for you after all. Check out our guide to the different types of locations to determine if you might be happier at a suburban or rural school.

Regardless of where you decide you want to go to college, make sure you're familiar with the application process and know how to apply. Also, learn strategies for the common application essay prompts.

Finally, check out this post on how to write about extracurriculars on your college applications.



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About the Author
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Justin Berkman

Justin has extensive experience teaching SAT prep and guiding high school students through the college admissions and selection process. He is firmly committed to improving equity in education and helping students to reach their educational goals. Justin received an athletic scholarship for gymnastics at Stanford University and graduated with a BA in American Studies.

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