SAT / ACT Prep Online Guides and Tips

Complete List: The Smallest Colleges in the United States

author image
Posted by Samantha Lindsay | Dec 26, 2021 6:00:00 PM

College Admissions



You might be interested in going to a small college, but just how small is "small," exactly? In general, schools that are considered "small" have fewer than 5,000 students in total. However, quite a few schools are actually less than 1/10 that size!

In this article I'll describe the characteristics of small colleges and then provide a list of the smallest colleges in the nation by category. That way you can decide if going to a small school really is the right decision for you.


List of the Smallest Colleges in the US

These are the smallest four-year, non-profit colleges in the nation sorted by type and enrollment number. This list includes schools with fewer than 500 students but more than 50 students because colleges with fewer than 50 students are extremely rare and not relevant to enough students to merit inclusion.

All enrollment data is from the National Center for Education Statistics.


Smallest Arts Colleges

College Enrollment
Compass College of Cinematic Arts 72
VanderCook College of Music 82
American College of the Building Arts 93
Curtis Institute of Music 113
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts 135
American Academy of Art 169
Art Academy of Cincinnati 227
Cleveland Institute of Music 234
Pennsylvania College of Art and Design 242
San Francisco Conservatory of Music 243
Johns Hopkins University—Peabody Conservatory of Music 265
School of the Museum of Fine Arts 278
New Hampshire Institute of Art 282
New York School of Interior Design 349
Montserrat College of Art 362
Moore College of Art and Design 365
Maine College of Art 380
New England Conservatory of Music 404
Pacific Northwest College of Art 445
New York School of Interior Design 456
Cornish College of the Arts 482
Juilliard School 486
Manhattan School of Music 497


Smallest Religious Colleges

For this list, I've focused on colleges that primarily identify as seminaries or Bible colleges. Also, I've excluded religious colleges that only train religious professionals because they are too specialized for most people.

College Enrollment
Yeshivas Be'er Yitzchok 57
Bais HaMedrash and Mesivta of Baltimore 60
Yeshiva of the Telshe Alumni 75
Yeshiva Shaarei Torah of Rockland 90
Yeshiva Derech Chaim 91
Ohr Hameir Theological Seminary 92
Yeshivas Emek Hatorah 95
Beth Hamedrash Shaarei Yosher Institute 97
Rabbinical College Ohr Yisroel 115
Yeshiva Karlin Stolin 132
Talmudical Yeshiva of Philadelphia 132
Sterling College 139
Kuyper College 140
Simmons College of Kentucky 140
Faith International University 142
Women's Institute of Torah Seminary and College 147
Bais Medrash Toras Chesed 150
Trinity Bible College and Graduate School 151
Rabbinical College of Long Island 160
Grace School of Theology 163
Sh'or Yoshuv Rabbinical College 178
Hebrew Theological College 181
Yeshiva Gedolah Imrei Yosef D'spinka 187
Baptist Bible College 202
Baptist Bible College 202
Yeshiva Toras Chaim 218
Luther Rice College & Seminary 221
Appalachian Bible College 221
South Florida Bible College and Theological Seminary 243
Rabbinical College of America 249
Sacred Heart Major Seminary 253
Northpoint Bible College 258
Rabbinical Seminary of America 281
Ner Israel Rabbinical College 305
Gods Bible School and College 314
Talmudical Seminary Oholei Torah 331
Multnomah University 336
Mesivta Torah Vodaath Rabbinical Seminary 364
Rabbinical College Bobover Yeshiva Bnei Zion 379
SUM Bible College and Theological Seminary 417
Talmudical Seminary of Bobov 423
College of Biblical Studies-Houston 431
Faith Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary 432
Yeshiva of Machzikai Hadas 457
San Diego Christian College 460
Christendom College 493


Smallest Engineering, Medical, and Other Professional Colleges

College Enrollment
Northwestern Polytechnic University 52
Lincoln University 98
Webb Institute 102
Rush University 110
Columbia College of Nursing 116
St. John's College 119
Lakeview College of Nursing 148
Bastyr University 169
Northwestern Health Sciences University 175
Trinity College of Nursing and Health 178
California Northstate University College of Health Sciences 179
Logan University 179
Saint Anthony College of Nursing 210
Southern California Institute of Architecture 235
Charles R Drew University of Medicine and Science 249
University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy in St. Louis 286
St. Francis Medical Center College of Nursing 320
Boston Architectural College 336
Allen College 338
Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering 347
Capitol Technology University 361
Bellin College 381
Roseman University of Health Sciences 385
Capitol Technology University 391
Cabarrus College of Health Sciences 437
Pacific Oaks College 476
Harrisburg University of Science and Technology 478
Saint Luke's College of Health Sciences 490
Touro University Worldwide 497


Smallest Liberal Arts Colleges

All the colleges on this list offer a variety of degrees and a complete liberal arts education (but note that some of these schools are religiously affiliated).
College Enrollment
American Baptist College 55
Allegheny Wesleyan College 67
Divine Word College 69
Heritage Christian University 70
Magdalen College 71
Cleveland University-Kansas City 78
Davis College 79
Thomas More College of Liberal Arts 80
Lincoln University 88
Grace Mission University 88
Trinity International University-Florida 100
Webb Institute 101
Oak Hills Christian College 103
University of the West 114
Antioch College 116
Baptist University of the Americas 117
Marlboro College 142
Goddard College 155
New Saint Andrews College 157
Criswell College 158
Johnson University Florida 160
Barclay College 166
Great Lakes Christian College 169
Martin University 170
Manhattan Christian College 170
Paine College 189
Crowley's Ridge College 192
Ecclesia College 192
Trinity College of Florida 214
Judson College 229
Bennett College 232
University of Saint Katherine 238
Ohio Valley University 253
Sierra Nevada University 274
Bethesda University 285
Randall University 295
Lincoln Christian University 308
Alaska Pacific University 312
Bethany Global University 313
The King's University 319
Naropa University 320
Bacone College 321
Welch College 335
Multnomah University 336
Principia College 340
Patrick Henry College 340
Beulah Heights University 344
Trinity Baptist College 351
Sweet Briar College 356
Wells College 357
Urshan College 365
College of the Atlantic 366
Voorhees College 368
University of the Southwest 370
Allen College 374
Calvary University 376
North American University 386
The Baptist College of Florida 390
Soka University of America 392
Morris College 395
Finlandia University 402
East-West University 419
Prescott College 422
Beacon College 427
Wilberforce University 439
The King's College 442
Stephens College 443
Carolina University 443
York College 457
Southwestern Christian University 458
Thomas Aquinas College 462
San Diego Christian College 464
Warner Pacific University 464
Paul Quinn College 468
Bellin College 471
Rosemont College 480
Bethel College-North Newton 484
Life Pacific University 490
Salem College 492
University of Valley Forge 495


Why Are These Schools So Small? 3 Big Reasons

It might seem unorthodox for the enrollment of an entire college to be the same size as your high school class (or even smaller!). Though definitely uncommon, these schools usually have a solid rationale for keeping their student bodies so tiny. There are three major reasons these colleges are particularly small


Reason #1: Extremely Specialized Curriculum

Often, small colleges have a very specialized curriculum that caters to a narrow demographic of students. Many of the smallest colleges are religiously affiliated, specialized art schools, or professional schools.

The smallest liberal arts colleges usually have a curriculum that emphasizes unique modes of learning. For example, some of these schools have a "Great Books" curriculum, meaning that all students must read a collection of classic texts as part of the college's universal academic requirements. If you're looking for an outside-the-box college experience, then a small school could be a perfect choice for you.


Reason #2: Spin-Offs of Larger Universities

Some of these schools were once part of larger universities and then branched off to form their own communities. Sometimes this happens when a university system shrinks. Smaller schools that were once affiliated with the flagship university have the option to become independently-functioning entities.

This can also happen if a school no longer fits with the larger campus. They may have developed new types of classes, or perhaps they want to serve a different portion of the student population.

Regardless of the reason why, this legacy goes along with small schools' tendency to be more specialized and attract a much smaller group of prospective students.


Reason #3: Dedication to Personalizing the Academic Experience

Small schools are often committed to restricting class sizes in order to give each student individualized attention. Often, students can design their own curricula and access a level of guidance and support from professors and advisors that's unheard of at larger institutions. At small universities, students frequently collaborate with professors and are asked to give self-evaluations.

Tiny schools treat the college experience as an evolving dialogue between students, their teachers, and their communities. This enables them to focus less on grades and more on learning as an ongoing interactive process. In fact, some small schools don't assign course grades at all!



Small colleges tend to be unique...which means that each student will have a unique collegiate experience, too!


What Is the Tiny College Experience Like?

So you can get a sense of what the smallest schools are actually like, I've compiled a few student testimonials that provide perspective on the pros and cons of attending these colleges.


Thomas Aquinas College

"They create an academic bubble of seclusion, quite literally." (Source)

"The rules are a bit extreme, and never think that someone is not watching. At a school this small, everything gets out in the open." (Source)

"I admit that this school does wonders with the mind. Thomas Aquinas delves into critical thinking and reading beyond the text." (Source)



Thomas Aquinas College, Santa Paula California (Harold Litwiler/Flickr)


Marlboro College

"Marlboro is the best place for independent students who want to take a serious role in the pursuit of their education." (Source)

"Marlboro does not have class requirements, [so] each student creates a course of study based on their interests and aspirations." (Source)

"Marlboro College classes expect serious work ethic. Class sizes are small, so sleeping in and missing your 8 AM is not an option if you think your professor won't notice." (Source)


body_marlborocollegeMarlboro College


New York School of Interior Design

"It's a good school but small. The classes get canceled sometimes because of under-attendance. Tuition is too high!" (Source)

"NYSID offers a lot of opportunities outside of class for students, but they don't have a better way of connecting with students outside of emails. Focusing a career in interior design, my favorite experiences have happened outside of the classroom, being involved in organizations such as the Contract Club and IIDA Representative. These experiences have proved invaluable in networking and meeting professionals in my field." (Source)


As you can see from all of these school quotes, the smallest colleges are often limited in their housing and dining options and campus activities.

However, they might be the right fit for students who are interested in a specific academic field or mode of learning. One benefit you can count on is a close bond with professors and other students.


What's Next?

If you're just starting your college search, you might not be sure whether a big or small college is the best choice for you. Learn about the major differences between the two.

Another factor to consider in the college search process is location. Do you want to stay close to home or start over somewhere new? Read this article to find out if a college close to home is the right choice for you.

For more advice on how to conduct your college search, read my guide on how to choose the best college for you and my review of the top 10 college search websites.


Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:

Get eBook: 5 Tips for 160+ Points

Raise Your ACT Score by 4 Points (Free Download)


Have friends who also need help with test prep? Share this article!

author image
Samantha Lindsay
About the Author

Samantha is a blog content writer for PrepScholar. Her goal is to help students adopt a less stressful view of standardized testing and other academic challenges through her articles. Samantha is also passionate about art and graduated with honors from Dartmouth College as a Studio Art major in 2014. In high school, she earned a 2400 on the SAT, 5's on all seven of her AP tests, and was named a National Merit Scholar.

Get Free Guides to Boost Your SAT/ACT
100% Privacy. No spam ever.

Student and Parent Forum

Our new student and parent forum, at, allow you to interact with your peers and the PrepScholar staff. See how other students and parents are navigating high school, college, and the college admissions process. Ask questions; get answers.

Join the Conversation

Ask a Question Below

Have any questions about this article or other topics? Ask below and we'll reply!