People often tend to associate large universities with less individualized instruction and, overall, less prestige.
But our seventh annual ranking of the 50 best colleges in America suggested otherwise.
Our list ranks colleges by median starting salary, average SAT score, and a survey that asked more than 1,000 Business Insider readers to choose the colleges that best prepared students for success after graduation. Read our full methodology here.
More than a quarter of the colleges on our list clocked in with an undergraduate enrollment of more than 10,000 students. Read on to find out which large colleges made the cut.
12. Boston University
Undergraduate enrollment: 18,017
Average SAT score: 1945
Median starting salary: $50,100
The Boston University alumni community is full of Nobel Prize and Pulitzer winners, Fulbright scholars, and poets laureate. The school received over $350.3 million in grants and contract awards last year, powering it as one of the top research universities in the country.
11. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Undergraduate enrollment: 32,959
Average SAT score: 2030
Median starting salary: $55,000
Located about 140 miles south of Chicago, the University of Illinois is home to one of the largest public-university library collections in the world, with more than 24 million volumes across more than 20 area-studies libraries. Students can also take advantage of more than 400 study-abroad programs in more than 60 countries.
10. University of Texas at Austin
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Undergraduate enrollment: 39,523
Average SAT score: 1900
Median starting salary: $52,200
Ranked No. 17 for top public universities in the country by US News and Money magazine, UT has nearly half a billion alumni all toting Longhorn pride, including award-winning actor Matthew McConaughey, filmmaker Wes Anderson, journalist Walter Cronkite, and many members of the Bush family. More than 15 of UT’s undergraduate programs are ranked in the top 10 nationally.
9. University of California at Los Angeles
Undergraduate enrollment: 29,633
Average SAT score: 1975
Median starting salary: $50,300
Ranked the 23rd-best college in the country, the second-best public college in the country, and the eighth-best college in the world by US News, UCLA sums up its mission in three words: education, research, and service. Students learn in and out of the classroom, study abroad, and take advantage of a wide range of internships in their disciplines of choice.
8. University of Southern California
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Undergraduate enrollment: 18,740
Average SAT score: 2070
Median starting salary: $51,700
USC is distinguished in many areas, including the entertainment industry; at least one USC alum has been nominated for an Academy Award every year since the inception of the awards in 1929. Another area of excellence: architecture. USC alumni have designed Los Angeles’ City Hall building, the Department of Water and Power building, St. Basil’s Catholic Church, and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
7. Northeastern University
Undergraduate enrollment: 17,400
Average SAT score: 2105
Median starting salary: $54,100
Located in Boston, Northeastern has steadily climbed the ranks on US News’ list: It was No. 42 in this year’s ranking, up 56 spots from the publication’s 2007 list.
Experiential learning opportunities ensure that students are exposed to real-world work, research, and study opportunities that will further them in their chosen fields far beyond life at Northeastern.
6. New York University
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Undergraduate enrollment: 24,985
Average SAT score: 2015
Median starting salary: $50,000
The largest private university in the US, New York University is known for its renowned drama and theater programs in the Tisch School of the Arts. The school is also recognized for the Stern School of Business, ranked the No. 5 undergraduate business program by US News.
“Networking, research, mentoring expertise, along with a location that allows for great internships as well as life experiences. New York City can’t be beat for these, so NYU rank[s] very high,” a survey taker said.
5. University of Virginia
Undergraduate enrollment: 16,483
Average SAT score: 2025
Median starting salary: $54,100
US News named UVA – which is located in Charlottesville – the No. 2 public school and the No. 6 undergraduate business program in the country. Research is also an important part of the school’s curriculum, and it has 1.5 million square feet of research facilities, labs, and studio space, as well as $26 million in research awards from corporate partners.
4. Georgia Institute of Technology
Undergraduate enrollment: 14,682
Average SAT score: 2080
Median starting salary: $61,700
“Atlanta is the technological hub of the South, and Georgia Tech is a major reason for this, attracting among the best technology students from around the world,” one survey respondent said.
3. University of Michigan at Ann Arbor
Undergraduate enrollment: 28,395
Average SAT score: 2065
Median starting salary: $56,800
Michigan students received more Fulbright grants than anywhere else in the country but Harvard last year. The university counts Google cofounder Larry Page, actor James Earl Jones, and President Gerald Ford among its many high-profile alumni.
2. University of California at Berkeley
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Undergraduate enrollment: 27,126
Average SAT score: 2035
Median starting salary: $59,500
The top strictly public school on our list, Berkeley is also ranked the No. 1 public university in the country by US News. Students can choose between 170 departments and programs across 12 colleges, and even at a big school 73% of undergraduate classes seat 30 students or fewer.
1. Cornell University
- Cornell University/Facebook
Undergraduate enrollment: 14,453
Average SAT score: 2130
Median starting salary: $58,200
Cornell strives to contribute to the world’s knowledge in a way that “prioritizes public engagement to help improve the quality of life in our state, the nation, the world.” The Ithaca, New York-based school offers 80 fields of study and an active career-services office, which connects students with alumni for mentoring, networking, jobs, and internships.