Top Universities in the USA 2021 | Top Universities

Top Universities in the USA 2021

By Chloe Lane

Updated May 5, 2021 Updated May 5, 2021
  • 352 US schools are featured in the recently released QS World University Rankings: USA. 
  • The best US school this year is Harvard University.

The recently released QS World University Rankings: USA feature 352 of the best colleges in the United States of America.  

Launched for the first time last year, the USA rankings aim to identify and recognise the top universities in one of the most popular study destinations in the world.  

The QS World University Rankings: USA uses a different methodology to the other QS rankings, evaluating universities according to not only their research performance and salary uplift, but also their social impact and the efforts they are making to support the 17 US Sustainable Development goals. 

Read on to discover the top 10 universities in the US. 

QS World University Rankings: USA – Top 10 Universities in the US 




Harvard University 

Cambridge, MA 

Stanford University 

Stanford, CA 

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) 

Cambridge, MA 

University of California, Berkeley (UCB) 

Berkeley, CA 

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) 

Los Angeles, CA 

Yale University 

New Haven, CT 

Columbia University 

New York, NY 

Princeton University 

Princeton, NJ 

New York University (NYU) 

New York, NY 


University of Pennsylvania 

Philadelphia, PA 

10. University of Pennsylvania 

University of Pennsylvania

Topping off our list of the top universities in the US is the University of Pennsylvania, down two places to rank 10th this year. Located in Philadelphia, the University of Pennsylvania is the highest ranked school in the state of Pennsylvania and is the fifth best school in the country for employability.  

Founded in 1740, the University of Pennsylvania is a private, Ivy League college with more than 26,550 students. The school is very exclusive, with only nine percent of its applicants admitted in the 2020/21 academic year.  

9. New York University (NYU)  NYU

Entering the US top 10 after rising two places this year is NYU, ranking ninth. It is the second-best school in the state of New York, only beaten by Columbia University (seventh). NYU earns its best score in the diversity and internationalisation indicator, ranking in joint first, alongside the University of California, Davies (ranking 24th in the US). 

NYU aims to embrace an urban identity and a professional focus, incorporating a global vision into its programmes. NYU’s main campus is in New York City, but the school has campuses in both Abu Dhabi and Shanghai, as well as 11 study-away cites across the world.  

8. Princeton University 

PrincetonClimbing one position to eighth place this year is Princeton University. Princeton scores well across each of the indicators, particularly the learning experience indicator, for which it shares first place with Duke University (ranking 13th in the US).  

Princeton has a list of impressive alumni. It has educated two US presidents: James Madison and Woodrow Wilson. Other distinguished graduates include Michelle Obama, actors Jimmy Stewart and David Duchovny, Google chairman Eric Schmidt and Apollo astronaut Pete Conrad. 

7. Columbia University  Columbia uni

Despite dropping two positions in the index this year, Columbia University remains in the US top 10, in seventh place. It is the top school in the state of New York this year and earns exceptionally high scores in the research and employability indicators, ranking sixth in each.  

Founded in 1754, Columbia University is the oldest institution of higher education in the state of New York and the fifth oldest in the United States.  

6. Yale University 


Remaining in sixth place for a second year running is Yale University: the top school in the state of Connecticut. Yale scores well in the employability indicator, ranking fourth in the US.  

Founded in 1701, Yale University is the third oldest higher education institution in the US. The school has undertaken four major construction projects in the past year to expand the spaces for thinking, learning and socialising within its campus. 

5. University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) 


Entering the top five now is UCLA, rising one place in the index this year. Despite its high scores across the indicators, UCLA is only the third best university in the state of California. The school performs well in the diversity and internationalisation indicator, where it ranks joint third in the country.  

UCLA prides itself on being diverse, progressive and having an international outlook and its undergraduate students come from more than 80 different countries. UCLA also boasts extremely distinguished alumni. Between them, the school’s alumni have earned 15 Nobel Laureates, 261 Olympic Medals and 118 NCAA titles.  

4. University of California, Berkeley (UCB) 


In fourth place for another year running is the University of California, Berkley (UCB). UCB earns a particularly impressive score in the research indicator, ranking third in the US.  

UCB was founded in 1868 and today the school has 184 academic department and programs. Its faculty hold nine Nobel Prizes and their research covers everything from robotic legs to biodegradable plastic, to the origins of the universe. 

3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) 


Placing third in the US this year is MIT, earning a top three position in the employability indicator. The school aims to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology and other areas to prepare graduates for exciting and diverse careers. 

MIT researchers are at the forefront of developments in artificial intelligence, climate adaptation, HIV, cancer, and poverty alleviation, while in the past MIT research has fuelled scientific breakthroughs such as the development of radar, the invention of magnetic core memory and the concept of the expanding universe. 

2. Stanford University 

StanfordStanford University is the second-best university in the US this year according to the USA rankings. Stanford scores well across each of the indicators, particularly the research and employability indicators where it ranks second in the country.  

Opened in 1891, Stanford University is one of the largest universities in the US with 18 interdisciplinary research institutes and seven schools. The school also has more than 15,000 students and nearly 2,300 faculty. 

1. Harvard University  Harvard

The best school in the US in 2021 is Harvard University, earning perfect scores across the employability and research indicators - a reflection of its high quality of education and research output. 

Harvard is the oldest university in the US, dating back to 1636. It has a large residential campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts and teaches more than 23,000 students. The university is also very internationally focused, with 24 percent of its students coming from outside the US, from more than 180 countries. 

This article was originally published in May 2021 .

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