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Study in Massachusetts

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Home to two of the world’s top three universities and a further nine ranked within the QS World University Rankings® 2016-2017, the US state of Massachusetts is a true hub of higher education, featuring eclectic university towns and forward-looking yet historical metropolises.

The state capital, Boston, took joint 13th place in QS Best Student Cities 2016, consolidating its reputation as one of the world’s best places to live and study. Nicknamed the ‘Athens of America’ due to its long-established association with academic excellence and social development, Boston is known as a progressive city with liberal politics and a strong community culture.

Not all universities in Massachusetts are located in Boston – but many of the state’s leading institutions are found either here or in the nearby student-centered city of Cambridge. Beyond these urban centers, those who study in Massachusetts will also find plenty of natural settings to explore, from Cape Cod’s beaches to the popular summer island resort, Martha’s Vineyard.

Top universities in Massachusetts

With one Ivy League institution and a myriad of public universities in Boston and across Massachusetts, it’s difficult to know where to start. Despite this, when choosing where to study, remember that not all universities in Massachusetts offer the same programs, lifestyle or subject strengths, so their appeal will vary depending on your own priorities.

While a number of the top universities in Massachusetts have the advantage of being located in or close to the thriving city of Boston, a few are found further out in smaller cities. The state’s two top universities, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University, are both located in the city of Cambridge, just a short drive from Boston.

Subject strengths at universities in Massachusetts vary, allowing prospective students to search for a school which best matches their own interests. For example, in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2016, MIT is ranked 1st in the world in an impressive 12 out of 42 possible subjects, most of which are engineering and technology specializations. Harvard also ranks 1st in the world for 12 subjects, which are mainly in the social sciences and life sciences. 

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)


Needing little introduction, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has held the top spot in the QS World University Rankings for the past five years in a row. Often perceived as one of the universities in Boston, MIT is actually located on 168 acres of land just northwest of Boston in the city of Cambridge – allowing for serious studying without distraction, but also the chance to visit the bustling city on occasion! Strongly focused on science and technology, and a dominant world-leader in these fields, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology also offers a prestigious business school (the Sloan School of Management) and advanced facilities for innovation and research. There are currently 4,527 undergraduates studying at MIT, and 6,804 graduate students. Only 7.9% of applications were accepted in 2016 – an indication of how strongly contested the school’s places are.

Harvard University


The only Ivy League university in Massachusetts, Harvard University is another sharp shooter in the world rankings, currently ranked third both among US universities and in the world. Established in 1636 and known as the oldest university in the US, Harvard University is a multidisciplinary school located – like MIT – in the city of Cambridge just outside of Boston. While charging some of the highest tuition fees in the US, Harvard University offers a financial aid scheme which currently helps pay for the tuition of almost 60% of Harvard undergraduates. There are approximately 21,000 students studying at Harvard today, of which over half (14,500) are postgraduate students.

Boston University

Boston University

The top-ranked of all universities in Boston’s city center, Boston University is currently ranked 89th in the world and 29th in the US. Another multidisciplinary university, Boston University (BU) offers 17 schools and 250 fields of study. Heavily involved in innovation, research and development and forward-thinking politics, BU has a history of incubating new ways of thinking and groundbreaking research, boasting more than US$368 million in research awards. With 16,478 undergraduates and 14,150 graduates, BU offers the chance to study in Boston across two campuses, including one based in the historic south end of Boston, the Boston University Medical Campus (BUMC), which trains all life sciences and medicine students.

The remaining top universities in Massachusetts are:

Top student cities in Massachusetts



Known as the Cradle of Liberty due to its key role in the American Revolution, Boston is the capital city of Massachusetts, home to and surrounded by a great many places to study. A bustling and cosmopolitan city, those who choose to study in Boston will get to experience its eclectic urban arena firsthand, including its strong Irish influences, vibrant arts scene and passionate sports fans.

Whether cheering on American football, baseball or basketball matches or the city’s annual marathon, Bostonians have numerous chances to get involved in the competitive community spirit. Boston’s political influence is another reason to get excited. Having been at the forefront of the American Revolution, the city continues to be a place of ongoing cultural revolution, progressive politics and innovative ideas. The annual week-long Harborfest is just one date in Boston’s packed cultural calendar and is the largest Independence Day festival in the US.

Meanwhile many history-lovers choose to study in Boston for the numerous world-class museums and the historic architecture which is hidden amongst the high rises and contemporary builds. And, while you may not think nature would come high on the list of attractions for such an urban jungle, Boston is at the heart of New England, perfectly placed for vibrant autumnal scenes in the fall and blossoming parks in the spring.



Massachusetts’ second-largest city, Worcester, is also the most central city in the state. Featuring the same brilliant fall scenery as Boston, Worcester also boasts a highly developed healthcare industry, connected to the large numbers of academic institutions training students in the region, as well as a developing arts scene and increased commercial investment in the downtown area.

Cheaper than undertaking study in Boston and perhaps more easily accessible from other states, Worcester and its continued cultural development should definitely not be dismissed. It’s also just an hour’s drive from Boston.



Located to the west of the state, almost on the northern border of Connecticut, is the city of Springfield. The Connecticut River which runs through the heart of the region is one reason for the city’s thriving economy, having been a key trading and transportation hub for many years. Almost midway between New York and Boston, Springfield offers enough nature, art and culture to make it more than just a stopover city.



A small city with a university town feel, Cambridge has a huge student community thanks to its impressive cluster world-leading institutions (including MIT and Harvard). The great thing about Cambridge is that it allows its student residents to focus on their studies and form close-knit networks to benefit their future careers, as well as offering the cosmopolitan excitement of Boston in its back garden.

Massachusetts facts

Boston Public Garden

  • Located in the north-east of the US, Massachusetts shares borders with Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Its capital and largest city is Boston.
  • Famous people from Massachusetts include former president John F. Kennedy, poet Sylvia Plath and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson.
  • The state’s official dessert is the Boston Cream Pie – a round cake filled with custard or cream and topped with chocolate.
  • Harvard University has more than 18 million volumes in its libraries, a number beaten only by the Library of Congress and the Boston Public Library.
  • Boston has 10 sister-cities: Barcelona, Spain; Kyoto, Japan; Strasbourg, France; Melbourne, Australia; Padua, Italy; Taipei, Taiwan; Hangzhou, China, Sekondi-Takoradi, Ghana, Praia, Cape Verde, and Belfast, UK.
  • After Boston, the largest cities in Massachusetts are Worcester, Springfield, Lowell, Cambridge, New Bedford, Brockton, Quincy and Lynn.
  • Its official name is the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
  • Home to nearly 6.8 million people.
  • Volleyball was invented in Massachusetts in 1895 by William G. Morgan.

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Laura Tucker's profile image
Written by Laura Tucker
Laura is a former staff writer for TopUniversities.com, providing advice and guidance for students on a range of topics helping them to choose where to study, get admitted and find funding and scholarships. A graduate of Queen Mary University of London, Laura also blogs about student life.

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Hi Laura. I am Kameswar studying my undergrad in India. I am a GC holder. Can i know the tests which need to be taken for me to study my masters in us

To whom it may concer:, I'm Paulina from México and I want to know. Which will be the best universities for a pharmacology or pharmacy field masters degree in USA and specific in Massachusetts. Thank you

Hi Paulina, I can't recommend any particular universities, but I can point you in the direction of our rankings by subject for pharmacy and pharmacology, with the results narrowed down to see only US universities. From there, you could search the rankings for any of the universities mentioned in this article. Hope this helps! 

Hi I'm Azim, from India just I wana to know
Which will be the best universities for engineering and technology

Hi Azim, we have a faculty ranking of the world's top universities for engineering & technology but more recently, we have published subject rankings for all different types of engineering as well as computer science. If you're looking in the US specifically, use our state-by-state guide to find schools in all states. Thanks for commenting! Laura

hello laura , i am rahul from india i had completed my 12th with 73.8% in 2015 and wish to get admission in astrophysics or engineering

Hi Rahul, have you seen our subject rankings for physics & astronomy and mechanical, aeronautical & manufacturing engineering? Here you'll find the names of leading universities worldwide in these subjects - to see if a school offers programs such as astrophysics, you'll need to check on their official website for available programs. To learn more about the types of degrees on offer, see our engineering and technology course guide. Good luck! :)

Hello Laura, I am Jaywant from India, My son is studied at Good Shepherd International School, Ooty,TN India from 6th Std To 10 th IGCSE and Now studying 11th std IBDP with science subject. He is preparing for SAT & ILTES also. He is continuous class Topper there. I wish to get him admission at MIT for Engineering . What scoring is required in SAT & ILTES ?Can He get scholership? What will be total cost For Undergraduate ?.Regards. Jaywant Patil.

Hi Jaywant, all fees at MIT are the same for all students and come in at US$45,016 (2014/15 figures). Obviously this is quite expensive so funding and scholarship information is readily available on MIT's own website here. For all other program queries, contact the MIT's engineering admissions department. Laura

I m from India...my name is Sayan...now I'm in class xi...in 2015...will appear in sat and TOEFL in early 2016...and it will be sent to MIT and other ivy league colleges....but I will participate in 2016 international physics and chemistry Olympiad.. Itzz..my wish....but will I be to send Olympiad performance to MIT in July or August of 2016....otherwise....my one will go in vain...and I have to sit in sat and TOEFL again in 2017...so I want the answer really badly

Hi Sayan, I'd advise that you ask this question to MIT admissions department before applying. If you let them know about your situation, they may allow you to submit your Olympiad performance at a later date or get you to mention your intention to participate within your initial application. Good luck, Laura

Hi,please am Gladys Sarfoa from Ghana. I want to study Law or Accounting in M. I.T,Cambridge,Havard or Bosten on scholarship bases for my degree. I need your help on the requirements and procedures. I wel be attending the World Grad Tour in Ghana

Hello Gladys, all the information you need can be found on this site, but I'd start with our How to Study Abroad FAQ which has information on general application procedures as well as links to some useful articles on funding, fees, visas etc. We also have an article called Graduate Study in the US: International Student Guide which will give you more relevant information about the US.

If you'd also like to compare the top universities in your field, see our subject rankings where you can find our ranking of top US universities for law and the top US universities for accounting and finance.

Good luck!

Laura :)

Hello, sir/miss. I'm Rahul from India and I want to study at standford,Harvard or at M.I.T in computer science by scholarship. can you please help me?

Hi Rahul. We have a list of computer science scholarships here, which may help you find some schemes to apply to!

i could not find the university of massachusetts boston on the world ranking list. Can anyone help me out please

Hi Nehal, the only university belonging to the University of Massachusetts system in the 2014 world rankings is the University of Massachusetts Amherst at 282nd in the world. The others, such as the one in Boston, are highly reputed but not within the top 800 schools internationally. For a look at more of the top universities in Boston, take a look at this article. Thanks, Laura

my name is mohaamed alla i live in egypt and i am still 16. I want to take admission in Harvard university with scholarship in science politics , business or economists . thanks

Hi fellas,please am from Ghana and i want to apply for this university.Please i need help on how to go on with my application process.Thank you

My son want to do his masters in Engineering in Massachusetts Institute of Technology , want to know how much he has to score in GRE and what is the Fess structure, it would be big help for me

Hi I am Nasir from India.I am planning for Masters programme in M.I.T., USA.So what kind of GRE score do i need to get admission in MIT.And also please tell me about the scholarships for that. I will attend the World Grad Tour in New Delhi.

Hi Nasir. Great to hear you're planning to join the QS World Grad School Tour in New Delhi! We have some information about the costs of studying at MIT, and funding opportunities, here: https://www.topuniversities.com/student-info/student-finance/tuition-fees-worlds-top-universities
The GRE score you need will vary depending on the course you're applying to at MIT. However, since it's one of the world's most competitive universities, it's safe to say that you will need to score comfortably above average. For more details on what a "good" GRE score looks like in different subject areas, check out this infographic: https://www.topuniversities.com/blog/what-gre-scores-do-you-need
Best of luck!

I want to know about M.I.T admission procedure & scholarship.please help me

can i get scholarship?

Hi,um Tisha from Bangladesh.i want to study at M.I.T . i want to study engineering.Please give some information about procedure & what i need to get admit there.And tell me that what i have to complete ?

Hello sir . I am Mayank khurana from India . I want to take admission in Harvard university with scholarsh for my mbbs . Can i take admission , if yes what is the procedure

Hi Mayank. For information about applying to study in the US, please take a look at our dedicated country guide: https://www.topuniversities.com/where-to-study/north-america/united-states/guide

If you attend a QS World Grad School Tour event, you'll be able to get face to face advice and also apply for an exclusive QS Scholarship. Find your nearest event in India here: https://www.topuniversities.com/events/qs-world-grad-school-tour/india

Best of luck, and we hope to see you soon!


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