2024 Top Colleges in Virginia

Colleges of Distinction Virginia

Published: September 1, 2022

By: Colleges of Distinction Staff

Jump to: Bridgewater College | William & Mary | Emory & Henry College | James Madison University | Mary Baldwin University | Marymount University | Old Dominion University | Radford University | Roanoke College | Shenandoah University | The University of Virginia’s College at Wise | University of Richmond | University of Virginia | Washington and Lee University | Frequently Asked Questions

Colleges of Distinction has hand-picked a selection of top schools that are well equipped to provide a personalized education catered to students’ interests. Through a rigorous vetting and interview process for the 2022-2023 academic year, we have refreshed and reaffirmed that these institutions strive for excellence in line with the four overarching distinctions—Student Engagement, Teaching, Community, and Outcomes.

These schools vary in size, cost, location, academic offerings, and more, but they are all distinguished by their commitment to the undergraduate experience. The diversity of the college list is intentional, giving students and parents a variety of public and private universities to consider. No matter what, they all exhibit the foundational qualities of a fulfilling undergraduate education.

Bridgewater College in Virginia

Bridgewater College

Bridgewater, VA ‧ Private ‧ 4-year

Bridgewater College is an independent, private liberal arts college founded in 1880. It was the first private, coeducational college in Virginia, having admitted both men and women from its founding. The College offers bachelor of arts and bachelor of science degrees in nearly 60 majors and minors, along with master’s degree programs in athletic training, digital media strategy, psychology, and human resource management; pre-professional programs such as medicine and law; and teacher licensure. 

Undergraduate research with faculty can begin as early as a student’s first year. The Research Experience @ Bridgewater, a donor-funded initiative, supports teams of faculty and students who spend the summer in collaborative research in any discipline. Additionally, funding for summer research in the natural sciences is available through the Martin Science Research Institute and the Virginia Foundation of Independent Colleges. Students often collaborate with their faculty partners on conference presentations in their field.

Acceptance rate 76%       •       Net price $20,318       •       SAT Range 980-1170       •       Students submitting SAT scores 83%
Total Undergrad Population 1,597       •       Setting Suburb       •       Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 63%       •       Retention rate 71%       •       Student-to-faculty ratio 13:1

Click here fore available majors

College of William and Mary wordmark and logo

William & Mary

Williamsburg, VA ‧ Public ‧ 4-year

William & Mary is the second oldest college in the nation and attracts attention for its research initiatives and talented student body. Students at William & Mary are well-rounded individuals who are committed to both academic achievement and service to others.

Local internships allow students to gain hands on experience while still attending school. Students involved in this program typically work 7-10 hours a week. William & Mary has developed internships with several different organizations in the Williamsburg area with positions available across most disciplines.

Acceptance rate 42%       •       Net price $18,588       •       SAT Range 1300-1490       •       Students submitting SAT scores 77%
Total Undergrad Population 8,939       •       Setting Suburb       •       Public 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 91%       •       Retention rate 93%       •       Student-to-faculty ratio 11:1

Click here fore available majors

Emory & Henry College in Emory, Virginia

Emory & Henry College

Emory, VA ‧ Private ‧ 4-year

Emory & Henry College encourages students to reach their potential as they grow as compassionate, intellectual citizens. Located in the Highlands of Virginia, Emory & Henry has faith in the power of education to transform people, places, and the world at large. Emory & Henry College embraces the ampersand as a symbol of the kind of “connected learning” that happens both on and off campus. A real education is about tying all of one’s college experiences together, so E&H students make connections across disciplines to understand the complex ways in which everything relates to the world around it.

E&H is home to a unique department for students who want to devote themselves to leadership and service to others. The Civic Innovation programs center education on problem solving and leadership, particularly in such industries as government, nonprofits, and private organizations. Students are challenged to combine scholarship with compassionate action as they address equality, justice, and sustainable community development. 

Acceptance rate 75%       •       Net price $17,715       •       SAT Range 960-1150       •       Students submitting SAT scores 63%
Total Undergrad Population 1,230       •       Setting Rural       •       Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 54%       •       Retention rate 76%       •       Student-to-faculty ratio 10:1

Click here fore available majors

James Madison University logo and wordmark

James Madison University

Harrisonburg, VA ‧ Public ‧ 4-year

James Madison University invites students to come forth, learn great things, and brighten the future. With plenty of global study and civic engagement opportunities, students have plenty of room to grow and succeed.

James Madison regards service as an integral part of higher education. The department of Community Service-Learning partners with 75 organizations within the Shenandoah Valley community. The purpose of community based learning is to increase student awareness of the society around them. James Madison wants all its graduates to be well-rounded leaders with experience in civic engagement and service to those in need.

Acceptance rate 80%       •       Net price $18,592       •       SAT Range 1120-1280       •       Students submitting SAT scores 56%
Total Undergrad Population 21,594       •       Setting City: Small       •       Public 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 82%       •       Retention rate 89%       •       Student-to-faculty ratio 17:1

Click here fore available majors

Mary Baldwin University insignia logo

Mary Baldwin University

Staunton, VA ‧ Private ‧ 4-year

Since its founding in 1842 Mary Baldwin University has been an opportunity engine with one purpose: To help renegades, entrepreneurs, and dreamers mold their passion into meaningful, high-impact careers.

They gain access to a team of professors and mentors with a mission to help them find — and pursue — their calling. They learn from real-world experts and professional coaches dedicated to equipping them with the skills, experience, confidence, and credentials they need to catalyze dreams and smash glass ceilings. With a 10:1 student-faculty ratio, profs not only know their students’ names and goals, they take pride in fueling their quest for growth and helping them tackle every challenge along the way.

All first-year residential students get to be involved in a Leadership Gateway, which proves to be the key to unlocking the full potential of their student experience. Each gateway includes a focus in career preparation as well as the exploration of a topic of interest such as leadership, healthy lifestyles, cultural identity, and academic achievement. Gateways help new students make connections with students, faculty, and staff who share their interests and passions.

Acceptance rate 87%       •       Net price $18,741       •       SAT Range 940-1120       •       Students submitting SAT scores 63%
Total Undergrad Population 2,110       •       Setting City: Small       •       Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 42%       •       Retention rate 63%       •       Student-to-faculty ratio 11:1

Click here fore available majors

Marymount University Virginia logo and wordmark

Marymount University

Arlington, VA ‧ Catholic ‧ 4-year

A Marymount education provides a strong liberal arts foundation with a global perspective, extensive networking and career preparation, and an inclusive community where students are encouraged to “Learn with Purpose.” Founded by the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary, Marymount calls the members of the community to embrace a value of service to others, which continues to be reflected in the work of its faculty, staff, students, and alumni around the world. 

As a Catholic university, Marymount welcomes people of all faiths and cultures, enjoying an ethnically diverse student body that enriches the learning experience for everyone.

Marymount University, located in Arlington, VA just five metro stops from the heart of Washington, D.C., is home to an engaged, exceptionally diverse learning community. Students are able to take advantage of the resources of the nation’s capital, one of the world’s most important business, arts, financial, and political centers, to provide unique learning experiences for personal and professional growth. Faculty incorporate these resources into the curriculum so that students benefit from all that the city offers, including unique internship sites like Capitol Hill, the National Institutes of Health, the Smithsonian museums, and various international businesses.

Acceptance rate 85%       •       Net price $24,224       •       SAT Range 970-1170       •       Students submitting SAT scores 34%
Total Undergrad Population 3,294       •       Setting City: Midsize       •       Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 54%       •       Retention rate 71%       •       Student-to-faculty ratio 14:1

Click here fore available majors

Old Dominion University logo

Old Dominion University

Norfolk, VA ‧ Public ‧ 4-year

Old Dominion University is an educational powerhouse known for an award-winning faculty and an ever-evolving campus footprint. Its determined entrepreneurial approach to problem-solving drives cutting-edge research, eminent scholarship, and strategic partnerships with government, business, the community, and the arts. The number of faculty on campus who have received an outstanding faculty award by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia over the past 10 years is among the highest in the Commonwealth.

The goal of the Undergraduate Research Program is to promote and facilitate the inclusion of undergraduates in ODU’s active research community, to expand students’ educational experience, and prepare them for graduate programs and the job market. The goal is to support mentored research activities that connect our top undergraduate students with faculty who are active in research. Students who participate in undergraduate research benefit from hands-on and inquiry-based experiences, develop exciting academic and career paths and give themselves a competitive edge for future jobs and graduate school.

Acceptance rate 95%       •       Net price $17,162       •       SAT Range 960-1170       •       Students submitting SAT scores 86%
Total Undergrad Population 24,286       •       Setting City: Midsize       •       Public 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 53%       •       Retention rate 76%       •       Student-to-faculty ratio 18:1

Click here fore available majors

Radford University public college in Virginia

Radford University

Radford, VA ‧ Public ‧ 4-year

Founded in 1910, Radford University is a comprehensive, mid-sized university located in the heart of Virginia’s New River Valley. With small class sizes, rigorous academics, a strong emphasis on service to others, and a beautiful, 204-acre campus, Radford University provides an education that is focused on developing the student both inside and outside of the classroom. Radford University’s Honors Academy, LEAD Scholars Program, Service Learning, Scholar-Citizen Initiative, and International Education provide further opportunities for motivated students to pursue additional academic engagement, community engagement, and leadership opportunities.

The Radford University Scholar-Citizen Initiative (SCI) offers students from all majors the opportunity to apply academic skills and disciplinary knowledge to the challenges facing local, national, and global communities. The diversity of experiences in which students can immerse themselves provides them with career skills—like problem-solving, adaptability, and interpersonal communication—that are useful in every work environment. 

Radford University’s SELU Conservancy is located along the Little River, just minutes from campus. It is primarily used as an outdoor classroom and research site. The Barn houses a science lab for field work on the lower level, and the attached silo is home to the observatory. The Farm at SELU is a 1930s homestead replica used for teaching and community outreach. Similarly, the SELU Teams Course is used for education and outreach.

Acceptance rate 79%       •       Net price $15,747
Total Undergrad Population 10,695       •       Setting Suburb       •       Public 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 56%       •       Retention rate 75%       •       Student-to-faculty ratio 14:1

Click here fore available majors

roanoke logo

Roanoke College

Salem, VA ‧ Private ‧ 4-year

Roanoke College, located in Salem, Virginia, offers an innovative core curriculum and comprehensive majors that allow for in-depth study and research. Students are encouraged to believe in themselves and their potential, participating in internships, creative projects, community service, and study away—endeavors that altogether help them find their purpose in life. The Roanoke College experience is a full one, enhanced by its setting just minutes away from a vibrant city and the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains.

At Roanoke, knowledge is most useful when applied to real-world situations. That is why every student is encouraged to take advantage of the many experiential learning opportunities available. 94% of Roanoke students participate in real-world learning experiences before they graduate. Whether it’s research, internships, creative projects, service work, study abroad, or all of the above, a real-world learning experience helps students develop leadership skills, cultivate a vast network, and connect to career-boosting opportunities. 

The Intensive Learning Program, commonly called May Term, provides students with a unique learning experience in which they and faculty share academic immersion and full-time engagement with a single course. Intensive Learning courses focus on a topic in ways that are not possible during the regular academic year. These courses encourage active student participation by moving beyond lectures to involve students in activities like debates, lab and studio work, field trips, surveys, simulations and reenactments, films, videos, and interactive media. The College provides a wide array of Intensive Learning opportunities, including travel as well as on-campus courses.

Acceptance rate 78%       •       Net price $27,975       •       SAT Range 1040-1240       •       Students submitting SAT scores 75%
Total Undergrad Population 1,920       •       Setting Suburb       •       Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 70%       •       Retention rate 79%       •       Student-to-faculty ratio 11:1

Click here fore available majors

Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia

Shenandoah University

Winchester, VA ‧ Private ‧ 4-year

Established in 1875, Shenandoah has always embraced the future. Programs across its seven schools provide deep learning and encourage critical thinking as they provide students with the skills essential for the careers of today and necessary to adapt to the changing needs of tomorrow. The private university is home to Virginia’s first virtual reality design program, a world-class conservatory, highly regarded programs in nursing and the health professions (including pre-health), and Virginia’s most well-established undergraduate program in the growing field of music therapy. It is also working within the vanguard of esports and virtual reality education. 

While at Shenandoah, students learn from faculty dedicated to teaching excellence and innovation, and they can take advantage of extraordinary hands-on learning opportunities that range from working on feature films to volunteering at a Winter Olympics. 

Shenandoah Conversations is an effort through which the entire university community is encouraged to engage in civil discourse by being both understood and understanding. Faculty members guide civil conversations, as do students trained in the principles of Reflective Structured Dialogue who serve as mentors to other students new to the process. Through Shenandoah Conversations, members of the campus community add layers of depth and understanding to their learning as well as to their experiences in the world outside of campus. 

Acceptance rate 74%       •       Net price $31,089       •       SAT Range 1010-1230       •       Students submitting SAT scores 79%
Total Undergrad Population 4,174       •       Setting City: Small       •       Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 60%       •       Retention rate 82%       •       Student-to-faculty ratio 10:1

Click here fore available majors

The University of Virginia’s College at Wise

Wise, VA ‧ Public ‧ 4-year

The University of Virginia’s College at Wise is one of the top public liberal arts colleges in the nation. A division of the University of Virginia, UVa-Wise is home to innovative majors like Virginia’s only undergraduate degree program in software engineering.

Undergraduate research opportunities are abundant at UVa-Wise. Students work side by side with faculty members in a laboratory or field based research project. Student research at UVa-Wise has been published in The New York Times and presented at national conferences. Other opportunities for research include Healthy Appalachia, a unique partnership between the University of Virginia and UVa-Wise that looks at improving the quality of life and health care in southwest Virginia.

Acceptance rate 83%       •       Net price $9,418       •       SAT Range 980-1170       •       Students submitting SAT scores 76%
Total Undergrad Population 1,905       •       Setting Town       •       Public 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 48%       •       Retention rate 71%       •       Student-to-faculty ratio 11:1

Click here fore available majors

University of Richmond Logo

University of Richmond

Richmond, VA ‧ Private ‧ 4-year

Students enrolled at the University of Richmond quickly become engaged and active members of the larger, campus community. They benefit from close collaboration with faculty, and they have access to several learning opportunities and extracurricular activities available through the University.

The Richmond Guarantee says “Every undergraduate student will receive up to $4,000 for a summer internship or faculty-mentored research.” University of Richmond extends an amazing opportunity for each and every student to gain hands on experience before they graduate. This is a testament to the university’s commitment to graduate intelligent, experienced individuals with valuable skill sets. Students need only find a program that suits their academic needs and University of Richmond will help fund their effort. The top three industries for fellowships include: Math & Science, Social Science, and Business.

Acceptance rate 31%       •       Net price $25,700       •       SAT Range 1280-1460       •       Students submitting SAT scores 59%
Total Undergrad Population 4,056       •       Setting City: Midsize       •       Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 88%       •       Retention rate 93%       •       Student-to-faculty ratio 8:1

Click here fore available majors

University of Virginia logo and wordmark

University of Virginia

Charlottesville, VA ‧ Public ‧ 4-year

Discover the historic charm and academic excellence of the University of Virginia, one of the country’s premier public universities. Founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819, the UVA campus boasts stunning architecture and beautiful gardens that provide the perfect setting for a rigorous and rewarding educational experience. With a commitment to interdisciplinary learning, UVA offers more than 100 majors across 12 schools.

Outside the classroom, students can take advantage of countless opportunities to get involved, including more than 800 student organizations and a thriving arts and culture scene. UVA is also home to top-ranked NCAA Division I athletic programs, with passionate fans cheering on the Cavaliers on game days. The university’s strong sense of tradition and community fosters a supportive and inclusive environment for all students, whether you’re a first-year or a graduate student. Learn what it means to be a Wahoo and join the vibrant UVA community today.

Acceptance rate 23%      •      Net price $19,043      •      SAT Range 1320-1510       •       Students submitting SAT scores 76%
Total Undergrad Population 17,310        •        Setting Suburb       •        Public 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 94%       •       Retention rate 97%       •       Student-to-faculty ratio 15:1

Click here for available majors

washington and lee university logo

Washington and Lee University

Lexington, VA ‧ Private ‧ 4-year

Washington and Lee University is a private institution in Lexington, Virginia. Students can explore a variety of majors to peak their academic interest, while also engaging in over 150 student clubs and organizations.

W&L is the ninth-oldest institution of higher education. Situated in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley, it is home to a vibrant, welcoming community distinguished by an entirely student-run Honor System that pushes students to take responsibility and realize their potential as citizens, peers, and leaders.

With an undergraduate enrollment of under 2,0000, the university’s small size enables students to find mentors and develop personal relationships across campus. W&L offers incredible opportunity for those with incredible potential.

Acceptance rate 25%       •       Net price $27,148       •       SAT Range 1350-1500       •       Students submitting SAT scores 52%
Total Undergrad Population 2,183       •       Setting Town       •       Private 4-year
Graduation rate (6 year) 93%       •       Retention rate 97%       •       Student-to-faculty ratio 8:1

Click here for available majors

What it’s like to attend schools in Virginia and other FAQ

What are average tuition costs in Virginia?

The average undergraduate tuition & fees for colleges in Virginia is $8,452 for in-state students at public institutions, $19,274 for out-of-state students at public institutions, and $17,800 for students at private institutions.

Cheapest degree program in Virginia

The University of Virginia’s College at Wise has an average net price of $9,418 making it the least expensive institution in Virginia that made our list.

Easiest degree program to get into in Virginia

Old Dominion University has an acceptance rate of 95%, with an SAT range of 960-1170, making it the least exclusive college on our list.

Degree program with lowest student debt in Virginia

The University of Virginia’s College at Wise has a median total debt after graduation of $17,900. This is the typical debt for a student who completed their undergraduate degree.

Best Virginia Colleges by Award

2023 Best Business Schools in Virginia

Best Colleges by State

California | Texas | Florida | New York | Pennsylvania | Illinois | Georgia | Ohio | Alabama | Colorado | Connecticut | Massachusetts | Indiana | Iowa | Kansas | Kentucky | Louisiana | Maryland | Michigan | Minnesota | Missouri | New Jersey | North Carolina | Oklahoma |Oregon | Tennessee | Washington | Wisconsin