5 Best Colleges in Washington, DC – 2024

May 14, 2024

best colleges in Washington dc

Our nation’s capital may only be 68 square miles in size, but that doesn’t stop Washington, DC from being a per-capita higher education powerhouse. A handful of prestigious private universities happen to be located close to the halls of Federal power, often leading to tremendous internship and networking opportunities.  The following list of the 5 best colleges in Washington, DC is meant to give you a sense of the array of wonderful higher education options in the state. The data in each profile card is intended to give a better sense of the academic offerings and outcomes at each institution. Whether you reside in Washington, DC, or wish to relocate there for school from another state or country, you’ll have some very attractive options sitting before you.


Click here to read our methodology for the Best Colleges in DC. As you’ll see, some schools with spectacular (and deserved) reputations simply do not happen to fare well on metrics such as student-to-faculty ratio or spending per student. We understand that a list based solely on prestige/general reputation would look different than what you will find below.

Best Colleges in Washington, DC

Here’s a quick preview of the 5 DC-based institutions that made our list. Detailed profiles and stats can be found when you scroll below.

1) Georgetown University

2) George Washington University

3) American University

4) Catholic University of America

5) Howard University

All of the schools profiled below have a history of sending graduates to the most desirable employers and graduate schools in the country. College Transitions will provide you with—when available—each school’s:

  • Enrollment
  • Cost of Attendance
  • Acceptance Rate
  • Median SAT
  • Median ACT
  • Retention Rate
  • Graduation Rate

We will also include a longer write-up of each college’s:

  • Academic Highlights – Includes facts like student-to-faculty ratio, average class size, number of majors offered, and most popular majors.
  • Professional Outcomes – Includes info on the rate of positive outcomes, companies employing alumni, and graduate school acceptances.
#1 Best College in Washington, DC
Georgetown University

Georgetown University

  • Washington, D.C.

Academic Highlights: The student-faculty ratio is 11:1, and 60% of classes enroll fewer than 20 students. While some classes are a bit larger, only 7% cross the 50-student threshold. Those desiring to join the world of politics or diplomacy are in the right place. The Government and International Affairs programs are among the best in the country. The greatest number of degrees are conferred in the social sciences (38%) followed by business (20%), interdisciplinary studies (8%), and biology (7%).

Professional Outcomes: Within six months of graduating, 75% of members of the Class of 2022 entered the workforce, 19% went directly into a graduate or professional program of study, and 3% were still seeking employment. The Class of 2022 sent massive numbers of graduates to a number of major corporations including JPMorgan Chase (22), Citi (21), BOA (18), Morgan Stanley (16), and EY (10). Those attending grad school stay at Georgetown or flock to other elite schools like Columbia and Harvard.

  • Enrollment: 7,900
  • Cost of Attendance: $85,000
  • Median SAT: 1500
  • Median ACT: 34
  • Acceptance Rate: 12%
  • Retention Rate: 97%
  • Graduation Rate: 96%

#2 Best College in Washington, DC
George Washington University

George Washington University

  • Washington, D.C.

Academic Highlights: GW undergraduates choose from 75+ majors spread across nine colleges. The school’s 12:1 student-to-faculty ratio translates to a mix of small, medium, and large undergraduate sections. Twelve percent of courses have single-digit enrollments, 10% have over 50 students, and the majority fall in the 10 to 29 range. The social sciences (31%) are the area in which the greatest number of degrees are awarded followed by health professions (17%), business (15%), biology (5%), and computer science (5%).

Professional Outcomes: Within six months of leaving GW, 96% of the Class of 2022 had found their way to gainful employment or graduate school while 4% were still job hunting. Of the 68% of grads already in the workplace, 68% were in a for-profit industry, 25% had entered a nonprofit position, and 8% were working in government. A healthy 27% of those earning their diplomas in 2022 immediately turned their attention to earning an advanced degree. Among that group were 76% seeking master’s degrees, 11% entering law school, 5% pursuing a medical degree, and 3% entering a doctoral program.

  • Enrollment: 11,482
  • Cost of Attendance: $85,740
  • Median SAT: 1410
  • Median ACT: 32
  • Acceptance Rate: 49%
  • Retention Rate: 90%
  • Graduation Rate: 85%

#3 Best College in Washington, DC
American University

American University

  • Washington, D.C.

Academic Highlights: There are 60+ undergraduate degrees for students to choose from at AU across six colleges. A low 12:1 student-to-faculty ratio allows 58% of offered courses to be capped at nineteen students; the average undergraduate class size is 23. American’s School of International Service (SIS) is one of the top-ranked programs in the country—its Public Affairs program also receives universally high marks. In terms of sheer popularity, the most commonly conferred degrees are in the social sciences (35%), 17% (business), and journalism (11%).

Professional Outcomes: Within six months of graduation, 90% of AU grads have found employment, are enrolled in grad school, or both. Across all graduating years, more than 100 alumni presently work for the US House of Representatives, the US Department of State, Booz Allen Hamilton, Google, EY, IBM, PwC, and Accenture.  Many of the most popular grad school destinations are only a Metro stop away. George Washington, Georgetown, Johns Hopkins, and American itself head the list.

  • Enrollment: 7,917
  • Cost of Attendance: $76,176
  • Median SAT: 1360
  • Median ACT: 31
  • Acceptance Rate: 41%
  • Retention Rate: 87%
  • Graduation Rate: 79%

#4 Best College in Washington, DC
Catholic University

Catholic University

  • Washington, D.C.

Academic Highlights: Over 130 undergraduate programs await you at Catholic University and courses unfold in an intimate setting with 67% of class sections enrolling under 20 individuals. The most popular majors at this school are Business (24%), the social sciences (15%), psychology (10%), engineering (9%), and health professions and related sciences (9%). Architecture (8%), philosophy (5), and journalism (3%) are next up in terms of sheer volume.

Professional Outcomes: The Class of 2023 found their next life step (employment or graduate school) at a 95% clip. A healthy 76% of survey respondents reported a starting salary in excess of $50,000. Three-quarters of grads held at least one internship while in school and 51% landed more than one. Large numbers of graduates go on to work for Booz Allen Hamilton, Deloitte, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Gensler, and Capital One.

  • Enrollment: 3,011
  • Cost of Attendance: $75,006
  • Average SAT: 1215
  • Average ACT: 26
  • Acceptance Rate: 86%
  • Retention Rate: 86%
  • Graduation Rate: 73%

#5 Best College in Washington, DC
Howard University

Howard University

  • Washington, D.C.

Academic Highlights: A strong 12:1 student-to-faculty ratio allows for generally small class sizes, even with over 3,000 graduate students also in attendance. Sixty-seven percent of undergraduate course sections enroll fewer than 30 students, and just 11% enroll more than 50 students. The three most popular major choices at Howard are business (15%), communication and journalism (15%), and biology (9%). The School of Business is highly respected by corporations/top MBA programs. The Afro-American Studies and English departments also are strong.

Professional Outcomes: Over 100 alumni presently work for Amazon, Microsoft, Google, IBM, Accenture, Deloitte, Wells Fargo, and Apple. Large numbers of Bison also roam the corporate offices of JPMorgan Chase, Capital One, Meta, and Goldman Sachs. Howard graduates typically earn fantastic results when applying to graduate and professional schools. For example, HU produces more African American medical school applicants than any other institution in the United States. Recents grads have headed to law schools such as Emory, Tulane, Harvard, Penn, and NYU.

  • Enrollment: 9,809
  • Cost of Attendance: $55,704
  • Median SAT: 1170
  • Median ACT: 23
  • Acceptance Rate: 53%
  • Retention Rate: 86%
  • Graduation Rate: 79%

We hope you have found our list of the Best Colleges in Washington, DC to be useful and informative as you continue your college search process. We also invite you to check out some of our other resources and tools including: