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Top Tennessee Colleges

11 of the Top Colleges in Tennessee

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Top Ranked U.S. Colleges: Universities | Public Universities | Liberal Arts Colleges | Engineering | Business | Women's | Most Selective

Tennessee has excellent higher education options for both public and private institutions.  From a large public university like the University of Tennessee to tiny Fisk University, Tennessee has schools to match a wide range of student personalities and interests. Many of the stronger colleges in the state have religious affiliations. The 11 top Tennessee colleges listed below represent such diverse school types and missions that I have simply listed them alphabetically rather than force them into any sort of artificial ranking. That said, Vanderbilt University is the most selective and prestigious institution on the list. The schools were chosen based on factors such as academic reputation, curricular innovations, first-year retention rates, six-year graduation rates, selectivity, financial aid and student engagement.

Compare Top Tennessee Colleges: ACT ScoresSAT Scores

Belmont University

Belmont University
EVula / Wikimedia Commons

Fisk University

Fisk University
amerune / Flickr
  • Location: Nashville, Tennessee
  • Enrollment: 650 (600 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private historically black university
  • Distinctions: rich history dating to 1866; highly ranked historically black university; many notable alumni including W.E.B. Du Bois; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society for strengths in the liberal arts and sciences
  • For acceptance rate, test scores, costs and other information, visit the Fisk University profile

Lipscomb University

Lipscomb University
SeeMidTN.com (aka Brent) / Flickr
  • Location: Nashville, Tennessee
  • Enrollment: 3,413 (2,513 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private university affiliated with the Churches of Christ
  • Distinctions: 15 to 1 student / faculty ratio; strong grant aid; strong Christian identity and belief in the interconnectedness of faith and learning; 130 programs of study; member of the NCAA Division I Atlantic Sun Conference
  • For acceptance rate, test scores, costs and other information, visit the Lipscomb University profile

Maryville College

Carnegie Hall at Maryville College
Notneb82 / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Maryville, Tennessee
  • Enrollment: 1,102 (all undergraduate)
  • Type of Institution: private college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church
  • Distinctions: 12 to 1 student / faculty ratio; average class size of 17; located less than 30 minutes from Knoxville; rich history going back to 1819; generous financial aid
  • For acceptance rate, test scores, costs and other information, visit the Maryville College profile

Milligan College

Milligan College
aprilandrandy / Flickr
  • Location: Milligan College, Tennessee
  • Enrollment: 1,100 (903 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private Christian liberal arts college
  • Distinctions: 13 to 1 student / faculty ratio; strong Christian identity; attractive campus in the Appalachian Mountains; good graduation rate in relation to student profile; generous grant aid
  • For acceptance rate, test scores, costs and other information, visit the Milligan College profile

Rhodes College

Rhodes College Buckman Hall
Photo Courtesy of Rhodes College
  • Location: Memphis, Tennessee
  • Enrollment: 1,673 (1,663 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church
  • Explore campus in the Rhodes College photo tour
  • Distinctions: attractive 100-acre park-like campus; 10 to 1 student / faculty ratio; average class size of 13; students from 46 states and 15 countries; chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences
  • For acceptance rate, test scores, costs and other information, visit the Rhodes College Profile

Sewanee: The University of the South

Sewanee, University of the South
wharman / Flickr
  • Location: Sewanee, Tennessee
  • Enrollment: 1,543 (1,469 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private liberal arts college affiliated with the Episcopal Church
  • Distinctions: 11 to 1 student / faculty ratio; average class size of 18 the first year, 13 in later years; 13,000-acre campus on the Cumberland Plateau; strong English program and home of The Sewanee Review
  • For acceptance rate, test scores, costs and other information, visit the Sewanee profile

Tennessee Tech

Tennessee Tech
Turvy / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Cookeville, Tennessee
  • Enrollment: 10,847 (8,918 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: public university with technological focus
  • Distinctions: strong professional fields in nursing, business and engineering; good grant aid and overall value; competes in the NCAA Division I Ohio Valley Conference
  • For acceptance rate, test scores, costs and other information, visit the Tennessee Tech profile

Union University

Union University Miller Tower
ask / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Jackson, Tennessee
  • Enrollment: 3,916 (2,777 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private university affiliated with the Southern Baptist Church
  • Distinctions: 12 to 1 student / faculty ratio; Christ-centered identity; students from 45 states and 30 countries; mostly new residence halls built in 2008 after tornado damage
  • For acceptance rate, test scores, costs and other information, visit the Union University profile

University of Tennessee at Knoxville

University of Tennessee Football
Triple Tri / Flickr
  • Location: Knoxville, Tennessee
  • Enrollment: 29,934 (21,182 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: public research university
  • Distinctions: flagship campus of Tennessee's state university system; strong business programs; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong programs in the liberal arts and sciences; member of the NCAA Division I Southeastern Conference
  • For acceptance rate, test scores, costs and other information, visit the University of Tennessee profile

Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt University Benson Science Hall
Zeamays / Wikimedia Commons

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