Top 10 Oldest Universities in the United States

Last updated on August 3rd, 2023 at 12:28 am

Did you know that the first university in the United States was founded all the way back in 1636? That’s right – over three hundred and fifty years ago, Harvard University was established. Since then, many other universities have been founded, and today the United States is home to some of the oldest and most prestigious institutions of higher education in the world. If you’re interested in studying at a well-renowned school, consider one of these ten oldest universities in America.

oldest universities in the us


Below are the oldest academic institutions in the United States of America:


Harvard University was founded in 1636, making it the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Harvard is also one of the world’s most well-known institutions, currently ranked third in the QS World University Rankings®. Life sciences and medicine are ranked first worldwide by QS in the QS World University Rankings by Subject, followed by humanities and arts.

Harvard University has a student population of over 20,000, representing around the world. It’s no wonder that Harvard is often associated with high-achievers – in 2016, its admitted students had an average SAT score of 2237. Notable alumni from Harvard include eight US presidents (including Barack Obama), numerous Nobel Prize winners and entrepreneurs such as Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates.

The university has 12 degree-granting schools in addition to the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Its endowment is worth $37.6 billion, making it the largest of any academic institution.

Harvard provides a number of resources for its students, including an extensive library system comprising 79 individual libraries holding over 18 million items. In terms of student support, the university offers financial aid to over 60% of its undergraduates.

The campus of Harvard University is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, across the Charles River from Boston. The picturesque setting has been used as a filming location for movies such as Love Story and The Social Network.

Harvard University is located in Massachusetts and was formerly known as New College. In recognition of the university’s founder, John Harvard, who endowed half of his monetary bequest and his 320-volume scholar’s library to the institution in his will, the name was changed to Harvard College.


The College of William and Mary, named for the British co-rulers who granted the university its royal charter (the first of its kind in the United States), is the oldest institution of higher learning in the Southern United States founded in 1693. It was also one of the first schools in America to implement an honor code for students.

The school boasts a long list of notable alumni, including three U.S. Presidents (Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and John Tyler) as well as many other influential figures in the arts, sciences, law, and politics. The college is located in Williamsburg, Virginia, about an hour’s drive from Richmond. It enrolls around 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students from all 50 states and over 90 countries.

The College of William and Mary is committed to providing an excellent education to all of its students. The faculty is made up of scholars who are experts in their field and passionate about teaching. The school offers a variety of programs and majors to choose from, so there is something for everyone. The campus is beautiful and the student

The institution is ranked 661-650 in the world and is also found within the worldwide top 450 for arts and humanities.


St John’s College (SJC) was established in 1696 and is the third oldest academic institution in America. SJC is a private, liberal arts institution that was initially known as King William’s School and was the first “free” school in Maryland. The college is located in Annapolis, MD and enrolls around 1,200 students each year. The college has a 13 to 1 student / faculty ratio and the average class size is just under 20 students. St John’s College offers bachelor’s degrees in liberal arts and sciences, as well as a master’s degree in Eastern Classics.

SJC is committed to providing an education that is both rigorous and relevant, preparing students for success in any field they choose to pursue. The college offers a unique curriculum that is based on the Great Books of Western Civilization, which promotes close reading and discussion-based learning. In addition to the traditional liberal arts disciplines, SJC also offers courses in Eastern Classics, philosophy, math, and science.

The university, which doesn’t appear in the QS World University Rankings, was ranked among the top 100 liberal arts colleges in the United States by the U.S. News & World Report. St John’s College is a non-denominational, co-ed institution with a history of providing greater individualized attention to its students.


Yale University was established in 1701 and is the fourth oldest university in the US. This prestigious university is currently ranked 17th in the world and was originally established as ‘The Collegiate School’ prior to becoming Yale University. In 1718, it was renamed Yale in honor of a bequest from Elihu Yale, governor of the British East India Company. In 1720, Yale relocated to its present site in New Haven, Connecticut, having previously occupied locations such as Clinton, Saybrook and Wethersfield.

Yale University has a long and distinguished history, with alumni including five US presidents, 19 Supreme Court justices and numerous Pulitzer Prize winners. The university is also home to the world-renowned Yale School of Art and the Yale School of Drama, making it a hub for the arts.

The campus of Yale University covers over 837 acres, making it one of the largest in the US. It is also home to over 12 million items in its library system, which is the third largest in the country. With such a large and diverse campus, it is no wonder that Yale University is consistently ranked as one of the top universities in the world. Also it is the first university in the US to award PhD.


Ben Franklin created the University of Pennsylvania, also known as Penn in 1740, which was the first university in the US to provide both undergraduate and graduate programs. In addition, Penn was one of the first academic institutions in the nation to offer transdisciplinary instruction across other faculties, and it established the nation’s first medical school in 1765.

The university also has the oldest business school in the US, which was founded in 1881 as the Wharton School of Finance and Commerce. Penn is considered one of the top research universities in the world, and it is a member of the prestigious Ivy League. The university’s campus is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Currently holding the fifth-best overall ranking in the world for business and management, Penn University is well known for its law and management programs. The university has a solid reputation for conducting extensive research.


The little Moravian College is next on our oldest institution of higher learning in the US. The college, which is located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, dates back to 1742 when Countess Benigna von Zinzendorf, then 16 years old, founded it as Bethlehem Female Seminary, the country’s first residential school for girls. George Washington personally requested the admittance of two of his great-nieces after learning of the school’s illustrious reputation.

The college remained a girls-only school until 1913 when it became co-educational. In 1954, the name was changed from Bethlehem Female Seminary to Moravian College and Theological Seminary. Today, the school enrolls just over 2,000 students in its undergraduate and graduate programs.

Moravian College is especially well-known for its music program which is considered one of the best in the country. The school’s choir, The Moravian College Choir, has performed all over the world including at Carnegie Hall and The White House. If you’re ever in Bethlehem during the holidays, be sure to check out their annual performance of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio – it’s simply amazing!

The Moravian Female Seminary, as the institution came to be called, was established in 1863 to award baccalaureate degrees. In 1913, it changed its name to Moravian Seminary and College for Women, and in 1954, the two colleges combined to create a coeducational institution.


The University of Delaware is a research university located in Newark, Delaware. The school was founded in 1743 and is one of the oldest universities in the United States. The university has an enrollment of over 23,000 students and offers more than 200 undergraduate and graduate programs. The university is also home to a number of research centers and institutes, including the Center for Material Science and Engineering, the Center for Energy& Environmental Policy, and the Institute for Translational Medicine & Therapeutics.

The University of Delaware is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The school’s athletic teams compete in the NCAA Division I as members of the Colonial Athletic Association. The university’s football team has won six national championships and its men’s lacrosse team has won seven.

The University of Delaware is located in Newark, Delaware, a city of about 33,000 people located in the northern part of the state. The campus is situated on 843 acres of land and includes more than 150 buildings. The university’s main library is the Morris Library, which houses more than two million volumes. Other notable buildings on campus include Memorial Hall, which was built in 1873 and is home to the university’s ROTC program, and Trabant University Center, which is the school’s primary student union building.


This is a private Ivy League research university in Princeton, New Jersey. Founded in 1746 in Elizabeth as the College of New Jersey, Princeton is among the oldest institution of higher education in the United States and one of the nine colonial colleges chartered before the American Revolution. The school moved to Newark in 1747, then to the current site nine years later. It was renamed Princeton University in 1896.

Princeton provides undergraduate and graduate instruction in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and engineering. It offers professional degrees through the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, the School of Engineering and Applied Science, and the School of Architecture and Planning. The university has ties with the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton Theological Seminary, and the Westminster Choir College of Rider University. Princeton has the largest endowment per student in the United States.

As of March 2018, 65 Nobel laureates, 15 Fields Medalists, and 13 Turing Award laureates have been affiliated with Princeton University as alumni, faculty members, or researchers. In addition, Princeton has been associated with 21 National Medal of Science winners, 5 Abel Prize winners, 5 National Humanities Medal recipients, 209 Rhodes Scholars, 139 Gates Cambridge Scholars and 126 Marshall Scholars. Two U.S. Presidents, twelve Supreme Court Justices (more than any other university), and numerous living billionaires and foreign heads of state are all counted among Princeton’s alumni body.


Lexington, Virginia is home to the private liberal arts college Washington and Lee University. George Washington was the academy’s first significant sponsor; in 1796, he gifted it with $20,000, the greatest gift ever made to a US educational institution.

The university was once known as Augusta Academy and Liberty Hall, the latter name being derived from the American Revolution. The remaining part of the university’s current name comes from General Robert E. Lee, who presided over it from 1865 until his death in 1870.

School of Law (W&;L Law) is a private law school in Lexington, Virginia. The school is one of the five original law schools in the United States and is one of the nine colonial colleges chartered before the American Revolution. W&L Law is currently ranked 28th by U.S. News & World Report in its annual rankings of American law schools.

The Washington and Lee University School of Law was founded in 1849 as the Augusta Law School and was later renamed after two of its most prominent benefactors, George Washington and Robert E. Lee. The school began offering a three-year Juris Doctor (JD) degree in 1950 and became fully accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA) in 1953.

The law school is located on the historic campus of Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. The university’s main campus is situated in the Shenandoah Valley between the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains. Lexington is approximately 70 miles (110 km) from both Charlottesville and Roanoke, Virginia.

The law school offers a traditional three-year JD program as well as several joint degree programs. Students can earn a JD/MBA, JD/MA, JD/MSW, or JD/MEd through Washington and Lee University’s School of Law and School of Business, Graduate School, School of Social Work, or Curry School of Education respectively.


Columbia University, which is based in New York City, was established in 1754 as King’s College by royal licence issued by George II of Britain. Following the US’s independence, Columbia College was renamed Columbia University in 1784. Its colonial roots are echoed by the fact that five of the United States’ Founding Fathers are among its alumni. This year, it is ranked joint 18th in the world.

Another of the most esteemed research colleges in the US, Columbia awards the famed Pulitzer Prize each year, is now ranked sixth for anatomy and physiology, and performs exceptionally well in the arts and humanities (ninth in the world). With an endowment of over $10 billion, Columbia’s financial strength is comparable to that of Yale University and Stanford University.

Columbia faculty and alumni have played a major role in the development of many important scientific fields, including anthropology, biology, economics, literary criticism, mathematics, political science, and physics. Nine Columbia faculty members and 33 alumni have been awarded the Nobel Prize in various fields, while another 13 alumni have won the Pulitzer Prize.

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Oluchi Chukwu

Oluchi is a seasoned Information blogger, content developer and the editor of Nigerian Queries. She is a tech enthusiast who loves reading, writing and research

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