Oldest College In The US: Top 10 Oldest Universities In The United States

Oldest College In The US: Top 10 Oldest Universities In The United States. In This Article, You Will Discover The Oldest College In The US 

Oldest College In The US. Are you wondering which schools are one of the ancient college in the US ? Do you want to know if your school is one of them? Just keep reading this article as we will be discussing about all of that.

Without further ado, let’s get right into it!


Oldest Colleges In The US

Oldest College In The US: Top 10 Oldest Universities In The United States

While none of the following universities can be considered among the oldest in the world, three of these historically significant US universities were founded before the American Revolution began in 1765. Three of these universities were founded in the 17th century.

The following five universities, all of which are members of the prestigious Ivy League, have all succeeded in fusing their rich historical legacy with a persistent dedication to advancement and creativity.

What are the oldest colleges in the US?

1. Harvard University

Established: 1636 (chartered in 1650)

Located in Massachusetts, Harvard University was originally called New College. Following that, the name was changed to Harvard College in honor of John Harvard, the university’s first benefactor, who left the university half of his financial estate as well as his 320-volume scholar’s library in his will.

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Harvard is not only the oldest university in the United States but also one of the most prestigious in the world, coming in third place right now in the QS World University Rankings.

2. The College of William and Mary

Established: 1693

The College of William and Mary is the oldest university in the American South and the first institution of higher learning in the country to impose an honor code on students. It was named for the British co-monarchs who were in power at the time and who granted the university its royal charter, the first for any university in the country.

In addition to being ranked 601-650 globally, the college is among the top 450 globally for arts and humanities. Three US presidents—including Thomas Jefferson—were educated there.

3. St. John’s College

Established: 1696

Originally established as King William’s School, the first “free” school in the Maryland colony (free in this sense meaning to free students through education), St. John’s College (SJC) is a private liberal arts college.

It took on its present name in 1784 and currently operates two campuses: one in Maryland’s state capital, Annapolis, and another in the state capital of New Mexico, Santa Fe. U.S. News & World Report ranked the college among the top 100 liberal arts colleges in the country, despite it not being listed in the QS World University Rankings.

With small class sizes that allow for more individualized attention for each student, St. John’s College is a nonreligious institution.

4. Yale University

Established: 1701

Yale University, which was initially established as a “Collegiate School,” comes next on our list of the oldest universities in the United States. This school is currently 17th in the world. In honor of a donation from British East India Company governor Elihu Yale, it was renamed Yale in 1718. Yale relocated to its current site in New Haven, Connecticut, that same year. Prior locations included Clinton, Saybrook, and Wethersfield.

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Yale was founded in 1777 with the intention of training ministers in theology and sacred languages. However, by 1777, humanities and sciences were added to the curriculum, and in 1861, Yale became the first university in the United States to grant a PhD. It is currently ranked sixth in the world for the arts and humanities and fourth for law studies.

5. University of Pennsylvania

Established: 1740 (chartered in 1755)

The University of Pennsylvania, also known as Penn, was established by Benjamin Franklin and was the first university in the United States to provide undergraduate and graduate programs. Additionally, Penn was among the first universities in the nation to offer multidisciplinary instruction across faculty specialties, and it was the first in the US to establish a medical school in 1765.

Penn is notable for its management and law programs, having been ranked fifth in the world for business and management. The university is currently ranked 15th overall in the world. The university is well known for its intense research activity overall.

6. Moravian College

Established: 1742

The tiny Moravian College is the next-oldest university in the United States. The college, which lies in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, was founded in 1742 as Bethlehem Female Seminary, the country’s first boarding school for young women, by 16-year-old Countess Benigna von Zinzendorf. George Washington personally petitioned the headmaster for the admission of two of his great-nieces because of the school’s stellar reputation.

7. University of Delaware

Established: 1743

The Newark-based University of Delaware (UD) was formerly known as the “Free School” and has undergone multiple name and location changes. In order to avoid a rivalry with the University of Pennsylvania, Delaware was excluded from the Pennsylvania colony until 1776, and as a result, the university was not granted a charter.

UD has a remarkable history of excellent teaching and is currently ranked joint 491st in the overall QS World University Rankings. Despite not being a colonial college, it is not officially recognized as such until 1833, after the American Revolution.

8. Princeton University

Established: 1746

With 1756 as the College of New Jersey by New Light Presbyterians to train ministers, Princeton University still boasts several historical sites from its long history, such as Nassau Hall, the oldest building on campus.

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Princeton currently ranks 13th overall in the world, 7th in the humanities and arts, and 4th in mathematics.

9. Washington and Lee University

Established: 1749

Washington and Lee University is a Lexington, Virginia-based private liberal arts university. George Washington was the academy’s first significant benefactor.

Formerly the Augusta Academy and Liberty Hall (the latter name originates from the American Revolution), General Robert E. Lee, who as the university’s president from 1865 until his death in 1870, credits with the remaining portion of the institution’s current name.

10. Columbia University

Established: 1754

George II of Britain granted Columbia University a royal charter in 1754 under the name King’s College. The university stands in New York City and  its name is Columbia College in 1784 following American independence.

This year, it ranks 18th in the world, a reflection of its colonial roots given that among its alumni are five of the US Founding Fathers.

Columbia University, one of the most prominent research universities in the United States, ranks ninth globally for arts and humanities and sixth for anatomy and physiology. It also awards the renowned Pulitzer Prize each year.

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FAQs About The Oldest College In The US

1. When was the first college founded in America?

Harvard College was the first university set up in the English colonies, establishing itself in 1636.

2. What is the oldest college in the US?

Set up in 1636, Harvard University bills itself as “the oldest institution of higher education in the United States.”

3. What is the second oldest college in America?

The second-oldest college or university in the country, behind Harvard University, is the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. It was established by royal charter in 1693 and is currently a public institution.

4. What is the first largest university in the United States?

Texas A&M University is the biggest college campus in the country in terms of total enrollment. At the College Station campus, approximately 75,000 students attend classes.

5. First college in the world?

Irnerius, an Italian jurist, established the University of Bologna in 1088. This university, which lies in Bologna, Italy, is the oldest in the world in terms of the number of years that it has been in continuous operation without even a brief break.


The above is an article on the list of the oldest colleges in the US. Three of the historic US universities above date to the 17th century, even though none of them can claim to be the oldest universities in the world.

We hope you found this article helpful? Stay tuned for more updates like this!

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