Top 25 Best Rural Colleges in the US | 2024 Rankings

top rural colleges

Choosing the right college is a crucial decision for students seeking higher education. While many individuals prefer the vibrant atmosphere of urban campuses, rural colleges offer a charm and unique experience that cannot be overlooked.

Rural colleges are excellent choices for students because of their serenity, close-knit communities, and high-quality academic programs.

This article presents the top 25 best rural colleges in the United States for the year 2024, highlighting their exceptional academic programs and offerings.

Top 25 Best Rural Colleges in the US

Here are the best rural colleges in the US:

#1. Middlebury College

Nestled in Vermont’s countryside, Middlebury College offers a unique blend of environmental consciousness and global awareness. This top-ranked institution is a haven for students passionate about environmental studies, languages, and international programs.

Middlebury fosters a holistic educational experience that equips students with the knowledge and skills to enjoy a complex and interconnected world. Prepare for exciting opportunities like studying abroad and engaging in real-world environmental projects – all while surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty.

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#2. Williams College

Located in the charming town of Williamstown, Massachusetts, this prestigious liberal arts college offers a rigorous curriculum across a vast array of humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences programs.

Williams prides itself on fostering critical thinking, intellectual exploration, and independent learning. Engage in stimulating discussions, explore challenging research projects, and discover your intellectual passions within a supportive and collaborative learning environment.

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#3. Pomona College

Situated in sunny Claremont, Pomona is a rural college in California renowned for its rigorous academics and tenacious commitment to interdisciplinary learning. Explore a diverse range of programs in humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and fine arts.

The college encourages students to break down disciplinary silos, fostering intellectual curiosity and creativity. Expect lively classroom discussions, collaborative research projects, and the opportunity to design your own unique academic path.

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#4. Bowdoin College

This top rural college in Brunswick, Maine boasts outstanding programs in the liberal arts and sciences. Bowdoin fosters a collaborative and inclusive learning environment where students can thrive together.

Expect a strong emphasis on critical thinking, in-depth research opportunities, and a deep commitment to community engagement. You can become part of a vibrant campus culture that values intellectual exploration, personal growth, and giving back to the world.

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#5. Carleton College

This esteemed institution in Northfield, Minnesota is known for its exceptional programs in natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, and arts. Carleton goes beyond traditional lectures, encouraging students to actively engage in research and hands-on learning experiences.

Work alongside dedicated faculty on cutting-edge projects, participate in immersive field studies and develop the critical thinking and problem-solving skills needed to succeed in a rapidly changing world.

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#6. Swarthmore College

Located in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, this rigorous institution offers a comprehensive liberal arts and sciences curriculum. Swarthmore goes beyond rote learning, emphasizing interdisciplinary approaches and real-world applications.

Prepare to explore complex topics, collaborate with passionate peers, and contribute to meaningful community engagement projects. Swarthmore fosters a strong sense of social responsibility, encouraging students to become ethical leaders who can make a difference in the world.

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#7. Reed College

This unique institution in Portland, Oregon, empowers students to take an active role in shaping their education. Reed’s distinctive academic structure allows you to design a curriculum that aligns with your specific interests and aspirations.

Explore several programs in humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and fine arts. Expect lively seminars, in-depth research opportunities, and the freedom to pursue your intellectual curiosity in a supportive and intellectually stimulating environment.

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#8. Claremont McKenna College (Claremont, CA)

Nestled in Claremont, Claremont McKenna is a rural college in California, renowned for its exceptional programs in economics, political science, international relations, and public affairs.

Claremont McKenna cultivates leadership skills through a rigorous academic curriculum that emphasizes critical thinking, ethical decision-making, and effective communication. Engage in lively debates, participate in challenging simulations, and connect with influential guest speakers as you prepare to become a changemaker in the global arena.

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#9. Davidson College

This vibrant college in Davidson, North Carolina offers a stimulating learning environment with strong programs in humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and fine arts.

Davidson fosters a love of learning and encourages students to become well-rounded individuals with a commitment to literary excellence and social responsibility. Expect a blend of rigorous academics, vibrant campus life, and opportunities to engage with urban communities, all within a close-knit and supportive college community.

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#10. Hamilton College

Located in Clinton, New York, this selective institution offers a rigorous academic experience with a strong emphasis on research. Hamilton excels in specific projects within the humanities and sciences, providing students with the opportunity to delve deeply into their chosen fields.

Expect a challenging curriculum that emphasizes writing, critical analysis, and the ability to articulate complex ideas effectively. Hamilton fosters a culture of intellectual curiosity and prepares students to become lifelong learners and future leaders.

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#11. Colgate University

Colgate University, located in Hamilton, New York, is a prestigious liberal arts institution renowned for its rigorous academic programs and commitment to intellectual exploration.

Established in 1819, Colgate has a long-standing tradition of academic excellence and a vibrant campus community. Colgate University is a top rural college, offering a rigorous academic environment, a commitment to global engagement, and a vibrant campus community.

With its focus on intellectual exploration, interdisciplinary learning, and cultural understanding, Colgate University prepares students to become well-rounded individuals and leaders in their chosen fields.

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#12. Haverford College

Haverford College, in Haverford, Pennsylvania, is a highly regarded liberal arts institution known for its strong humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and fine arts programs. Founded in 1833, Haverford has a rich history and a commitment to academic excellence, intellectual rigor, and social responsibility.

Haverford College provides students with a supportive and intellectually challenging environment. The college emphasizes collaboration and integrity, fostering community among students, faculty, and staff.

The low student-to-faculty ratio allows for personalized attention and meaningful mentorship relationships. Haverford College is an outstanding rural college with a rigorous and well-rounded education.

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#14. Vassar College

Vassar College, located in Poughkeepsie, New York, is a highly regarded liberal arts college known for its strong humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and fine arts programs. Founded in 1861, Vassar has a rich history and a commitment to intellectual rigor, creative expression, and inclusivity.

At Vassar College, students have a dynamic and intellectually stimulating environment. The college encourages critical thinking, interdisciplinary approaches, and independent research.

With a low student-to-faculty ratio, students benefit from close interaction with renowned faculty members dedicated to their success and personal growth. Vassar College is a highly respected rural college that offers a stimulating academic environment, a commitment to creativity and artistic expression, and a diverse and inclusive community.

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#15. Kenyon College

Kenyon College offers a rigorous and comprehensive academic curriculum that encourages critical thinking, research skills, and interdisciplinary exploration. Students can delve deeply into their chosen fields of study while engaging in a well-rounded liberal arts education.

The college values small class sizes and close faculty-student relationships, fostering an environment of intellectual mentorship and support.

The campus itself is picturesque and provides a tranquil and inspiring environment for learning and reflection. Kenyon College is committed to sustainability and environmental stewardship, incorporating eco-friendly practices and initiatives into campus life.

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#16. St. Olaf College

St. Olaf College offers various academic programs across the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and fine arts. The college strongly emphasizes interdisciplinary learning, critical thinking, and hands-on experiences.

Students can engage in research, internships, and study abroad programs that broaden their perspectives and enhance their educational journey.

With its emphasis on interdisciplinary learning, global citizenship, and service, St. Olaf College prepares students to become well-rounded individuals with the knowledge, skills, and values necessary to impact their chosen fields and communities positively.

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#17. Williams College (Williamstown, Massachusetts)

Williams College is renowned for its liberal arts programs, offering a wide range of majors across various disciplines. Students can explore their interests in-depth from English and biology to economics and mathematics.

The college’s commitment to academic excellence is bolstered by its world-class faculty and a supportive learning environment.

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#18. Amherst College

At Amherst College, students can pursue interdisciplinary studies, allowing them to explore multiple fields and connect different areas of knowledge. The college offers majors in various disciplines, including neuroscience, political science, economics, and film and media studies.

This diverse range of programs empowers students to develop a broad understanding of their chosen fields and encourages them to think critically and creatively.

Amherst College values diversity and inclusivity, creating a vibrant and intellectually stimulating campus community. The college is committed to fostering an environment where students from various backgrounds can thrive and learn from each other’s perspectives.

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#19. Wellesley College

With a rich history and a commitment to empowering women through education, Wellesley College provides various academic programs and majors.

At Wellesley College, students can explore diverse fields of study and engage in a comprehensive liberal arts curriculum. The college offers majors in various disciplines, including political science, chemistry, economics, and many more.

This breadth of academic offerings allows students to pursue their passions and develop a well-rounded understanding of their chosen fields. Wellesley College is a prestigious women’s liberal arts college that offers a transformative educational experience.

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#20. Harvey Mudd College

One of the distinguishing features of Harvey Mudd College that makes it one of the top rural colleges is its focus on hands-on learning and undergraduate research.

Students have access to state-of-the-art laboratories and research facilities, allowing them to engage in innovative research projects and collaborate with faculty members. This emphasis on research deepens students’ understanding of their fields and prepares them for graduate studies or careers in scientific research and innovation.

The college actively promotes equity and inclusivity in STEM fields, creating an environment where students from diverse backgrounds can thrive. The college’s inclusive initiatives and support systems ensure that all students have access to resources and opportunities to succeed academically and personally.

Beyond academics, Harvey Mudd College offers a vibrant campus life with many extracurricular activities and student organizations.

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#21. Dartmouth College

Dartmouth College is renowned for its exceptional faculty members who are leaders in their respective fields. These professors are dedicated to teaching and mentorship, providing students with a personalized and engaging learning experience.

The college also offers many opportunities for research, allowing students to collaborate with faculty on groundbreaking projects.Beyond academics, Dartmouth College has a vibrant campus life and a strong sense of community.

The college offers a wide range of extracurricular activities, including sports, clubs, and organizations, allowing students to pursue their passions and develop leadership skills outside of the classroom. Dartmouth is also home to many cultural and artistic events, enriching the overall student experience.

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#22. Oberlin College

Oberlin College, in Oberlin, Ohio, is a private liberal arts college renowned for its strong programs in the arts and sciences.

The college offers a wide range of majors, including programs in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and fine arts.

Oberlin College also has a long-standing commitment to social justice and encourages students to engage in activism and community service.

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#23. Bucknell University

Bucknell University, in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, is a highly regarded private liberal arts university known for its strong undergraduate programs and commitment to academic excellence.

Established in 1846, Bucknell has a long history of providing students with a comprehensive and well-rounded education.

BU offers a wide range of undergraduate programs across various disciplines, including the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, engineering, and management. The university’s liberal arts curriculum provides students with a solid foundation in critical thinking, communication skills, and interdisciplinary perspectives.

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#24. Grinnell College

Grinnell College, in Grinnell, Iowa, is widely recognized as one of the top rural colleges in the United States. Established in 1846, Grinnell has a long-standing commitment to academic excellence, intellectual rigor, and social responsibility.

It offers a rigorous liberal arts curriculum that encourages students to explore a wide range of disciplines, including the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and arts. The college’s academic programs foster critical thinking, creativity, and a deep understanding of complex global issues.

Grinnell’s small/ medium class sizes and student-faculty ratio ensure close interaction and mentorship opportunities with esteemed professors who are dedicated to teaching and scholarship.

One of Grinnell College’s distinguishing features is its strong emphasis on undergraduate research. The college provides extensive opportunities for students to engage in independent research projects, working closely with faculty members on innovative investigations.

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#25. Bates College

Bates College, situated in Lewiston, Maine, is perceived as one of the top rustic universities in the US. Laid out in 1855, Bates gained notoriety for literary greatness, scholarly commitment, and a promise to civil rights.

Bates College offers a thorough aesthetic sciences educational program incorporating many disciplines, including the humanities, sociologies, natural sciences, and expressions. The college’s academic programs emphasize the development of practical communication skills and interdisciplinary studies.

Bates cultivates a climate where understudies are urged to investigate different subjects, take part in scholarly talk, and seek after their academic interests.

One of the significant parts of Bates School is its obligation to active citizenship and local area commitment. The college encourages students to put their knowledge and skills to use in solving problems in the real world and making a difference in society.

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What are the Advantages of Attending a Rural College?

Attending a rural college can offer several advantages. These may include a tight-knit community, smaller class sizes, personalized attention from faculty, a closer connection to nature, opportunities for hands-on learning, and a more relaxed and peaceful environment.

Rural colleges often provide a supportive and inclusive community that fosters personal and academic growth.

How do Rural Colleges compare to Urban or Suburban Colleges?

Rural colleges often differ from urban or suburban colleges in terms of campus size, location, and overall environment. Rural colleges, including those in Texas, have smaller student populations and campuses, which can create a close-knit community and foster strong relationships between students and faculty.

In contrast, urban or rural colleges in Texas or any other state may offer more access to cultural amenities, internships, and career opportunities associated with larger cities.

FAQs – Top 25 Best Rural Colleges

Do rural colleges offer extracurricular activities and social opportunities?

Yes, rural colleges typically offer a variety of extracurricular activities, clubs, and organizations to enhance students’ social and co-curricular experiences.

Are there financial aid options available for students attending rural colleges?

Yes, like colleges rural colleges often offer various financial aid options to support students in their educational pursuits.

How do rural colleges compare to urban or suburban colleges?

Rural colleges often differ from urban or suburban colleges in terms of campus size, location, and overall environment.


There, you have it! The top 25 best rural colleges in the USA in 2024. Rural campuses offer a unique blend of academic excellence and natural beauty. These top colleges, scattered across the US, cater to diverse interests.

So if you crave environmental immersion (Middlebury), a liberal arts foundation (Williams), or seek a focus on leadership (Claremont McKenna), there’s a perfect fit. Expect rigorous academics, passionate faculty, and opportunities for intellectual growth.



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