Choosing the Right College from the Top Ivy League, Public, and Liberal Arts Schools

WeAdmit Master Guides
August 30, 2019
Decision Day: The Famous Day When Highschool Seniors Across The US Choose The College They’ll Spend The Next Four Years Of Their Lives At…

This is a big day, and choosing a college should not be taken lightly. Four years go by so quickly yet they hold so much weight: the people you find turn out to be your life-long friends and the things you learn influence almost every decision you will make for the rest of your life.

Some high school students know exactly what they want to study and where they want to go to college, but many start college with a blank slate, open to a whole world of opportunity and possibility. Most students actually find what they’re passionate about during college, making choosing the right school even more important.

This is why it’s so critical that you choose a college that will be the best environment for you to grow and learn. So, how can you decide?

What You’ll Find In This Article:

How To Choose The Right College: Ivy League, Public, Or Liberal Arts?

While there are many factors to consider when choosing a college, such as location and cost, a good place to start is figuring out what type of school you’d like to go to.

Deciding whether Ivy League, public universities, or liberal arts colleges are right for you will  make every other choice a bit easier down the road. Before you become overwhelmed choosing from the best US colleges, it's important to know how each one is different and what they have to offer.


The Ivy League is a grouping of eight universities, all located in the northeastern corner of the United States. Every one of these schools is known primarily by their outstanding academic achievements and the prestige they hold in their respective communities.


  • Association leads to opportunity
  • Excellent training for nearly any popular major
  • A large network of alumni in prestigious fields


  • Competitive scholarships
  • The pressure of rigorous academics and high expectations

The pros of going to an Ivy League school include something that not many schools can give you: association. Having an Ivy League education on your resume combined with the social status that community provides will open many doors in your desired area of study. This, in turn, basically guarantees opportunities for prestigious internships, apprenticeships, and exclusive connections.

The majors offered among Ivy League schools span far and wide, from economics to politics, biology, and even acting. However, the best programs at Ivy League schools seem to prepare most students for a future in politics or government.

An Ivy League school might be the best choice for students who are considering a career in politics, public service, or even a prestigious career in academia. Overall, when it comes to choosing Ivy League schools all eight are fantastic; otherwise, they wouldn’t be Ivy League.


Schools that are under the “public university” threshold are usually state schools that are run by their respective government. These universities receive funding from the government and offer their students a tuition cut if they are in-state residents.


  • More opportunities for scholarships and on-campus work
  • More options for majors and classes
  • Less competitive atmosphere


  • Large organization with several offices leads to a less personal feeling
  • Classes fill up quickly and often have a high student-to-faculty ratio

At public universities, there are usually more than just merit-based scholarships students can qualify for, such as work-study positions where you can work for the university to help fund your education. Even without these funding options, public universities are significantly cheaper than Ivy League or private schools.

Additionally, because of their large size, you may find a larger pool of majors to choose from along with unique electives to take. This is especially helpful if you’re unsure of what you’d like to study or want to try some specific classes before declaring a major. Academics are still prestigious, but the pressure isn’t as heavy as it is at an Ivy League School.

However, this large size can have some downsides. Professors may be more difficult to reach, especially if they teach lecture-hall-sized classes. You should also keep in mind that public universities expect you to seek out your own opportunities for career advancement. It’s up to you to decide whether you see this as a pro or a con.

Ultimately, if you’re an outgoing student who enjoys trying new things, then attending a public university would be a great choice. Public universities can provide great opportunities for academics, the arts, and sports, wrapped in a fun environment geared towards go-getters.


Liberal arts colleges focus less on preparing you for a specific career and more on making you a well-rounded person. This is why degree plans at liberal arts colleges included classes in virtually every area of discipline. For example, you could be studying theater, but you’ll still take classes in literature, math, and science to ensure you’re equipped for anything.


  • You get the chance to try a little bit of everything
  • Usually smaller in size, making for more accessible professors
  • Highly focused on personal growth


  • Less of a focus on career prep
  • The risk of becoming confused due to not emphasizing one particular career path

The beautiful thing about going to a liberal arts college is that graduates often pursue a variety of career paths not dictated by their major.. This is because liberal arts colleges make it a point to expand your horizons and give you the chance to explore several different studies at once.

Liberal arts colleges also tend to be smaller, thus, professors are much more accessible and willing to provide guidance and tools for their students. It is not uncommon for liberal arts professors to also serve as guidance counselors in some capacity.

If you are a driven student and know exactly what career you want to pursue, a degree from a liberal arts college may actually benefit you, because you never know what interests you may discover along the way. The only circumstance where going to a liberal arts college is a bad idea is if you want to declare a set major and pursue nothing but that field during your four years in undergraduate studies.

Ultimately, if you’re excited to explore everything academia has to offer, a liberal arts college may be a great fit. Liberal arts degrees are great for students who don’t mind going slow and taking their time figuring out what they’re passionate about.

Choosing A College: The Top 5 Ranking US Ivy League Schools

Ivy League schools are known for being the most prestigious educational institutions in the United States. These schools have high standards, strict admission requirements, and have the lowest acceptance rate of any schools.

In this article, we will explore the top 5 Ivy League schools, along with a brief overview of what you can expect from each one.


Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island is known primarily for its unconventional educational environment. For 50 years, Brown has promoted its “open curriculum” in which students can essentially create their own major by exploring any of its 80 degree offerings before settling on either one or two focuses. It is also known for its state of the art medical school.

Top Three Majors:

  • Computer Science
  • Economics
  • Applied Mathematics

Importantly, Brown is known for giving its students significant financial aid. In fact, this “Brown Promise” ensures that students graduate with no student loans, even after financial aid is given. The campus is located in downtown Providence, giving the school an urban vibe. The student to faculty ratio is 7:1, and the average class size is 20, meaning there is plenty of accessibility to professors. Brown is a member of the NCAA I Division, and there are numerous extracurricular activities to choose from.

Brown University is perfect for any student who enjoys applying themselves to their studies, while still leaving room for some fun. The school provides a great, breathable atmosphere complemented by rigorous studies.


The University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is known for being one of the few colleges founded before the Declaration of Independence was drafted. It’s also one of the first colleges to be associated with the term “university”.

Top Three Majors:

  • Finance
  • Nursing
  • Economics

UPenn, as it is often referred to, has athletic teams in the NCAA I division along with numerous other on-campus activities. The student-faculty ratio is 6:1, meaning that students get the experience of going to a large university while still having access to their professors and a more intimate learning environment.

On the other hand, UPenn’s acceptance rate is 9%, so being accepted won’t be easy. Many students claim the dorms aren’t the greatest, which is why over 30% of the student body lives off campus. The math and science entry courses are surprisingly difficult for freshman, and the crime rate of Philadelphia certainly adds to the list of cons.

There are a total of eight fraternities on campus and very few sororities; Greek Life simply isn’t a big deal at UPenn. Still, many students claim that UPenn has a prevalent “work hard, play hard” mentality in the middle of one of the most culturally diverse and rich cities in America.

Ultimately , the University of Pennsylvania is an ideal Ivy League school for any academically minded student who still values fun and excitement. If you’re an outgoing student who doesn’t mind taking initiative in joining extracurricular activities, UPenn would be a great school for you to consider.


Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey is known as one of the big three Ivy League schools, and is extremely selective as a result. Albert Einstein is an alumnus of Princeton along with many other famous individuals, and it is nationally recognized for its picturesque campus.

Top Three Majors:

  • Computer Hardware Engineering
  • Economics
  • Public Policy Analysis

Princeton offers generous financial aid packages for their students and a ton of study abroad opportunities. However, the campus is far away from any large metro area with general stores, so having a car on campus is necessary.

Still, the campus is in the heart of a classic American town, and it’s popular for its picturesque nature. New York City is a train ride away, so this is a great campus for students who have an interest in working or living in NYC over the summers or after graduation.

Overall, Princeton is fantastic for any student who wants to go to the idealistic version of an Ivy League school, while still being close to a large city. It’s also great for students who want lots of opportunities for independent work and internships. If you’re a go-getter when it comes to academics, Princeton should be at the top of your list!


Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut is home to the world-renowned Yale Drama School, where actors learn from the best of the best in the industry. Yale is famous for its rivalry with Harvard, and is an internationally recognized Ivy League school.

Top Three Majors:

  • Political Science
  • History
  • African-American and Cultural Studies

Yale’s campus is culturally diverse. They are passionate about preserving the mental and physical well-being of their students, so student activities promote fitness programs and on-campus counselors. It’s no secret that being a student at an Ivy League school is far from easy, so Yale is taking extra measures to ensure their students are taken care of.

However, getting into Yale won’t be easy; Yale’s acceptance rate is one of the lowest among the eight Ivy League schools, resting at 7%. The campus is far from a large city, so most students tend to stick around the New Haven area. If you enjoy a large metropolitan vibe, then Yale might not be a great choice.

Yale’s student body is a group of world-changers. Its list of alumni have risen to become some of the most influential people in the world. Everything about Yale, from academics to campus life points to a focus on humanity and culture, and as a result it’s not the best school for science or engineering-focused students. Yale definitely focuses on people groups, culture, and the betterment of society.


Harvard University in Cambridge and Boston, Massachusetts is unquestionably known for its Law School. Harvard Law is used in pop culture films and books because of how world-renowned it is. When people hear “Harvard”, they almost always think of its law school first.

Top Three Majors:

  • Social Sciences
  • Biology
  • Mathematics

“Harvard” on a resume looks fantastic. Without a doubt, the community and connections Harvard gives its students opens the door to prestigious internships and jobs. Additionally, Harvard is a very cultured community, and its campus boasts an art museum, theater, and arboretum, along with a variety of sports teams and a close connection to nearby Boston.  

Harvard’s 5% acceptance rate is the lowest among the Ivy League schools, and often makes their applicants dedicate hundreds of hours to their applications. The campus is not very community-oriented due to its size, which tends to affect the students’ college experience. The size also results in larger class sizes, and less accessibility to professors.

Ultimately, any student who is highly ambitious would thrive at Harvard. It’s a culturally-focused college that offers everything a public university would like sporting events, music, and theater, alongside the extreme academic rigor expected of Ivy League schools.  

Choosing A College: The Top 5 Ranking Public Universities In The US

Public universities have a reputation for offering a wide variety of course studies, extracurricular activities, and sports to their students. Going to a public university will provide you with a well-rounded and focused (but still fun) environment to study in.

Here are the top 5 public universities in the US along with some factors to consider as you approach decision day.


The University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA was founded by Thomas Jefferson and is known for their basketball team, the Cavaliers. UVA alumni includes Katie Couric and US Senator Edward Kennedy.

Top Three Majors:

  • Economics
  • Business
  • International Relations

UVA provides a great community and lots of school spirit for their students. Many have confirmed that there is a sense of “togetherness” among the student body, though this can also discourage individual expression for students who don’t quite “fit in” with the average UVA student.

Students have also mentioned that UVA doesn’t have the best dining hall and the administrative part of the school tends to be disorganized. Although it is an academically fantastic public school, the student body is so large that the administration staff is distant and difficult to establish contact with.

Public universities tend to be great for every kind of student because of their large range of options for study and activity, however, UVA is specifically great for students who are interested in business. UVA’s Business School is one of the best in the country, so consider UVA is you’re interested in pursuing a degree in business.


The United States Military Academy in West Point, New York, is also known simply as “Army”. Students who attend this college are technically US Army cadets who are training to be officers. The US Army funds all tuition for students as they pursue a Bachelor of Science degree in the area of their choice. Upon graduation, cadets are commissioned into the Army as second lieutenants.

Top Three Majors:

  • Engineering
  • Social Sciences
  • Business

The best aspect of going to West Point is that you would graduate with no student debt. The servicemen and women that are dispersed throughout the faculty and staff become invaluable connections to the world of international affairs. Overall, attending West Point sets you up for a successful, lifelong military career.

However, this also means that, if you’re looking for a traditional college experience, West Point isn’t for you. The school operates by military standards, so rules are strict. Partying on campus isn’t prevalent, and at least 5-7 years of service after graduation is mandatory.

If you have a strong vision, carry excellent leadership skills, and are interested in a degree pertaining to engineering or business, then the United States Military Academy at West Point is a great college to consider, so long as you’re prepared for the military commitments that come with it.


The United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland is known for its breathtaking campus and active student body. It is also known simply as “Navy,” making them rivals of the previously mentioned “Army”. Similar to Army,  the US Naval Academy is operated by the US Navy

It’s students are also known as “midshipmen,” who are training to be officers while studying to earn a Bachelor of Science degree. Their tuition is fully funded by the US Navy provided that they will enter active-duty service in either the US Navy or US Marine Corps upon graduation.

Top Three Majors:

  • Engineering
  • Social Sciences
  • Physical Sciences

The Naval Academy focuses on self-discipline and leadership, regardless of what you might be studying. In addition to your chosen degree, mandatory classes in geopolitics, history, and military sciences will require you to develop a global perspective.

Unfortunately, the extreme difficulty of being a Navy student doesn’t appeal to many. If this is true for you, the curriculum could be classified as a negative factor. However, for those students who are the exception, Navy could help you thrive. Annapolis is a great town on the coast, and Navy offers a ton of activities that involve sports and the outdoors like hiking and sailing.

If the US Military Academy at West Point interests you, but you feel more drawn to the Navy or Marine Corps, it would be a great idea to request information from their recruiting offices. The college experience here may not be about having fun, but you’ll learn everything it takes to be a strong member of the military.


The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor is known for being located in what is considered the best college town in the US. It’s famous for its rivalry with Ohio State, along with their iconic athletics competitions. Among the theater community, University of Michigan has arguably the best theater program in the country, and several Broadway performers have come through the program.

Top Three Majors:

  • Computer and Information Sciences
  • Business Administration and Management
  • Economics

According to their current students and alumni, UMich offers an all-around “complete” classic college experience. Pretty much every area of their school is done right, from academics to campus life and school spirit.

Campus housing is very hard to come by, so most students live off campus. The massive student population can be overwhelming for students who aren’t used to so many similarly aged individuals all packed together in the same town. However, there are more than 1,500 student organizations, and 62 Greek chapters. Athletics are also a big deal at UMich, and going to sporting events is expected, meaning you’ll have no shortage of ways to meet people despite the school’s size

Still, because of its size, students have to be assertive in order to make opportunities for themselves. If you’re a go-getting socialite, you’ll thrive at the University of Michigan.


The University of California at Berkeley has been known as the best school in the United States for years. When people think of college in the United States, the first names that come to mind are all the large, public universities. Since UC Berkeley is on the top of that list, its popularity is a no-brainer.

They are known for their rivalry with Stanford, their athletic teams, the California Golden Bears, and the large presence of liberal student activism on campus.

Top Three Majors:

  • Social Sciences
  • Engineering
  • Biological and Biomedical Sciences

UC Berkeley offers diversity, job opportunities in the bay area,  and an all-around classic college experience. However, students also say that UC Berkeley doesn’t have the best housing or food, it’s class sizes are huge, and there is a general “pressure to be better” among the students.

25% of students live on campus due to Greek life for UC-affiliated housing, and the other 75% live off campus. There is an extensive list of activities for students to take part in including sports and outdoor adventures.

One thing all alumni and current students agree on is that the majority of the student body is extremely ambitious. If you are a student who enjoys seeing their hard work pay off, and you really want to be successful in your own unique way, there is no question that you will thrive at UC Berkeley.

Choosing A College: The Top 5 Ranking US Liberal Arts Colleges

Liberal arts colleges exist so students can pursue a specific area of study while still being exposed to other academic fields. The goal is for students to graduate with a well-rounded education in history, literature, anthropology, art, and philosophy in addition to what their chosen degree is. These are the best liberal arts colleges in the in the United States.


Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California is one of the seven “Claremont Colleges, Inc.”, a collection of five schools in Claremont that are organizationally tied together. Many students take several different classes from other institutions while they are enrolled in Claremont, two of which are also on the list of the top 5 liberal arts college in the US

Top Three Majors:

  • Quantitative Economics
  • Political Science and Government
  • International Relations and Affairs

The school hosts a total undergraduate student body of 1,338. The small size directly relates to the students easy access to faculty. Faculty and students share a dining hall and work spaces, making for great mentor relationships.

Unfortunately, because the colleges are connected, many students have complained that Claremont McKenna’s organization is a bit all over the place. The seven colleges all operate independently yet are still tied together, causing some confusion in certain areas for the students.

A big part of the college is their study abroad programs. Slightly over half of their students study abroad in locations all over the world, so if you’re interested in studying international relations and seeing the world, consider Claremont McKenna.


Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine is known for its excellent academics, its “Outing Club,” and their sports teams. Students join the outing club to go on outdoor adventure trips, and the college has taken note of their student body’s shared interest in the outdoors.

Top Three Majors:

  • Political Science and Government
  • Economics
  • Mathematics

With an undergraduate enrollment of 1,816 and top-notch professors, the academic experience is unmatched by any other liberal arts college according to its current students. Access to professors is open, the general vibe among students is friendly and outgoing, the dorms are spacious and livable, and the food is great.

With Maine comes icy northeastern weather, so if you’re accustomed to sunshine and heat, pack a coat! The small size of the student body pushes everyone finding their niche early on, leaving some students needing more time to find where they belong. Still, there is always a group for everyone and their unique interests; for some students at Bowdoin, it just takes more time.

If you are an adventurer who enjoys challenging academics, Bowdoin College might be a great option for you. The academics offered at Bowdoin are all foundational for nearly any career in politics and economics, so if those are your passions, Bowdoin would be a great school to add to your list.


Harvey Mudd College is another school that is a part of the seven Claremont Colleges. It’s known for being one of the country’s top math, science and engineering undergraduate colleges. Their offered majors all focus on science, engineering and mathematics.

Top Three Majors:

  • Engineering
  • Computer and Information Sciences
  • Physical Sciences

Employers in the science, engineering and mathematics fields typically like to see a school like Mudd on resumes, since the curriculum is so focused. There are more job opportunities for students who know they want to work in this field, and Mudd has the highest average starting salary of all “the 7 C’s”.

There isn’t much to do in Claremont aside from seeing the other six colleges in the area. Students say that public transportation is poor, so having your own mode of transportation is ideal. Mudd professors grade really hard, and the workload is heavy. Regardless of rigorous studies, you can still find many unique and interesting clubs and activities on campus to help you take a break from the difficult classes.

Harvey Mudd is perfect for the student who is gifted in the fields of math, science, or engineering and wants a career in any of those fields.


Pomona College, which is another member of the Claremont Colleges, is known by students as being the least well-known, but the nicest one. Although it's a small school, there are a lot more things for students to do; more so than its sister schools.

Top Three Majors:

  • Social Sciences
  • Biological and Biomedical Sciences
  • Computer and Information Sciences and Support Services

Pomona has small classes that breed strong student-faculty relationships. Over 45 majors are offered here, which is more than its other sister schools. Pomona gives its students the small college experience with a small enrollment number, but it also offers a big college experience with the wide variety of majors. Its small size can either work for or against you, depending on what you’re looking for.

Many have described Pomona as a New England-type school on the west coast. The campus has great dorms, and an overall laid back vibe. It is not uncommon for students to have majors that are all over the place. Students can mix and match their majors and minors, giving them a totally unique experience.

If you want to have a large selection of major at a small school, Pomona checks off all those boxes.


Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts is known for its focus on three primary areas of study: arts and humanities, social sciences, and science and mathematics. They are broad, yet open for specifics concentrations within those fields, giving its students  a healthy balance between a broad and a specific major.

Top Three Majors:

  • Economics
  • Mathematics
  • English Language and Literature

Williams College is a medium-sized liberal arts college. With a student-teacher ratio of 7:1, and a total enrollment of 2,061 on campus, accessibility to professors is doable, but still takes effort.

The workload is known for being heavy, and the town itself doesn’t offer a lot for its students to do, due to its rural location. The smaller class sizes could either be a pro or a con for you, depending on your preferences and learning style.

Most liberal arts colleges offer a major in engineering, but Williams College has a general lack of engineering resources for students. If you are interested in engineering, there are several other liberal arts colleges that have a stronger focus on engineering.

Overall, the small, tight-knit community of Williams College is great for every kind of student, since its areas of study are so broad. If you are looking for a broad degree from a small college, this would be a great choice for you.

The Difficulty Of Choosing

Every college out there, whether its Ivy League, Public, or Liberal Arts, has their own niche. Yet, all of these colleges share one thing in common: they have something for everybody.

However, this can also lead to decision fatigue…

How can you know which school is right for you with so many amazing colleges out there?

That’s where Weadmit comes in. Our team of professional college counselors can not only help you narrow down the right schools for you based on academics, but can put you in touch with our network of current college students to learn more about campus life, culture, and activities. When choosing the right colleges to apply to, every bit of insight matters.

Whether You Go Ivy League, Public, Or Liberal Arts, There’s A School Out There For You; You Just Need To Find It!



Need more Information?

Gain all the information you need by getting in touch with our admissions team or booking a free 30-minute counseling session.