best universities in new york

Best Universities in New York – Introduction

Ah, New York– the Big Apple! Home to some world-renowned institutions, which are not only the best universities in New York but also the best universities in the world. In other words, there’s no shortage of top universities in New York. Whether you like high-speed city life or tranquil upstate scenery, the best colleges in New York have you covered. So, let’s check out the top colleges in New York together.

In this guide, we’ll talk about the best universities in New York. We’ll cover not just the top universities in New York City, but also the best colleges in New York state. From the best SUNY schools to the best public and private colleges in New York, we’ve got you covered. In particular, we’ll discuss questions like:

  • How many colleges are in New York (state and city)?
  • What Ivy League colleges are in New York?
  • What are the best CUNY schools and the best SUNY schools?
  • Majors: what are the best colleges in New York for science? Or the best colleges in New York for business? How about the best colleges in New York for nursing?
  • Who decides the best universities in New York?

Read on for answers to these questions and more information about the best colleges in New York.

How many colleges are in New York?

best universities in new york

There are over 260 four-year colleges across the state of New York, according to U.S. News.

Among them are some of the nation’s most expensive universities, several Ivy League universities, and some top engineering institutions. There are also a variety of affordable, well-rounded schools that also do well in college rankings. Whatever college experience you’re looking for, you’ll find it in New York. Later in this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the best colleges in New York.

More specifically, there are several kinds of top universities in New York. There are dozens of public universities in New York, including the CUNY and SUNY systems. There are also plenty of private colleges in New York. These range from liberal arts colleges to larger research universities with robust post-graduate programs. Many of the best universities in New York are private, but many public universities in New York are also great.

So, what are the best colleges in New York? That depends on the factors you’re comparing: do you want a certain college setting or college size? Figure out what’s important to you: affordability, first-generation student support, or maybe a certain major. The best universities in New York for you may differ from our list of top universities in New York, and that’s all right. Ultimately, the best colleges in New York will be the ones best for you and your needs.

How many colleges are in New York State?

Again, throughout the entire state of New York, there are 260 four-year colleges. Certainly, many of these colleges are in New York City. However, there are plenty of other top universities in New York if you look upstate. Schools like Vassar or Cornell University, ranking among the nation’s top colleges, are outside of NYC. So, some of the best colleges in New York state are outside of New York City.

As you look for the best universities in New York for you, don’t discount the areas outside of the city. After all, New York City is a sprawling metropolis. The lights, noise, traffic, and high cost of living may not be for you, and that’s okay. For a quieter college setting, college towns like Ithaca and Syracuse still provide museums and other recreation. If you’re set on attending one of the best colleges in New York state, you can find great options outside NYC.

How many colleges are in New York City?

Within New York City, there are about 110 colleges and universities, including the public SUNY and CUNY systems. Some of these are the best colleges in New York, especially if finances are a key concern. If you enjoy the excitement and conveniences of city life—the NYC subway is world-famous—attending college in New York City may be for you. New York City has something from every corner of the world. Likewise, you can find nearly every kind of college size and type in New York City.

Among the best colleges in New York City are institutions like:

  • Columbia University: Among the world’s top universities, you see Columbia University ranking high across dozens of lists every year. This is a large, private research university located in upper Manhattan.
  • New York University: Although NYU is known for film, its business and medical programs are also widely renowned. This large, private university is located in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village.
  • Fordham University: Although the Fordham University ranking isn’t quite as high as those of NYU or Columbia, it’s still a great option. This slightly smaller private university is in the Bronx, a college location with a lot of character.

We’ll talk more about these best universities in New York City later on for those craving an urban college setting. However, you can already see there’s variety among the best universities in New York City.

What is the best college in New York?

best universities in new york

According to U.S. News, Cornell University tops the list of best colleges in New York state. While rankings aren’t everything, Cornell is certainly a top institution nationwide—not just one of the best colleges in New York.

Cornell is located upstate in Ithaca, NY. So, if you’re looking for the best universities in New York City, you’ll want to look elsewhere—namely, to the #2 and #3 schools in the state. Right below Cornell are Columbia University and New York University, both in Manhattan.

Cornell University is a private research university located in Ithaca. Given that it has undergraduate enrollment of over 15,000, Cornell is considered a relatively large school. U.S. News has Cornell University ranking at #17 on their National Colleges list. While the school itself is among the best universities in New York, Cornell’s business, engineering, and computer science programs are especially lauded.

Columbia University is another private research university located in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of Manhattan. With just over 8,000 undergraduates, its college size is significantly smaller than Cornell. As of 2022, the Columbia University ranking among American colleges is #18, according to U.S. News. Columbia’s academics are excellent, including an architecture program jointly offered with Columbia’s sister school, Barnard College.

Private Colleges in New York

There are a slew of private colleges in New York, many of which are among the best universities in New York. Now, let’s take a look at some of the private best colleges in New York (in no particular order):

1. Fordham University

best colleges in new york- fordham university

This university in the Bronx, New York City, has an enrollment of about 9,000 students. With Fordham University ranking #72 among National Universities and boasting a 54% acceptance rate, it’s a great non-Ivy option. Some of the most popular majors are business, political science, and psychology.

2. Vassar College

best colleges in new york- vassar college

This liberal arts college located in Poughkeepsie, New York, is home to around 2,500 undergraduate students. The Vassar ranking among National Liberal Arts colleges is #13. Indeed, the high Vassar ranking is reflected in its 20% acceptance rate, typical of the top colleges in New York. Vassar’s most popular programs focus on the social sciences, including psychology, economics, and political science.

3. Ithaca College

best colleges in new york- ithaca college

With just under 5,000 undergraduates, Ithaca University has a smaller college size. Compared to the Vassar ranking and acceptance rate, Ithaca College is more accessible with a 78% acceptance rate. If you’re worrying about your GPA while researching colleges, consider Ithaca College as a match or safety school.

4. Cornell University

best colleges in new york- cornell university

As mentioned above, Cornell University is undoubtedly among the best universities in New York. Given the high Cornell University ranking, the university’s 9% acceptance rate is no surprise. Although Cornell is test-optional through the 2023 admissions cycle, you may still want high standardized test scores for this school.

5. Barnard College

best colleges in new york- barnard college

This women’s liberal arts college serves about 3,000 students on its campus near its sister institution, Columbia University. It won’t surprise you to learn the Barnard College ranking is stellar: #18 among American liberal arts colleges. That high Barnard College ranking also corresponds to a low acceptance rate of only 11%. Additionally, the social sciences and humanities are popular among Barnard students.

As you can see, there’s a wide range of the best universities in New York, even among private institutions. College location and college size vary greatly, so you’re likely to find a few schools for your college list

Are there Ivy League Colleges in New York City?

best universities in new york

Yes—there are. Namely, Columbia University.

Unsurprisingly, Columbia is one of the best colleges in New York City. Columbia University is located on the West Side of Upper Manhattan, near its sister college, Barnard College. Additionally, with several subway stations around Columbia’s campus, students have easy access to the rest of the city. A college setting like this opens up limitless experiences in and around Manhattan. So, if you’re looking for a college with world-class academics and an urban feel, Columbia might be the place for you.

Obviously, Columbia University isn’t just one of the best colleges in New York City; it’s a world-renowned Ivy League university. It’s known for its Core Curriculum: courses all students must take to ensure a solid foundation for other studies. The Core Curriculum serves as a key part of the Columbia experience as well as a draw for prospective applicants.

Ivy League opportunities

There’s a wealth of opportunities for Columbia students on and off campus. As one of the best universities in New York, Columbia has many luminary faculty and hosts a variety of speakers. Students can also participate in campus life at neighboring Barnard College, another of the best colleges in New York. Plus, just beyond the gates is one of the largest, most diverse cities on the planet, brimming with experiences.

Of course, there are over a hundred other top colleges in New York City beyond Columbia. There are liberal arts schools like Barnard College, plus larger top universities in New York city like NYU. Moreover, there are dozens of public universities in New York, like the CUNY and SUNY school systems.

What Ivy League colleges are in New York?

When you ask what are the best colleges in New York, your mind may jump to Ivy League schools.

Every Ivy League college is in the Northeast, with two comprising some of the best colleges in New York state. Cornell University and Columbia University are, as Ivies, two of the best universities in New York. We’ve touched on them before, but let’s walk through some key differences between these two top colleges in New York. Keep in mind, both of these are among the best colleges in New York. 

Ivy League Colleges in New York

Columbia UniversityCornell University
LocationNew York City, NYIthaca, NY
SizeNearly 10,000 undergraduate (over 36,000 total incl. graduate and medical schools)Nearly 16,000 undergraduate (almost 26,000 total incl. graduate and professional programs)
Available ProgramsKnown for its mandatory Core curriculum, which has a broad base in the humanities and social sciences. For graduate programs, especially law and business, the Columbia University ranking is very high.No core curriculum, but Cornell is very well known for its STEM curricula, including engineering and physics. Also has highly-ranked graduate programs in subjects from computer science to English. 

Although these schools have some key differences, both offer a wide variety of academic programs that will suit any student’s needs. These are some of the top universities in New York, so whichever one you attend, you’ll get a great education.

The biggest difference may be college location: Columbia is one of the best colleges in New York City. Beyond the classroom, Columbia students can take advantage of the whole city, while Cornell student life largely centers around the school. Correspondingly, Cornell’s college size (in terms of undergraduate students) is larger than that of Columbia.

If you’re thinking of applying to either school, then be prepared for a highly competitive admissions process. These schools are on top college ranking lists year after year. So, with these schools’ low acceptance rates and high standings, you must stand out. It’ll take more than just good recommendation letters. However, it’ll be worth it to attend one of the top colleges in New York.

What are the top colleges in New York?

best universities in new york

There are plenty of top colleges in New York. Whatever your preferences and priorities, this state will have a great university for you.

Next, we’ll look at twenty of the best colleges in New York according to the U.S. News college rankings. However, this is only one list of best universities in New York—they may not be your top universities in New York. At the end of the day, where you enroll is entirely your choice. The best universities in New York are the ones that meet your needs and circumstances.

Top Colleges in New York

1. Cornell University

An Ivy League school with over 16,000 undergraduates in quiet, rural Ithaca, NY. Undeniably one of the best universities in New York, Cornell University has an acceptance rate of about 9%.

2. Columbia University

Another Ivy League school, and one of the best colleges in New York City. Highly connected, highly ranked, and highly selective—its 6% acceptance rate is a significant hurdle.

3. New York University

Another of the top colleges in New York City, this time in Greenwich Village. Home to nearly 30,000 undergraduates, NYU is known as one of the nation’s most expensive universities. Its Tisch School of the Arts is world famous for film and the performing arts. At the same time, many lists have NYU ranking high in business and design.

4. University of Rochester

This powerful research university has a surprisingly small enrollment: about 7,000 undergraduates and 12,000 total. Located in Rochester, NY, it offers the perks of city life outside of New York City. Its acceptance rate was 41% for fall 2021; not bad for one of the top universities in New York. Its 60 research institutes receive nearly half a billion dollars in annual funding.

5. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

On its suburban Troy, NY, campus, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute provides high-quality STEM programs to about 5,600 undergraduates. Greek life is popular for students, as is recreation in the nearby city of Albany. Its acceptance rate is 53%, jumping to 65% for early applicants.

6. Syracuse University

This university’s nearly 15,000 undergraduates can explore the city of Syracuse from their doorstep. The most popular majors are social sciences, business, and communication, with Syracuse ranking high across the board. In fact, with Syracuse ranking #62 among national universities, its 59% acceptance rate may make it an attractive option.

7. Yeshiva University

This Jewish university has two Manhattan campuses, one uptown and one downtown. They also have an Israel campus that offers various study abroad programs. With about 2,000 undergraduates and 62% acceptance rate, Yeshiva offers all common areas of study.

8. Fordham University

With Fordham University ranking #72 in National Universities, this Jesuit institution provides a quality education from its Bronx campus. Its 54% acceptance rate makes it selective but not impossible to get into. Many of its nearly 10,000 undergraduates have majors like finance, political science, and psychology.

9. Stony Brook University [SUNY]

We’ll discuss the State University of New York system later, but just know that Stony Brook University is in it. It’s also one of the best SUNY schools. About 18,000 undergraduates populate its suburban Long Island campus, and its acceptance rate is 48%. Popular majors include health and life sciences, psychology, and business.

10. Binghamton University [SUNY]

This SUNY campus includes a nature preserve, creating a college setting good for outdoorsy people. Rated as one of the top universities in New York, Binghamton has an acceptance rate of 44% (60% early). The most popular majors include biology, neuroscience, and psychology.

11. University at Buffalo [SUNY]

Ranked one of the public best universities in New York, Buffalo State serves over 20,000 students. This esteemed public institution has a 70% acceptance rate (83% early!) for students dreaming about its suburban Buffalo, NY campus. Popular majors include engineering, business, and social sciences.

12. Rochester Institute of Technology

Another Rochester school, RIT provides both STEM and liberal arts programs for 14,000 undergraduates. It’s among the best universities in New York for engineering and computer science while also boasting a 71% acceptance rate.

13. SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry

If you’re eyeing the environmental sciences, this could be one of the best colleges in New York for you. This college offers 20 B.S. degrees to about 1,600 students on its Syracuse campus, with a 65% acceptance rate. Take additional classes at partner school Syracuse University, or learn more forestry skills at the Adirondack Mountains campus’s Ranger School.

14. Clarkson University

Almost 3,000 undergraduates study on Clarkson University’s rural Potsdam, NY, campus, near the Canadian border. Their admissions rate of 75% means their popular engineering majors aren’t out of reach. If you like a rural college setting, this may be one of the best universities in New York for you.

15. The New School

Among the best universities in New York City, The New School focuses on social sciences and the fine arts. Its nearly 8,000 undergraduates can choose among five schools or even attend their global Paris campus. The 66% acceptance rate makes majors such as performing arts, communications, and literature accessible.

16. City College [CUNY]

Located within Manhattan, the City College is one of 25 CUNY schools in the five boroughs. It serves over 12,000 undergraduates across eight schools and divisions. Like many other best universities in New York, City College is somewhat selective with a 60% acceptance rate.

17. Hofstra University

Hofstra’s location in Long Island makes New York City opportunities accessible alongside suburban campus life. It has a 68% acceptance rate (73% early) and serves 6,000 undergraduates. Popular majors include psychology, business, and communications.

18. St. John’s University

This Roman Catholic university serves over 15,000 undergraduates of many different faiths in Queens, NY. It has an acceptance rate of 85% while also being one of the best universities in New York City. Many students study majors like business, health sciences, and homeland security.

19. Adelphi University

From its Garden City campus, Adelphi University’s students can easily access New York City a few miles away. Its 5,000 undergraduates enjoy majors like nursing, biology, and psychology. This is one of the best universities in New York and has a 77% acceptance rate.

20. Touro University

Rounding out our top 20 list is Touro University, in the heart of Manhattan. A 77% acceptance rate makes joining its 5,000+ student body an achievable goal. Like many of the best universities in New York, popular majors include psychology, health, and business.

Many to choose from

There’s plenty of variety among the best colleges in New York list above. From public universities in New York to private colleges in New York, there’s something for everyone on the “best colleges in New York” list. Some of the best colleges in New York are public systems like SUNY, with over 60 campuses. And remember that rankings vary by agency; some SUNY schools are better ranked than others. Alfred State, for instance, isn’t one of the best universities in New York listed above but is highly ranked elsewhere.

That goes for all college rankings: SUNY’s internal ranking varies from U.S. News, which varies from Wall Street Journal. Some lists have institutions like the Pratt Institute, Hunter College, and Baruch College ranking highly, while ours doesn’t. Others may have a higher Syracuse ranking or a lower Barnard College ranking. These lists should inform but not determine where you apply or whose letter you accept.

What is NYU known for?

new york university

Let’s roll it back and look at one of the best universities in New York City: New York University. Indeed, most lists do show NYU ranking high across various metrics. It is home to eleven schools and colleges within Manhattan. These schools range from dentistry to social work to nursing as well as general studies.

The most popular majors at NYU include visual and performing arts, business, social sciences, liberal arts, and health professions. In particular, NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts is world-renowned for its drama, performance, and film studies. In addition, the Grossman School of Medicine is key to NYU ranking among the world’s top medical schools. As one of the best universities in New York, NYU partners with NYC hospitals to train its students. Finally, NYU’s School of Law is one of the oldest and most highly esteemed law programs in the nation.

Additionally, NYU students are encouraged to study abroad through various programs or an NYU global campus. NYU has an Abu Dhabi campus and a Shanghai campus. Not only is NYU among the best universities in New York—but it’s also a global institution. No wonder NYU is one of the best colleges in New York. 

What is Columbia known for?

best universities in new york

It may be easier to ask what Columbia University isn’t known for. It’s an Ivy League university, one of the best universities in New York, and a world leader in higher education. Specifically, Columbia is clearly among the best colleges in New York for journalism—it’s home to the Pulitzer Prize. Columbia University is also home to one of the oldest and most respected engineering programs in America.

Columbia’s Morningside Heights location gives students access to Central Park, nearby neighborhoods, and of course NYC. With a MetroCard in hand, you can travel to any of the boroughs or just explore Manhattan. Students also receive discounts on New York attractions like Broadway shows and museum visits. Not only is Columbia among the best universities in New York, but it also encourages students to explore the city beyond the university.

The most popular majors at Columbia include:

  1. Social Sciences (including Economics and Political Science)
  2. Engineering
  3. Biological and Biomedical Sciences
  4. Computer and Information Sciences
  5. Mathematics and Statistics

If you study at Columbia, you’ll have to go through their Core curriculum. The Core aims to give students a broad foundation for their studies while unifying the student experience. 

Public Universities in New York

public universities in new york

So, let’s get even deeper into these categories. We’ve talked about some of the top universities in New York. But maybe you’re wondering, how many colleges are in New York? Perhaps your biggest question is, how about the best public universities in New York? 

The best public universities in New York may or may not be right for you, and that’s okay! Use the list of the best public universities in New York as a starting point as you create your own list of the best universities in New York. Some university rankings will also differ from list to list, like the Baruch College ranking or the Buffalo State College ranking. 

There are over 130 public universities in New York. Public universities in New York are located all throughout the state. Many of the public universities in New York appear on the list of top universities in New York. 

Niche’s Top 5 Public Universities in New York 

  1. United States Military Academy at West Point 
  2. United States Merchant Marine Academy 
  3. SUNY ESF
  4. Binghamton University
  5. CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice 

U.S. News‘s Top 5 Public Universities in New York: 

  1. Stony Brook University 
  2. Binghamton University 
  3. University at Buffalo 
  4. SUNY ESF
  5. University at Albany 

College rankings are based on a variety of factors and can vary based on the source, which accounts for the difference in the lists above for top public universities in New York. We’ll look at rankings in more depth later in this guide, including City College of New York ranking, and State University of New York ranking. But first, let’s discuss the CUNY system and SUNY system. For some students, these options might be on the list of best colleges in New York. 

CUNY System

CUNY stands for the City University of New York, and it is the largest public university in the nation. The CUNY system serves over 240,000 undergraduate and graduate students each year.

CUNY is one university with 25 colleges (or campuses) across the five boroughs in New York City. So, there are plenty of different locations to choose from at this system of campuses. 

SUNY System 

SUNY stands for The State University of New York, and it is considered the largest comprehensive university system in the nation. The SUNY system serves over 1.3 million students each year. We will provide a list of SUNY schools ranked later in this guide. 

Wondering what the biggest differences are between CUNY and SUNY schools? That would include factors like location, academic prestige, and cost. 

CUNY schools are in NYC, while SUNY schools are located across the state. Both systems have some of the top universities in New York. However, the colleges and universities in the SUNY system have a slightly higher prestigious reputation. 

For in-state students, the cost of attending a CUNY or SUNY school is comparable. However, for out-of-state students, tuition is lower at SUNY schools. 

We’ll provide an in-depth exploration of CUNY and SUNY schools later in this guide, including a list of SUNY schools, SUNY schools ranked, the best SUNY schools, and a list of CUNY schools best to worst. But first, let’s discuss how much it might cost to attend some of the top colleges in New York or best universities in New York. 

Is college free in New York?

best universities in new york

Unfortunately, college is not free in New York, but some of the best universities in New York are remarkably affordable

The average in-state tuition for the top colleges in New York average over $20,000 per year. The least expensive schools in New York are under the CUNY system. The top 5 universities in New York for affordability are CUNY Brooklyn, CUNY City College, CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY Lehman College, and CUNY Queens College. 

One of the factors that can bring the cost of attendance down for any of the best universities in New York are merit scholarships. Merit scholarships are awarded to students with stellar academic records, including high test scores and GPAs. 

If you want to be considered for merit scholarships and other forms of financial aid, you’ll want to do your research on the top colleges in New York that offer the most financial aid to students. Keep this in mind as you review the list of best universities in New York.

What does CUNY stand for? 

best universities in new york

CUNY stands for City University of New York. It spans 25 campuses across the city, is home to graduate and undergraduate programs alike, as well as community colleges, and offers opportunities for continuing education. 

The CUNY system has some of the top colleges in New York City, which we’ll learn more about next.

List of CUNY Schools Best to Worst

Let’s spend some time examining the City College of New York ranking structure. We’ll start by outlining the list of CUNY schools best to worst. 

Keep in mind that the “best” colleges are quite subjective, including the best colleges in New York, especially since so many of the CUNY campuses focus on specific fields. Even though we’ll provide a list of CUNY schools best to worst, we encourage you to make your own CUNY rankings based on your specific needs as a student. 

In other words, your list of CUNY schools best to worst may be different from what we have listed below, and that’s okay! The best universities in New York are going to be the ones that match your own needs. 

What are the best CUNY schools?

best universities in new york

What are the best colleges in New York that are in the CUNY system? The best universities in New York within the CUNY system are based on the City College of New York ranking. The following top colleges in New York City are included in the list of Top 10 CUNY ranking: 

1. CUNY City College

Located in Harlem, CUNY City College is one of the best colleges in New York City. CUNY City College has an acceptance rate of 60% along with outstanding programs in architecture, engineering, education, and the liberal arts and sciences. 

2. CUNY Baruch College

Another example of top colleges in New York City is CUNY Baruch College. The school has an acceptance rate of 51%. Its location in the city gives students unparalleled internship, career, and networking opportunities. Don’t let the Baruch College ranking convince you that Baruch isn’t a viable option for you!

3. CUNY Hunter College

CUNY Hunter College is in Manhattan and has an acceptance rate of 46%. One of the best colleges in New York City, it offers more than 170 academic programs and has three campus locations to serve students. 

4. CUNY New York City College of Technology

CUNY City Tech is in Brooklyn and has an acceptance rate of 82%. It is a specialized college that offers pre-professional, professional, and technical programs, making it one of the best colleges in New York City for technologies. 

5. CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice

CUNY John Jay is another one of the top colleges in New York City. It has an acceptance rate of 45%. The academic programs at John Jay train students to explore justice in many dimensions. 

6. CUNY Queens College

CUNY Queens College is in Flushing, NY, and has an acceptance rate of 61%. Queens College is one of the best colleges in New York State. It has the QC in 4 program (the only program of its kind in NYC) that guarantees participants will graduate in four years. 

7. CUNY Brooklyn College

CUNY Brooklyn College is in Brooklyn and has an acceptance rate of 51%. Brooklyn College is one of the best colleges in New York City. It offers 175 academic programs in business, education, the humanities and social sciences, natural and behavioral sciences, and visual, media, and performing arts. 

8. CUNY Lehman College

CUNY Lehman College is in the Bronx and has an acceptance rate of 42%. One of the best colleges in New York City, it is the only four-year college in the Bronx and offers more than 90 undergraduate and graduate programs in the liberal arts and sciences and professional education fields. Almost half of all students at Lehman College are first-generation college students

9. CUNY College of Staten Island

CUNY College of Staten Island is in Staten Island and has an acceptance rate of 94%. There are several learning communities, research opportunities, and selective academic programs at this college, making it one of the best colleges in New York City. 

10. Medgar Evers College CUNY

Medgar Evers College is in Brooklyn and has an acceptance rate of 86%. It is named after Medgar Wiley Evers, a civil rights leader. Medgar Evers offers over 20 bachelor’s degree programs and is one of the best universities in New York within the CUNY system. 

Exploring the State University of New York (SUNY) System

best universities in new york

The SUNY system is a public university system in New York State. SUNY operates 64 colleges and universities across the state, including some of the best colleges in New York State. 

There are four kinds of SUNY schools: University Centers, University Colleges, Technology Colleges, and Community Colleges. Many of the SUNY schools are on the list of best colleges in New York State. 

The SUNY system also offers online and part-time degree programs as well. The type of SUNY school you attend will depend on your major, choice of program, career, and student life experience you hope to have in college. 

SUNY schools might be a good fit for students based on factors like affordability for in-state students or flexible degree programs for students who need to work through college. 

We’ll provide more details on each type of college, as well as a list of SUNY schools ranked and the best colleges in New York State later in this guide.

SUNY Schools Map

Our SUNY schools map below shows where the best SUNY schools are located across New York State. On the SUNY schools map, you’ll see that Buffalo is the only University Center on the west side of New York. Furthermore on map of SUNY schools, you’ll see Binghamton on the southern border, Albany closer to the eastern border, and Stony Brook near to the heart of the city. 

SUNY Schools Map

You’ll see a lot of colleges clustered around the Finger Lakes and below the Adirondack mountains on the SUNY schools map. There are only 5 colleges north of the Adirondack mountains on the SUNY schools map. 

Each of the best SUNY schools have campuses that are diverse and some of the best colleges in New York State, which provides aspiring SUNY students with lots of options to fit their needs. 

List of SUNY Schools 

So, what are the best colleges in New York that are within the SUNY system? How many colleges are in New York within the SUNY system? We have provided a comprehensive list of SUNY schools categorized below. 

The first category of SUNY schools is University Centers, which are research institutions that offer bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees within a broad range of programs. 

The SUNY system also has University Colleges, which are campuses located in smaller cities and towns that offer bachelor’s and master’s degrees in liberal arts and sciences as well as in professional disciplines. 

List of SUNY schools – University Centers and University Colleges: 

NameLocation in NYType of CampusDistance from NYC (in hours)
University at AlbanyAlbanyUniversity Centers3
NYS College of Ceramics at Alfred UniversityAlfredUniversity Centers5.5 
Binghamton UniversityBinghamtonUniversity Centers3.5 
University at BuffaloBuffaloUniversity Centers
Cornell College of Agriculture and Life SciencesIthacaUniversity Centers4.5 
Cornell UniversityIthacaUniversity Centers4.5 
ILR SchoolIthacaUniversity Centers4.5 
NYS College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell UniversityIthacaUniversity Centers4.5 
Downstate Health Sciences UniversityBrooklynUniversity Centers0.5 
SUNY ESFSyracuseUniversity Centers4.5 
SUNY College of OptometryNew York CityUniversity Centers0.15 
Stony Brook UniversityStony BrookUniversity Centers1.5 
SUNY Polytechnic InstituteUtica & AlbanyUniversity Centers4.5 
Upstate Medical UniversitySyracuseUniversity Centers4.5 
SUNY BrockportBrockportUniversity Colleges6.5 
Buffalo State CollegeBuffaloUniversity Colleges
SUNY CortlandCortlandUniversity Colleges
SUNY Empire State CollegeSaratoga SpringsUniversity Colleges3.5 
SUNY FredoniaFredoniaUniversity Colleges7.5 
SUNY GeneseoGeneseoUniversity Colleges
SUNY New PaltzNew PaltzUniversity Colleges1.5 
SUNY Old WestburyOld WestburyUniversity Colleges0.5 
SUNY OneontaOneontaUniversity Colleges3.5 
SUNY OswegoOswegoUniversity Colleges5.5 
SUNY PlattsburghPlattsburghUniversity Colleges5.5 
SUNY PotsdamPotsdamUniversity Colleges6.5 
Purchase CollegePurchaseUniversity Colleges

There are 7 Technology Colleges in the SUNY system, which offer over 300 academic programs and on-the-job training and internships for in-demand careers. 

The SUNY system also has 30 community colleges, which offer certificate programs, associate degrees, and transfer and career services. 

Technology Colleges and Community Colleges in the SUNY system: 

NameLocation in NYType of CampusDistance from NYC (in hours)
Alfred State CollegeAlfredTechnology Colleges5.5 
SUNY CantonCantonTechnology Colleges6.5 
SUNY CobleskillCobleskillTechnology Colleges3.5 
SUNY DelhiDelhiTechnology Colleges
Farmingdale State CollegeFarmingdaleTechnology Colleges0.5 
Maritime CollegeThroggs NeckTechnology Colleges0.5 
SUNY MorrisvilleMorrisvilleTechnology Colleges4.5 
SUNY AdirondackQueensburyCommunity Colleges
SUNY Broome Community CollegeBinghamtonCommunity Colleges3.5 
Cayuga Community CollegeAuburnCommunity Colleges
Clinton Community CollegePlattsburghCommunity Colleges5.5 
Columbia-Greene Community CollegeHudsonCommunity Colleges2.5 
Corning Community CollegeCorningCommunity Colleges4.5 
Dutchess Community CollegePoughkeepsieCommunity Colleges
Erie Community CollegeWilliamsvilleCommunity Colleges
Fashion Institute of TechnologyNew York CityCommunity Colleges0.5 
Finger Lakes Community CollegeCanandaiguaCommunity Colleges
Fulton-Montgomery Community CollegeJohnstownCommunity Colleges3.5 
Genesee Community CollegeBataviaCommunity Colleges6.5 
Herkimer County Community CollegeHerkimerCommunity Colleges
Hudson Valley Community CollegeTroyCommunity Colleges
Jamestown Community CollegeJamestownCommunity Colleges
Jefferson Community CollegeWatertownCommunity Colleges5.5 
Mohawk Valley Community CollegeUticaCommunity Colleges4.5 
Monroe Community CollegeRochesterCommunity Colleges6
Nassau Community CollegeGarden CityCommunity Colleges0.5 
Niagara County Community CollegeSanbornCommunity Colleges7.5 
North Country Community CollegeSaranac LakeCommunity Colleges5.5 
Onondaga Community CollegeSyracuseCommunity Colleges4.5 
Orange County Community CollegeMiddletownCommunity Colleges1.5 
Rockland Community CollegeSuffernCommunity Colleges
SUNY Schenectady County Community CollegeSchenectadyCommunity Colleges
Suffolk County Community CollegeSeldenCommunity Colleges1
Sullivan County Community CollegeLoch SheldrakeCommunity Colleges
Tompkins Courtland Community CollegeDrydenCommunity Colleges4.5
Ulster County Community CollegeStone RidgeCommunity Colleges2
SUNY Westchester Community CollegeValhallaCommunity Colleges0.5

Which SUNY school is the hardest to get into? 

After reviewing the list of SUNY schools, you might be wondering which one is the hardest to get into. Binghamton University is the SUNY school with the lowest acceptance rate – 44%

Binghamton is #2 in the State University of New York ranking by US News, just after Stony Brook University, which has a 48% acceptance rate. Both schools make the list of best universities in New York. 

What is the best SUNY school in New York?

Let’s explore some of the best universities in New York within the SUNY system. The best SUNY schools in New York are listed below. These can also be considered some of the best colleges in New York. 

1. Stony Brook University

best universities in new york- SUNY stony brook

At the top of the list for best SUNY schools is Stony Brook University. This university is in Stony Brook, NY, on the north shore of Long Island. Stony Brook has an acceptance rate of 48%. Stony Brook was ranked by US. News as the #1 of the public universities in New York. Stony Brook has just over 17,000 undergraduate students and offers more than 60 majors. 

2. Binghamton University

Next on the list of best SUNY schools is Binghamton University. Binghamton is in the southern tier of upstate New York and boasts an acceptance rate of 44%. Binghamton University has one of the best research programs in the nation and offers an interdisciplinary education with an international perspective, making it one of the best universities in New York. 

3. University at Buffalo

The University at Buffalo is third on the list of best SUNY schools. Located in Buffalo, their acceptance rate is 70%. UB is the largest and most comprehensive campus in the list of SUNY schools. This university is research-intensive, boasts over 21,000 undergraduate students, and offers 140+ undergraduate programs. 

4. SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry

The fourth school on the list of best SUNY schools is SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, or SUNY ESF. SUNY ESF is in Syracuse and has an acceptance rate of 65%. SUNY ESF is a small, specialized college with an enrollment of 1800 undergraduate students. The college is dedicated to developing technologies that will create a sustainable future, making it one of the best universities in New York. 

5. University at Albany

Rounding out our list of best SUNY schools is the University at Albany. Located in Albany, UAlbany has an acceptance rate of 68%. UAlbany has over 50+ undergraduate majors and is a public research university with over 17,000 undergraduate students. 

Now that we know more about the best SUNY schools and have provided a list of SUNY schools ranked, let’s turn our attention to the top universities in New York by major. 

Top 5 Best Universities in New York by Major 

What are the best universities in New York for certain majors? We’ll look at the best universities in New York by major by listing the top universities in New York for science, the best colleges in New York for business, and the best colleges in New York for nursing.

All the rankings for the next sections on the top universities in New York for science, business, and nursing come from Niche. Remember that the Niche list of best colleges in New York can differ from other sources, like U.S. News, for example. 

Best Colleges in New York for Science 

best universities in new york

The top universities in New York for science are Cornell, Columbia, NYU, and University of Rochester. We’ll outline some key details on what makes these schools the best universities in New York below. 

New York’s Best Science Colleges

1. Cornell University

It’s no wonder that Cornell sits on the list of top universities in New York for science. One of the eight Ivy League colleges, Cornell is located in Ithaca, NY and has a highly competitive acceptance rate of 9%. In addition, the school has a total enrollment of almost 26,000 students, including over 15,000 undergraduate students. Cornell’s College of Arts and Sciences has 3 science programs that are consistently ranked high in the Top 10 – Engineering, Biological Sciences, and Computer Science. This is part of the reasons why the Cornell ranking is so high!

2. Columbia University

Not only one of the best universities in New York for science, Columbia is also one of the top universities in New York City. It has an acceptance rate of 6%, and a total enrollment of over 36,000 students, including over 9,000 undergraduate students. Science at Columbia is top-notch, which is why it is one of the top universities in New York City. Students that study science at Columbia have access to numerous research facilities and can choose from 23 science-related majors, 8 of which are interdisciplinary. No wonder Columbia is one of the best colleges in New York. 

3. New York University

Another one of the top universities in New York for science is New York University. Located in NYC, NYU has an acceptance rate of 12%, and a total enrollment of 53,000 students, including almost 30,000 undergraduate students. NYU is a world leader in education and scientific research. Students that study science at NYU will learn the core science disciplines and can take part of interdisciplinary research.

4. Barnard College

Not all the top universities in New York for science are large research institutions. Barnard College, a women’s only liberal arts college, is also on the list of top universities in New York for science. Located in NYC, Barnard has an acceptance rate of 11%, a total enrollment of just over 3,000 undergraduate students. Barnard’s partnership with Columbia provides students with unparalleled opportunities in the field of science, making it one of the best universities in New York. 

5. University of Rochester

Rounding out the list of top universities in New York for science is the University of Rochester. University of Rochester is in Rochester and has an acceptance rate of 41%. There are over 12,000 students enrolled at the University of Rochester, including just over 6,000 undergraduate students. Some of the most popular majors include Biology, Nursing, and the Social Sciences. 

Best Colleges in New York for Business

best universities in new york

Let’s explore some of the best colleges in New York for business. A lot of the best universities in New York for business might look familiar. Some of the best colleges in New York for science are also the best colleges in New York for business. 

New York’s Best Business Colleges

1. Cornell University

At the top of the list for best business colleges in New York is Cornell University. Cornell is in Ithaca, NY and has a highly competitive acceptance rate of 9%. Cornell has a total enrollment of almost 26,000 students, including over 15,000 undergraduate students. One of the best universities in New York for business, students at Cornell have access to three top-ranked business schools.

2. Columbia University

Columbia is one of the top universities in New York City and one of the best universities in New York for business. It has an acceptance rate of 6%, and a total enrollment of over 36,000 students, including over 9,000 undergraduate students. The Columbia Business School incorporates management fundamentals with data science and business intelligence, preparing students to excel in key areas of business including digital transformation, entrepreneurship, and more. 

3. New York University

New York University is another one of the best colleges in New York for business. Located in NYC, NYU has an acceptance rate of 12%, and a total enrollment of 53,000 students, including almost 30,000 undergraduate students. The business program at NYU is rooted in the liberal arts and focuses on social impact. NYU offers 5 degree programs in business.

4. University of Rochester

Another school on the list of best colleges in New York for business is the University of Rochester. University of Rochester is in Rochester and has an acceptance rate of 41%. There are over 12,000 students enrolled at the University of Rochester, including just over 6,000 undergraduate students. Students studying business at Rochester will learn business principles with a focus on economics and statistics. 

5. United States Military Academy at West Point

West Point rounds out the list of best colleges in New York for business. Located in West Point, the acceptance rate is 11%. It has a total undergraduate enrollment of just over 4,000 students. Cadets at West Point can choose concentrations in Business Management, Social Enterprise, or Public Administration as part of the business program. 

Best Colleges in New York for Nursing 

best universities in new york

Like the best colleges in New York for science and the best colleges in New York for business, some of the colleges below on the list of best colleges in New York for nursing will be familiar. 

New York’s Best Nursing Schools

1. University of Rochester

Another school on the list of best colleges in New York for nursing is the University of Rochester. University of Rochester is in Rochester and, as we’ve mentioned several times, has an acceptance rate of 41%. There are over 12,000 students enrolled at the University of Rochester, including just over 6,000 undergraduate students. The nursing school offers an accelerated nursing program as well as bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs. 

2. New York University

New York University is another one of the best universities in New York for nursing. Located in NYC, NYU has an acceptance rate of 12%, and a total enrollment of 53,000 students, including almost 30,000 undergraduate students. NYU Meyers College of Nursing is the second-largest private university college of nursing in the nation. The nursing programs focus on research in nursing, health, and interdisciplinary science. It’s not surprising NYU is one of the best colleges in New York for nursing. 

3. Molloy University

Molloy University is in Rockville Centre on the south shore of Long Island. It has an acceptance rate of 79% and an undergraduate enrollment of just over 3,000 students. Molloy’s nursing program prepares students to deliver a wide range of health-related services, which is why it is one of the best universities in New York for nursing. 

4. St. John Fisher University

Located in Rochester, St. John Fisher University has an acceptance rate of 71% and a total enrollment of nearly 2,700 students. Fisher students have opportunities to participate in clinical experiences in the Rochester region as well as healthcare mission trips abroad, which makes it one of the best universities in New York for nursing. 

5. D’Youville University

D’Youville University is in Buffalo and has an acceptance rate of 92%. D’Youville has a total enrollment of 3,000 students. D’Youville’s nursing program integrates nursing theory with clinical experience, making it one of the best universities in New York for nursing.  

What is the #1 college in New York?

best colleges in new york

By rankings alone, Cornell tops the list of best universities in New York as the #1 college in New York. 

Columbia has also been at the top of the list of best universities in New York as the #1 college in recent years, but a scandal related to its handling of rankings made it fall considerably this year. 

However, college rankings aren’t everything – what matters most is that you find the right college in New York (or elsewhere) for you, whether it’s on the list of best universities in New York or not.

How do they determine the best universities in New York?

best universities in new york

The best universities in New York are determined by the U.S. News rankings system. Schools are ranked based on factors like graduation and retention rates, social mobility, and more. 

However, these rankings should not be the be-all-end-all of your college search. The best universities in New York are going to be the ones that match your needs. So, don’t put all your stock in the U.S. News rankings of the State University of New York ranking when you are building your college list. 

If you want more information on top colleges, apart from the best universities in New York, check out our guide to the best colleges for STEM, business, liberal arts, and architecture. Like the best universities in New York list, use these lists as a jumping-off point to create your own college list. 

Best Universities in New York – Final Thoughts 

We hope you enjoyed our guide on the best universities in New York. New York is one of the best college towns in the nation, and the best universities in New York receive thousands of applications each year. If you are hoping to get into some of the best universities in New York, you’ll need much more than just stellar test scores and recommendation letters

Whether you decide to apply to the best universities in New York, best colleges in New York State, the best colleges in New York City, the public universities in New York, or the private colleges in New York, we’ve got you covered. 

Need more help finding the best college for you, getting into your dream school, or sorting through your acceptances? Check out our college finder series for more info on how to do a college search, make a college list, and how to compare colleges.  

CollegeAdvisor is here to help you find and get into the best universities in New York and the best colleges for you. Register today to get one-on-one support as you apply to the best universities in New York and more! 


best universities in new york

This guide to the Best Universities in New York was written by senior advisors, Gina Goosby, and Claire Babbs. Looking for more admissions support? Click here to schedule a free meeting with one of our Admissions Specialists. During your meeting, our team will discuss your profile and help you find targeted ways to increase your admissions odds at top schools. We’ll also answer any questions and discuss how CollegeAdvisor.com can support you in the college application process.