Best Colleges in Virginia of 2022

Interested in attending college in Virginia? Find out the best colleges in Virginia when you're applying to schools this fall.

Best Colleges in Virginia of 2022
An Pham

With so many colleges and universities in America that have strong records of academic success, it can be hard to decide where to apply to. The state you decide on to attend college can be affected by a variety of factors, such as its closeness to where you live, the lifestyle there that appeals to you, where a scholarship applies to, or merely because you want to go to a college that is in a different state than the one you live in. 

In this BrokeScholar study, we focused on identifying the best colleges in Virginia. In order to do this, we analyzed every four-year public and four-year private nonprofit college and university in Virginia that awards bachelor’s degrees. The methodology for determining the best colleges in Virginia is based on a combination of factors, including graduation rate, admission rate, number of bachelor’s degrees awarded, the ratio of bachelor’s degrees awarded to undergraduate population (done in order to avert larger schools that give out large quantities of degrees from automatically ranking highest), in-state tuition costs, and out-of-state tuition costs. All data was sourced from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), for the academic year 2021-2022, unless otherwise stated.

Read on to find out the best colleges in Virginia of 2022.

Best Colleges in Virginia

The top colleges in Virginia combine robust academic records and academic programs, with high graduation rates, as well as competitive selectivity in their admissions. The result of this study is an exceptional mix of private nonprofit and public universities and colleges in Virginia, which means future college students have a large number of options to choose from. Here’s a look at the 10 best colleges in Virginia:

Rank

College/University

In-state tuition

Out-of-state tuition

Bachelor's Degrees Awarded

Bachelor's Degrees Awarded to Undergraduate Ratio

Graduation Rate

Admission Rate

1

University of Virginia-Main Campus

$19,244

$53,626

4,453

25.7%

94%

21%

2

Washington and Lee University

$59,380

$59,380

444

24.4%

93%

19%

3

William & Mary

$23,812

$47,038

1,561

25.0%

91%

37%

4

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

$14,174

$33,857

7,394

24.6%

86%

56%

5

University of Richmond

$58,570

$58,570

806

24.3%

88%

29%

6

Regent University

$18,820

$18,820

677

14.9%

61%

41%

7

Hampden-Sydney College

$49,504

$49,504

212

24.1%

71%

37%

8

Virginia Military Institute

$19,670

$48,324

402

23.7%

85%

64%

9

James Madison University

$12,638

$29,564

4,827

24.5%

82%

86%

10

Averett University

$37,050

$37,050

222

25.0%

50%

48%

1. University of Virginia (UVA) – Main Campus

The University of Virginia not only ranked No. 1 on our list of the best colleges in Virginia. It’s also one of the best public universities in Virginia. UVA makes the top of our list of the best colleges in Virginia due in large part to strong scores across most factors considered in the study. UVA’s admission rate was a competitive 21% for the academic year 2021-2022, making it one of the most selective of all Virginia colleges and universities in the study. Meanwhile, the University of Virginia boasts the second highest graduation rate at 94% for the same academic year in our study of the best colleges in Virginia.

The university awarded 4,453 bachelor’s degrees in the 2020-2021 academic year, far above the study’s overall average of 1,326 degrees awarded. In terms of the ratio of degrees awarded to undergraduate population, UVA’s is 25.7%, also besting the study’s overall average of 20.7%. UVA’s only downside is its costly out-of-state tuition, which costs $53,626 for out-of-state students; that tuition rate is the third highest in the study. However, since UVA is a public university, its in-state tuition is far less at $19,244 for the academic year 2021-2022.

2. Washington and Lee University

Washington and Lee University is one of the best colleges in Virginia, ranking No. 11 (with 1 being the best) by U.S. News in its National Liberal Arts Colleges category. Washington and Lee has a superb graduation rate of 93% for the 2021-2022 academic year. Washington and Lee also offers a wide range of academic programs and majors for undergraduates to pursue, having conferred 444 bachelor’s degrees in 2022, out of an undergraduate population of only 1,822; this makes for a ratio of degrees awarded to undergraduate population of 24.4%, better than the study’s overall average of 20.7%. Washington and Lee is also very competitive to get into, with an admission rate of 19% for the academic year 2021-2022, the most selective admission rate in the whole study. All these factors taken together make Washington and Lee the No. 2 best college in Virginia.

3. William & Mary

Located in Williamsburg, William & Mary is more selective than most Virginia colleges and universities, with an admission rate of only 37% versus an overall average of 79% for all the schools analyzed in the study. Its graduation rate of 91%, again far superior to the study’s overall average of 60%. William & Mary has a wide range of academic programs for students to choose from. Some areas with strong rates of bachelor’s degrees awarded include Business Administration and Management, General with 177 degrees awarded in the academic year 2021-2022; Political Science and Government, General with 139 degrees awarded; and Psychology, General with 135 degrees awarded. Another factor that makes William & Mary one of the best colleges in Virginia is its ranking of No. 38 by U.S. News in its Best National Universities category. U.S. News also ranked it as No. 9 in Best Undergraduate Teaching category. 

4. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, also known simply as Virginia Tech, is in the city of Blacksburg and offers everything from one-year certificates to associate degrees to bachelor’s degrees to doctor’s degrees in research and professional practice. Its admissions rate is fairly competitive, with 56% of applicants being granted admission in the academic year 2021-2022. Virginia Tech’s graduation rate is excellent, which at 86% is far better than the average for the study overall of 60%. Although it has an undergraduate population on the larger side (30,020), it awarded 7,394 bachelor's degrees in 2022, making for a superb ratio of degrees to undergraduate population of 24.6%, better than the study’s overall average of 20.7%. As one of the best public universities in Virginia, Virginia Tech has an affordable in-state tuition of $14,174 for the academic year 2021-2020, though its out-of-state tuition is higher than the study’s overall average.

5. University of Richmond

The University of Richmond is easily one of the best colleges in Virginia, boasting the fifth-best graduation rate in the study at 88%, only 6% behind No. 1 UVA  and way better than the 60% average for the study overall. University of Richmond’s admission rate is also quite selective, with just 29% of applicants being admitted, in contrast to the 79% average for the study overall. Student retention is high at the University of Richmond, with only 9% transferring out. U.S. News ranked the University of Richmond as the No. 22 best in its National Liberal Arts Colleges category and the No. 16 Most Innovative Schools. The main reason why the University of Richmond doesn’t rank higher on our list of the best colleges in Virginia is due to its tuition costs. As a private nonprofit college, there is no decreased in-state tuition fee. So, both in-state and out-of-state tuition cost $58,570 for the 2021-2022 academic year.

6. Regent University

Located in Virginia Beach, Regent University, makes our list of the best colleges in Virginia thanks to a number of key factors. The university’s graduation rate of 61% is above-average, and it has a very competitive admission rate of 41%, much more selective than the average for the study overall of 79%. Both its in-state and out-of-state tuition costs are on the more affordable side, costing $18,820, well below the average in-state tuition cost of $25,327 and average out-of-state cost of $31,759 for the study as a whole.

7. Hampden-Sydney College

Hampden-Sydney College has a lot going for it as one of the best colleges in Virginia. As a small private nonprofit university, its undergraduate population is only 881, but the school conferred an impressive 212 bachelor’s degrees in the academic year 2021-2022. That equates to a ratio of degrees awarded to undergraduate students of 24.1%, one of the highest in the study and much better than the 20.7% average for the study overall. Another reason that makes it one of the top colleges in Virginia is its more selective rate of admissions, with 37% being admitted as compared to 79% for the study overall. And to add to its placement among one of the best Virginia colleges and universities is its ranking by U.S. News as No. 74 in terms of Best Value School and No. 98 in its best National Liberal Arts Colleges categories. 

8. Virginia Military Institute (VMI)

At home in the city of Lexington, Virginia Military Institute ranks No. 8 in our study of the best colleges in Virginia. U.S. News ranks Virginia Military Institute as No. 4 in its Top Public Schools category and No. 67 in its best National Liberal Arts Colleges category. VMI is more selective on average than most Virginia colleges and universities, with an admission rate of 64% versus 79% for the average of the study overall. With its small undergraduate population of 1,698, VMI conferred a solid 402 bachelor’s degrees in the academic year 2020-2021. That works out to a ratio of degrees awarded to the undergraduate population of 23.7%, besting the 19% average for the study overall. Some of top academic programs at VMI  include International Relations and Affairs, which awarded 55 bachelor’s degrees in 2021;Civil Engineering, General, which awarded 51 bachelor’s degrees; Economics, General, which awarded 48 bachelor’s degrees; Mechanical Engineering, which awarded 41 bachelor’s degrees; and Psychology, General, which awarded 39 bachelor's degrees.

9. James Madison University

Located in Harrisonburg, James Madison University (or JMU) makes our list of the best colleges in Virginia thanks to a combination of its strong academic record and affordability. In the academic year 2020-2021, it awarded 4,827 bachelor’s degrees, the fifth largest number of degrees awarded in the study. With an undergraduate population of 19,727, the ratio of bachelor’s degrees awarded to undergraduate students is 24.5%, beating the study’s overall average. Though its admission rate is higher than the average admission rate for all Virginia colleges and universities in the study, JMU’s affordability is a big selling point. With an in-state tuition costing only $12,638, JMU’s in-state tuition is the ninth lowest in the whole study. U.S. News also has high marks for JMU, ranking it as the No. 3 best Regional Universities South, No. 3 for Best Undergraduate Teaching, and No. 3 Most Innovative School. All this adds to its placement as the No. 9 best college in Virginia. 

10. Averett University

Averett University is a small private nonprofit university, with just 881 undergraduate students. As one of the top colleges in Virginia, Averett University touts a competitive admission rate of 48%, far more selective than the average of 79% for the whole study. Despite its small undergraduate population, Averett University awarded 222 bachelor’s degrees in the 2020-2021 academic year, making for a ratio of bachelor’s degrees conferred to undergraduate population of 25%, well above the study’s overall average of 20.7%. What’s more, Averett University ranks quite well in multiple U.S. News college ranking categories: It ranks No. 12 in its Best Value Schools category, No. 14 in Top Performers on Social Mobility, and No. 21 in best Regional Colleges South.