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10 Of The Oldest Colleges In The US

Oldest Colleges In The US

The United States is home to some of the oldest colleges in the world. It is also a fact that some of the oldest colleges in the US are also Ivy League colleges. For many students, it is a dream come true to study in these colleges. If you’re looking for a college with a rich history, check out these top colleges that have been around for centuries. 

1. Harvard University (Established – 1636)

Oldest Colleges In The US

Founded in 1636, Harvard University is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. The university is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts and is home to more than 60,000 students. It is considered as one of the old american universities. The school offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in a variety of subjects, including medicine, law, business and engineering. Harvard University is also known for its prestigious law school.

2. The College of William and Mary (Established – 1693)

William and Mary is a public research university located in Williamsburg, Virginia, United States. It was the first institution of higher education in British North America, chartered by King William III and Queen Mary II in 1693. In 1776, it became the first college to grant a bachelor’s degree to an African American man. The college has traditionally educated the children of Virginia’s elite; its alumni include three Presidents of the United States: Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe and John Tyler.

Being one of the oldest colleges in the US, the college is based on the philosophy that modern society would not have been possible without classical learning which could only be obtained through extensive reading which required extensive time spent alone with books. Thus it was envisioned that the school would prepare young people for leadership roles within their communities by teaching them how to read classic literature. 

3. Yale University (Established – 1701)

Oldest Colleges In The US

Yale University is one of the oldest colleges in the US for higher education after Harvard and William & Mary. It was founded in 1701 by Elihu Yale, a British merchant who left a large sum of money to the school, then known as The Collegiate School. The university is located in New Haven, Connecticut and is known for its prestigious Ivy League status. There are three main divisions within Yale: undergraduate schools of arts and sciences; graduate schools (including law); and professional schools (business, medicine). 

4. Princeton University (Established – 1746)

Princeton University is a private Ivy League research university located in Princeton, New Jersey. It was established in 1746 as the College of New Jersey through a land grant by King George II of Great Britain. In its early years, it was run as a typical colonial college with no official teaching obligations and no religious affiliation. Princeton is one of 14 founding members of the Association of American Universities. The school’s main campus covers over 8,000 acres, making it among the largest university campuses in the United States. 

5. University of Pennsylvania (Established – 1740-1755)

The University of Pennsylvania is also on the list of oldest colleges in the US. It was founded in 1740 by Benjamin Franklin, who served as its first president. It was the first university in the United States to offer a full range of liberal arts and sciences programs, the first to award degrees, and the first US university to open a medical school (1765), law school (1834), and business school (1881). The University of Pennsylvania is one of the world’s most powerful research and teaching institutions, with a research budget of nearly $1.1 billion and more than 5,000 active faculty members. Popular majors include finance, economics, management sciences, and information systems.

6. John’s College – Annapolis, MD – (Established – 1784)

Founded in 1696, St. John’s College is of the oldest colleges in the US and has been in continuous operation since then. It was founded by an Anglican clergyman and philosopher Rev. James Blair as a “seminary of learning” under a charter from King William III and Queen Mary II of England, who reigned together at the time. The original charter for St. John’s College gave it authority over all Anglican missionaries working among Native Americans. 

7. Washington and Lee University – (Established – 1749)

Washington and Lee University is a private liberal arts university in Lexington, Virginia, United States. The university was founded in 1749 as a small classical school named Augusta Academy by Scots-Irish Presbyterian pioneers. The school was named Washington Academy in 1796, in honour of George Washington. It was renamed Washington College in 1813 following its first major gift from Robert Ewing and then to its current name – Washington and Lee, following its merger with Liberty Hall on February 23rd 1865. The University is composed of 4 major academic units:

  • School of Law
  • School of Business Administration and Economics
  • Graduate Programs
  • School of Arts & Sciences – Social Science Division & Humanities Division


8. Columbia University – (Established – 1754)

Columbia University is a private Ivy League research university in Upper Manhattan, New York City. It is an institution of higher learning in New York and one of the oldest colleges in the US. The school was founded as King’s College by the royal charter of George II on May 11, 1754; it is now a member of the Association of American Universities and has been ranked among the top 15 universities throughout its history. In addition to being one of America’s oldest colleges, Columbia University also holds several other distinctions: 

  • It was the first university in New York (1754); 
  • It awarded medical degrees to women before any other school granted them (1859), and
  • It granted its first degree to a woman before any other school did so (1860).

9. Brown University – (Established – 1764)

Brown University is one of the oldest colleges in the US, and it was founded by one of America’s greatest heroes: Moses Brown. The school was established after Brown’s son Peter had a religious conversion and became an abolitionist. He convinced his father to set aside money for a school that would focus on educating African-Americans, Native Americans and other minorities through residential programs.

10. University of Delaware (Established: 1743)

Established on October 12, 1833, the University of Delaware is one of the oldest colleges in the US. It currently enrols more than 17,000 students annually. The school is located in Newark, Delaware and offers both undergraduate and graduate programs. The university was founded as a private institution by two clergymen: Reverend Jonathan Dickinson Sergeant and Reverend Francis Alison. They wanted to establish a non-denominational college that would be open to all races, genders, classes and religions. They believed that everyone should have access to higher education regardless of their background or race; this concept was revolutionary at the time because many other colleges did not accept African Americans or women into their classrooms.


1. What are the 3 oldest colleges in the US?

The 3 oldest colleges in the US are Harvard University, The College of William and Mary. Established, and St. John’s College.

2. What were the first colleges in America?

Harvard University was established in Massachusetts in 1636 and was the first of its kind. It is presently regarded as one of the world’s most prominent and exclusive institutions of higher learning.

3. What is the 1st hardest College to get into?

Harvard University is the hardest college to get into with an acceptance rate of 5%. The Ivy League college in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is known for producing world leaders. It is the top college in America for biology, according to Niche, and also ranks highly for psychology and academics.

4. What are the 9 colonial colleges?

Prior to the Declaration of Independence, nine universities were founded in America, according to the lecturer: Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, William and Mary, Princeton, the University of Pensylvania, King’s or Columbia, Brown, and Queen’s or Rutgers. The church played a significant role in each of them.

5. Which is the oldest Ivy League school?

The oldest college in the United States and one of the most exclusive in the Ivy League, Harvard University was founded in 1636.


So there you have it, a brief overview of the oldest colleges in the US. The list consists of some of the most prestigious colleges in the world. We hope this was an insightful read for you.   

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Oldest Colleges In The US

10 Of The Oldest Colleges In The US