Oldest University in the US

October 31, 2022
By AdmissionSight

Oldest University in the US

The oldest university in the US believes that education has been and will continue to be an essential component of the American experience. Back in 1749, Founding Father Benjamin Franklin emphasized how critical it was to provide a location where young people in America might receive an education. The classic quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin states that “an investment in knowledge pays the finest interest.” This has been the lifeblood of the oldest university in the US.

Choosing a college is one of the most important choices that every student will need to make throughout their academic career. This marks the beginning of their academic journey, which will have a significant influence on the objectives and aspirations they have for their future careers. Therefore, before narrowing down their choices to a select few schools, students frequently consider and weigh a comprehensive list of criteria. These could include the school’s location, the cost of tuition, the level of selectivity of admissions, and the kind of programs that are offered.

Even before that time, the colonists realized that education was the key to establishing the fledgling nation. In the 1600s, the first institution of higher education opened its doors on American soil. In point of fact, a number of the North American colonies established their very own educational institutions, which were responsible for educating the founders of the nation. Even in this day and age, a significant number of students view the academic reputation of a university as essential.

This ranking is frequently determined by taking into account a college’s research prowess, the caliber of the programs it provides, the number of highly successful graduates it has produced over the years, and the level of notoriety it has attained which the oldest university in the US is proud of.

It can take a school several years to earn a stellar reputation on the basis of its achievements. As a direct consequence of this, students have a preference for educational institutions that offer compelling programs and have a rich and illustrious past. These universities were an essential component in the process of providing possibilities to the general populace and striking the match that ignited the American Dream. A number of the institutions on this list had their start because they wanted to help underprivileged people, such as African Americans, Native Americans, and women, who were traditionally barred from attending colleges and universities.

What is the Oldest University in the US?

So, what is the oldest university in the US? Due to the fact that it was established in 1636 by a vote of the Great and General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Harvard University asserts that it is the oldest university in the United States of America. The name “New College” was given to the institution, which was established by the colonists in response to their expectation that there would be a demand for the education of clergy in the newly formed republic.

In the year 1650, Harvard was granted its charter, at which point it formally organized as the Harvard Corporation.

Although Harvard is famous for many things, it holds the distinction of possessing the very first printing press in the Americas, which was presented to the university in the year 1638. Because it was the only printing machinery available in the colonies at the time, it was used to produce the first book, the first periodical literature, and the first best-selling books in English America. Not only was the printing press crucial in the development of American literature, but it also played a role in the establishment of the legitimacy of educational institutions.

Today, Harvard University, as being the oldest university in the US, is widely regarded as one of the most prominent educational institutions not just in the United States but also across the globe. In 1639, the name Harvard was changed after a clergyman called John Harvard contributed the new school 779 pounds sterling, which is equivalent to over $1,000 today, as well as his personal collection of over 400 books.

Female student on her back walking in the campus.

Following the establishment of Harvard University, a plethora of other institutions of higher learning came into being. The following are some of the oldest universities in the United States:

The College of William and Mary

This institution first opened its doors in 1693, making it the second-oldest college in the United States. The Sir Christopher Wren Structure on the university’s campus is believed to be the oldest collegiate building in the United States that is still standing. It is one of the eight institutions known as a “Public Ivy,” which indicates that it receives funding from the state and provides an exceptional education at a cost that is far lower than that of an Ivy League institution. This esteemed institution is home to a student body of around 9,000 people.

St. John’s College

This institution was established in 1696, making it the third-oldest college in the United States. Students who read great literature and participate in meaningful class discussions are better prepared to become thoughtful and articulate professionals who naturally take risks in their daily lives. This college is the oldest in the United States and is well recognized for its programs in the liberal arts and sciences as well as its curriculum in the great books.

Yale University

This is a private research university that is a member of the Ivy League and it was founded in 1701. The excellent research and scholarship, education, preservation, and practice that come out of Yale are all part of the university’s mission to better the world, both now and for future generations. Nearly 13,500 students are enrolled at Yale, and in 2019, there were more women than there were male students at Yale. The Yale University campus spans a total area of 260 acres.

View of Yale university building.

University of Pennsylvania

This is a private university that is a member of the Ivy League and it was founded in 1740. It has a lengthy and illustrious history of intellectual rigor and dedication to the pursuit of contemporary knowledge.

It has a policy known as the “One University Policy,” which allows students to pursue multiple combined degree programs from any of the schools at Penn. This policy is responsible for the school’s reputation for being open to interdisciplinary study. The university has 4,722 faculty members, a student-faculty ratio of 6:1, and currently has 4,859 international students studying on a campus that is spread out over 299 acres and is located in an urban environment.

Moravian College

The United States sixth-oldest private college can be found in this particular establishment. In 1742, Moravians established the belief that education should not only be pleasant, but also enlightening, exciting, and transformative of the status quo. Because it was the first college to offer education to women, it was a pioneer in the field. This university had a total enrollment of 3446 students across its two campuses in 2019.

University of Delaware

It is a public research institution that was founded in 1743 and is currently ranked within the top fifty spots on the list of greatest colleges in the United States. The graduates of this prominent university are living proof of the high caliber of education that can be found at this institution. Alumni include a former vice president of the United States, three people who signed the Declaration of Independence, one person who signed the Constitution, a scientist who won the Nobel Prize, a choreographer who won the Tony Award, and three people who signed the Declaration of Independence.

Princeton University

In addition to being one of the oldest universities in the US, Princeton is also considered to be one of the “Big Three” universities that make up the Ivy League. The university encompasses a land area of around 500 acres and is located within a driving distance of approximately one hour from both New York City and Philadelphia.

View of students walking in front of the Princeton building.

There are approximately 8213 students enrolled at this thriving university, which places an emphasis on learning that can benefit both the nation and humanity as a whole. In general, those who attend Princeton University make a positive contribution to society. The teaching staff is comprised of eminent experts from all around the world, who encourage students to develop their critical thinking skills.

Washington and Lee University

This private university specializing in liberal arts was founded in 1749, making it the eighth-oldest university in the United States. WLU is one of the oldest institutions in the United States, and its faculty and staff are committed to providing students with an education that will help them develop into well-rounded persons who are intellectually inquisitive and engaged in the communities in which they live.

On its scenic 325-acre campus that is tucked away in the mountains of western Virginia, WLU is home to a total of 2,160 undergraduate and graduate students. The site is even more impressive when one considers the fact that a good deal of its architecture has been listed as a National History Landmark.

Columbia University

This college, which was originally known as King’s College and was established in 1754 by a royal charter issued by King George II of England, is the tenth-oldest institution in the United States. It is a private research Ivy League university that spans over 32 acres and is located in the heart of New York City. It provides an academic environment for children who do well in intimate classroom settings. At Columbia University, around 80% of the undergraduate classes have enrollments of fewer than 20 people.

Even though these schools are some of the oldest in the United States, one cannot even remotely call them relics. Harvard, being the oldest university in the US, and the other universities that follow are highly regarded and popular, and they maintain a tradition of providing instruction of the highest possible caliber.

What is Harvard Known for?

What is Harvard known for? In addition to being the oldest university in the United States, Harvard is also linked with the recipients of every significant award throughout its almost 400-year history. These recipients include hundreds of Nobel laureates, Rhodes scholars, and Marshall scholars.

The academics are the foundation upon which all of Harvard’s accomplishments and accolades are built. Even while Harvard’s many programs are top-notch, there are a select few that truly shine even in the midst of such illustrious competition.

The Harvard School of Divinity is often regarded as the most prestigious institution for theological education anywhere in the world. This accolade stems from the institution’s roots as a seminary.

The divinity degree program at this university enables students to contextualize their own academic pursuits within the framework of a variety of religious traditions by combining academic study with actual religious practice.

The faculty at Harvard is comprised of eminent individuals, such as winners of the Nobel Prize and the Pulitzer Prize, as well as other pioneers in their respective fields. Even outside of the classroom, there are numerous chances for undergraduate students to interact with faculty members, such as First-Year Faculty Dinners, Faculty-Student Initiatives, the Faculty Luncheon Series, and many others.

Through participation in Academic Life Workshops, students acquire valuable skills that may be applied in both their academic and professional lives. In the past, they have covered themes such as Study Skills and Preparing for Midterm Exams, Résumé Writing 101 Workshop, Entering the World of Research, and Using Social Media in your Social Science Projects.

View of Harvard University surrounded by trees.

Students at Harvard are trained to think critically, reason analytically, and write coherently as a result of the university’s unwavering dedication to the liberal arts and sciences, which serve as academic life’s foundation. Every student is required to take General Education classes, which are designed to get them thinking about how the concepts they learn in class relate to the real world. Students will wrestle with challenging themes and pressing concerns, such as global warming, racism, and the rise of artificial intelligence, amongst a plethora of other topics.

There are over 3,700 classes and 50 different majors available to students at Harvard. Roughly half of the students choose to participate in the honors program offered by their chosen concentration. Students also have the option of developing their own specialized emphasis, with the instructor’s blessing, that caters to a “uniquely hard academic aim.” Students have the option of pursuing a supplementary field as well (equivalent to a minor).

Students who enter Harvard with advanced standing have the opportunity to apply to receive a master’s degree in select fields during their fourth year of study. They also have the opportunity to cross-enroll at Harvard’s graduate schools as well as other institutions in Cambridge or Boston and take classes there.

Is Harvard a Good School?

Not only is Harvard a reputable educational institution. It is one of the best when measured by practically every criterion.

According to the most reputable of the rating publications, United States News & World Report, Harvard is tied for second place in the country, behind only its neighboring Ivy League institution Princeton, and along with M.I.T. and Columbia. The specialized lists published by U.S. News shed light on several elements of Harvard that are both equally significant and occasionally surprising.

Not only does the institution place among the top ten for writing in the disciplines, of critical theory, and undergraduate research, but it also comes in at number three on the list of schools that offer the best value overall.

In spite of the fact that its rating standards are more diverse, reports find that Harvard is just as remarkable. The website Niche.com awards Harvard with a grade of A+ due to the academic reputation of the institution, the amount of research it produces, and its overall value. The website’s users ranked Harvard University as the finest institution in the United States for a wide variety of academic disciplines, including biology, political science, and many more. Harvard earned the top spot on numerous of the site’s customized rankings.

How Hard is it to Get Into Harvard?

How hard is it to get into Harvard? The admissions process at Harvard University is consistently ranked as one of the most competitive among all colleges in the United States. A record-low acceptance rate of just 3.19% was achieved for the class of 2026 at Harvard College, the institution for undergraduate students at Harvard. At this time, Harvard is considered to be the institution with the most competitive admissions process. This rate indicates acceptance into Harvard College, the undergraduate institution at the Ivy League university. Only 1,954 of the total 61,220 applications that were submitted were going to be considered for acceptance.

The sheer quantity of qualified and accomplished students applying to Harvard makes it an extremely competitive environment for admissions officers to evaluate candidates. Employers will be impressed with your credentials if you get a degree from this school because it consistently rates in the top five in the country. Therefore, there is no question that each year, thousands of students just like you try to get accepted into the program.

View of Harvard building surrounded by trees.

Even if each and every one of the over 40,000 candidates were to significantly exceed the standards set by the admissions board, Harvard simply does not have the capacity to admit all of them. You can boost your chances of receiving an admission letter from Harvard University in one of the greatest ways possible by going above and beyond what is required of you.

Want to learn more about getting into the oldest university in the US? You’ve come to the right place. At AdmissionSight, we have over 10 years of experience guiding students through the competitive admissions process.

AdmissionSight can help you put your best foot forward when applying to college this fall. Contact us today for more information on our services.


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