Top 10 Colleges for History

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Close-up of woman's hands while reading

Top 10 Colleges for History

History programs at top colleges offer more than just a glimpse into the past. They equip students with critical thinking and analytical skills, essential for various real-world applications. For instance, understanding historical events and their causes can enhance decision-making in business and policy development.

If you’re looking for colleges renowned for their history programs, you’re in the right place. Selecting an outstanding history program is a stepping stone to a promising career. It opens doors to opportunities in education, research, and beyond. We’ll guide you through the top history colleges, helping you choose the right fit for your aspirations.

Top 10 Colleges for History

1. Princeton University – Department of History

  • Location: Princeton, New Jersey
  • Estimated Tuition: $59,700
  • Graduation Rate: 97%

Ranked 1st by US News and World Report, Princeton’s history program stands as a top college for history enthusiasts. The program’s selectiveness, with an acceptance rate of 4% to 6%, underscores its prestige and the competition among applicants.

View of Princeton University Building

This program is especially fitting for students who are passionate about specific historical narratives. Princeton offers concentrations in areas like African American history, the history of racism, and the history of modern East Asia. Moreover, events such as lectures on diverse topics like addiction and democracy in ancient Greece provide a rich, engaging learning environment.

2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) – History at MIT

  • Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Estimated Tuition: $60,150
  • Graduation Rate: 94%

The history program at MIT, ranked 2nd nationally, showcases the institution’s commitment to excellence beyond its renowned STEM fields. With acceptance rates hovering around 4% to 7%, it’s clear that the program attracts highly competitive and capable students. This program is ideal for those eager to explore history through diverse lenses and engage in a dynamic academic community.

MIT history students can dive into subjects like the connection between MIT and South Asia, the global perspective on the Industrial Revolution, or ancient and medieval studies. Events like the Bad Ideas Festival and the Baker House Piano Drop, alongside academic opportunities like the Independent Activities Period, enrich students’ educational experiences.

3. Harvard University – Department of History

  • Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Estimated Tuition: $59,100
  • Graduation Rate: 96%

With an acceptance rate of around 5 to 6%, Harvard’s history program is both prestigious and highly competitive. Ranked 3rd nationally, it is known for its rigorous standards and distinguished reputation. This top college for history is ideal for students who seek an unparalleled academic challenge and wish to be among the best in the field.

The program offers a broad range of courses covering topics from democracy and human rights to American and legal history. For those aiming at specific career paths, Harvard provides professional clusters in law, business, and consulting, designed to hone skills crucial for these industries. For students interested in music history, the joint studies program with Berklee College of Music offers a unique interdisciplinary approach.

4. Stanford University – Department of History

  • Location: Stanford, California
  • Estimated Tuition: $62,500
  • Graduation Rate: 96%

Stanford’s history program is tied for 3rd place with Harvard. The acceptance rate of around 4 to 5% highlights the program’s selectivity and the fierce competition among applicants. This program is perfect for students who aim to excel in a challenging academic environment.

At Stanford, the history department offers a vast array of concentrations such as British History, Digital History, and U.S. History, among others. Courses cover intriguing topics like Plagues and Pandemics in World History and the U.S. History Workshop. The department enriches the academic experience with a variety of activities and events, including the Africa Research Workshop and lectures on Sex, Law, and Society in Late Imperial China.

5. Yale University – Department of History

  • Location: New Haven, Connecticut
  • Estimated Tuition: $64,700
  • Graduation Rate: 97%

Yale’s history program is ranked 5th nationally, marking it as a prestigious and competitive option for students. With an acceptance rate of approximately 13%, the program selects students who demonstrate a profound interest and capability in understanding complex historical contexts. Courses like “Readings in the History of Modern Japan” and “Histories of Global Development” reflect the program’s wide range.

Yale university buildings in spring blue sky

This top college for history distinguishes itself with diverse concentrations and rich academic offerings. The Global Track, for example, requires students to study history from various regions and periods, ensuring a well-rounded understanding of the global past. Meanwhile, the Specialist Track allows for deeper exploration in a specific area of interest.

6. University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) – Department of History

  • Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Estimated Tuition: $66,100
  • Graduation Rate: 97%

UPenn’s history program is ranked 6th nationally. With undergraduate acceptance rates for the history major around 8%, it’s clear this program is both elite and highly selective. It’s an ideal setting for students who are driven to excel in a competitive environment and have a deep interest in historical studies.

UPenn’s history program offers a wide array of concentrations, from Regional and Thematic Areas to Diplomatic and Gender History, providing a tailored educational experience. Courses like “Making of the Modern World: A History of Garbage” and “Deciphering America” showcase the program’s innovative approach. All history majors are required to engage in significant research, ensuring graduates are well-versed in historical research methodologies.

7. California Institute of Technology (Caltech) – Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences

  • Location: Pasadena, California
  • Estimated Tuition: $63,250
  • Graduation Rate: 86%

Caltech, ranked 7th nationally for its history program, is distinguished not only by its scientific achievements but also by its rigorous humanities offerings. With an acceptance rate of 3.9%, Caltech’s history program is intensely competitive. It is designed for students who excel in critical thinking and are passionate about challenging conventional historical narratives.

Caltech’s history curriculum encourages a deep dive into both Western and non-Western histories, offering concentrations that span medieval to modern periods across the United States, Europe, and Asia. Courses such as “Algorithms and Data Practices in Society” and “Technology and Environment in America” illustrate the program’s innovative approach to integrating history with science and technology.

8. Duke University – Department of History

  • Location: Durham, North Carolina
  • Estimated Tuition: $66,200
  • Graduation Rate: 95%

Duke’s history program is tied for 7th nationally with Caltech, with an acceptance rate of approximately 10.4%. The program is competitive, drawing students who are keen on deepening their understanding of the global past. This program is ideal for diligent students eager to explore complex historical themes and develop nuanced perspectives.

Duke offers a range of concentrations, including Colonialism, Imperialism, and Nationalism, and Science, Technology, and Environment, providing students with the flexibility to tailor their studies to their interests. Unique courses like “Science and Society in Modern China” and “Monsters, Foreigners, and Outsiders in Antiquity” highlight the diverse offerings of this college for history.

9. Brown University – Department of History

  • Location: Providence, Rhode Island
  • Estimated Tuition: $68,200
  • Graduation Rate: 95%

Ranked 9th nationally, Brown’s history program is celebrated for its broad and inclusive approach to historical studies. With an undergraduate acceptance rate of 5%, the program stands as a top choice for students seeking a competitive yet enriching academic environment. It’s tailored for those who value a multifaceted understanding of history from a global perspective.

The program offers a wide range of courses covering regions from ancient civilizations to modern global powers. Concentrations encourage a deep dive into chronological and geographical studies, with requirements that foster expertise and original research. Events like the 19th Century U.S. History Workshop and seminars offer vibrant scholarly communities for discussion and discovery.

10. Johns Hopkins University – Department of History

  • Location: Baltimore, Maryland
  • Estimated Tuition: $63,300
  • Graduation Rate: 95%

Johns Hopkins, tied with Brown at 9th place nationally for its history program, is renowned for its depth of study and research opportunities. The program’s acceptance rate of approximately 20% reflects its selective nature, attracting students who are serious about their pursuit of historical knowledge.

Johns Hopkins Mason Hall

The program offers a variety of concentrations, including colonialism, globalization, and the history of medicine, among others. Courses range from medieval historical writing techniques to 20th-century history research workshops. This top college for history is perfect for students seeking to engage deeply with historical studies, benefiting from a vibrant academic community and extensive research opportunities.

How to Find the Best History College for You

Choosing the best history program can feel overwhelming given the wealth of options available. However, with a strategic approach, you can find a program that not only meets your academic needs but also propels you toward your future goals.

1. Identify your historical interests and career aspirations.

Identifying your interests and career aspirations is the first step to narrowing your search. Consider whether you’re drawn to a specific geographic region, time period, or thematic area of history. This focus will help you look for programs strong in your area of interest, guiding you to the top colleges for history.

Once you have a clear idea of what you want to study, research how different programs are structured. Some colleges might offer a broad overview of history, while others allow for deep dives into specialized topics. This research is crucial in finding a program that aligns with your academic goals and interests.

2. Research the curriculum and faculty expertise of colleges for history.

Researching the curriculum and faculty expertise at each college is next. Delve into the courses offered and the faculty’s research interests to ensure they match your own. A program with faculty actively engaged in areas you’re passionate about can greatly enhance your academic journey.

Additionally, look into the flexibility of the program. Some schools might offer joint degrees or interdisciplinary studies that can enrich your understanding of history. This flexibility can be a significant factor in preparing you for a wide range of career paths, solidifying your choice in a top college for history.

3. Visit campuses (if possible).

Visiting campuses can offer invaluable insights into the academic environment and resources available. Walking through the halls where you will study and talking to faculty can give you a sense of whether a college feels right for you. It’s an essential step in choosing a program where you will thrive.

During your visit, try to engage with current history students. Their firsthand experiences can provide a clearer picture of the academic rigor, community, and opportunities for research or internships. This step is especially important for understanding the real-world application of the history program at a top college.

4. Look into the history college’s reputation, student-to-faculty ratio, and available resources.

Considering the history department’s reputation and the student-to-faculty ratio is crucial. A department well-regarded for its scholarship, publications, and contributions to historical discourse indicates a vibrant, intellectually stimulating environment. This reputation often attracts leading historians and offers students a rich academic experience.

female student while in an online class

Additionally, available resources such as libraries, archives, and digital databases play a significant role in your studies. A top college for history will provide access to extensive resources, facilitating in-depth research and exploration of historical materials. This access is pivotal for developing a nuanced understanding of your chosen topics.

5. Consider the acceptance rate and graduation rate of the history college.

Evaluating the acceptance and graduation rates of a program offers insight into its competitiveness and the success of its students. A high graduation rate suggests that the program not only attracts top talent but also supports students through to completion. This metric is a critical factor in choosing a school that will challenge and support you.

However, a competitive acceptance rate shouldn’t deter you. Instead, see it as a sign of a program’s quality and reputation. Being among peers who are equally passionate and driven can elevate your own academic pursuits. Aim for a program where you’ll be pushed to excel.

6. Check for additional opportunities offered by the college for history.

Looking into additional opportunities like internships and study abroad programs is vital. Such experiences can enrich your understanding of history, offering practical insights and global perspectives. They can also enhance your resume, making you more attractive to future employers or graduate programs.

A top college for history will often have partnerships with museums, archives, and international institutions, providing a wealth of opportunities for hands-on learning. These experiences are invaluable for applying historical theories to real-world situations and gaining a more comprehensive understanding of your studies.

7. Connect with current students or alumni.

Connecting with current students or alumni can provide a wealth of information not found in brochures or on websites. Their experiences can offer you insights into the day-to-day realities of the program and the opportunities for growth and networking. This step can help you gauge whether a program’s culture and community are the right fit for you.

When reaching out, ask specific questions about their experiences with faculty, coursework, and opportunities for research and internships. Alumni can also provide valuable information about career paths and how the program prepared them for the workforce or further studies. Their feedback can be a deciding factor in choosing the right program for you.

8. Evaluate the financial aspects of the history college.

Evaluating the financial aspects of each program, including tuition, scholarships, and financial aid opportunities, is essential. Education is a significant investment, and understanding the financial commitment required at each top college for history is crucial. Look for programs that offer substantial support to their students.

Research scholarship opportunities and financial aid packages available specifically for history majors. Many colleges provide targeted financial support for students in the humanities, which can alleviate the financial burden. Making an informed decision about affordability can ensure that you fully focus on your academic pursuits without undue stress.


In choosing the right history program, it’s essential to consider your academic interests, career aspirations, and the unique offerings of each college. Researching thoroughly, connecting with current students or alumni, and understanding the financial commitment are all crucial steps in this process.

Remember, the best program for you is one that not only challenges you academically but also supports your personal and professional growth. Make your choice with confidence, knowing you’ve taken every step to ensure it’s the right fit for your future.


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