Top 10 Best Colleges in North Carolina

Looking for your dream school? You might turn to some of the best colleges in North Carolina.

North Carolina, a mesmerizing state in the southeastern United States, offers a host of enticing benefits for students seeking quality education. With its warm and inviting climate, you’ll experience mild winters and glorious summers, making it a welcoming environment year-round.

Why study in North Carolina?

Education opportunities abound in North Carolina, catering to a diverse range of interests and career paths. North Carolina offers students some of the best higher education options in the country, with 16 public universities, 58 community colleges, and several top private universities

The state’s strategic location also plays a pivotal role in its appeal. Nestled between the breathtaking Appalachian Mountains and the stunning Atlantic coastline, North Carolina offers a perfect balance of outdoor adventures and coastal delights. You’ll have the chance to explore picturesque landscapes, making your college experience unforgettable.

North Carolina’s connectivity further enhances its allure. With a well-developed transportation network, you’ll find it easy to travel within the state and beyond. Major cities like Charlotte, Raleigh, and Durham offer diverse cultures and thriving job markets, making it an ideal place to launch your career after graduation.

Best Colleges in North Carolina 2023

To help students find a school that matches their needs, we ranked the best colleges in North Carolina. All school data below comes from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Tuition and fees are from 2022-2023.

College NameAvg. Undergraduate Tuition & FeesAcceptance RateTotal Student Enrollment
Duke University$62,6886%17,620
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill$8,989 (in-state) | $37,550 (out-of-state)20%31,641
North Carolina State University$9,128 (in-state) | $30,869 (out-of-state)47%36,831
East Carolina University$7,32594%28,021
Appalachian State University$7,450 (in-state) | $23,454 (out-of-state)85%20,641
Wake Forest University$62,12825%8,947
University of North Carolina at Charlotte$7,214 (in-state) | $21,338 (out-of-state)79%30,448
North Carolina A&T State University$6,733 (in-state) | $20,243 (out-of-state)57%13,322
University of North Carolina at Pembroke$3,495 (in-state) | $7,495 (out-of-state)92%8,318
North Carolina Central University$6,599 (in-state) | $19,635 (out-of-state)76%7,953

1. Duke University

Duke University is a highly prestigious institution in the United States, known for its outstanding business, engineering, and law schools. It is also one of the most selective schools, accepting only 6% of applicants. The university’s campus is vast, covering 16,000 acres, including a large private research forest called Duke Forest. Located in Durham, Duke is famous for its exceptional men’s basketball program, considered one of the best in college history.

2. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

UNC-Chapel Hill is the only Public Ivy in North Carolina, founded in 1789. It is one of the oldest public universities in the country and is highly regarded for its research. Situated in the beautiful hills of central North Carolina, Chapel Hill is often recognized as one of the best college towns. The university is known for its top-ranked pharmacy school and social sciences research. Its men’s basketball team is also a strong contender for national titles.

3. North Carolina State University

NC State is the largest university in the state, offering excellent research opportunities. It holds the rare R1 Carnegie designation, a distinction achieved by only about 4% of colleges. The university excels in fields such as veterinary medicine, natural resources, and management. It is also recognized for its achievements in entrepreneurship at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

4. East Carolina University

ECU is a public research university, distinguished by having the state’s only dental school, medical school, and engineering college. It graduates the highest number of nurses among all four-year schools in North Carolina. Popular majors include management, biology, and marketing. ECU is committed to diversity and social mobility, providing support to economically disadvantaged students for tuition and successful careers.

5. Appalachian State University

Appalachian is one of the largest schools in North Carolina, located in the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains in Boone. The university’s high elevation of 3,333 feet above sea level allows students to enjoy outdoor activities like snowboarding, hiking, and rafting. Sustainability is a major focus on campus, with many courses incorporating sustainable practices and waste reduction efforts.

6. Wake Forest University

Wake Forest is a private research university in Winston-Salem. It is renowned for its top-tier law school, undergraduate teaching programs, and well-funded medical school. The university emphasizes a liberal arts education and its Baptist heritage, requiring every student to take at least one course in the arts before graduating. Wake Forest also has a nondenominational divinity school.

7. University of North Carolina at Charlotte

UNC Charlotte is an urban research university in the state’s most populous city. It is known for its public administration program, diverse student body, and support for first-generation students. The university leads in Latino/enrollment among four-year institutions and has a significant number of racial and ethnic minority students.

8. North Carolina A&T State University

North Carolina A&T is the largest historically Black college or university (HBCU) in the country. It is a top producer of Black graduates in engineering, agriculture, and teaching. As a land-grant doctoral research university in Greensboro, it is classified with high research activity. The university’s business school is frequently ranked among the best public HBCU business schools.

9. University of North Carolina at Pembroke

Founded in 1887 by the Lumbee tribe, UNCP is the state’s designated historically American Indian university. It takes pride in its small class sizes and close student-faculty interactions. Nearly half of all classes have fewer than 20 students, taught by professors and instructors rather than graduate assistants.

10. North Carolina Central University

NCCU is a public HBCU located in Durham, known for its science, education, and law programs. It has a strong tradition of community service and is recognized as a Carnegie Community-Engaged Institution. In 2021, NCCU students completed over 1.4 million hours of public service, making a significant impact on the Durham area.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About the Best Colleges in North Carolina

Q. What is the #1 best college in NC?

Duke University is often considered the #1 best college in North Carolina. It is renowned for its prestigious programs in business, engineering, and law, and has a highly selective admission process.

Q. What is North Carolina ranked in education?

The education rankings for North Carolina can vary depending on the specific criteria used. However, North Carolina has a mix of highly regarded public and private institutions, contributing to a strong overall education system in the state.

Q. Is North Carolina a good place for international students?

Yes, North Carolina can be an excellent place for international students. The state offers a diverse range of colleges and universities with strong academic programs, research opportunities, and vibrant campus life. Additionally, North Carolina is known for its warm hospitality and friendly communities, making it a welcoming environment for international students to study and live.

If you're interested in exploring more top-notch colleges in the United States, make sure to check out our article on the "10 Best Colleges in Virginia 2023." Virginia is home to several prestigious institutions that offer outstanding academic programs and diverse campus experiences. Whether you're looking for excellent research opportunities or a vibrant student community, you'll find some excellent choices in the beautiful state of Virginia. Don't miss the chance to discover these top-notch colleges and make an informed decision about your higher education journey.