The 25 Oldest Colleges in America

Niche took a look at the founding years of American universities, including those that went through name changes and are still in operation today, and compiled this list of Oldest Colleges in America.

    • Founding Year
      1636
    • Founders
      Massachusetts legislature
    • Acceptance Rate
      6%

    Even though this oldest Ivy went on to be named for university benefactor John Harvard, it originally went by the names “New College” or “the college at New Towne.”

    See more facts on Harvard’s Niche profile

    • Founding Year
      1693
    • Founders
      King William III and Queen Mary III
    • Acceptance Rate
      33%

    U.S. presidents like Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe went to this Virginia school, in addition to 16 signers of the Declaration of Independence.

    See more facts on William & Mary’s Niche profile

    • Founding Year
      1696
    • Founders
      Maryland colony
    • Acceptance Rate
      87%

    It may have been christened “St. John’s College” in 1784, but the school had its origins as “King William’s School” in 1696—Maryland’s first “free” school (“free” meaning to liberate students through education).

    See more facts on St. John’s Niche profile

    • Founding Year
      1701
    • Founders
      Clergymen
    • Acceptance Rate
      6%

    The charter name of this school wasn’t too original (“Collegiate School”), but in 1718, it was renamed “Yale College” in honor of benefactor Elihu Yale, who served as governor of the British East India Company.

    See more facts on Yale’s Niche profile

    • Founding Year
      1723
    • Founders
      Evolved from Kent County Free School
    • Acceptance Rate
      56%

    Aside from allowing the college use of his name, George Washington also granted 50 guineas to this school in Chestertown, Md.

    See more facts on Washington’s Niche profile

    • Founding Year
      1740
    • Founders
      Benjamin Franklin
    • Acceptance Rate
      10%

    Benjamin Franklin founded Penn (not to be confused with Penn State), which became the first academic institution to follow the multidisciplinary model used by European schools.

    See more facts on Penn’s Niche profile

     

    • Founding Year
      1742
    • Founders
      Moravians
    • Acceptance Rate
      86%

    Originally known by the name Bethlehem Female Seminary, Moravian College was founded as the first boarding school for women in the United States.

    See more facts on Moravian’s Niche profile

    • Founding Year
      1743
    • Founders
      Francis Alison
    • Acceptance Rate
      68%

    Like William & Mary, UD alumni include signers of the Declaration of Independence, including George Read, Thomas McKean, and James Smith.

    See more facts on UD’s Niche profile

    • Founding Year
      1746
    • Founders
      New Light Presbyterians
    • Acceptance Rate
      7%

    Not only was Princeton originally founded as the “College of New Jersey,” but it was also created in order to train ministers.

    See more facts on Princeton’s Niche profile

    • Founding Year
      1749
    • Founders
      Scotch-Irish Presbyterian pioneers
    • Acceptance Rate
      19%

    This school went through a series of designations before settling on Washington & Lee, including the name “Liberty Hall” during the American Revolution.

    See more facts on Washington & Lee’s Niche profile

    • Founding Year
      1754
    • Founders
      Royal charter of George II of Great Britain
    • Acceptance Rate
      7%

    The oldest institution of higher education in the State of New York was founded with the name “King’s College” before being renamed “Columbia” in 1784.

    See more facts on Columbia’s Niche profile

    • Founding Year
      1764
    • Founders
      Baptist Church Association support
    • Acceptance Rate
      9%

    The school was originally called the “College of Rhode Island,” but was renamed in 1770 following a gift from Nicholas Brown Jr.

    See more facts on Brown’s Niche profile

    • Founding Year
      1766
    • Founders
      Ministers of the Dutch Reformed Church
    • Acceptance Rate
      60%

    You may know it today as simply “Rutgers,” but at one time the New Jersey public research university was called “Queen’s College.”

    See more facts on Rutgers’ Niche profile

    • Founding Year
      1769
    • Founders
      Eleazar Wheelock
    • Acceptance Rate
      12%

    As one of the nine Colonial Colleges founded before the American Revolution, the college was incorporated as “Trustees of Dartmouth College.”

    See more facts on Dartmouth’s Niche profile

    • Founding Year
      1770
    • Founders
      Several prominent South Carolinians
    • Acceptance Rate
      78%

    The long list of founders went on to sign the Declaration of Independence (Thomas Heyward, Arthur Middleton, and Edward Rutledge) as well as the United States Constitution (Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, Charles Pinckney, and John Rutledge).

    See more facts on CofC’s Niche profile

    • Founding Year
      1772
    • Founders
      Moravians
    • Acceptance Rate
      60%

    Located in Winston-Salem, N.C., Salem College is the oldest female educational institution that still operates as a women’s college.

    See more facts on Salem’s Niche profile

    • Founding Year
      1773
    • Founders
      Pennsylvania legislature
    • Acceptance Rate
      48%

    Dickinson initially started as a grammar school, but soon people started pushing for it to become a college. The conversation to found the college ended up taking place on prominent businessman and politician William Bingham’s porch.

    See more facts on Dickinson’s Niche profile

    • Founding Year
      1775
    • Founders
      Samuel Stanhope Smith
    • Acceptance Rate
      47%

    In addition to being known as one of the few men’s colleges remaining in the United States, Hampden-Sydney is also the last college founded before the American Revolution.

    See more on Hampden-Sydney’s Niche profile

    • Founding Year
      1780
    • Founders
      Virginia Assembly
    • Acceptance Rate
      83%

    The first college west of the Allegheny Mountains has alumni that include two U.S. vice presidents, two Supreme Court justices, and many other government officials.

    See more facts on Transylvania’s Niche profile

    • Founding Year
      1781
    • Founders
      Three frontier clergymen
    • Acceptance Rate
      42%

    Three Princeton graduates (John McMillan, Thaddeus Dod, and Joseph Smith) founded this college in Washington, Pa., where it originated in three log cabin schools.

    See more facts on W&J’s Niche profile

    • Founding Year
      1785
    • Founders
      Georgia General Assembly
    • Acceptance Rate
      56%

    The University of Georgia is the United States’ first state-chartered university and also the oldest and largest institution of higher education in the state.

    See more on UGA’s Niche profile

    • Founding Year
      1787
    • Founders
      Hugh Henry Brackenridge
    • Acceptance Rate
      53%

    The University of Pittsburgh was founded in early 1787  under its original name, “Pittsburgh Academy.”

    See more facts on Pitt’s Niche profile

    • Founding Year
      1787
    • Founders
      Four prominent ministers
    • Acceptance Rate
      39%

    Named for Benjamin Franklin, F&M was established in mid-1787 as a German college with the goal to preserve the “present republican system of government.”

    See more facts on F&M’s Niche profile

    • Founding Year
      1789
    • Founders
      John Carroll
    • Acceptance Rate
      17%

    The oldest Jesuit and Catholic university in the United States received charter under the name “The President and Directors of Georgetown College.”

    See more facts on Georgetown’s Niche profile

    • Founding Year
      1789
    • Founders
      North Carolina General Assembly
    • Acceptance Rate
      28%

    UNC Chapel Hill is the oldest public university in the nation based on the start of its public instruction.

    See more facts on UNC Chapel Hill’s Niche profile

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The 25 Oldest Colleges in America