50 Colleges and Universities with the Happiest Freshmen

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Top 50 Schools with the Happiest FreshmanBadge

Going to college is one of the most significant experiences of your life. In fact, college is as much an experience as it is an education. Your freshman year is pivotal in determining the kind of experience you will have in college. A positive first year will greatly increase your likelihood of staying at your school and earning your degree. Not such a good year? You might find yourself looking to transfer to a new school. While transferring isn’t the end of the world, it is a headache: you have to start everything from scratch, make new friends, get to know a new place, and reestablish yourself all over again. In order to avoid the headache of a transfer, it’s important that you find a school at which you’ll be happy your freshman year. To help with that, we have ranked the top 50 schools with the happiest freshmen.

The primary criteria for our ranking are freshman retention rates. But you will notice that many of these schools have the same percentage of freshman that return for their second year. In order to delineate schools within a given percentage of freshman retention, we ranked them based upon overall graduation rate. We figure that you will want to find a school that not only offers a great first year experience, but excels in making sure its students graduate with a degree.

Top 10 Colleges and Universities with the Happiest Freshmen

Rank School Location
1 Wellesley College Wellesley, MA
2 United States Military Academy West Point, NY
3 Wesleyan University MIddletown, CT
4 Worcester Polytechnic Institute Worcester , MA
5 Northeastern University Boston, MA
6 University of Rochester Rochester, NY
7 University of Florida Gainesville, FL
8 College of William and Mary Willamsburg, VA
9 University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) Los Angeles, CA
10 University of California-Berkeley (UC Berkeley) Berkeley, CA
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  1. Wellesley College
    Location

    Wellesley, MA

    Overview

    Wellesley College, a private institution with total undergraduate enrollment of 2,481 students, ranks seventh in the 2014 edition of Best National Liberal Arts Colleges. Wellesley has a breathtaking natural environment in the classically New England town of Wellesley, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston. Students can choose from more than 150 student organizations on campus. Instead of sororities, Wellesley has societies that serve as social and academic clubs. Housing is guaranteed for incoming freshmen, and the majority of students live in Wellesley's 21 residence halls throughout their four years. Wellesley has a cross-registration program with MIT, offering students a greater range of courses. The college has a strong science program, including the nation's second oldest physics lab and there is a student-teacher ratio of 7:1 and a freshman retention rate of 95 percent.

  2. United States Military Academy
    Location

    West Point, NY

    Overview

    Located in West Point, New York, approximately 50 miles north of New York City on the Hudson River, resides The United States Military. It is the oldest of the country's five federal service academies. There is no cost for tuition to attend, but students, referred to as cadets, must fulfill an active-service duty obligation upon graduation. Army offers a wide range of extracurricular clubs, from the glee and gospel clubs to the ski and sailing clubs and boasts a 95 percent freshman retention rate. The Army Black Knights participate in 24 intercollegiate varsity sports at the NCAA Division I level and are known for their rivalry with the Naval Academy, particularly in football. Every cadet is required to participate in an intercollegiate, club, or intramural sport each semester. Cadets live in barracks on campus all four years and receive a monthly stipend.

  3. Wesleyan University
    Location

    MIddletown, CT

    Overview

    Wesleyan University is a private liberal arts college located in Middletown, Connecticut overlooking the Connecticut River. The Connecticut River is a beautiful work-out location for Wesleyan's rowing team, but if rowing isn't your sport Wesleyan offers about 200 student organizations that might be up your alley. Founded in 1831, it has about 2,900 undergraduate students. Wesleyan has a 95 percent freshman retention rate and requires all freshmen to live on campus. Wesleyan is a member of the New England Small College Athletic Conference in NCAA Division III with 29 varsity team, 16 club sports teams, and 8 intramural sports. The college is also part of the unofficial "Little Three" athletic conference with Amherst and Williams.

  4. Worcester Polytechnic Institute
    Location

    Worcester , MA

    Overview

    One of ten schools located in Worcester, Massachusetts, Worcester Polytechnic Institute provides a rigorous private education grounded in the sciences. Founded in 1865, WPI resides on 80 tree-filled acres within the city's urban center. The community of Worcester Polytechnic Institute is very tight-knit, with an undergraduate enrollment of only 3,952 and a freshman retention rate of 96 percent. The majority of students are men (70 percent), and 70 percent of students are involved in athletics in the school at some level. The student body is actively engaged in campus activities, such as contests like the epic tug-of-war held throughout the year between the freshmen sophomore classes.

  5. Northeastern University
    Location

    Boston, MA

    Overview

    Located in Boston, a city steeped in American history and full of activities for students, Northeastern University offers a private education to its 13,107 undergraduate students. Northeastern boasts a 96 percent rate of retaining freshmen. At Northeastern students gain substantial work experience before receiving their diplomas. Between 2006 and 2013 about 90 percent of Northeastern undergraduates are placed in "experiential learning opportunities" in over 110 countries and completed at least one professional co-op during their college career. Northeastern University is environmentally aware and was a founding member of the American College University Presidents Climate Commitment since 2007. Cited in 2012, as America's Greenest College by Green Metric Ranking of World Universities.

  6. University of Rochester
    Location

    Rochester, NY

    Overview

    Founded in 1850, The University of Rochester is located two miles south of downtown Rochester, New York, in the bend of the Genesee River. Total undergraduate enrollment of 5,785, its setting is suburban, and the campus size is 707 acres. The University of Rochester is described as one of the smallest and most collegiate schools among the nation's top research universities. The university pioneered the Take Five Scholars Program two decades ago, which has allowed more than 900 students to study, tuition free, for an additional semester or year in areas outside their formal majors. Rochester's a cappella ensembles are among the country's best, and it boasts a freshman retention rate of 96 percent.

  7. University of Florida
    Location

    Gainesville, FL

    Overview

    The University of Florida is the oldest university in the state of Florida and has been considered a "Public Ivy" since 2001. It is located in Gainesville, a college town bolstered by the school's nearly 50,000 students. The Florida Gators sports teams compete in the NCAA Division I Southeastern Conference. The Gator football team competes in the notorious stadium commonly called the "The Swamp." The team became the namesake of popular sports drink Gatorade in 1966, after freshmen Gators experimented with the novel beverage. The annual Gator Growl, held each Homecoming weekend, has been called the largest student-run pep rally in the world. About 15 percent of students are involved in the school's 60-plus fraternities and sororities. Freshmen do not have to live on campus, though about 80 percent opt to do so and 96 percent of them return for their second year.

  8. College of William and Mary
    Location

    Willamsburg, VA

    Overview

    The College of William and Mary is the second oldest college in the nation, founded in 1693 by King William III and Queen Mary II of England. Despite it's historic legacy, William and Mary is a cutting-edge research university. William and Mary has a freshman retention rate of 96 percent and is consider "Public Ivy" schoolone of only eight in the country. It is highly selective, and offers a world-class education. The school is located in historic downtown Williamsburg, Virginia, which along with Jamestown and Yorktown comprise the Historic Triangle. Students can therefore not only study but can walk the streets where the beginnings of representative government were first lived. William and Mary is steeped in tradition, including the ringing of the Wren bell by graduating seniors in the Sir Christopher Wren Building, the oldest college building in the nation.

  9. University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA)
    Location

    Los Angeles, CA

    Overview

    The University of CaliforniaLos Angeles, commonly referred to as UCLA, is located in the Westwood neighborhood of L.A., just five miles from the Pacific Ocean. UCLA was the most applied-to four-year university nationwide; over 105 thousand applications have been submitted for Fall 2014. The total undergraduate enrollment is 27,941, and 96 percent of freshman return after their first year. Founded in 1882, UCLA has been designated as a Public Ivy. The campus is home to world-renowned faculty who teach in more than 125 majors, with more than two-dozen of these academic programs ranked among the top 20 in their disciplines. UCLA athletes have competed in every Olympics since 1920 except 1924, and won gold in every Olympics that the U.S. has competed in since 1932. Amongst other honors, UCLA alumni and faculty helped create the Internet: the campus was the first node in ARPANETthe predecessor of the Internet.

  10. University of California-Berkeley (UC Berkeley)
    Location

    Berkeley, CA

    Overview

    The University of CaliforniaBerkeley, often referred to as Cal, is situated overlooking the San Francisco Bay. Berkeley guarantees two years of housing for incoming freshmen, 96 percent of which return for their sophomore year. There are more than 1,200 student organizations on campus, ranging from political groups to a hang gliding club and everything in between. Often referred to as "bohemian Berkeley," Berkeley is well known as a hub of liberal student activity, trendy coffee houses, and for its diverse culinary and cultural scene. Over 4,000 Cal students do volunteer work yearly. UC Berkeley is the only U.S. school to produce over 3,000 Peace Corps volunteers since the latter's inception in 1961. UC Berkeley combines outstanding teaching and research programs with broad access for students of all meanseducating more federal Pell Grant recipients from low-income families than all eight Ivy League universities combined.

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