What Are the Best Colleges for American History?

Read about three schools with top nationally ranked U.S. history programs, and explore the degree options that each school offers. Find out what to look for in schools with strong American history programs. Schools offering American History degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Are Some Characteristics of the Best Colleges for American History?

At top schools you might find undergraduate research and journal opportunities, and schools may collaborate with noteworthy historical organizations. Schools might have extensive library, manuscript and rare book collections. Study abroad, travel and research grants may be available to support your studies. Internship opportunities in an area of interest should be considered as well.

What Are Three of the Best Colleges for American History?

College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA

W&M ranked third for graduate U.S. colonial history programs in 2017, according to the most recent U.S. News & World Report evaluation, and it tied for 38th among national universities in 2019. W&M partners with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation to support the National Institute of American History and Democracy. These organizations also collaborate on the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, the publisher of The William and Mary Quarterly.

Undergraduate history majors may use the History Writing Resource Center, or help write and edit The James Blair Historical Review. Research and travel could be funded through Lyon Gardiner Tyler Undergraduate Research Grants. Strong students may qualify to write honors theses. International experiences could be available through a junior year abroad or through a joint degree in international honors with the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. These degrees are awarded:

  • Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in History
  • Master of Arts (M.A.) in History
  • Ph.D. in History

Harvard University in Cambridge, MA

In 2017, Harvard was ranked first at the graduate level for U.S. colonial history and ranked fourth in modern U.S. history, according to U.S. News & World Report. Undergraduate Department of History majors might qualify to write a senior thesis and win the university-wide Hoopes Prize. Study abroad programs are flexible and individualized. History department majors could contribute to Tempus: The Harvard College History Review, the undergraduate Department of History research journal.

Students have access to the 15 million volume Harvard University Library. The W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research is the oldest such program in the nation. American history students might also use the Center for Political Studies, The Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History or programs addressing area studies, religion or ethnicity. These degrees are available:

  • A.B. in History
  • Doctor of Philosophy in History

University of California in Los Angeles

UCLA was tied for 9th for graduate modern U.S. history in 2017, according to U.S. News & World Report. UCLA's faculty includes 25 U.S. history specialists. The Young, Huntington and Clark libraries include rare book collections for all U.S. periods. Students might use institutes for American cultures and industrial relations. Centers can include subjects like women's studies, the 17th and 18th centuries, ethnic research and the history African American, American Indian, Asian American and Chicano cultures.

UCLA offers bachelor's and Ph.D. programs, though an M.A. in history is offered en route to the doctorate. Majors may participate in faculty research with a sponsor. Students may study abroad on faculty-led trips or through for-credit summer programs. Undergraduates may minor in the history of science and medicine. The Department of History awards these degrees:

  • Bachelor of Arts in History
  • Master of Arts in History (Ph.D. Track)
  • Ph.D. in History

More Top Schools with American History Programs

University/CollegeInstitution TypeLocationEstimated Undergrad In-State Tuition*
Yale University4-year, PrivateNew Haven, CT$53,000
University of Pennsylvania4-year, PrivatePhiladelphia, PA$55,500
University of California--Berkley4-year, PublicBerkley, CA$14,000
Duke University4-year, PrivateDurham, NC$56,000
University of Michigan--Ann Arbor4-year, PublicAnn Arbor, MI$15,000
Columbia University4-year, PrivateNew York, NY$59,000
Princeton University4-year, PrivatePrinceton, NJ$50,000
University of Wisconsin--Madison4-year, PublicMadison, WI$10,500
University of Virginia (Corcoran)4-year, PublicCharlottesville, VA$18,000
University of North Carolina--Chapel Hill4-year, PublicChapel Hill, NC$9,000

*Source: NCES, U.S. Department of Education

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