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Oldest Universities In The US

Updated March 19, 2019 303.6k views40 items

The oldest colleges in America are still some of the most prestigious universities in the USA. It may seem hard to believe, but many old American colleges have history that dates all the way back to the time before the United States even became its own country in 1776. The list starts with the first college ever in America, Harvard, which was founded in 1636. While a few are some of the oldest colleges in the world, many of the oldest universities in the US still retain important traditions that were started centuries ago, when they were founded. If you're wondering how old some of these public colleges and universities are, scroll through and find out. 

What are the oldest universities in the US? Historic figures have graduated from these alma maters and it's always interesting to visit and see what brick or stone your favorite author or scientist may have walked on their way to class. Is your university among these famous, storied schools? Check out the list to find out!

  • Photo: dog97209 / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0
    Harvard University is a private Ivy League research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, established in 1636. Its history, influence and wealth have made it one of the most prestigious universities in the world. Established originally by the Massachusetts legislature and soon thereafter named for John Harvard, Harvard is the United States' oldest institution of higher learning, and the Harvard Corporation is its first chartered corporation. Although never formally affiliated with any denomination, the early College primarily trained Congregation­alist and Unitarian clergy. Its curriculum and student body were gradually secularized during the 18th century, and by the 19th century Harvard...  more

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  • Photo: Internet Archive Book Images / flickr / No known copyright restrictions
    The College of William & Mary in Virginia is a public research university located in Williamsburg, Virginia, United States. Privately founded in 1693 by letters patent issued by King William III and Queen Mary II, it is the second-oldest institution of higher education in the United States after Harvard University and the oldest in the American South. William & Mary is considered one of the original "Public Ivies," a term coined by Richard Moll in 1985 for publicly funded universities providing a quality of education claimed to be comparable to that available in the Ivy League. William & Mary educated U.S. Presidents Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and John Tyler as well as other key...  more
  • Photo: m01229 / flickr / CC-BY 2.0
    Yale University is a private Ivy League research university in New Haven, Connecticut. Founded in 1701 as the "Collegiate School" by a group of Congregationalist ministers and chartered by the Colony of Connecticut, the university is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States. In 1718, the school was renamed "Yale College" in recognition of a gift from Elihu Yale, a governor of the British East India Company. Established to train Connecticut ministers in theology and sacred languages, by 1777 the school's curriculum began to incorporate humanities and sciences. During the 19th century Yale gradually incorporated graduate and professional instruction, awarding the...  more

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  • Photo: Rob Pettengill / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0
    The University of Pennsylvania is a private, Ivy League, research university located in Philadelphia. Incorporated as The Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania, Penn is one of 14 founding members of the Association of American Universities and one of the nine original Colonial Colleges. Penn has claims to being the oldest university in the United States of America. Benjamin Franklin, Penn's founder, advocated an educational program that focused as much on practical education for commerce and public service as on the classics and theology. The university coat of arms features a dolphin on the red chief, adopted directly from the Franklin family's own coat of arms. Penn was one of the...  more

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