5 of the Best Public Colleges in Virginia

Aerial view of the famous Rotunda building of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville with classic Greek arches design by President Jefferson iconic building of the campus. Photo by Shutterstock.

By Dogwood Staff

May 3, 2023

For the next phase in your or your kid’s education, you may want to consider staying home in Virginia: We’ve got some of the best colleges and universities in the nation.

Finding the right college can be intimidating, but Virginia boasts some of the best in the country. Virginia has a strong tradition of excellent public education, and our universities reflect that.

Here are just a few we’re proud to say call the commonwealth home.

University of Virginia


The University of Virginia is consistently ranked as one of the best public universities in the country. Founded by Thomas Jefferson, UVA in Charlottesville is steeped in history and tradition. The school’s rigorous academics and strong athletic programs make it a top choice for many students. UVA has a wide range of academic programs, including business, law, engineering, and medicine.

In addition to its academic offerings, UVA has a strong student life culture. The university has over 1,000 clubs and organizations, ranging from academic groups to sports clubs to performing arts organizations. UVA also has a beautiful campus, with historic buildings and a lush, green landscape.

Fun fact: Some really famous people have gone to UVA, including comedian and actress Tina Fey, Katie Couric, Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame player and coach Dawn Staley, literary great Edgar Allan Poe, retired justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia John Charles Thomas, and more.

Virginia Tech


Virginia Tech is a public research university located in Blacksburg. The university is known for its strong engineering programs, but also offers a wide range of other majors. Virginia Tech has a vibrant student body, with over 37,000 students enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs.

One of the things that sets Virginia Tech apart is its emphasis on hands-on learning. The school has a number of experiential learning programs, including internships, co-op programs, and study abroad opportunities. Virginia Tech also has a strong commitment to sustainability, and is working to reduce its carbon footprint and promote environmental stewardship.

Historical Fact: The first student to enroll in Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College (now Virginia Tech) was 16-year-old Addison “Add” Caldwell; he and his brother walked nearly 28 miles from their home in Sinking Creek in Craig County to do so.

College of William & Mary


The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg is one of the oldest colleges in the country, founded in 1693. The school has a rich history and a strong commitment to academic excellence. William & Mary is known for its liberal arts programs, but also offers majors in business, education, and public policy.

One of the unique features of William & Mary is its focus on undergraduate education. The school has a low student-to-faculty ratio, and students have the opportunity to work closely with professors on research projects and independent study courses. William & Mary also has a beautiful campus, with historic buildings and plenty of green space.

Fun Fact: An unofficial student tradition at William & Mary is undertaking a unique version of a “triathlon,” which, as student newspaper The Flat Hat reported, includes “hopping the northeast wall of the Governor’s Palace, streaking up and down the Sunken Garden, and swimming in the Crim Dell.”

Virginia Commonwealth University


Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond is one of the top-ranked public universities in the commonwealth, offering a wide range of undergraduate and graduate programs that cater to different interests and career goals. It’s known for its strong academic programs in the fields of arts, design, health sciences, and social work.

With a student body that represents more than 100 countries and a faculty that is committed to promoting diversity and inclusivity, VCU provides an enriching and supportive environment for learning and personal development. Nearly one-third of undergraduates are Pell-eligible and a third are first-generation students.

Fun Fact: VCU takes up 198 acres in downtown Richmond.

George Mason University


George Mason University is a public university located in Fairfax. The school is known for its strong law, economics, and public policy programs, but also offers a wide range of other majors. George Mason has a diverse student body, with students from over 130 countries.

One of the things that sets George Mason apart is its location. The university is just outside of Washington, DC, and students have access to a wide range of cultural and social opportunities in the nation’s capital. George Mason also has a strong commitment to community service, and students have the opportunity to get involved in a variety of volunteer programs.

Fun Fact: The university is named after one of the founding fathers of the US who drafted the Virginia Declaration of Rights. George Mason refused to sign the US Constitution because, as the university writes, he felt it “gave too much power to a central government and was incomplete absent a bill of rights to guarantee individual liberty.”

RELATED: Want to Go to College for Free? There’s a Program in Virginia for That.

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