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Regarding college athletics, Division 1 schools often have the most competitive programs, significant budgets, and impressive facilities. However, not all D1 schools are created equal. Some small D1 colleges and universities can hold their own against larger schools, thanks to dedicated coaches, talented athletes, and a strong sense of community.
In this article, we’ll be taking a closer look at the best small D1 colleges in the United States. These colleges and universities may not have the same name recognition as some more prominent schools, but they have proven themselves on the playing field and in the classroom.
From Ivy League schools to regional powerhouses, these colleges are worth considering for student-athletes looking for a top-notch education and a competitive athletic program. We’ll explore their strengths, weaknesses, and what makes them stand out from the rest of the pack.
Here are the 15 best small D1 colleges
Davidson College is a small, private liberal arts college in Davidson, North Carolina. With an undergraduate enrollment of just over 1,800 students, it is one of the best small D1 colleges.
Despite its size, Davidson is one of the best small colleges in the country, particularly for its academic rigor and athletic programs.
Academically, Davidson is known for its strong liberal arts curriculum and its commitment to undergraduate education.
The college offers 29 majors and 40 minors, focusing on interdisciplinary studies and hands-on learning opportunities.
Davidson is a member of the Associated Colleges of the South, a consortium of 16 southern liberal arts colleges collaborating on research and educational initiatives.
Davidson is also known for its outstanding athletic programs. The college is a member of the NCAA Division I and the Atlantic 10 Conference, and its teams compete in various sports, including basketball, soccer, lacrosse, and swimming.
In particular, Davidson’s men’s basketball team has a storied history and has produced several successful NBA players, including Stephen Curry.
Bucknell University is widely considered one of the best small D1 colleges in the United States. Located in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, Bucknell has a student body of just over 3,600 students, making it one of the smaller universities in the country.
Despite its size, Bucknell has an outstanding reputation for academic excellence, athletic achievement, and community engagement.
Academics at Bucknell are a top priority, and the university is among the best liberal arts colleges in the country. Bucknell offers various majors and programs across three colleges: the College of Arts and Sciences, Engineering, and the Freeman College of Management.
With a student-faculty ratio of 9:1, Bucknell students have ample opportunities to work closely with professors and engage in research and other scholarly activities.
In addition to its vital academic programs, Bucknell is known for its successful athletics programs. The university has a long history of athletic achievement, particularly in men’s and women’s basketball and football.
The Bucknell Bison compete in the Patriot League, have won numerous conference championships, and made numerous NCAA tournament appearances. The university also offers a variety of other varsity sports, as well as club and intramural programs.
Colgate University, located in Hamilton, New York, is widely regarded as one of the best small D1 colleges in the United States.
With a student body of just over 3,000 students, Colgate offers an intimate and personalized educational experience highly valued by its students and alums.
Academics at Colgate are a top priority, and the university is among the best liberal arts colleges in the country.
The university offers a wide range of majors and programs across 55 departments and programs, with a student-faculty ratio of 9:1.
Colgate’s faculty members are renowned scholars and experts in their fields, and they work closely with students to provide a challenging and rewarding educational experience.
Colgate’s commitment to academic excellence gets seen in its rigorous curriculum and high graduation rates.
The university also has an impressive record of post-graduation success, with many graduates going on to top graduate programs or finding employment in their chosen fields.
Lehigh University is a private research university in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, USA. With an undergraduate enrollment of just over 5,000 students, it is considered one of the best small D1 colleges in the country.
The university has a rich history dating back to 1865 and has consistently ranked among the top liberal arts colleges and universities in the nation.
One of the primary reasons for Lehigh’s success is its commitment to academic excellence. The university offers a wide range of undergraduate and graduate programs, including over 100 majors and minors.
Lehigh’s faculty members are distinguished scholars in their fields, providing students with a rigorous and challenging education. The university has a strong reputation for preparing students for career and graduate school success.
Lehigh’s athletic program is another source of pride for the university. Lehigh competes in 25 varsity sports as a Division I school, including football, basketball, soccer, lacrosse, and wrestling.
The university has a rich athletic tradition; its teams have won numerous conference championships and competed at the highest levels of college athletics.
Lehigh is a member of the Patriot League, known for its vital academic and athletic programs.
Lafayette College is a highly regarded small liberal arts college in Easton, Pennsylvania. Lafayette College is among the top small colleges in the United States, with a strong focus on undergraduate education.
It is also a member of the Patriot League, a Division I athletic conference. One of the critical strengths of Lafayette College is its rigorous academic programs.
The college offers more than 50 majors and minors across various fields, including the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and engineering.
Students benefit from small class sizes and close relationships with faculty members committed to providing individualized attention and mentorship.
In addition to its academic excellence, Lafayette College has a vibrant campus life with a diverse range of extracurricular activities.
There are over 250 student-run clubs and organizations, including a strong athletics program with 23 varsity sports teams.
The college also offers numerous opportunities for community engagement and service, allowing students to connect with the local community and make a positive impact.
Holy Cross College is a small, private, liberal arts college in Worcester, Massachusetts. Established in 1843, the college has a long and rich history of providing high-quality education to students from diverse backgrounds.
Holy Cross College is a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) member and competes in Division I in the Patriot League.
The college has a robust athletic program, with varsity teams in 27 sports, including football, basketball, baseball, and soccer.
Despite its small size, Holy Cross has a proud athletic tradition, with many teams winning championships and producing successful professional athletes.
Holy Cross College is academically known for its strong liberal arts curriculum, which emphasizes critical thinking, analytical skills, and intellectual curiosity.
The college offers majors in various fields, including the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and pre-professional programs such as business and engineering.
Holy Cross also offers several studies abroad programs, which allow students to gain international experience and broaden their cultural horizons.
Furman University is a highly respected private liberal arts college in Greenville, South Carolina. With just over 2,700 undergraduate students, it is considered one of the best small D1 colleges in the United States.
Furman University was founded in 1826 and had a rich academic excellence history. The university’s rigorous educational programs provide students with a well-rounded education that prepares them for successful careers and lives of purpose.
One of the standout features of Furman University is its commitment to personalized attention for each student. With a student-to-faculty ratio of 11:1, students can work closely with professors and receive individualized guidance and support.
The University of Vermont (UVM) is a public research university in Burlington, Vermont. It is one of the best small Di1 colleges in the United States, with a solid academic reputation, vibrant campus life, and successful athletic programs.
UVM is a mid-sized university with a total enrollment of around 12,000 students, including approximately 10,000 undergraduates.
Despite its relatively small size, UVM offers a wide range of academic programs, including over 100 undergraduate majors and 50 graduate programs.
The university is particularly well-known for its environmental studies, health sciences, and business programs.
One of the critical strengths of UVM is its commitment to undergraduate education. The university has a student-faculty ratio of 16:1 and an average class size of 29, which allows for personalized attention and a supportive learning environment.
UVM also emphasizes hands-on learning, with many opportunities for students to engage in research, internships, and community service.
The University of Richmond is one of the best small D1 colleges in the United States. With a student population of just over 4,000, the university offers a personalized and intimate educational experience highly sought by students.
Academically, the University of Richmond is one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country.
The university’s strong commitment to undergraduate education gets reflected in its low student-to-faculty ratio of 8:1, which allows for close interaction between students and professors.
The university offers over 60 majors and 75 minors across five schools: the School of Arts and Sciences, the Robins School of Business, the School of Leadership Studies, the Jepson School of Leadership Studies, and the School of Professional and Continuing Studies.
The university’s commitment to academic excellence gets further demonstrated by its prestigious research opportunities, including the annual UR Summer Fellowship Program, which provides funding for students to conduct independent research and creative projects.
Elon University is a private university located in Elon, North Carolina. With a student body of approximately 7,000 students, Elon University is considered one of the best small D1 colleges in the United States.
Elon University offers over 60 undergraduate majors and sevbusiness, education, law, and health sciences graduate programseral graduate programs in business, education, law, and health sciences.
The university is also known for its strong commitment to experiential learning, with programs like study abroad, undergraduate research, internships, and service learning opportunities.
One of the standout features of Elon University is its beautiful campus. The university has recently invested heavily in its facilities, with state-of-the-art classrooms, labs, and residence halls.
The campus also features numerous green spaces, including a botanical garden and a lake, making it a picturesque place to study and live.
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The University of California, Davis, is a public research university in Davis, California. With an enrollment of over 39,000 students, UC Davis is one of the largest campuses in the University of California system.
Despite its large size, UC Davis is often considered one of the best small D1 schools in the country.
UC Davis is a member of the Big West Conference and fields teams in 25 intercollegiate sports, including basketball, football, soccer, volleyball, and water polo.
The university’s athletic program has a long history of success, with numerous conference championships and individual accolades earned by its student-athletes.
The University of Delaware is one of the best small D1 schools in the United States. With an enrollment of just over 18,000 students, the university offers a personalized and engaging academic experience highly regarded by students and faculty alike.
One of the university’s most notable strengths is its commitment to undergraduate education.
The faculty at the University of Delaware provides their students with the tools and knowledge they need to succeed in their chosen fields.
The university offers over 150 undergraduate majors and minors, giving students many options to explore their interests and passions.
Drexel University is one of the best small Division 1 schools in the United States. Located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Drexel University has a rich history of academic excellence, innovative research, and competitive athletics.
With a population of just over 24,000, Drexel is a small university, but its academic and athletic programs are highly respected nationally.
Drexel is consistently ranked among the top universities in the United States by various publications and organizations, including U.S. News & World Report, Forbes, and The Princeton Review.
Gonzaga University is one of the best small D1 colleges in the United States. In Spokane, Washington, Gonzaga has gained a reputation for academic excellence, vital athletic programs, and a tight-knit community.
Gonzaga’s athletic programs have garnered national attention, particularly the men’s basketball team, which has become a perennial powerhouse in college basketball.
The team has made over 20 NCAA tournament appearances, reached the Final Four twice, and played in the national championship game in 2021.
The women’s basketball team has also succeeded, regularly competing in the NCAA tournament.
Loyola Marymount University is a private Jesuit Marymount university in Los Angeles, California.
With an undergraduate enrollment of just over 6,000 students, Loyola Marymount is considered one of the best small D1 colleges in the United States.
One of the standout features of Loyola Marymount University is its commitment to academic excellence.
The university offers over 60 undergraduate and graduate programs across seven schools and colleges, including business, liberal arts, education, film and television, science and engineering, communication and fine arts, and law.
The university’s rigorous academic programs prepare students for success in their chosen fields, focusing on critical thinking, ethical leadership, and a commitment to social justice.
For NCAA competition, there are currently 350 Division I colleges. Alaska is the only state that does not have a Division I university.
D1 schools stand out because they are the largest and have the most money to support their athletic programs. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), which governs 24 collegiate sports, classifies schools as D1, D2, or D3.
It’s a common misconception that D1 players are the only ones drafted into the NFL. Many players at the D2 and D3 levels also get drafted.
They provide D1 athletes with every type of equipment imaginable. Socks, shoes, compression pants, shorts, joggers, sweatpants, undershirts, t-shirts, long-sleeve shirts, polos, rain jackets, sweatshirts, coats, beanies, hats, and any other sport-related accessories are all acceptable.
There are numerous things to keep in mind when transferring between divisions. You must register with the NCAA Eligibility Center if you are moving from a D3 school to a D2 or D1 school. If transferring to another D3 school, you do not need to contact the NCAA Eligibility Center.
Selecting the best small D1 colleges can be challenging, but it is crucial to consider various factors such as academics, athletics, campus life, and location.
The colleges listed in this article have been carefully researched and evaluated based on these criteria. They stand out as some of the top small D1 colleges in the United States.