Universities in North Carolina: Exploring Your Incredible Options

colleges in north carolina

Introduction: Welcome to North Carolina – A Hub of Higher Education 

North Carolina, nicknamed Tar Heel State, is vastly known for its rich history and vibrant culture. The state showcases a diverse range of natural beauty. However, it’s not just the scenery that captivates people; the higher education system also plays a significant role in NC’s appeal.

North Carolina houses 68 four-year colleges and universities, some of which have gained recognition as among the most competitive worldwide. You can find several colleges in North Carolina that align with your interests, whether research-intensive or nurturing liberal arts colleges. 

We’ll explore the ten best colleges and universities in North Carolina and quickly guide you in choosing reputable local colleges and universities.

Featured Programs

Higher Education Landscape: Exploring Colleges and Universities in NC

Duke University

  • Acceptance rate: 6.3%
  • Average in-state tuition: $66,326

Duke University is one of the best colleges in NC for medical research, outranking Ivy Leagues in several rankings. Beyond its academics, Duke University is also renowned for its Basketball team, which has won 5 National Championships.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

  • Acceptance rate: 17.1%
  • Average in-state tuition: $7,020
  • Average out-of-state tuition: $39,228

UNC at Chapel Hill is known for its innovative teaching, research, and public service. It was the first US college to award degrees in the 18th century. To this day, UNC-CH continues its enduring commitment to academic excellence.

North Carolina Central University

  • Acceptance rate: 84.4%
  • Average in-state tuition: $6,679 
  • Average out-of-state tuition: $19,715 

NCCU has agreements with several 2 year colleges in North Carolina, making it a sought-after institution for students who want to transition from a two-year college to a four-year university smoothly. It’s also among the strongest historically black 4 year colleges in North Carolina.  

North Carolina State University

  • Acceptance rate: 39.5%
  • Average in-state tuition: $8,986
  • Average out-of-state tuition: $33,034

NCSU is particularly known for its focus on STEM subjects and affordable degree programs, which fall below the national average. Moreover, they’re also a leading institution for business, agriculture, textiles, and natural resources.

East Carolina University

  • Acceptance rate: 92%
  • Average in-state tuition: $7,516
  • Average out-of-state tuition: $23,793

ECU is the only university in the state with a Medical School, a Dental School, and a College of Engineering and Technology at the same institution. This unique ecosystem attracts top-tier faculty and students from diverse backgrounds. Consequently, it fosters a vibrant community where ideas flourish and innovations thrive.

Appalachian State University

  • Acceptance rate: 83.1%
  • Average in-state tuition: $8,081
  • Average out-of-state tuition: $25,077

App State is known for its lively campus atmosphere, which combines people and place, and its focus on enhancing students’ leadership skills. This university is widely chosen by students who want to major in psychology, exercise science, or elementary education.

Wake Forest University

  • Acceptance rate: 21%
  • Average tuition: $67,642

Wake Forest University is one of the strongest 4 year universities in North Carolina, if not the country. Wake Forest also has a big online presence, offering online courses and programs catering to students from diverse backgrounds and interests.

University of North Carolina at Charlotte

  • Acceptance rate: 80%
  • Average in-state tuition: $3,812
  • Average out-of-state tuition: $18,474

UNC at Charlotte, a top urban research university in NC, offers a vibrant academic community where innovation meets tradition. UNC Charlotte is especially known for their research initiatives for resilient and sustainable architecture. 

North Carolina A&T State University

  • Acceptance rate: 57%
  • Average in-state tuition: $3,540
  • Average out-of-state tuition: $17,200

NCAT is known for many things, including being one of the top-flight research universities, having excellence in STEM education, being the largest HBCU in the country, and being the #1 producer of degrees awarded to African Americans in NC.  

University of North Carolina at Pembroke

  • Acceptance rate: 90%
  • Average in-state tuition: $1,000
  • Average out-of-state tuition: $5,000

UNC Pembroke is one of the first colleges founded by American Indians for American Indians. It specializes in providing master-level degree programs, with vast offerings ranging from business and education to healthcare and the arts. Each program is infused with the unique perspectives and traditions of the Lumbee Tribe, creating a diverse and cross-cultural learning environment.

Why Choose NC?: Discovering the Benefits of Studying in The Tar Heel State

The big colleges in North Carolina can often feel overwhelming to students who thrive in smaller, more intimate campus environments. Fortunately, NC has several small colleges from which you can choose. Some of the smallest— enrollment not more than 10k —regionally accredited colleges and universities in the state include:

  • Chowan University 
  • Gardner-Webb University
  • Greensboro College 
  • Guilford College 
  • High Point University
  • Johnson & Wales University-Charlotte
  • Johnson C. Smith University 
  • Lees-McRae College
  • Livingstone College
  • Mars Hill University 
  • Meredith College
  • Methodist University
  • Montreat College 
  • North Carolina Wesleyan University 
  • Pfeiffer University 
  • Saint Augustine’s University
  • Salem College 
  • Shaw University 
  • St. Andrews University 
  • University of Mount Olive
  • University of North Carolina at Asheville
  • University of North Carolina School of the Arts
  • Warren Wilson College 
  • William Peace University

In addition to its vast higher education system, North Carolina offers a diverse lifestyle, from bustling urban centers to miles of rural landscape. You have plenty of avenues to enjoy your free time from school. It also offers valuable internship and networking opportunities beyond your academic journey. 

North Carolina also revels in the cost of living below the national average, complemented by high personal satisfaction. Raleigh, Charlotte, Asheville, Winston-Salem, and Wilmington shine with top scores on the Council for Community and Economic Research’s esteemed cost of living index. Housing, utilities, groceries, and transportation all fall below the national average.

Finding the Right College: Exploring Programs and Campus Life in NC

College education offers several benefits, but only when you find the most suitable institution for your needs and interests. Choosing a college that strays far from your goals can result in a less fulfilling academic and professional experience. Here are a few steps you must consider to choose the right college for your needs:

  1. Think of what career path you want to pursue. This will help you look for schools with the right programs. If you are undecided, seek colleges with diverse programs for flexibility in choosing your career path later.
  2. Consider your qualifications and apply for schools that meet your academic profile. Don’t limit yourself to just prestigious institutions; consider schools where you’ll thrive academically and personally. Look beyond rankings and focus on factors like faculty expertise, resources, and campus culture.
  3. Visit various institutions where you’re accepted and evaluate the campus environment and student life. You’ll be staying there for many years, so ensure that the campus meets your preferences for a comfortable stay.
  4. Also, consider your financial capacity. While financial aid is available, it’s essential to assess what you and your family can afford realistically. 
  5. Think about the opportunities for experiential learning. It’s even better to prioritize colleges and universities known in your desired field of study.

Conclusion: Empowering Your Educational Journey in NC

North Carolina is one of the biggest educational hubs in the United States. The choices can be overwhelming, so it’s important to seek professional guidance to ensure efficient and effective college selection.