UNC Asheville Gets Several National Top 20 Rankings in The Princeton Review’s “The Best 386 Colleges,” 2021 Edition

Ramsey Library and the UNC Asheville Quad
August 20, 2020

UNC Asheville is featured in The Princeton Review’s 2021 edition of The Best 386 Colleges, which includes only about 13% of America’s four-year colleges. The University also is ranked in the national top-20 in several categories; these rankings are based on surveys of 143,000 students.

Based on the surveys of students, UNC Asheville scored 93 out of 100 on the “quality of life” rating and 91 out of 100 on the “green” rating. The description of UNC Asheville in The Best 386 Colleges, 2021 Edition, includes these quotes:

  • Professors are “some of the best in their respective fields” and “have time to invest interest in your individual advancement—not only in the course, but in your life…may come to you with job, internship or volunteer opportunities.” Students praise the fruitful relationships with faculty and opportunities for hands-on research.
  • UNC Asheville students feel that they are truly cared for from the day they step on campus: “The university’s intense focus on physical and mental health,” says one student, “make[s] it harder to burn out during one’s [otherwise] stressful first year.”
  • “My peers are inquisitive, mindful, compassionate, and hungry for justice,” says one student. “They go to extremes to live sustainably and waste-free, on and off campus.” Parties usually mean “student bands performing in a basement” with many “intellectual conversations” going on upstairs and “vegetarian potluck dishes spread around the house.”
  • Students at UNC Asheville also truly “care about the environment,” and are generally “compassionate,” “open-minded,” and “accepting.” There is a large LGBTQ population within a culture that has all students regularly asking for others’ preferred pronouns. Communicating one’s political beliefs is “basically chill” in that “everyone can voice their opinions…and people don’t try to…force an argument.”

The Princeton Review’s guide does not rank the 386 schools hierarchically, but does include 62 different ranked top-20 lists, with categories ranging from Best Campus Food (and its opposite category, Is It Food?), to Best College Radio Station, and Lots of Greek Life. UNC Asheville scored in the national top-20 in these categories:

  • 10 – LGBTQ-Friendly
  • 15 – Least Religious Students
  • 16 – Most Politically Active Students
  • 16 – Town-Gown Relations Are Great
  • 17 – College City Gets High Marks

The Princeton Review added an additional survey in July 2020 of university administrators – not for rankings purposes, but to see how schools were preparing for handling COVID-19 in the coming academic year. “What impressed us in our administrator survey findings is the flexibility many colleges built into their reopening plans, especially those giving students options to study remotely or on campus with health and safety protocols in place,” said Robert Franek, Editor-in-Chief at The Princeton Review. At UNC Asheville this fall, 38.7% of courses are being offered online, 37.8% in person and 23.5% with a hybrid of online and in-person instruction. Classes are now in their second week.

U.S. News & World Report also ranks UNC Asheville highly, as eighth-best public liberal arts university in the nation. The Fiske Guide to Colleges 2021, issued earlier this month, said that “all the ingredients for a superior college experience lie in wait at Asheville: strong academics, dedicated professors, and an administration that continues to push for excellence.” Forbes included the University in its recent publication, “America’s Best College Values.”

UNC Asheville is now accepting applications for the fall 2021 semester, with a Nov. 15 deadline for early decision. For more information about UNC Asheville, including the now virtual Discovery Day open houses on Sept. 26 and Oct. 24, visit unca.edu/admission/visit.


For nearly a century, UNC Asheville has guided global explorers—our students, faculty, alumni, friends, and community partners—to discover what they love, break new paths, and remake the world. Asheville’s University serves the people of North Carolina, the region, and beyond—by producing leaders and thinkers who enrich our economy and our community. UNC Asheville ranks as one of the nation’s top 10 public liberal arts universities and a top 20 employer in Asheville, with an annual economic impact of $450 million. Enrolling 3,600 students and offering more than 30 undergraduate majors, UNC Asheville is a higher education destination driven by an unwavering commitment to an education that is adaptive, authentic, and endlessly relevant to our vibrant city, the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains and the world. Learn more at unca.edu.