Rice University is one of the most elite private colleges in the South, with an acceptance rate of 9% and a graduation rate of 94%.

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Classes are small at the tree-lined, Houston-based university, with a tiny 6:1 student-faculty ratio. Its roughly 8,500 students have opportunities to work with some of the world's top researchers, and popular majors include social sciences, engineering and natural sciences, though Rice offers more than 50 undergrad majors in all.

Rice is relatively diverse, too. The undergraduate population is almost evenly split between men and women, about 30% of students are Asian, and 16% are Hispanic. Rice doesn't have fraternities or sororities. Instead, its social life revolves around its 11 randomly assigned residential colleges. Throughout the year, students compete in activities such as water balloon fights and the annual Beer Bike relay race, which requires cyclists to chug beer (or water) and then pedal laps.

Rice also attracts prestigious speakers and events. Its stadium has hosted a Super Bowl, and President John F. Kennedy delivered a famous speech about the space race there in 1962. Notable alumni include astronaut Peggy Whitson and prolific author-turned-professor Joyce Carol Oates.