With a combination of high-quality academics and impressive career outcomes, Williams College is one of the highest-rated liberal arts schools in Money's rankings. Among its standout traits: plenty of personalized attention (the student-faculty ratio is a low 6:1) and an innovative tutorial system, modeled after one at Oxford University, that pairs two students who critique each other's papers and meet weekly with their professor. The system apparently works: 96% of students graduate, and recent grads earn an average of roughly $74,500 a year.

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The college also scores high in Money's analysis for its strong – and improving – financial aid. In 2022, Williams switched to "all grant" financial aid packages that eliminate loans as well as work-study requirements. All of its financial aid is awarded based on need; about half of students get some kind of scholarship.

Located amid Massachusetts' Berkshire Mountains, the campus is rich with history: Its library displays a first folio of Shakespeare's plays and a number of founding documents of the U.S., including George Washington's copy of The Federalist Papers, an early draft of the Constitution, and other treasures.

For fun, one Friday every October, the president cancels classes for Mountain Day, a Williams College tradition dating to 1800. Rather than go to class, students hike nearby Mount Greylock, picnic outdoors and take polar bear plunges.