6 Top Colleges for History Majors

Find the schools with the best programs for studying the past and how much they cost.

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According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of students receiving Bachelor's degrees in the social sciences and history has increased dramatically over the past 10 years. Students who earn degrees in history typically leave their college with strong writing and critical thinking skills, which are useful for many occupations.

While history majors may not go on to become historians, they spend their undergraduate years figuring out why our society is the way it is today. If you are considering majoring in history and are in the process of selecting a college, there are a few factors to consider. Some colleges are known for their robust history programs and their prominent study abroad options, which would serve a history major well.

6. Yale University: $42,300

Yale has offered history courses since the 1760s and 15 to 20 percent of Yale undergraduates have majored in history since the 1950s. The program has a rich history and a distinguished faculty.

  • Location: New Haven, CT
  • Enrollment Data: about 6,000 undergraduate students
  • Sub-programs: History of Art, History of Science/History of Medicine
  • Why this program? Students are encouraged to study abroad and Yale's financial aid program helps make that possible for many students.

5. University of Chicago: $43,581

For an option in the Midwest, the University of Chicago offers a large, comprehensive history program for undergraduate students.

  • Location: Chicago, IL
  • Enrollment Data: about 5,000 undergraduate students
  • Sub-programs: History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Science and Medicine
  • Why this program? The University of Chicago offers over 140 history courses each year giving students plenty of options to study periods and events that interest them. Each student is also required to complete a research paper their junior year and a senior thesis on a topic of their choosing.

4. Stanford University: $40,050

Stanford is consistently ranked highly and one of the best options for students on the west coast. Their history department offers six pathways to a bachelor’s degree. In addition to a "general" degree, students can opt to participate in one of five interdisciplinary programs that also lead to a bachelor’s in history.

  • Location: Stanford, CA
  • Enrollment Data: almost 7,000 undergraduate students
  • Sub-programs: Global Affairs and World History; History, Literature, and the Arts; History, Science, and Medicine; Public History/Public Service; and History and the Law
  • Why this program? In addition to a world-renowned faculty, Stanford offers students the option of obtaining a master’s degree in history in their fourth or fifth year.

3. University of Michigan: $12,994 (resident), $39,122 (non-resident)

The University of Michigan's history department site highlights the vastness of their courses. They say, "Whether you want to study music, politics, race and ethnicity, sports, family life, technology, war, gender relations, science, pop culture, religion, ideologies, environmental change, the circulation of goods, cities, travel, food, or social movements — chances are you’ll find a class on the subject." The school offers over 70 history courses each semester giving students the opportunity to really study the topics they enjoy.

  • Location: Ann Arbor, MI
  • Enrollment Data: about 27,500 undergraduate students
  • Sub-programs: History of Art

2. Princeton University: $38,650

Princeton is consistently ranked as one of the top colleges in the nation. But with about 60 faculty members in the history department, Princeton has one of the largest programs in the country.

  • Location: Princeton, NJ
  • Enrollment Data: about 5,000 undergraduate
  • Sub-programs: History of Science (as a major)
  • Why this program? Princeton offers students the unique opportunity to produce independent studies in all departments. For history majors, this means they write three papers based in independent research in a historical period and area of their choosing. This kind of work looks great for students looking to earn a PhD in History or going into a history-related field after graduation.

1. UCLA: $12,686 (resident), $22,878 (non-resident)

UCLA's history department gives students a broad introduction to various historical periods and then allows them to focus on the specific eras and countries that they find most interesting. With a faculty of over 70 members and over 1,000 students, UCLA has one of the most popular programs in the country.

  • Location: Los Angeles, CA
  • Enrollment Data: about 28,000 undergraduate students total
  • Sub-programs: History of Science and Technology
  • Why this program? The size of UCLA's history program gives students an array of options when looking for a faculty mentor or when choosing classes. Some students also have the option of participating in advanced historical research under the guidance of a faculty member.

Quick Tips

  • If you're currently in high school and are pretty sure you want to major in history when you get to college, try to get letters of recommendation from your history teachers. It will strengthen your application and help show admissions officers that you are serious about history.

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