Top 20 Preppy Colleges in the South

In 2011, I published my first list of the top preppy colleges in the South.  It was limited to 10 colleges, and it was difficult to make decisions on which to include.  It was an entirely subjective process.  Most decisions were based on my experiences of the respective campuses considered.  I also spent time talking to current students and recent graduates to get their perspective.

For this year’s list, I’ve decided to expand the number to 20.  I use the term colleges, but I’m including both colleges and universities.  So the range is extensive.  Most of the schools listed this year are relatively small, private liberal arts institutions.

Hampden-Sydney College keeps its  #1 ranking again — as the most preppy college in the South – while Washington and Lee University moves up to the #2 ranking to challenge.

Hampden-Sydney College

The state of Virginia has the most schools listed (8), followed by  North and South Carolina (4 each), Tennessee (2), Mississippi (1) and Alabama (1).  Is there a bias? Probably.  Am I open to suggestions and revisions?  Definitely!  Let me know which schools you think should make the list, or which ones should be excluded.


1.  Hampden-Sydney College, Hampden-Sydney, VA.  (Founded 1775)

2.  Washington & Lee University, Lexington, VA.  (Founded 1749)

3.  Sweet Briar College, Sweet Briar, VA.  (Founded 1901)

4.  University of the South, Sewanee, TN.  (Founded 1857)

5.  University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA. (Founded 1819)

6.  Wofford College,  Spartanburg, SC.  (Founded 1854)

7.  Furman University, Greenville, SC.  (Founded 1826)

8.  College of Charleston, Charleston, SC.  (Founded 1770)

9.  Converse College, Spartanburg, SC.  (Founded 1889)

10.  Hollins University, Roanoke, VA.  (Founded 1842)

11.  Mary Baldwin College, Staunton, VA.  (Founded 1842)

12.  Randolph-Macon College, Ashland, VA.  (Founded 1830)

13.  Elon University, Elon, NC.  (Founded 1889)

14.  Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN.  (Founded 1873)

15.  University of Mississippi, Oxford, MS.  (Founded 1848)

16.  Davidson College, Davidson, NC.  (Founded 1837)

17.  Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC.  (Founded 1834)

18.  University of Richmond, Richmond, VA.  (Founded 1830)

19.  University of Alabama, Tuscalosa, AL.  (Founded 1831).

20.  Duke University, Durham, NC.  (Founded 1838)


  1. Auburn didn’t make the cut? I am also surprised by Georgetown’s omission. Was this because DC is not part of The South?

  2. Colt — Excellent points. Auburn is a school I should take closer look at, and Georgetown as well. My sense of Auburn is that it has a large prep contingent in the fraternity scene. Do you think that’s true of the university in general? I hadn’t considered Georgetown, being in DC, as part of the South, but I could see a case for it’s inclusion. I suppose DC is more of a Southern city in flavor that most might think.

  3. I would argue that the same level of prep exists at Auburn as does at Alabama. K. Cooper Ray as an alumnus should bolster their prep cred as well. The fact it is steeped in tradition and the cotillion south would be the main factors in my considering Auburn a true prep school.

    I spent a good chunk of my academic career and early 20s in D.C. and would consider a very wonderful melting pot of southern preppies meeting New England preppies. I myself being a Rocky Mountain prep who comes from a town in Southern Utah’s Dixie, that is actually more like a town in The South (it’s an interesting story if you care to hear it some time). So the debate about Georgetown’s inclusion largely rests on where DC sits in relation to the Mason-Dixon Line.

  4. I’d have to agree with your assessment in VA – I’m a Baldwin alumnu and am your fairly consistent bohemian prep. I spent time at UVA, W&L, Sweet Briar, Hollins and Sydney as it seemed we all ran together with good natured competitive spirit at some point. What I love about VAs academic environment is that it’s true prep culture is based in congeniality, academic zeal, community (i.e. non-profit) stewardship. People are thinkers, passionate, hospitable, witty, and maintain a pretty genuine charm regardless of difference in demographic background. We know class ultimately has nothing to do with money and everything to do with character

    1. Brittany – Thanks for your comments. Your description of the VA students is so on point! I also couldn’t agree with you more that class is more about character and manners and not about money.

  5. Thank God UNC was not on the list. We’re tired of lists and being listed. We’re tired of the listers and we’re tired of Listerine. Franz Liszt is all right. But truly, aren’t lists just for the “listless?”

  6. You need to take a look at Wabash College. It’s like the Hampden-Sydney of the midwest. All mens, small and liberal arts. Preppy college at it’s finest and closer to home for me. About 50% of men join fraternity’s

  7. Good job and as a proud RMC graduate in 1978 ,I learned to wear khakis,polo shirts, and button down shirts.I played baseball fir 4 years,was a Lambda Chi and still attend many sporting and cultural events at the school .We often played many of your top 20 in sports and you have done a fine job. Go Yellow Jackets .

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