The 154-year-old institution is the oldest American school still in existence in its original location outside the United States. Robert College is accredited by the New York State Association of Independent Schools.
Robert College has a long list of notable alumni, including entrepreneurs, politicians, journalists, artists, two Turkish Prime Ministers, four Bulgarian Prime Ministers, three members of the Turkish cabinet, and one Nobel Prize recipient, Orhan Pamuk. The school is a member of the G20 Schools group.
In 1863, Robert College was founded in Bebek by Christopher Robert, a wealthy American and a philanthropist, and Cyrus Hamlin, a missionary devoted to education. Six years after its foundation, with the permission (Ottoman Turkish: irade) of the Ottoman Sultan, the first campus (at present, it is the South Campus of Boğaziçi University) was built in Bebek at the ridge of Rumelia Fortress, very close to a Bektashi tekke, whose leaders maintained an excellent relationship with the Congregational and Presbyterian founders of Robert College, according to Dr Friedrich Schrader, a German lecturer at Robert College during the 1890s. The first building of the school was named "Hamlin Hall" in memory of Cyrus Hamlin. A few years after the foundation of Robert College, in 1878, Christopher Robert died. According to the article, A Millionaire's Will, published in New York Times (November 27, 1878), Robert left a great portion of his wealth to the College.
A College Catalog was compiled in 1878–1879, giving general information and an outline of the courses of study. Defining the aims of the College the catalog stated: "The object of the College is to give to its students, without distinction of race or religion, a thorough educational equal in all respects to that obtained at a first-class American college and based upon the same general principles."
After Hamlin, Robert College was administrated by George Washburn (1877–1903) and Caleb F. Gates (1903–1932). Though founded at the time of the Ottoman Empire as an institution of higher learning serving the Christian minorities of the Empire as well as foreigners living in Istanbul, the school adopted a strictly secular educational model in accordance with the republican principles of Turkey in 1923. Robert College, in the past had junior high school, high school, and university sections under the names Robert Academy, Robert Yüksek and American College for Girls. Since 1971, the school has functioned only as a "high school" (more comparable to the French lycée in academic rigor) on its Arnavutköy campus (formerly the campus of American College for Girls), yet it retains the title of College. The Bebek campus and academic staff were turned over to the Republic of Turkey for use as Boğaziçi University, the renamed continuation of Robert College's university section, as a public university.