Top 25 Best Colleges in the Midwest | 2019 Rankings

America’s heartland has a lot to offer: friendly people, prosperous industries, and a host of amazing colleges.

For the purposes of the list, we’ve included the following states: Iowa, Illinois, Idaho, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

Here are College Raptor’s picks for the top 25 best colleges in the Midwest.

25. Michigan State University

  • Wikimedia Commons user Lovelac7~commonswiki

    Location: Lansing, MI

  • Student Enrollment: 50,340
  • College Type: Public

Originally intended to teach scientific agriculture, Michigan State University is now one of the largest universities when it comes to enrollment in the United States. Top majors currently include advertising, economics, logistics, and biology. The university is also well known for their football. The Spartans compete each year against their rivals, the University of Michigan.

24. Kalamazoo College

  • Location: Kalamazoo, MI

  • Student Enrollment: 1,443
  • College Type: Private

A smaller school, Kalamazoo College has a high first year retention rate of 88%. Kalamazoo College features the K plan, where they focus on experiential education, study abroad opportunities, and community involvement. Students must submit a work intensive project or demonstrate a skill, such as proficiency in another language, in order to graduate.

23. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

  • Wikimedia Commons user Cejeiler

    Location: Terre Haute, IN

  • Student Enrollment: 2,278
  • College Type: Private

Also known as RHIT, the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology focuses on teaching math, science, and engineering. It has a first year retention rate of 94%. A majority of students tend to study mechanical engineering with chemical engineering coming in second. The first Chemical Engineering degree in the US was awarded at RHIT in 1889.

22. Denison University

  • Flickr user Adrian MB

    Location: Granville, OH

  • Student Enrollment: 2,277
  • College Type: Private

Accepting only 37% of applications, Denison University is a liberal arts school with many students choosing to major in economics, mass communication, biology, or psychology. Part of the North Coast Athletic Conference, the university also has high sports participation, with 540 athletes on campus. Common sports include football, basketball, baseball, and track.

21. DePauw University

  • Wikimedia Commons user Rovergirl88

    Location: Greencastle, IN

  • Student Enrollment: 2,225
  • College Type: Private

DePauw University was originally founded in 1837 under the name Indiana Asbury University. They began accepting women into the college in 1867 and the school received the name change in 1884. With a 9 to 1 student to faculty ratio, 92% of students decide to stay at the university after their freshman year.

20. Illinois Wesleyan University

  • Image provided by Illinois Wesleyan University

    Location: Bloomington, IL

  • Student Enrollment: 1,771
  • College Type: Private

With over 80 majors and programs available on the campus, Illinois Wesleyan University has a student-to-faculty ratio of 10:1. With the motto “Scientia et Sapientia” (“Knowledge and Wisdom”) students tend to focus on business or nursing majors, but accounting, biology, and psychology are also top choices at the liberal arts school.

19. Indiana University – Bloomington

  • Wikimedia Commons user MARELBU

    Location: Bloomington, IN

  • Student Enrollment: 49,695
  • College Type: Public

The largest university in the Indiana University system, Bloomington is considered a “Public Ivy” school. Just over 50% of students are from the state of Indiana, but the remaining amount come from all over the country and world. A part of the Big Ten Conference, the university is also well known for its strong and popular Greek system.

18. Case Western Reserve University

  • Wikimedia Commons user Rdikeman

    Location: Cleveland, OH

  • Student Enrollment: 11,664
  • College Type: Private

Just outside Downtown Cleveland, the Case Western Reserve University is part of “University Circle,” which is known for its concentration of culture, education, and medicine. The school itself is known for its extensive research in electrochemical engineering and electrochemistry. Case Western Reserve University receives over 25,000 applications a year and only accepts 33%.

17. Miami University – Oxford

  • Wikimedia Commons user Theodonc

    Location: Oxford, OH

  • Student Enrollment: 19,697
  • College Type: Public

Also known as Miami of Ohio, Miami University at Oxford is a public research university and offers an extensive liberal arts education. A Public Ivy school, the university has a  popular Greek system, with about 33% of all students participating. 92% of students decide to stay at the school after their first year, with many going on to major in marketing, finance, and public relations.

16. St. Olaf College

  • Wikimedia Commons user Daniel Edwins

    Location: Northfield, MN

  • Student Enrollment: 3,040
  • College Type: Private

Named after the King and Patron Saint Olaf II of Norway, the seal of St. Olaf College features the Coat of arms of Norway with a motto that was known as an Old Norse battle cry. The college is fairly selective, accepting only 43% of applicants. A good many of students also participate in athletics, where they are a part of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

15. University of Minnesota – Twin Cities

  • Wikimedia Commons user AlexiusHoratius

    Location: Minneapolis, MN

  • Student Enrollment: 51,579
  • College Type: Public

The University of Minnesota at Twin Cities is the largest and oldest campus in the University of Minnesota system. A Public Ivy university, faculty, researchers, and alumni have gone on to receive 29 Nobel Prizes and 3 Pulitzer Prizes. In 2017, the University of Minnesota at Twin Cities received just under 44,000 applications and accepted about 50% of students.

14. Oberlin College

  • Wikimedia Commons user Daderot

    Location: Oberlin, OH

  • Student Enrollment: 2,912
  • College Type: Private

Oberlin College, founded in 1833, is the oldest coeducational liberal arts college in the country and was the first college to admit African-Americans (1835) and women (1837). The school is highly selective, accepting about 34% of the 7,762 applications it received in 2017. Most students major in music performance, but other popular majors include biology, environmental science, political science, and history.

13. Kenyon College

  • Flickr user Larry Miller

    Location: Gambier, OH

  • Student Enrollment: 1,708
  • College Type: Private

There are over 1,000 acres on Kenyon College, with just under 400 acres hosting the Brown Family Environmental Center. The center includes seven ecosystems along with academic opportunities. Alumni include Bill Watterson (creator of Calvin and Hobbes), Rutherford B. Hayes, and Paul Newman. Kenyon tends to be selective with an acceptance rate of 34%, with 91% of freshman continuing their education at the school after their first year.

12. Wheaton College (IL)

  • Flickr user Teemu008

    Location: Wheaton, IL

  • Student Enrollment: 2,901
  • College Type: Private

A private Christian school, Wheaton College was actually a stop on the Underground Railroad and later saw one of the first African-American college graduates in Illinois. Focusing on academics and faith, almost all students choose to stay at the school after their freshman year (95%). Wheaton College also boasts a high four year graduation rate (81%).

11. University of Wisconsin – Madison

  • Flickr user Phil Roeder

    Location: Madison, WI

  • Student Enrollment: 42,582
  • College Type: Public

A Public Ivy university, the University of Wisconsin – Madison is a public research university, spending over a billion dollars on its work. Many accepted students go on to study biology, economics, psychology, and computer sciences. The university is also a part of the Big Ten Conference and the Wisconsin Badgers have won 28 national championships.

10. Ohio State – Main Campus

  • Flickr user Mathieu Thouvenin

    Location: Columbus, OH

  • Student Enrollment: 59,482
  • College Type: Public

OSU, or Ohio State, got its start as an agricultural and mechanical school in 1870. Today, it is the third largest campus in the country and extremely well known for its athletics. Part of the Big Ten Conference and with over 1,000 athletes, the Buckeyes have 36 varsity teams and have produced several Olympic medalists.

9. Macalester College

  • Flickr user Alan Levine

    Location: St. Paul, MN

  • Student Enrollment: 2,146
  • College Type: Private

Macalester College is a liberal arts school with a fairly high four year graduation rate of 85% and first year retention rate of 93%. With a 10 to 1 student to faculty ratio, almost all professors at the school have the highest degree available within their field. The most popular majors tend to be biology, economics, and political science.

8. Grinnell College

  • Flickr user Ron Cogswell

    Location: Grinnell, IA

  • Student Enrollment: 1,699
  • College Type: Private

Grinnell’s school motto is “Veritas et Humanitas”—”Truth and Humanity.” The five most popular majors on campus are Biology, Computer Science, Economics, Political Science, and English. The school colors are scarlet and black, and the athletic teams are known as the Pioneers. A few famous alumni include Gary Cooper, Robert Noyce, and Kumail Nanjiani.

7. University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign

  • Flickr user Diane Yee

    Location: Champaign, IL

  • Student Enrollment: 46,951
  • College Type: Public

Located at the twin cities of Champaign and Urbana, U of I, also known as “University of Illinois” has earned a reputation as a world-class leader in research, teaching, and public engagement. Each year, they received about 39,000 applications and accept just over 24,000 of them, giving U of I an acceptance rate of 62%.

6. Carleton College

  • Flickr user Willy Lee

    Location: Northfield, MN

  • Student Enrollment: 2,105
  • College Type: Private

Blue and maize are the bold colors for the the Carleton Knights. The most popular majors on campus are Computer Science, Biology, Economics, International Relations / Affairs, and Chemistry. The average ACT scores for incoming freshmen are between 30–34; for the SAT it’s between 1410 and 1540.

5. University of Michigan – Ann Arbor

  • Flickr user Ken Lund

    Location: Ann Arbor, MI

  • Student Enrollment: 44,718
  • College Type: Public

In addition to being Michigan’s oldest institute of higher learning, the state’s flagship school, UM is also a space and sea grant college. The University of Michigan was originally located in Detroit, but moved to Ann Arbor in 1837. Almost 60,000 applications are sent in each year, and with an acceptance rate of 27%, over 16,000 are accepted.

4. Washington University in St Louis

  • Flickr user grabadonut

    Location: St. Louis, MO

  • Student Enrollment: 15,047
  • College Type: Private

Named after the legendary George Washington, this university has educated a number of other famous names, including: actor Harold Ramis, Greenpeace CEO Phil Radford, and even writer Tennessee Williams (though he dropped out). Washington University is known for its geographical diversity, with many students coming from New York, Illinois, and California.

3. Northwestern University

  • Flickr user jojolae

    Location: Evanston, IL

  • Student Enrollment: 21,823
  • College Type: Private

A founder of the Big Ten conference, Northwestern is the only private college in the group. Mascot Willie cheers on the Wildcats at sporting events. The university has more graduate students than undergraduate, with a 60 / 40 split. Economics, Communication, and Journalism are the most populated majors on campus.

2. University of Notre Dame

  • Flickr user Dan Dzurisin

    Location: Notre Dame, IN

  • Student Enrollment: 12,393
  • College Type: Private

This university is known around the world, helped by the fact it has study and research centers in London, Beijing, Dublin, Jerusalem, and Rome. Notre Dame celebrates its Irish routes with a leprechaun mascot and their teams’ nickname: the Fighting Irish. 91% of students graduate within the traditional four years.

1. University of Chicago

  • Flickr user Don Burkett

    Location: Chicago, IL

  • Student Enrollment: 15,775
  • College Type: Private

The official UChicago motto is “Crescat Scientia; vita excolatur”—Let knowledge grow from more and more; and so be human life enriched. Each year, approximately 28,000 applications are sent in, though the acceptance rate is only 9%. Many UChicago students are from Illinois, but many others come in from California and New York as well.

About our methodology

Colleges are ranked based on a combination of factors, including graduation rates, campus diversity, endowment per student, and other data as reported via the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) for the most recently-available enrollment year. Some colleges may have been excluded from rankings based on certain criteria, including specialization and classification. Learn about our full methodology.

Interested in any of these schools? Check out College Raptor’s free match tool to see if they’re a good fit for you!

College Raptor Staff

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