Top 25 Best Colleges in the Northwest | 2019 Rankings

Gold star badge that says "College Raptor Top 25 Best Northwest Colleges 2019."The states of the Pacific Northwest provide diverse landscapes, cities, industries, and of course colleges.

Including the states of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Alaska, and Northern California, this region has a school for everyone.

Here are College Raptor’s top 25 best colleges in the Northwest!

25. Seattle Pacific University

  • Seattle Pacific University Peterson Hall behind trees.

    Flickr user Curtis Cronn

    Location: Seattle, WA

  • Student Enrollment: 4,061
  • College Type: Private

A member of the Christian College Consortium, the Seattle Pacific University is a liberal arts school with just over 3,000 students. The most popular majors include business, nursing, psychology, speech communication, and English. The university focuses on showing how Christian faith can influence the school, students, and community.

24. University of the Pacific

  • University of the Pacific Conservatory of Music building.

    Flickr user Wayne Hsieh

    Location: Stockton, CA

  • Student Enrollment: 6,128
  • College Type: Private

This private university holds many “first honors.” The University of the Pacific was the first medical school and first conservatory of music on the West Coast as well as the first independent co-educational college in California. They also hold the title of being the oldest chartered university in the state. A member of the NCAA, they have just over 300 athletes with focus on Basketball, Baseball, and Track.

23. Dominican University of California

  • Dominican University of California Angelico Hall building.

    Wikimedia Commons user Sara.huey

    Location: San Rafael, CA

  • Student Enrollment: 1,835
  • College Type: Private

One of the oldest universities in the state, the Dominican University of California is a small private school with under 2,000 students attending. With a 9 to 1 student to faculty ratio and an 86% first year retention rate, the university also ranks well for four year graduation rates in the Pacific West Conference.

22. Mills College

  • Olin Library building at Mills College.

    Flickr user Curtis Cronn

    Location: Oakland, CA

  • Student Enrollment: 1,345
  • College Type: Private

Mills College is an all women’s undergraduate college, but allows men and women to participate in graduate programs. It was the first single-sex college to accept transgender students. Recently, the college offered a “tuition reset” where the cost to attend was reduced by about 36%. With 961 applications received, they have a high acceptance rate of 87%.

21. Western Washington University

  • Western Washington University library building.

    Flickr user Joe Wolf

    Location: Bellingham, WA

  • Student Enrollment: 15,574
  • College Type: Public

With athletic teams called the Vikings and colors of bay blue, Western blue, and white, the Western Washington University is one of only six public universities in the entire state. The most commonly chosen majors tend to be psychology, computer sciences, sociology, and environmental science.

20. University of Washington – Bothell Campus

  • University of Washington - Bothell Campus Discovery Hall building.

    Flickr user J Brew

    Location: Bothell, WA

  • Student Enrollment: 5,734
  • College Type: Public

One of the three campuses for the University of Washington, the Bothell Campus is fairly new: It was established in 1990 and actually shares a campus with Cascadia College. The largest campus out of the three, Bothell sees over 3,000 applications each year and out of the 80% accepted, just over 30% go on to attend.

19. Pacific University

  • Pacific University School of Education brick building.

    Flickr user Tim Lauer

    Location: Forest Grove, OR

  • Student Enrollment: 3,909
  • College Type: Private

At Pacific University, the student experience is about more than academics. They receives about 2,590 applications and around 84% acceptance rate in every admission. Business Administration and Management in General happened to be their top major with a total number of 50 students. 

18. Whitworth University

  • Whitworth University campus tree-lined sidewalk and building.

    Image provided by Whitworth University

    Location: Spokane, WA

  • Student Enrollment: 2,634
  • College Type: Private

The average ACT score of Whitworth applicants is between 22 and 28, and its SAT score ranges from 1,110 and 1,330. About 89% of the applicants were accepted. Biological and Physical Sciences, Elementary Education, Psychology, Biology, and Computer Science are the most popular majors on campus.

17. Saint Mary’s College of California

  • Sculpture of an academic holding a book at Saint Mary's College of California.

    Flickr user Franco Folini

    Location: Moraga, CA

  • Student Enrollment: 3,908
  • College Type: Private

Saint Mary’s College is grounded in the liberal arts and the life and work of Saint John Baptist de La Salle. Last year, the average percentage of acceptance was 82% out of almost 4,700 applications. Red and blue are the school colors, and students compete athletically as the Gaels.

16. University of San Francisco

  • Pink flower in front of University of San Francisco campus buildings.

    Flickr user Michael Fraley

    Location: San Francisco, CA

  • Student Enrollment: 11,003
  • College Type: Private

USF’s main campus, nicknamed “the Hilltop”, is located near the famed Golden Gate Bridge. Their school colors are green and gold, and the sports teams are known as the Dons. They received over 16,000 applications last year. A majority of students at USF are from California—71%, in fact.

15. University of Puget Sound

  • Spring flowers in front of University of Puget Sound campus.

    Flickr user mSeattle

    Location: Tacoma, WA

  • Student Enrollment: 2,791
  • College Type: Private

Every year, nearly 6,000 applications are sent in to the University of Puget Sound, and around 5,000 are accepted. There is an 11:1 student-to-faculty ratio and a first year retention rate of 86%. While 18.70% of the students come from Washington, 33.1% come from the state of California.

14. University of Oregon

  • College students lining up in front of an events building at the University of Oregon.

    Flickr user Wolfram Burner

    Location: Eugene, OR

  • Student Enrollment: 23,546
  • College Type: Public

The University of Oregon’s school motto—”Mens agitat molem”—translates into “The Mind Moves Mountains.” OU has a number of famous alumni, including TV anchor Ann Curry, Nike founder Phil Knight, Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk, and singer Peter Hollens. OU plays as part of the Pac-12 conference.

13. Willamette University

  • Eaton Hall at Willamette University campus behind the trees and flowers.

    Flickr user Max Rae

    Location: Salem, WA

  • Student Enrollment: 2,556
  • College Type: Private

The Willamette Bearcats sport cardinal and old gold for their school colors, and are cheered on by their mascot Blitz. Willamette participates in 20 varsity sports, including baseball, basketball, and lacrosse among others. Biology is the most popular major on campus, followed by Economics and Political Science.

12. Lewis & Clark College

  • Lewis and Clark College red brick building during autumn.

    Flickr user Curtis Cronn

    Location: Portland, OR

  • Student Enrollment: 3,419
  • College Type: Private

Named after the famed explorers, this college has a Latin motto fitting of its namesake—”Explorare, Discere, Sociare” meaning “To explore, to learn, to work together.” It’s been a coeducational college since its foundation, though nowadays there are more women studying at the school, as 61.4% of the undergraduate class are women.

11. Seattle University

  • Seattle University building facing the sunrise.

    Flickr user javacolleen

    Location: Seattle, WA

  • Student Enrollment: 7,487
  • College Type: Private

Rudy the Redhawk is the mascot of Seattle U, where the school colors are red and white. The acceptance rate is 74%, meaning that nearly 6,350 applications were accepted last year of the total 8,576. Among the alumni of this university is Jim Whittaker (class of 1952), the first American to summit Mt. Everest.

10. San Francisco Conservatory of Music

  • The San Francisco Conservatory of Music building at dusk.

    Wikimedia Commons user Carlin Ma

    Location: San Francisco, CA

  • Student Enrollment: 401
  • College Type: Private

Founded in 1917 initially as the Ada Clement Piano School, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music now offers a broader music education. There are seven total majors: Stringed Instruments, Voice and Opera, Brass Instruments, Keyboard Instruments, Woodwind Instruments, Music Theory and Composition, and Percussion Instruments.

9. University of Portland

  • University of Portland academic quad in spring with blooming trees.

    Flickr user Thomas Le Ngo

    Location: Portland, OR

  • Student Enrollment: 4,383
  • College Type: Private

Located on a bluff overlooking the Willamette River, the University of Portland is affiliated with the Roman Catholic church. 87% of all students on campus are undergraduates, while the remaining 13% study at the graduate level. The University of Portal has a 12:1 student-to-faculty ratio.

8. Gonzaga University

  • Statue and fountain in front of Gonzaga University brick building.

    Flickr user Michael Li

    Location: Spokane, WA

  • Student Enrollment: 7,567
  • College Type: Private

Spike the Bulldog is the mascot of this university, where the sports teams are also known as the Bulldogs. They participate in NCAA Division I (without football), and have 364 athletes on campus. 25–30 are the average ACT scores of incoming freshmen; for the SAT the average is between 1220 and 1380.

7. Reed College

  • Reed College white and red brick building at sunrise.

    Flickr user Dale Cruse

    Location: Portland, OR

  • Student Enrollment: 1,427
  • College Type: Private

Reed College features a griffin on its seal, which doubles as the school’s mascot. Their official school color is Reed Red (formerly Reed Rose). The campus is located just off the Willamette River. English is the most popular major at this college. They have an 82% six year graduation rate.

6. Whitman College

  • Fouts Center for Visual Arts building at Whitman College.

    Flickr user Chuck Taylor

    Location: Walla Walla, WA

  • Student Enrollment: 1,493
  • College Type: Private

“Per ardua surgo”is the motto of this college, translating to mean “Through adversities I rise.” Whitman accepts just over half of all the applications they receive. On average, incoming freshmen score between 26 and 31 on the ACT, or between 1240 and 1430 on the SAT. Whitman has a cozy 8:1 student-to-faculty ratio.

5. University of California – Davis

  • Institute of Wine and Food Science building at UC Davis.

    Flickr user Prayitno

    Location: Davis, CA

  • Student Enrollment: 36,460
  • College Type: Public

Third largest (in terms of student enrollment) in the University of California system, UC Davis sees nearly 71,000 applications annually. The most popular majors on campus include Research and Experimental Psychology, Business, Economics, and Neurobiology / Anatomy. Their school colors are Aggie blue and gold, and they play as the Aggies.

4. University of Washington – Seattle Campus

  • Students walking into PACCAR Hall at the University of Washington campus.

    Flickr user Curtis Cronn

    Location: Seattle, WA

  • Student Enrollment: 45,591
  • College Type: Public

In addition to Washington being a flagship university, it’s also a space grant and a sea grant school. Of the total students enrolled, 68% of them are undergraduates. Located on Portage and Union Bay, this school has an acceptance rate of 46% and a near even split between undergraduate men and women on campus—47.6% and 52.4% respectively.

3. Santa Clara University

  • Santa Clara University's Mission Church building.

    Flickr user Ed Bierman

    Location: Santa Clara, CA

  • Student Enrollment: 8,422
  • College Type: Private

Santa Clara University was founded in 1851, making the oldest operating institute of higher learning in the state of California. Receiving around 15,000 applications a year, Santa Clara will accept just over 8,000 of them. They have an 11:1 student-to-faculty ratio and a first year retention rate of 96%.

2. University of California – Berkeley

  • Bancroft library building at University of California Berkeley.

    Flickr user K. Oliver

    Location: Berkeley, CA

  • Student Enrollment: 40,154
  • College Type: Public

UC Berkeley sports two unique colors: Berkeley Blue and California Gold. Students and mascot Oski cheer on the Golden Bears during athletic events. Economics, Computer Science, Cell / Molecular Biology, Electrical Engineering, and Business Administration are the five most popular majors on campus.

1. Stanford University

  • Hoover Tower in Stanford University campus from an aerial perspective.

    Flickr user Michael Estigoy

    Location: Stanford, CA

  • Student Enrollment: 17,184
  • College Type: Private

Given its proximity to Silicon Valley, it comes as no surprise that the most popular major on Stanford’s campus is Computer Science, followed by Human Biology and Engineering. During its foundation, Stanford was actually modeled off of Cornell and Harvard among other influential universities. Cardinal and white are the official school colors.

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!

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