Top 25 Best Colleges in the Great Lakes Region | 2021 Rankings

Best Great Lakes colleges badgeThe Great Lakes region is well-known for its mighty bodies of water, but its colleges are equally impressive. The states bordering the Great Lakes — Superior, Erie, Michigan, Huron, and Ontario — have powerhouse schools worth investigating.

For this list, the following states are included in the Great Lakes region: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

Here are the top 25 best colleges in the Great Lakes region. Check them out below.

Top 25 Best Colleges in the Great Lakes Region

The University of Chicago has a long and rich history -- it houses the largest university press in America, it has the second-oldest student improvisational troupe, and developed radiocarbon dating, to name a few. Thus, it’s not surprising that over 32,000 students apply to the University of Chicago every year or that the school has a 99% first-year retention rate.
Location Chicago, IL
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 17,002
The University of Notre Dame has grown exponentially since its creation -- not only does it have a sprawling campus, the university has academic centers all around the world. Students attending the University of Notre Dame can find amazing resources available to them and many major in either Finance, Mechanical Engineering, or Accounting.
Location Notre Dame, IN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 12,607
Northwestern University is known for many things -- as a founder of the Big Ten Conference, as an amazing research university, and as an extremely selective school. Every year, 40,000 students send in their applications to Northwestern and only 8.5% of them receive an acceptance. Northwestern has a 6:1 student-to-faculty ratio.
Location Evanston, IL
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 22,127
The University of Michigan -- Ann Arbor is the oldest university in Michigan and is also known today as a research powerhouse. Almost 65,000 students apply to the university every year, though only 22% of them are accepted. Those who attend the university can expect a class size of around eleven students for every one faculty member.
Location Ann Arbor, MI
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 46,716
96% of students at Hillsdale receive some form of institutional aid and 96% of students receive some form of grant aid. Around 1,500 students attend the college, which means that class sizes are also relatively small -- typical classes have about 9 students to every 1 faculty member. Economics is the most popular major.
Location Hillsdale, MI
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,521
When it was first established, Ohio State University focused solely on agriculture and mechanics, but with a push from Rutherford Hayes, the university expanded its academic teachings. Today, OSU is the third-largest campus in the US. Some of the most popular majors at Ohio State University include Psychology, Finance, and Speech Communication.
Location Columbus, OH
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 61,170
The University of Wisconsin -- Madison is the oldest university in Wisconsin -- it was actually founded when Wisconsin officially became a state. Today, the school has over 43,000 students attending and half of the freshmen class is from Wisconsin. Some of the most popular majors at Madison include Biology, Economics, and Computer and Information Science.
Location Madison, WI
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 43,463
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is known for its research facilities and resources, as well as having the second-largest university library system in the US. Technologically-minded students will be especially pleased to hear that the university houses the National Center for Supercomputing Applications and the fastest university supercomputer.
Location Champaign, IL
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 49,702
Located in a small, rural town, Kenyon College offers a lot to its students socially and academically. Students have plenty of majors to choose from -- the more popular ones include English, Economics, and Psychology. For the incoming class, students had an average ACT score between 28 to 33 and an SAT score between 1,330 to 1,490.
Location Gambier, OH
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,730
Case Western Reserve University is known for its research, having made multiple contributions to various scientific fields, including the first full X-ray of the human body. Unsurprisingly, the most popular majors at the university include Bioengineering and Biomedical Engineering, Biology, and Mechanical Engineering.
Location Cleveland, OH
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 11,890
Miami University -- Oxford is the second-oldest college in Ohio and is considered a Public Ivy. The university also has historical roots in Greek life, having created five Greek-letter societies. Miami University is also academically competitive, with over 30,000 students applying every year and the school boasts a 92% first-year retention rate.
Location Oxford, OH
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 19,934
Wheaton College was once a stop on the Underground Railroad. Today, the college receives over 1,800 applications every year. Incoming students have a typical ACT score between 26 to 32 and an SAT score between 1,250 to 1,450. Popular majors at the college include Business/Managerial Economics, Speech Communications and Rhetoric, and Health Services.
Location Wheaton, IL
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,944
For students who want to focus on engineering, science, or math, take a look at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. The institute only offers majors in those three areas, with the most popular ones being Mechanical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, and Computer Science. Almost all students attending receive some form of grant or institutional aid.
Location Terre Haute, IN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,142
Oberlin is the oldest liberal arts college in the US and the second-oldest still-operating coed college in the world. It was also the first college in the US to admit women and one of the first to admit non-white students. Both a liberal arts and music school, it’s not surprising that some of the most popular majors include Music Performance, Political Science, and Biology.
Location Oberlin, OH
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,812
Indiana University -- Bloomington is the largest university in Indiana. It’s known as a Public Ivy. Indiana University also houses the country’s largest rare book and manuscript library. Over 44,000 hopeful students apply to the university every year and incoming students have an average ACT score of 24 to 30 and an SAT score of 1,170 to 1,400.
Location Bloomington, IN
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 43,503
Purdue University is the flagship school of Indiana. The most popular majors at Purdue include Mechanical Engineering, Computer Science, and Industrial Engineering. The school has a student-to-faculty ratio of 13:1 and boasts a 92% first-year retention rate. The campus is located near the Wabash River.
Location West Lafayette, IN
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 44,474
Originally named the Granville Literary and Theological Institution, Denison changed its name after a farmer donated $10,000 to the school’s endowment. Today, 8,000 prospective students send in an application every year. Denison University is highly selective, accepting only 34% of all applications. Popular majors at the school include Economics, Mass Communication/Media Studies, and Biology.
Location Granville, OH
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,394
DePauw University was founded in 1837 and has since had a long and colorful history. It was the birthplace of the Society of Professional Journalists, the oldest journalist society in the US. DePauw’s academic calendar is a bit unique -- the school runs on a 4-1-4- system, with a fall and spring semester and a winter and May semester.
Location Greencastle, IN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,156
Michigan State University was established initially as the Agricultural College of the State of Michigan, with a focus on agricultural science. Popular majors include Advertising, Logistics, Materials, and Supply Chain Management, and Economics. The university also has one of the largest student bodies and has the largest residence hall system.
Location Lansing, MI
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 50,351
Known as K College or even just K, Kalamazoo’s highest degree offered is the bachelor’s, which is why there are only undergraduates on campus. 98% of students receive institutional aid to help cover the cost of attendance. Kalamazoo has a 4-year graduation rate of 76% and a student-to-faculty ratio of 13:1.
Location Kalamazoo, MI
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,467
Butler University’s school motto is simple but potent -- Education, Research, Service. Many will be happy to know that Butler does not charge an application fee from prospective students. Additionally, 93% of students receive institutional aid to help cover the cost of college. Butler has an 11:1 student-to-faculty ratio.
Location Indianapolis, IN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 5,495
Green and white are the official colleges of the Illinois Wesleyan University Titans. The highest degree offered at IWU is the bachelor’s degree, which is why there are only undergraduates on campus. The school does not require an application fee for prospective students. Alums of IWU have gone on to become politicians, activists, pro athletes, composers, and singers.
Location Bloomington, IL
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,693
Known as the Fighting Scots, the students of the College of Wooster all study at the undergraduate level for their bachelor’s degrees. Their colors are old gold and black. The incoming class typically scores between 24 -- 30 on the ACT and 1170 -- 1410 on the SAT. Wooster’s acceptance rate is 55%.
Location Wooster, OH
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,004
As an institute of music, CIM has a very focused selection of majors -- Music Performance and Music Theory, primarily. Entry into this school isn’t easy, since it has an acceptance rate of 37%. Of the students who do make it in, 98% of them receive institutional aid to help pay for college. The student to faculty ratio is a tight-knit 5:1.
Location Cleveland, OH
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 402
The University of Dayton’s mascot -- Rudy Flyer -- plays homage to the Wright brothers, who invented the airplane in Dayton. Rudy is a barnstormer pilot whose name is a pun based on the university’s initials UD. The school does not require application fees. UD has a 91% first-year retention rate and a 6-year graduation rate of 82%.
Location Dayton, OH
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 11,241

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

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.

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