Top 25 Best Great Lakes Colleges in the US | 2023 Rankings

Top Great Lakes Colleges 2023 badge.Superior, Erie, Michigan, Huron, and Ontario are collectively known as the Great Lakes. They also share that name with the region in the US. The Great Lakes region is well-known for its mighty bodies of water, but the colleges in the area are equally impressive.

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 Great Lakes Colleges

The University of Chicago receives over 34,300 applications though only about 2,500 were accepted. Therefore, the school has a 7.3% acceptance rate. The school is made up of their undergraduate college and five graduate research divisions. They also have campuses all over the world from Hong Kong to Paris.
Location Chicago, IL
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 17,834
Top majors at Northwestern University are Econometrics and Quantitative Economics, Journalism, Radio and Television, Speech Communication and Rhetoric, and Neuroscience. A founding member of the Big Ten Conference, top sports for the Wildcats include football, basketball, baseball, and soccer. Willie the Wildcat cheers them on and the colors are purple and white.
Location Evanston, IL
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 22,603
Edward Sorin founded the University of Notre Dame in 1842 as a private Catholic research University. Their motto is “Vita Dulcedo Spes” or “Life, Sweetness, Hope” – referencing the Virgin Mary. The school’s teams are known as the Fighting Irish and wear the colors blue and gold. Their mascot is the very iconic leprechaun. Currently, just over 12,800 students attend.
Location Notre Dame, IN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 12,809
A fairly large school, the University of Michigan has over 47,000 students attending, which includes about 31,300 undergraduate students. The two most commonly chosen majors are Computer and Information Sciences and Business Administration. However, Economics, Physiological Psychology/Psychobiology, and Experimental Psychology are also popular.
Location Ann Arbor, MI
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 47,907
Hillsdale’s motto is “Virtus Tentamine Gaudet” or “Strength Rejoices in the Challenge.” The school has a 97% first year retention rate and a 9 to 1 student to faculty ratio. All students who attend are required to take courses on the “Great Books,” the United States Constitution, and science courses. 78% of students will graduate within 6 years.
Location Hillsdale, MI
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,543
The University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign is a public land-grant research university. It was one of 37 universities that came out of the Morrill Land-Grant Act. When the school opened, there were only 77 students and 2 faculty members. Today, over 52,000 students attend, including over 33,000 undergraduates.
Location Champaign, IL
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 52,679
The University of Wisconsin - Madison was the first public university in the state as it was founded when Wisconsin received statehood in 1848. Their motto is “Numen Lumen” or “Divine Light.” It’s also the largest employer in the state as it has over 24,200 faculty and staff. There are 136 undergraduate majors with Economics, Computer and Information Sciences, and Psychology being the most popular.
Location Madison, WI
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 44,640
A land-grant research university, Ohio State is known as a Public Ivy. Getting its start in 1870, it was originally known as the Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College. The Buckeyes take part in the Big Ten Conference and are well known for their football program. With over 1,000 athletes, other popular sports at the school include track, baseball, ice hockey, and fencing.
Location Columbus, OH
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 61,369
Kenyon College has produced Rhodes Scholars, Truman Scholarship winners, Fulbright recipients, and Marshall Scholarship winners. Famous alumni have included former United States President Rutherford B. Hayes, actor Paul Newman, and Calvin and Hobbes creator, Bill Watterson. The school has a 37% acceptance rate.
Location Gambier, OH
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,615
Case Western Reserve University has slightly more graduate students (52.6%) than undergraduate students (47.4%). The school is known as the “Yale of the West” since its campus imitated Yale’s. Computer Science is the most popular major, followed by Mechanical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering.
Location Cleveland, OH
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 11,465
Purdue University is a public land-grant research university. Alumni include Neil Armstrong, Orville Redenbacher, and Drew Brees. The university accepts about 67% of students. The most popular majors are Computer Science, followed by Mechanical Engineering, Industrial Engineering, and Aerospace, Aeronautical, and Astronautical/Space Engineering.
Location West Lafayette, IN
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 46,655
Bloomington is the flagship and largest campus of Indiana University. Past students have included the current Disney CEO, Bob Chapek, Hunger Games author, Suzanne Collins, and the co-founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales. A majority of incoming students are from Illinois and Indiana, but students will come from all over the country to attend.
Location Bloomington, IN
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 43,064
Wheaton College was founded by evangelical abolitionists in 1860 and would become a stop on the Underground Railroad. Business is by far the most popular major at the school. Athletic teams are known as The Thunder. They wear blue and orange and compete in the NCAA Division III in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin.
Location Wheaton, IL
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,908
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology focuses on math, science, and engineering. It was originally founded as the Terre Haute School of Industrial Science in 1874 in an effort to teach technical training to assist with railroad construction. It would get its current name in 1971 after financial support from the Hulman family. The top major is Mechanical Engineering.
Location Terre Haute, IN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,990
Miami University - Oxford’s motto is “Prodesse Quam Conspici” in Latin, which means “To accomplish without being conspicuous.” The 10th oldest public university in the United States (1809), they accept 92% of applicants. Athletes, known as the Miami RedHawks, compete in the Mid-American Conference and National Collegiate Hockey Conference.
Location Oxford, OH
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 18,880
Located in Greencastle, Indiana, DePauw University was founded in 1837 as Indiana Asbury University .DePauw’s motto is “Decus lumenque reipublicae collegium” in Latin, which means “the college is the splendor and light of the common good.” Economics, Speech Communication, and Computer Science are the three most popular majors.
Location Greencastle, IN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,752
Oberlin College is the oldest coeducational liberal arts college in the country, and the Oberlin Conservatory of Music is also the oldest operating conservatory within the United States. They accept only about 35% of students. 77% will graduate within 4 years (86% within 6). Oberlin College’s motto is “Learning and Labor.”
Location Oberlin, OH
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,658
Denison University is an undergraduate school that is highly selective, only accepting 28% of students who apply. 85% of freshmen will stay on after the first year and 80% will graduate within six years. Econometrics and Quantitative Economics, Mass Communication/Media Studies, and Biology are popular areas of study.
Location Granville, OH
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,258
Michigan State University is one of the largest universities when it comes to enrollment. Some alumni have included Magic Johnson, Le’Veon Bell, Dan Gilbert, and Sam Raimi. Athletes are known as Spartans and they compete in the Big 10 conference wearing green and white. 77.5% of the students on campus are undergraduates.
Location Lansing, MI
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 49,695
Lawrence University was the second coeducation institution (founded in 1847) in the US. The three most popular majors are Music Performance, Economics, and Psychology. Offering only bachelor’s degrees to students, many alumni have gone into careers in politics, music, and sports. The campus sits along the winding Fox River.
Location Appleton, WI
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,430
Wabash College is a small undergraduate men’s school. They accept just under 63% of applicants and have a 9:1 student-to-faculty ratio. The student paper, The Bachelor has been in publication since the early 1900’s. Economics, Rhetoric and Composition, History, and Political Science and Government are among the popular majors.
Location Crawfordsville, IN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 868
Also known simply as Prin, Principia College is liberal arts school that offers up to the bachelor’s degree. Its campus is located on the Mississippi River along the border of Illinois and Missouri. Students of Principia have gone on to win prestigious awards, such as Academy Awards and Pulitzer Prizes. Actor Robert Duvall is one notable alumni.
Location Elsah, IL
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 340
The College of Wooster is a small liberal arts college offering around 34 different degree programs. The most popular degree programs are Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Political Science, Psychology, and Neuroscience. There is no application fee for this school and an acceptance rate of about 65%. Students that attend The College of Wooster can enjoy smaller class sizes - an 11:1 student-to-faculty ratio.
Location Wooster, OH
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,924
Known as the Titans, athletes attending Illinois Wesleyan University wear green and white. The university has an 11:1 student-to-faculty ratio and a 78% four-year graduation rate. The liberal arts college’s motto is “Scientia et Sapientia” or “Knowledge and Wisdom.” Illinois Wesleyan does not charge students an application fee.
Location Bloomington, IL
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,636
Founded in 1881, the school would become the first coeducational Catholic university in the world in 1909. 11 schools and colleges can be found at the Milwaukee campus, but the school also features more than 68 doctoral and master’s degree programs. Top areas of study include Biomedical Sciences and Registered Nursing.
Location Milwaukee, WI
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 11,550

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


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.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Join thousands of students and parents learning about finding the right college, admissions secrets, scholarships, financial aid, and more.