The 25 Best Colleges in the Midwest – 2016 University Rankings

25 Best Colleges in the MidwestAlthough some may think of it as “fly-over country,” the Midwest is known for much more than just farm fields. For one, it’s home to many, many well-respected colleges and universities.

Students are often drawn to (or choose to stay in) the Midwest for its smaller cities, less hustle and bustle, and friendly charm.

But, don’t be fooled–colleges in the Midwest come in all shapes and sizes. From the small liberal arts colleges surrounded by corn fields, to huge research universities just blocks from downtown Chicago, you can find just about anything you want in this region of the country.

These rankings looked at schools from all throughout the middle of the country and evaluated them based on measures of selectivity, student success, diversity, and more.

Here are the 25 best colleges in the Midwest:


25. Creighton University

Source: Flickr user kishka_king.

Source: Flickr user kishka_king.

Omaha, NE

Undergraduate enrollment: 4,076

Creighton University is a private research university located in Omaha. The campus is just outside of the downtown district, and the Omaha metro area has a population of more than 900,000. J. Joseph Ricketts, founder of TD Ameritrade and current owner of the Chicago Cubs, graduated from Creighton in 1968.

Learn more about Creighton University


24. Beloit College

Source: Flickr user oldonliner.

Source: Flickr user oldonliner.

Beloit, WI

Undergraduate enrollment: 1,306

Beloit College is one of a few dozen colleges highlighted as a “College that Changes Lives” for its academic excellence and community inclusion. Located in a small town just north of the Wisconsin-Illinois border, this private liberal arts college is also touted for its “liberal arts in practice” mentality. Popular majors include Psychology, Anthropology, and Science, Technology, and Society.

Learn more about Beloit College


23. Wabash College

Source: Flickr user dok1.

Source: Flickr user dok1.

Crawfordsville, IN

Undergraduate enrollment: 902

Wabash is one of the nation’s few remaining all-men’s colleges. Located near central Indiana and enrolling just under 1,000 undergraduates, Wabash College offers liberal arts degrees in 22 major programs. Seniors are required to pass a comprehensive exam over their field of study before earning a degree.

Learn more about Wabash College


22. Illinois Wesleyan University

By Republicofjosh01 (talk) at en.wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Republicofjosh01 (talk) at en.wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Bloomington, IL

Undergraduate enrollment: 2,009

With more than 2,000 undergraduates, Illinois Wesleyan offers over 80 majors from their College of Liberal Arts, College of Fine Arts, and School of Nursing. The school offers an unusual term schedule, the 4-4-1, in which students are allowed to take full Fall and Spring course loads, and then enroll in a shortened, but immersive, single course throughout the month of May.

learn more about Illinois Wesleyan University


21. Ohio State University-Main Campus

Source: Flickr user marada.

Source: Flickr user marada.

Columbus, OH

Undergraduate enrollment: 44,201

Ohio State University is a public research university and is recognized as being on of the nation’s “Public Ivies” for its strong academic record. The campus, north of downtown Columbus, spans 2.5 miles and enrolls over 44,000 undergrads. It’s the third-largest university campus in the country.

Learn more about Ohio State University


20. Kalamazoo College

By Gotanero (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Gotanero (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Kalamazoo, MI

Undergraduate enrollment: 1,458

Kalamazoo College, or K College, is a private liberal arts college with approximately 1,500 undergraduate students. The school is regularly regarded as one of the country’s “hidden gems” in terms of academic quality and value. Students must meet requirements of the K Plan in order to graduate, which include specialized seminars, study abroad programs, and a final senior project.

Learn more about Kalamazoo College


19. Gustavus Adolphus College

Saint Peter, MN

Undergraduate enrollment: 2,449

Gustavus Adolphus College is a private liberal arts college that is closely affiliated with the Lutheran Evangelical Church in America. Each year, its 2,400 undergraduate students and Minnesota campus play host to the Nobel Conference, in which Nobel laureates speak to a crowd of students and other attendees, explaining their field of expertise.

Learn more about Gustavus Adolphus College


18. Denison University

Source: Flickr user adrians.

Source: Flickr user adrians.

Granville, OH

Undergraduate enrollment: 2,274

Denison is a private liberal arts college located outside of Columbus, OH. Its 900 acre campus includes a 550 acres of biological reserve. Actor/comedian Steve Carrell graduated from Denison University.

Learn more about Denison University


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17. University of Wisconsin-Madison

Source: Flickr user tabor-roeder.

Source: Flickr user tabor-roeder.

Madison, WI

Undergraduate enrollment: 30,728

UW-Madison champions “The Wisconsin Idea”, which is a commitment of all work conducted at the university to serve the needs of all Wisconsin state residents. University of Wisconsin-Madison enrolls more than 30,000 undergraduate students.

Learn more about the University of Wisconsin – Madison


16. Miami University-Oxford

Miami University-Oxford - Best Large Colleges

Muohioharrison“. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

Oxford, OH

Undergraduate enrollment: 15,462

Miami University boasts 7 schools and colleges, including the Farmer’s School of Business, which offers 8 undergraduate majors and is considered to be one of the top undergraduate business schools in the country. “Miami of Ohio”, as this college is often known, enrolls more than 15,000 undergrads.

Learn more about Miami University – Oxford


15. Case Western Reserve University

Source: Flickr user david44149.

Source: Flickr user david44149.

Cleveland, OH

Undergraduate enrollment: 4,661

This private research university in Cleveland enrolls just less than 5,000 undergraduate students. Case Western’s most popular majors include Biomedical Engineering, Biology, Nursing, and Mechanical Engineering. The school’s name stems from the merger of two formerly separate schools, Western Reserve University and Case Institute of Technology, which occurred in 1967.

Learn more about Case Western Reserve University


14. DePauw University

By Rovergirl88 at English Wikipedia(Original text: Rovergirl88 (talk)) (Own work (Original text: self-made)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Rovergirl88 at English Wikipedia(Original text: Rovergirl88 (talk)) (Own work (Original text: self-made)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Greencastle, IN

Undergraduate enrollment: 2,304

DePauw University is a medium-sized, private liberal arts college located near central Indiana. It has a rich history of fraternities and sororities on campus, laying claim as home of the first modern-day sorority (Kappa Alpha Theta) and the first campus to house the two longest continuously-running fraternities in the country.

Learn more about DePauw University


13. St Olaf College

By Daniel Edwins a.k.a. Webmoof of English Wikipedia (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

By Daniel Edwins a.k.a. Webmoof of English Wikipedia (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

Northfield, MN

Undergraduate enrollment: 3,125

Ninety-six percent of St. Olaf students reside in one of 29 residential buildings on this private liberal arts campus, commonly referred to as “The Hill”. The picturesque campus, which is about 45 minutes south of the Twin Cities, is featured in the famous book The Great Gasby.

Learn more about St Olaf College


12. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

University of Illinois and Urbana-Champaign - Best Large Colleges

Beckman Institute – UIUC – DSC09175” by Daderot – I took this photograph.. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

Champaign, IL

Undergraduate enrollment: 32,695

University of Illinois is one of the most-selective public research universities in the country and is known for its breakthrough research and development in various science and engineering fields. The 30,000+ undergraduate students can choose from over 150 majors/programs, although engineering programs are usually among the most popular.

Learn more about the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign


11. Wheaton College

Source: Flickr user stevan.

Source: Flickr user stevan.

Wheaton, IL

Undergraduate enrollment: 2,444

Wheaton is closely affiliated with the Evangelical Protestant church, noting its commitment to both academics and “deep faith.” Its campus, located about 25 miles outside of Chicago, is home to more than 2,400 undergraduate students and the school offers about 40 different majors/programs.

Learn more about Wheaton College


10. Oberlin College

By Daderot (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Daderot (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Oberlin, OH

Undergraduate enrollment: 2,894

Oberlin College has the distinction of being the first college in the nation to regularly admit women and black students. Its 2,900 undergraduate students can choose from 50 majors/programs, including the oldest Neuroscience program in the country.

Learn more about Oberlin College


9. Kenyon College

Kenyon College - Best Small Colleges

Source: Flickr user curtsm.

Gambier, OH

Undergraduate enrollment: 1,705

Kenyon College is a private liberal arts college that houses more than 1,700 undergrads. The school offers a wide assortment of majors and concentrations, and requires students to take classes from each of four academic divisions (Natural Sciences, Fine Art, Humanities, Social Sciences). The campus is noted for its interesting architectural style and for being the oldest private college in Ohio.

Learn more about Kenyon College


8. Macalester College

By Appraiser (self-made Photo by William Wesen) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Appraiser (self-made Photo by William Wesen) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Saint Paul, MN

Undergraduate enrollment: 2,039

Macalester is an undergraduate-only college nestled into the residential district of Saint Paul. It enrolls more than 2,000 undergrads and offers 37 majors plus 63 areas of study, along with a course catalog with more than 800 offerings.

Learn more about Macalester College


7. Grinnell College

Source: Flickr user silversprite.

Source: Flickr user silversprite.

Grinnell, IA

Undergraduate enrollment: 1,721

Located near central Iowa, Grinnell College enrolls more than 1,700 undergrads each year. The private liberal arts college is among one of the wealthiest on a per-student basis, boasting an endowment of nearly $2 billion. The campus it notable for its mixture of historic and modern facilities.

Learn more about Grinnell College


6. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

Source: Flickr user beckstei.

Source: Flickr user beckstei.

Ann Arbor, MI

Undergraduate enrollment: 28,283

With more than 28,000 undergrads, U of M is a large, public research university. Known among fans and rivals for its historic sports programs, the school is consistently near the top in the country for academic performance as well. Students study a range of areas from Psychology to Economics.

Learn more about the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor


5. Carleton College

By Dogs1337 (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Dogs1337 (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Northfield, MN

Undergraduate Enrollment: 2,045

This private liberal arts college brings in about 2,000 undergrads to the scenic campus just south of Minneapolis. The school is often regarded as one of the best in the region and arguably the best in the state. Undergrads at Carleton College are required to take courses in international studies, intercultural domestic studies, arts practice, formal or statistical reasoning, physical education, and other subjects.

Learn more about Carleton College


4. Washington University in St Louis

Washington University in St. Louis - Best Medium-sized Colleges

Brookings“. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

St. Louis, MO

Undergraduate enrollment: 7,336

Considered one of the premiere research universities in the nation, Wash U has a relatively modest undergraduate enrollment of just over 7,000. Students are heavily involved in research, with more than 60% of undergrads participating in some kind of research across all areas. The three most popular majors: Psychology, Finance, and Biology.

Learn more about Washington University in St Louis


3. University of Notre Dame

Notre Dame, IN

Undergraduate enrollment: 8,477

With a rich tradition in academics, athletics, and faith, ND is a popular college for students from around the country. Almost all of Notre Dame’s 8,500 undergraduate students live on campus, as this private research university is home to 29 separate residence halls. Majors of choice include Finance, Accounting, and Political Science.

Learn more about the University of Notre Dame


2. Northwestern University

Northwestern University - Best Medium-sized Colleges

University Library at Northwestern” by Madcoverboy (talk) – self-made. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikipedia.

Evanston, IL

Undergraduate enrollment: 9,283

Just 12 miles north of Chicago lies the Northwestern campus in Evanston. Its 9,000+ undergrads choose from more than 120 undergrad majors, including their world-renowned Journalism and Engineering programs.

Learn more about Northwestern University


1. University of Chicago

Source: Flickr user lmgadelha.

Source: Flickr user lmgadelha.

Chicago, IL

Undergraduate enrollment: 5,703

This medium-sized, private research university is among the most well-respected in the world. From its numerous scientific breakthroughs and award-winning faculty, to its urban campus setting, UC has much to offer to potential students.

Learn more about the University of Chicago

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

View all of the 2016 Best Colleges rankings from College Raptor

Kaeli Nieves-Whitmore

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