Although 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
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.
24. Beloit College
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.
23. Wabash College
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.
22. Illinois Wesleyan University
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.
21. Ohio State University-Main Campus
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.
20. Kalamazoo College
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.
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.
18. Denison University
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.
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17. University of Wisconsin-Madison
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.
16. Miami University-Oxford
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.
15. Case Western Reserve University
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.
14. DePauw University
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.
13. St Olaf College
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.
12. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
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.
11. Wheaton College
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.
10. Oberlin College
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.
9. Kenyon College
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.
8. Macalester College
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.
7. Grinnell College
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.
6. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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.
5. Carleton College
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.
4. Washington University in St Louis
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.
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.
2. Northwestern University
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.
1. University of Chicago
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.
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