The Midwest is full of big universities–it’s home to the Big 10 after all! And while these schools are great for some students, they aren’t right for everyone. Some are better fit for smaller colleges, of which they may not even be aware.
To shed light on small but deserving colleges around the country, we continue our hidden gems series with a list of regional gem colleges in the Midwest.
See gems in the South and West here.
1. Beloit College
Beloit is named for the small Wisconsin town where it resides, less than a ten-minute walk from the Illinois border. Founded in 1846, the college is Wisconsin’s oldest and is committed to providing an education based on “the liberal arts in practice” in 50 different majors.
Learn more about Beloit College
2. Saint Mary’s College
South Bend, IN
Saint Mary’s College is one of two women’s colleges remaining in Indiana and is located just across the street from the University of Notre Dame. Students at Saint Mary’s enjoy an all women’s campus while taking advantage of additional academic opportunities across the way.
Learn more about St. Mary’s College
3. Hope College
Located just a few miles from the shores of Lake Michigan, Hope College offers an impressive 93 majors and 200 study abroad programs. Many students live in residence halls, but Hope also owns 72 individual “cottages” which house smaller numbers of students. Folk singer Sufjan Stevens is a notable Hope alum.
Learn more about Hope College
4. College of Saint Benedict and St. John’s University
St. Joseph, MN
Saint Benedict (for women) and St. John’s (for men) are actually two separate liberal arts colleges, but their partnership is so close that they are usually considered together. The community forms the largest liberal arts college in the nation. CSB/SJU students have the choice among more 40 programs of study.
5. Knox College
Knox College, located in western Illinois, stresses the importance of applying classroom learning to real-world experiences such as faculty research and service programs.The liberal arts college offers over 60 programs of study, as well as 5 trimester-long immersive programs.
Learn more about Knox College
7. Calvin College
Grand Rapids, MI
Calvin is a Christian liberal arts college located in western Michigan, offering one-hundred majors in the arts, sciences, engineering, and nursing. The interim (January) term each year is spent in an intensive course outside of the major, learning a hobby or studying abroad.
Learn more about Calvin College
8. Earlham College
West Richmond, IN
Located in eastern Indiana, Earlham was the third college in the United States to be founded by Quakers. In line with this tradition, students and faculty refer to each other solely by their first names. The college offers over 30 majors and produces an exceptionally high number of students who go on to receive PhDs, especially in the life sciences.
Learn more about Earlham College
9. Truman State University
Truman is one of a handful of public liberal arts universities in the US. The northern Missouri college stresses the importance of cultivating a community of engaged, curious learners. Students have over 30 majors to choose from in business, liberal arts, and sciences.
Learn more about Truman State University
10. Lawrence University
Lawrence is a strictly undergraduate liberal arts college and conservatory of music offering 35 distinct bachelor’s degrees. Located in central Wisconsin, the college seeks to educate the whole person through critical thinking and by promoting community.
Learn more about Lawrence University
11. Rockhurst University
Kansas City, MO
One of the few truly urban regional gems, Rockhurst University offers more than 50 undergraduate and graduate degrees in a wide range of fields. The Jesuit university strives to educate students in service and leadership as well as scholarship, and graduates receive two transcripts: one for academics and one for service.
Learn more about Rockhurst University
12. John Carroll University
University Heights, OH
Located in the suburbs of Cleveland, John Carroll serves both undergraduates (as a liberal arts college) and graduate students (as a business school). Its college of liberal arts and sciences offers over 50 majors, and some programs allow students to take a 5th year to graduate with both a bachelor’s and master’s degree.
Learn more about John Carroll University
14. Cornell College
Mount Vernon, IA
Cornell is one of five colleges in the US to offer courses in block format so that students can focus completely on one subject for 3 and a half weeks. A science class, for instance, might meet in the morning for a lecture and then for a few hours in the lab in the afternoon. Students can choose from over 50 programs of study, or design their own major.
Learn more about Cornell College
15. Albion College
Albion shares a name with the small, southern Michigan town where it was founded. The liberal arts college offers more than 40 majors; popular among these include psychology, economics, biology, and biochemistry. Greek life is particularly active at Albion for a college its size.
Learn more about Albion College
16. Hanover College
Established in 1827, Hanover is the oldest private college in the state of Indiana. Its picturesque campus is nestled along the Ohio River and Indiana’s border with Kentucky. Hanover’s mission is to provide an education that is inherently valuable, offering around 40 flexible programs of study in the liberal arts and sciences, as well as allowing students to design their own majors.
Learn more about Hanover College
Some highly specialized colleges and universities were excluded from consideration. Regional gems are defined as institutions of higher learning which distinguish themselves academically (i.e. have an overall ranking of less than 300) but receive fewer than 5,000 applications a year.
This piece was edited at 2:12 pm on 6/10/15 to correct Earlham College’s location to Richmond, IN rather than West Richmond, IN and at 8:06 am on 6/15/2015 to reflect that five colleges, and not two, use block schedule.