Hidden Gems in the Midwest | 2020 Rankings

Hidden gems - best schools in the midwest

Like the schools featured here, the Midwest is an often overlooked region of the United States. Much more than flyover country, the Midwest is home to bustling industry, vital farms, friendly people, and some of the best colleges. 

For the purposes of this list, we’ve included the following states as part of the Midwest region: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. 

We’ve included the top three highest ranking gem schools for each state; but if you see only one or two, it just means those were the only schools to meet our criteria. 

To qualify as a College Raptor Hidden Gem, schools must meet the following requirements:

  • Receive fewer than 5,000 applications
  • Have fewer than 7,000 undergraduate students

If you call the Midwest home, or seek education there, make sure to check out these small but mighty schools. 

Hidden Gems in the Midwest

Illinois

Wheaton has a high acceptance rate of 83%, accepting a relatively equal percentage of men and women. Popular majors at the university include Business / Managerial Economics, English and Health Sciences. The school has a four year graduation rate of 77% and relatively smaller class sizes with 10 students for every one faculty member.
Location Wheaton, IL
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,944
Known as the Titans, student athletes at Illinois Wesleyan University wear green and white while competing. A total of 539 athletes play for the school, and IL Wesleyan is classified within the NCAA Division III (with football). This school does not have an application fee for undergraduate students.
Location Bloomington, IL
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,693
Principia College’s motto is “As the Sowing, The Reaping.” The school’s colors are blue and gold. Principia College is nonselective, with a 92% acceptance rate. The college offers a range of majors and programs. The most popular ones include Education, Business Administration and Management, and Mass Communication/Media Studies.
Location Elsah, IL
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 447

Indiana

This institute has a significantly smaller graduate class, with only 57 graduate students compared to over 2,000 undergraduates. The school has a six-year graduation rate of 81%. Mechanical Engineering is by far and away the most popular major on campus. Students are known, fittingly, as the Fightin’ Engineers.
Location Terre Haute, IN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,142
Popular majors at Taylor include Psychology, Kinesiology, and Biology. While students are not required to live on campus, 20 residence halls are available on campus. Taylor also possesses special programs for service members and veterans, including credit for military training.
Location Upland, IN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,195
Wabash College remains an all-men liberal arts school, with an acceptance rate of 65%. Class sizes are approximately 10 students for every 1 faculty member. Approximately 86% of freshmen return to Wabash after their first year there. Their official school color is scarlet, and their mascot is named Wally Wabash.
Location Crawfordsville, IN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 882

Iowa

Luther College runs on a four-one-four academic plan. The school does not require students to pay an application fee. Popular majors at the college include Biology, Business, Music, and Psychology. Luther is also a member of the NCAA Division III (with football), with a total of over 470 athletes.
Location Decorah, IA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,005
This college does not have students pay an application fee. Average class sizes are 12 students for every one faculty member. Additionally, 82% of freshmen students return to Cornell to continue their college education the following year. Interestingly, the majority of first years at Cornell are from Illinois, not Iowa.
Location Mt. Vernon, IA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,028
Dordt College has an acceptance rate of 73%, accepting over 1,000 students out of almost 1,390 total applicants. While students are not required to live on campus, 21 residence halls are available on campus. Academics isn’t the only activity students can pursue on campus; Dordt has over 460 student athletes.
Location Sioux Center, IA
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,564

Kansas

Benedictine College is the home of the Ravens. Additionally, the college is a part of the NAIA, or the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, with over 500 student athletes. The campus is located right on the Missouri River. Of all the students on campus, 97% of them study at the undergraduate level.
Location Atchison,KS
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,124
Baker University has one official school color---cadmium orange. Student athletes compete in the Heart of America conference as the Wildcats. Business Administration, Registered Nursing, and Business / Commerce are the top three most popular majors. Baker University has a 9:1 student-to-faculty ratio.
Location Baldwin City, KS
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,769
Initially founded to offer women college courses, Newman University became fully coeducational in 1965. Newman does not require students to pay an application fee. Popular majors at this university include Elementary Education, Registered Nursing, Biology and Business.
Location Wichita, KS
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 3,373

Michigan

Around 2,200 students apply to Hillsdale College annually, but only 36% of them are accepted. Hillsdale College also boasts an impressively small student to faculty ratio, with 9 students to every 1 faculty member. Out of the 34 majors offered, the most popular majors include Economics, History, and English.
Location Hillsdale, MI
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,521
Kalamazoo does not have an application fee and accepts approximately 73% of students who apply. Approximately, 99% of students receiving grant aid. Most Kalamazoo students study one semester abroad, and spend one semester in an academic internship--this is known as the K Plan.
Location Kalamazoo, MI
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,467
Hope College is fairly nonselective, accepting 76% of applicants. Class sizes are approximately 11 students for every 1 faculty member. Approximately 89% of first year students return to the school the following year. While students are not required to live on campus, 21 residence facilities are provided by the university at various locations throughout Hope’s campus.
Location Holland, MI
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 3,149

Minnesota

The College of Saint Benedict is a women’s college that has a partnership with Saint John’s University---a men’s college. Students at CSB compete as the Bennies and wear red and white to represent their school. CSB offers up to a bachelor’s degree level, therefore, you’ll only find undergraduate students on campus.
Location Saint Joseph, MN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,782
Popular majors at this university include Business, Accounting, and Biology. Students are not required to live on campus; however, there are over a dozen residence facilities students can utilize which are provided by the university. Class sizes are approximately 12 students for every 1 faculty member.
Location Collegeville, MN
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,777
The University of Minnesota -- Rochester, also known as UMR, is one of the youngest college campuses in the US---established in 2006. Of the 1,080 applications UMR receives, the school will accept half of them. They have an 80% freshman acceptance rate.
Location Rochester, MN
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 533

Missouri

Truman State University is named for the Missouri-born President Harry Truman. Business Administration, Biology, Psychology, Kinesiology, and Accounting are the top 5 most popular majors studied on campus. Their school seal features two bears and the US motto “United We Stand, Divided We Fall.”
Location Kirksville, MO
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 5,853
Rockhurst University’s motto is “Sapientia Aedificavit Sibi Domum,” which translates to “Wisdom has built herself a home.” The university accepts around 66% of all applicants, and most freshmen return to the school for their sophomore year. Over 66% of first-year students attending Rockhurst University are from Missouri.
Location Kansas City, MO
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 3,145
Over 4,330 students apply to Missouri University of Science and Technology annually. The most popular majors offered at the school include Mechanical Engineering, Electrical and Electronics Engineering, and Computer and Information Sciences. The university is also known for its Stonehenge recreation made in the 1980’s.
Location Rolla, MO
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 8,601

Nebraska

Part of a non-profit healthcare organization, the Bryan College of Health Sciences has just over 700 students---84% of which study at the undergraduate level. They offer only 5 healthcare related majors: Registered Nursing, Cardiovascular Technology, Diagnostic Medical Sonography, Pre-Medical Studies, and Health Sciences.
Location Lincoln, NE
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 716
Nebraska Wesleyan University was founded in 1887 and began its first classes while the school was still being built. Every year, the university receives over 2,100 applicants, 72% of which are accepted. Nebraska Wesleyan University’s most popular majors include Registered Nursing, Business, and Biology.
Location Lincoln, NE
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,095
Concordia University has a multitude of branches, but the one in Nebraska joined the system in 1995. CU Nebraska’s official school colors are blue and white, and their mascot is the Bulldog. Track, basketball, football, tennis, and soccer are all popular sports played on campus.
Location Seward, NE
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,424

North Dakota

The University of Mary was originally a women’s college when it was established in 1959, but quickly became co-ed in the 1960’s. Out of 1,300 applicants, almost 1,020 students were accepted into the university. Their mascot is named Maximus. UMary’s campus sits to the east of the Missouri River.
Location Bismarck, ND
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 3,796
A majority of students entering the college are from North Dakota---67% to be precise. Popular majors include Nursing, Elementary Education, and Business. With 301 student athletes, Minot State also offers various sports to their students including Golf, Baseball, Basketball, and Football.
Location Minot, ND
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 3,189
Valley City State’s top three most popular majors include Elementary Education, Business, and Wildlife Science & Management. The university is also classified as a member of the NAIA Division II. The university has a total of 256 athletes, with the most students playing football. They compete as the Vikings.
Location Valley City, ND
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 1,547

Ohio

The Cleveland Institute of Music may be small, but their graduates go on to become skilled musicians, composers, and performers. They offer only one major---Music Performance. CIM is a relatively selective school, with a 37% acceptance rate. They have a very close-knit 5:1 student-to-faculty ratio.
Location Cleveland, OH
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 402
John Carroll University’s school’s official colors are blue and gold, and their mascot is Lobo. With no application fee, John Carroll University has an acceptance rate of 83%. Students attending the school can usually expect a small class size of 13 students to every 1 faculty member.
Location University Heights, OH
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 3,555
Originally named the College of Steubenville, the school received its university status in 1980, and changed its name to Franciscan University of Steubenville in 1986. The most popular majors and programs offered at the university include Theology, Registered Nursing, Psychology, and Education.
Location Steubenville, OH
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 3,028

South Dakota

Augustana University has gone through multiple name and location changes over the years, before settling on AU and Sioux Falls. Augustana has a six year graduation rate of 70%, and a retention rate of 85%. Their school colors are navy blue and gold. Augustana competes in NCAA Division II athletics as the Vikings.
Location Sioux Falls, SD
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,133
Established in 1885, the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology has the motto “Invent tomorrow.” Reflecting that motto, the most popular programs and majors offered at the school include Mechanical Engineering, Civil Engineering, and Chemical Engineering. Additionally, the school offers up to a doctoral degree.
Location Rapid City, SD
Institution Type Public
Student Enrollment 2,654
At Dakota Wesleyan University, the top 5 most popular majors are Registered Nursing, Business, Biology, Sports & Fitness Management, and Psychology. 77% of the first-year class call South Dakota home, but other students come from around the country. DWU’s official school colors are royal blue and white.
Location Mitchell, SD
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,024

Wisconsin 

Many of the students who graduated from Lawrence University have gone on to do incredible things. Among their alumni include award-winning actors, politicians, athletes, authors, singer-song-writers and more. Lawrence University is located on the Fox River. Their student-to-faculty ratio is a cozy 8:1.
Location Appleton, WI
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,463
Students at the Milwaukee School of Engineering---also known as MSOE---wear red and white to cheer on mascot Roscoe the Raider during sports competitions. Their campus is located not far from Milwaukee Bay on the mighty Lake Michigan. Mechanical Engineering is by far and away the most popular major at MSOE.
Location Milwaukee, WI
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 2,820
Beloit College is one of the oldest colleges in Wisconsin, having been founded before Wisconsin was even a state. Beloit College is a fairly selective school, only accepting 56% of all applicants. The top three majors offered at the school include Science, Technology, and Society, Anthropology, and Political Science and Government.
Location Beloid, WI
Institution Type Private
Student Enrollment 1,275

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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