25 Best Colleges In the Midwest 2024 - Ranking & Fees

Chicago city
April 24, 2024
9 min read
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 4/24/24

The Midwest has many excellent colleges to choose from. Whether you're from the region or looking to live far away from home, the Midwest may have the perfect school for you.

The Midwest is home to some of the country’s top colleges that can make stellar additions to your college list. Whether you’re a Midwest native or not, each of these top schools has something unique to offer to its students. 

Below we’ll walk you through the five top colleges in the region, including some background information data on admitted students. If you’re wondering which Midwest college is best for you, read on to learn more.

25 Best Colleges in the Midwest  

Making an informed choice about which schools to add to your list starts with learning about each institution. Luckily, we’ve done the heavy lifting here, so you don’t have to. Now, let’s get into it. 

1. University of Chicago 

University of Chicago

Acceptance rate: 5%

Number of applicants: 38,800

Total admitted students: 1,849

Middle 50% SAT: 1510-1560

Middle 50% ACT: 34-35

Tuition: $63,801

The University of Chicago in Illinois is ranked first on our list. Founded in 1890, The University of Chicago is a top-ranked research university renowned for its dedication to rigorous inquiry. Emphasizing diversity of thought, UChicago aims to shape new fields of study that impact the world positively. 

Undergraduate education focuses on a liberal arts curriculum, with small, discussion-based classes centered on primary texts. The Core curriculum, a key feature, fosters critical thinking and adaptability. 

With over 50 majors, 40 minors, and numerous specialized study areas, UChicago offers ample opportunities for curious individuals passionate about research and inquiry.

2. Northwestern University


Acceptance rate: 7.5%

Number of applicants: >50,000

Total admitted students: ~3,750

Middle 50% SAT: 1500–1560

Middle 50% ACT: 34–35

Tuition: $64,887

Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, is ranked ninth for best National universities. Committed to excellent teaching, research, and student growth in a diverse academic community, Northwestern holds four core values: faculty excellence, positive student experiences, balancing present and future needs, and diversity and inclusion. 

With six undergraduate schools offering over 4,000 courses, students have ample opportunities for self-directed research and study abroad programs across every continent. If you seek diverse course offerings, research opportunities, or global understanding, Northwestern University could be the ideal choice for you.

3. Washington University in St. Louis 

Washington University in St. Louis 

Acceptance rate: 12%

Number of applicants: 32,240

Total admitted students: 3,855 

Middle 50% SAT: 1500-1570

Middle 50% ACT: 33-35

Tuition: $64,500

Washington University in St. Louis, located in Minnesota, is the third-best college in the Midwest. Offering over 100 undergraduate fields of study across four schools, WashU provides a flexible and personalized college experience. 

WashU is on a mission to foster leadership, knowledge discovery, and patient care for the betterment of society. Committed to excellence in teaching, research, and service, WashU welcomes diverse students and cultivates critical thinking skills in a supportive community. 

With opportunities for one-on-one research and study abroad programs, WashU offers a well-rounded education. If you're interested in a flexible curriculum, research opportunities, or studying abroad, WashU might be the perfect fit for you.

4. University of Notre Dame

University of Notre Dame

Acceptance rate: 11.1% 

Number of applicants: 18,445

Total admitted students: 1,600

Middle 50% SAT: 1450–1530 

Middle 50% ACT: 33–35 

Tuition: $65,025

The University of Notre Dame in Indiana is a top-ranked college in the Midwest. At Notre Dame, truth-seeking is central to its Catholic identity. Offering approximately 75 undergraduate degree programs across six schools, from Architecture to Business, the university provides a diverse array of academic opportunities. 

With nearly 50 international study programs and 11 Global Gateways, Notre Dame ensures students have access to global experiences beyond campus. For those interested in faith-based education and seeking global opportunities, Notre Dame stands out as an excellent choice to consider for their college list.

5. University of Michigan—Ann Arbor

University of Michigan—Ann Arbor

Acceptance rate: 17.9% 

Number of applicants: 87,632

Total admitted students: 15,722

Median high school GPA: 3.76

Middle 50% SAT: 1350-1530

Middle 50% ACT: 31-34

Tuition: $35,450

The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor is the fifth-best college in the Midwest. It’s renowned as a top-ranked public university committed to advancing knowledge and developing future leaders. With 14 undergraduate schools or colleges to choose from, including LSA, Engineering, and Nursing, students have access to a wide range of degree programs. 

Michigan Learning Communities (MLCs) offer a personalized learning experience, blending small college environments with the resources of a large research university. Additionally, the M-Compass program provides valuable international experiences for students eager to explore the world. 

Whether you're drawn to close-knit learning environments or global opportunities, consider adding the University of Michigan to your college list. 

6. Carleton College

Acceptance rate: 17.9%

Number of applicants: 7,869

Total admitted students: 1,405

Median high school GPA: 4.09

Middle 50% SAT: 1408-1550

Middle 50% ACT: 31- 35

Tuition: $65,043

Carleton College stands out as one of the most respected liberal arts colleges Midwest America has to offer, prioritizing critical thinking skills in its curriculum. Thanks to its low student-to-faculty ratio, students receive personalized attention tailored to their academic needs. 

Nestled in a cozy Minnesota town, Carleton's campus exudes a relaxed vibe, fostering close-knit communities among students. With its focus on academic excellence and supportive atmosphere, Carleton offers an ideal environment for students seeking a well-rounded education.

7. Grinnell College

Acceptance rate: 12.7%

Number of applicants: 13,335

Total admitted students: 1,266 

Median high school GPA: 4.03

Middle 50% SAT: 1370–1530

Middle 50% ACT: 31–34 

Tuition: $64,342

Grinnell College stands out for its focus on social justice and equity. The college offers need-blind admissions and allocates its endowment towards merit scholarships to enhance socioeconomic diversity among its students. 

Grinnell students tend to be liberal, active in social causes, and dedicated to their pursuits. As an undergraduate-only institution, Grinnell ensures that faculty can concentrate on fostering curiosity and involvement among students.

8. Macalester College

Acceptance rate: 28%

Number of applicants: 8,099

Total admitted students: 521 

Median high school GPA: 3.94

Middle 50% SAT: 1340-1515

Middle 50% ACT: 30-34

Tuition: $68,104

Macalester College, located in Saint Paul, Minnesota, is known for its strong focus on liberal arts education, internationalism, and multiculturalism. It offers a wide range of undergraduate programs across the sciences, humanities, and social sciences, emphasizing critical thinking, global awareness, and social justice. 

The college prides itself on its diverse student body, with students coming from all over the United States and more than 90 countries. Macalester provides opportunities for research, internships, and community engagement, along with a commitment to sustainability. 

Small class sizes ensure personalized attention from faculty, fostering a supportive and collaborative learning environment.

9. Case Western Reserve University

Acceptance rate: 28.7%

Number of applicants: 39,039

Total admitted students: 11,193

Median high school GPA: 4.04

Middle 50% SAT: 1410–1530

Middle 50% ACT: 30–34

Tuition: $66,020

Case Western Reserve University, located in Cleveland, Ohio, is a research-focused university known for its programs in engineering, medicine, nursing, and law. The university encourages students to work across different subjects, offering them access to the latest research labs and libraries. 

Students at Case Western can join a variety of clubs, play sports, and participate in cultural events, making campus life active and engaging. This university is dedicated to helping students succeed in their careers and make a difference in the world.

10. Illinois Wesleyan University

Acceptance rate: 42.2%

Number of applicants: 4,408

Total admitted students: 1,861

Median high school GPA: 3.8

Middle 50% SAT: 1110-1310

Middle 50% ACT: 24-29

Tuition: $55,486

Established in 1850, Illinois Wesleyan University is a top-ranked private institution located in an urban setting on an 82-acre campus. It's been recognized as the number one Regional College in the Midwest and ranked seventh in Best Value Schools. 

With a focus on academic excellence, career preparation, and fostering a strong community, Illinois Wesleyan offers students a supportive environment for growth and success. Students gain the skills and knowledge needed to thrive in their careers and beyond through small class sizes, personalized attention, and a wide range of extracurricular opportunities.

11. Ohio Northern University

Acceptance rate: 54.4%

Number of applicants: 6,625

Total admitted students: 3,602 

Median high school GPA: 3.84

Middle 50% SAT: 1090-1300

Middle 50% ACT: 26

Tuition: $33,900 - $44,750

Ohio Northern University, located in Ada, offers a wide range of majors with small class sizes, ensuring personalized attention from professors. Graduate programs, such as law and pharmacy, are prestigious. 

Outside the classroom, students enjoy a bustling campus life with 150+ clubs and Greek organizations, plus events organized by the Student Planning Committee. Sports fans can cheer on the varsity Polar Bears teams competing in NCAA Division III. Notable alumni, like Pixar animator Bob Peterson, exemplify ONU's commitment to student success.

12. College of the Ozarks

Acceptance rate: 21%

Number of applicants: 2,239

Total admitted students: 473

Median high school GPA: 3.7

Middle 50% SAT: 1080–1255

Middle 50% ACT: 20–25

Tuition: $20,800

College of the Ozarks, nestled by Lake Taneycomo in Missouri, offers a unique educational model. With 90 percent of students showing financial need, the work-study program allows them to cover tuition by working 15 hours weekly on campus. 

This approach opens doors for students from diverse backgrounds to pursue their passions in over 40 subjects. 

Beyond academics, C of O hosts lively campus events and upholds strong Christian values, creating a nurturing environment for personal and academic growth. Athletically inclined students can also compete for the Bobcats varsity sports teams.

13. Taylor University

Acceptance rate: 73%

Number of applicants: 2,099 

Total admitted students: 1,566

Median high school GPA: 3.80

Middle 50% SAT: 1080-1320

Middle 50% ACT: 27

Tuition: $39,500

Taylor University, located in Upland, Indiana, offers a vibrant campus life and strong academics. Students engage in events like the Envision Film Festival and participate in various organizations, from the pep band to lacrosse. 

With comfortable residence halls and opportunities for ministry and service, students find a supportive community. Varsity athletics, known as the Taylor University Trojans, are popular, and the university's academic structure includes diverse subjects across three schools. 

The Honors Guild fosters intellectual curiosity, while the iconic Rice Bell Tower embodies the integration of faith and learning.

14. Simpson College

Acceptance rate: 91%

Number of applicants: Unknown

Total admitted students: 1,127

Median high school GPA: 3.57

Middle 50% SAT: 890-1280

Middle 50% ACT: 20-27

Tuition: $45,306

Established in 1860, Simpson College is a well-regarded private institution nestled in a suburban setting on an 85-acre campus. With just over 1,100 undergraduate students, it offers a personalized academic experience within a 4-4-1-based calendar. 

Ranked fifth in the 2024 edition of Best Colleges among Regional Colleges in the Midwest, Simpson focuses on providing top-notch undergraduate education. From hands-on learning opportunities to research initiatives, the college cultivates a supportive community where students can explore their passions and prepare for their futures.

15. Cottey College

Acceptance rate: 80%

Number of applicants: 555

Total admitted students: 336

Median high school GPA: 3.39

Middle 50% SAT: 1030-1120

Middle 50% ACT: 18-25

Tuition: $25,720

Established in 1884, Cottey College is a private institution located in a rural area on a 17-acre campus. Ranked sixth among Regional Colleges in the Midwest in the 2024 edition of Best Colleges, Cottey emphasizes undergraduate education and provides a supportive environment for students. 

With small class sizes and hands-on learning opportunities, the college prepares students for successful futures while fostering close relationships between students and faculty. Its commitment to academic excellence and personalized attention sets Cottey College apart as a valuable educational institution.

16. Alma College

Acceptance rate: 65%

Number of applicants: 3,372

Total admitted students: 2,180

Median high school GPA: 3.56

Middle 50% SAT: 980–1210

Middle 50% ACT: 18-25

Tuition: $49,282

Alma College, founded in 1886, is a respected private institution known for its academic excellence. Ranked seventh among Regional Colleges in the Midwest in the 2024 edition of Best Colleges, Alma College offers a quality education. 

With tuition and fees set at $47,430, the college provides students with valuable resources for their academic journey. Known for its supportive environment, Alma fosters close connections between students and faculty. Through diverse programs and hands-on learning opportunities, Alma College prepares students for successful futures.

17. Benedictine College

Acceptance rate: 98%

Number of applicants: 2,728

Total admitted students: 2,687 

Median high school GPA: 3.59

Middle 50% SAT: 1100-1350

Middle 50% ACT: 22 - 30

Tuition: $34,000

Benedictine College, founded in 1858, is a respected private institution recognized for its academic quality. Ranked eighth among Regional Colleges in the Midwest in the 2024 edition of Best Colleges, Benedictine offers a strong educational experience. 

With a rich history spanning over a century, the college provides a supportive atmosphere for students to thrive. Through rigorous academics and vibrant campus life, Benedictine College prepares students for successful futures.

18. Denison University 

Acceptance rate: 17%

Number of applicants: 10,233 

Total admitted students: 2,689

Median high school GPA: 3.74

Middle 50% SAT: 1230-1430

Middle 50% ACT: 28 - 32

Tuition: $86,900

Denison is a prestigious liberal arts college that prioritizes hands-on learning and personal growth. One of its standout programs is Summer Scholars, offering students research opportunities with faculty mentorship and financial support. Despite its central location, Denison draws students from across the country and around the world, creating a diverse and vibrant campus community.

19. Kenyon College 

Acceptance rate: 32%

Number of applicants: 8,116

Total admitted students: 2,784

Median high school GPA: 3.9

Middle 50% SAT: 1340-1500

Middle 50% ACT: 31-34

Tuition: $83,740

Kenyon College, located in Gambier, Ohio, is the state's oldest private institution, founded in 1824. Known as "the Writers' College," it emphasizes writing skills in its rigorous academic program. 

Professors are deeply involved with students, often chatting with them along the campus's main path. With a reputation for its quirky and creative student body, Kenyon fosters a culture of both hard work and fun, making it a vibrant place to learn and grow.

20. Saint Louis University

Acceptance rate: 70%

Number of applicants: 16,249

Total admitted students: 1,658

Median high school GPA: 3.9

Middle 50% SAT: 1210-1400

Middle 50% ACT: 26 - 31

Tuition: $52,260

Saint Louis University (SLU) is a renowned Jesuit institution, founded in 1818, making it the oldest university west of the Mississippi. Known for its top-ranked academic programs and commitment to sustainability, affordability, and diversity, SLU offers students a transformative educational experience. 

With a strong emphasis on holistic education and community engagement, SLU fosters a vibrant campus culture. Fun fact: SLU's soccer team, the Billikens, has clinched an impressive 10 NCAA Men's Soccer Championships!

21. University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign (UIUC)

Acceptance rate:  43.7%

Number of applicants: 67,398

Total admitted students: 6,150

Median high school GPA: 3.94

Middle 50% SAT: 1400-1530

Middle 50% ACT: 31-34

Tuition: $17,704-$22,968

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, founded in 1867, is a respected public research university nestled in the Champaign–Urbana metropolitan area. While it's known for its lively social scene, with unique local laws allowing underage entry to bars, UIUC is equally renowned for its academic prowess. Producing numerous Fulbright Award winners, and counting 23 Nobel Prize winners and 26 Pulitzer Prize winners among its alumni, UIUC offers students an exciting blend of rigorous academics and vibrant campus life.

22. St. Olaf College

Acceptance rate: 52%

Number of applicants: 5,957

Total admitted students: 826

Median high school GPA: 3.71

Middle 50% SAT: 1150-1400

Middle 50% ACT: 28-33

Tuition: $56,970

St. Olaf College, located in a charming Minnesota town near the Twin Cities, offers students a beautiful setting for their education. Founded in 1874 by Norwegian Lutheran immigrants, the college embraces its Lutheran heritage while welcoming students of all faiths; only 23% identify as Lutheran, and 33% have no religious preference. 

With a unique 4-1-4 academic calendar, students can fully immerse themselves in their studies during two 14-week semesters and explore new subjects during a one-month interim in January. Known for its academic excellence and inclusive community, St. Olaf College provides students with a rewarding college experience.

23. Purdue University

Acceptance rate: 50%

Number of applicants: 72,800

Total admitted students: 9,285

Median high school GPA: 3.74

Middle 50% SAT: 1210-1450

Middle 50% ACT: 27-34

Tuition: $22,182- $41,614

Purdue University, located in West Lafayette, Indiana, is a respected public research institution known for its strong STEM programs. Established in 1869 with a generous donation from John Purdue, the university has a rich history of innovation. 

Purdue is famous for its rivalry with Indiana University and its excellent football program. Notably, Purdue was the first college to offer a degree in Aeronautical Engineering, and it boasts notable alumni like Gus Grissom, Neil Armstrong, and Eugene Cernan—key figures in space exploration. Plus, Purdue even has its own airport, the second-largest in Indiana!

24. University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

Acceptance rate: 75%

Number of applicants: 39,000

Total admitted students: 6,700 

Median high school GPA: 3.88

Middle 50% SAT: 1340 - 1490 

Middle 50% ACT: 27 - 32

Tuition: $16,654 - $36,568

The University of Minnesota, Twin Cities campus, offers students a wealth of opportunities with thousands of internship and research options available. With over 150 undergraduate majors and more than 550 graduate and professional degrees, students have a wide range of academic pathways to explore. 

Whether seeking hands-on experience or pursuing advanced studies, the University of Minnesota provides a dynamic learning environment for students to thrive and achieve their academic and professional goals.

25. Ohio State University (OSU)

Acceptance rate: 52.7%

Number of applicants: 65,200 

Total admitted students: 34,000

Median high school GPA: 3.81

Middle 50% SAT: 1310-1480

Middle 50% ACT: 29-32

Tuition: $14,382- $38,365 

The Ohio State University, based in Columbus, Ohio, is a renowned public research institution with a rich history dating back to 1870. It’s also one of the largest colleges in the US. 

Offering a wide array of academic options, Ohio State provides more than 200 majors and nearly as many minors, covering everything from Architecture to Wildlife Science. And if you can't find what you're looking for, there's always the option to craft your own major through the Personalized Study Program.

Benefits of Going to College in the Midwest 

Besides getting a high-quality undergraduate education, there are many other benefits of attending college in the Midwest.  

Cost of Living

As the cost of rent and homes boom across the country, affordable housing may be at the forefront of your mind if you’re considering a move to the Midwest. According to U.S. News World and Report’s state affordability rankings, Midwestern states account for the majority of the top 10 most affordable states, including: 

  • Ohio 
  • Iowa 
  • Missouri 
  • Indiana 

Ohio is ranked as best in the nation for affordability. The Midwest is an excellent option if you’re looking to stretch your dollars and avoid paying hefty prices each month for housing. 

It’s a Generally Friendly Place to Live and Study 

We say “generally” here because it’s difficult to paint an entire population with one brush. However, people in the Midwest are often regarded as friendly. The University of Cambridge published a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology analyzing personality traits of almost 1.6 million people in the U.S.

The study was conducted using Facebook surveys and other methods over 12 years. The data measured five personality dimensions: 

  • neuroticism 
  • agreeableness 
  • openness 
  • conscientiousness 
  • extraversion 

The report stated, “Subjects from the Midwest states exhibited friendly and conventional traits more commonly than subjects from any other region.” So, there appears to be some truth to the idea of “Midwest nice.”

Beautiful Lakes and Scenery 

If you’re a fan of lake living and taking in the views, the Midwest has ample shoreline thanks to Lake Erie and Lake Michigan. Although these Great Lakes are what most people first think about, there are many other spots to see scattered throughout the Midwest, from mountains and prairies to forests and more.

If you’re interested in soaking in the natural sights, these are some of the most beautiful places in the Midwest

  • Badlands National Park in South Dakota 
  • Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan 
  • Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota
  • Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio 
  • Shawnee National Forest in Illinois 

Feeling overwhelmed by the amount of choices you have? Next we’ll go over how to choose the perfect Midwestern college for you. 

How to Choose Which Midwest Colleges to Apply to 

Deciding which colleges to apply to can be difficult, but the decision is ultimately yours to make. If you’re having trouble deciding which of these top colleges in the Midwest is right for you, these factors can help you decide. 


Location is a crucial consideration when you apply to colleges. There are essential questions you to ask: 

  • Do you want to stay close to home? 
  • Are you comfortable moving far away from your family?
  • Would you prefer to study in a larger city or a more rural setting? 
  • Do you want access to urban resources, or are you more interested in being close to scenic vistas with outdoor activities? 
  • Do you have a preferred state? 

These are crucial questions to ask yourself and determine what you want before deciding where to apply. 

The Right Fit 

People talk about best-fit schools a lot, but it’s an important consideration. For example, if you identify as Catholic and want a more faith-based education, studying at the University of Notre Dame may be the best option for you. 

You should also consider club offerings, extracurricular activities, and traditions that each school has. Which of these schools aligns best with your morals, goals, and personality? Assessing your fit through school research can help you decide. 

Program Offerings

It's best if you evaluate program offerings before choosing where to apply. Ask yourself, if you attend a particular college, do they have programs that reflect your interests and passions? Will the curriculum help you grow and prepare you for what’s ahead? 

While you don’t necessarily need to have your major figured out yet, choosing a broad field of study can help you decide which school is best for you. 

FAQs: Top Colleges in Midwest

Do you still have questions about attending these colleges? If so, check out these answers. 

1. Does the Midwest Have Good Small Colleges? 

If a small campus is more your speed, the Wall Street Journal released a list of the 10 best small colleges in the region, each with less than 3,000 undergraduates: 

  • Carleton College 
  • Macalester College 
  • Grinnell College 
  • Denison College 
  • Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology 
  • DePaul University 
  • The College of Wooster 
  • Illinois Wesleyan University 
  • Gustavus Adolphus College 

2. Can I Apply to Only Midwest Colleges? 

If you’re sure you don’t want to live or study in any other region, there's no reason you can’t apply to only Midwestern universities. As long as you feel all the schools would be the best fit for you, feel free to add them to your college list. 

3. Which of the Best Midwest Colleges is Easiest to Get Into?

Using acceptance rate data from above, the University of Michigan has the highest acceptance rate at 17.7%. However, this acceptance rate is still selective: 1 in 5 students are accepted. You’ll need to perfect your application before submission for your best chance of success. 

4. How Do I Boost My Chances of Acceptance at a Midwest College? 

Boosting your chances of acceptance at a Midwest college (or any college for that matter) begins with perfecting your application. You can start by ensuring your GPA and test scores are high, then securing strong recommendation letters and writing stellar essays. 

You can also consider seeking an admissions consultant’s help to ensure your application is tailored to what each school seeks, boosting your chances of acceptance. 

5. Are There Any Ivy League Schools in the Midwest? 

No, all of the Ivy League schools are located in the Northeast. 

6. How Many Midwest Colleges Should I Apply to? 

The number of Midwest colleges you should apply to depends on how many other colleges you want to apply to. Generally, students will apply to 5-15 colleges, depending on their preferences. 

7. What is the #1 College in the Midwest?

On our list of top universities in the Midwest, the University of Chicago is number one. Northwestern and WashU St. Louis are also highly-ranked Midwestern schools. 

8. What College is the Harvard of the Midwest?

The University of Chicago is widely considered the top university in the Midwest. 

9. Does the Midwest Region Have Good Colleges?

There are excellent universities in the Midwest and all over the US! Some of the top choices in the Midwest for college include the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, and Washington University in St. Louis.

Final Thoughts 

The Midwest is the home of many excellent colleges. Whether you’re interested in small Midwestern universities or a bustling campus, there truly is something for everyone. 

Ultimately, the Midwest colleges you decide to apply to are your decision. Before creating your applications, consider your preferences, like location, fit, and program offerings. 

Getting into the best colleges requires polished applications that show admissions committees why you’re the perfect fit. Attending a Midwest college is well within your reach with enough dedication and enthusiasm. 

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