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10 Best Colleges in Illinois

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The Prairie State is notable for numerous reasons‚ÄĒfour former U.S. presidents (Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Ronald Reagan, and Barack Obama) hailed from Illinois and global companies such as Boeing, McDonald‚Äôs, State Farm, and United Airlines are headquartered in the state. Illinois is also known for its institutions of higher education. The state is home to world-renowned universities like UChicago and Northwestern as well as prestigious liberal arts colleges such as Augustana.¬†

 

Our Ranking Methodology

 

Our list of the 10 best colleges in Illinois was constructed with a focus on school quality, outcomes, and return on investment (ROI). It also considers a host of other factors such as retention rate, selectivity, endowment per student, student-faculty ratio, median earnings, and cost of attendance. You can find CollegeVine’s rankings in their entirety here.

 

10 Best Colleges in Illinois

 

1. University of Chicago

 

Location: Chicago, IL   

Acceptance Rate: 6%   

Middle 50% SAT: 1510-1560

Middle 50% ACT: 34-35

Undergrad Enrollment: 6,989

 

One of the defining characteristics of the University Chicago is its core curriculum, the founding principle of which is to teach students how, not what, to think. The UChicago core curriculum includes coursework in fields such as the humanities, social sciences, physical sciences, and biological sciences, as well as a sequence in the historical development of a civilization. Another notable aspect of the University of Chicago is its residential life‚ÄĒstudents are grouped into houses, each with its own traditions, a mascot, and shared values.¬†

 

Learn more about the University of Chicago and what it takes to get accepted.

 

2. Northwestern University

 

Location: Evanston, IL   

Acceptance Rate: 7%

Middle 50% SAT: 1430-1540

Middle 50% ACT: 33-35

Undergrad Enrollment: 8,194

 

Northwestern is well known for its rigorous academics, but the spotlight shines brightest on graduates of its highly acclaimed theater program. Northwestern is home to CollegeVine’s sixth-best undergraduate performing arts program. Famous graduates include Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Stephen Colbert, Zach Braff, and Seth Meyers. Northwestern frequently appears on the Playbill’s list of the 10 Most Represented Colleges on Broadway. 

 

Northwestern is also known for the Medill School of Journalism, Media, and Integrated Marketing Communications, as well as the Kellogg School of Management.

 

Learn more about Northwestern University and what it takes to get accepted.

 

3. University of Illinois at Urbana‚ÄďChampaign | UIUC

 

Location: Champaign, IL   

Acceptance Rate: 63%   

Middle 50% SAT: 1220-1450

Middle 50% ACT: 27-33

Undergrad Enrollment: 21,641

 

Don‚Äôt let UIUC‚Äôs reputation as one of the best party schools in the nation fool you, students work as hard as they play. Greek life thrives at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign‚ÄĒthe school is home to 51 fraternities and 38 sororities‚ÄĒwith approximately 7,000 students participating in it. UIUC counts 26 Pulitzer Prize winners and 23 Nobel Prize winners among its faculty and alumni and the college is consistently a top producer of Fulbright scholars.¬†

 

Learn more about the University of Illinois at Urbana‚ÄďChampaign and what it takes to get accepted.

 

4. Illinois Wesleyan University

 

Location: Bloomington, IL   

Acceptance Rate: 45%   

Middle 50% SAT: 1130-1320

Middle 50% ACT: 24-29

Undergrad Enrollment: 1,653

 

Illinois Wesleyan University (IWU) is a top-ranked, private liberal arts college offering 38 majors and eight pre-professional programs. The university prioritizes experiential learning; roughly 40% of IWU study abroad and more than 75% of undergraduates participate in an internship before graduation. Illinois Wesleyan University is one of just 13 U.S. colleges‚ÄĒothers include Columbia, Brown, Penn, Cornell, and Harvard‚ÄĒthat participate in the Oxford University Pembroke Visiting Student Program, which provides students with the opportunity to study for a year at Oxford‚Äôs Pembroke College.¬†

 

Learn more about Illinois Wesleyan University and what it takes to get accepted.

 

5. Illinois Institute of Technology | Illinois Tech

 

Location: Chicago, IL   

Acceptance Rate: 60%   

Middle 50% SAT: 1200-1380

Middle 50% ACT: 26-32

Undergrad Enrollment: 3,122

 

Founded in 1890 by Philip Danforth Armour Sr., an industrialist who made his fortune in meatpacking, the Illinois Institute of Technology’s objective was to educate people, regardless of their background, to address the needs of a changing industrial society. Today, Illinois Tech is the only technology-focused university in Chicago, the U.S.’s third-largest city. Payscale ranks Illinois Tech 93rd (out of 1,978 schools) for return on investment. 

 

Learn more about Illinois Tech and what it takes to get accepted.

 

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6. Wheaton College (Illinois)

 

Location: Wheaton, IL   

Acceptance Rate: 87%   

Middle 50% SAT: 1230-1430

Middle 50% ACT: 26-32

Undergrad Enrollment: 2,265

 

Wheaton College is an academically rigorous, fully residential liberal arts college located 25 miles west of Chicago. One of the best Christian colleges in the U.S., Wheaton is exclusively Christian and students of other faiths are encouraged to apply elsewhere. Wheaton College is both alcohol- and tobacco-free. The college also prohibits students from cohabitating with the opposite sex, premarital sexual intimacy, all same-sex sexual behavior, and viewing pornography. 

 

Learn more about Wheaton College and what it takes to get accepted.

 

7. Loyola University Chicago

 

Location: Chicago, IL   

Acceptance Rate: 70%   

Middle 50% SAT: 1170-1370

Middle 50% ACT: 25-31

Undergrad Enrollment: 11,612

 

One of the largest Jesuit institutions of higher education in the country, Loyola University Chicago is known for its gorgeous campus on the shore of Lake Michigan. More than merely beautiful, Loyola University Chicago frequently appears on the Sierra Club‚Äôs list of Cool Schools, a ranking of the nation‚Äôs most sustainable schools. The university is also known for its commitment to the Jesuit ideal of cura personalis, which translates to ‚Äúcare for the whole person,‚ÄĚ and delivers an educational experience that stresses the importance of knowledge, curiosity, and global perspectives.¬†

 

Learn more about Loyola University Chicago and what it takes to get accepted.

 

8. DePaul University

 

Location: Chicago, IL   

Acceptance Rate: 70%   

Middle 50% SAT: 1070-1280

Middle 50% ACT: N/A

Undergrad Enrollment: 14,145

 

DePaul is the nation‚Äôs largest Catholic University. DePaul is home to more than 20,000 undergraduate and graduate students and offers more than 300 undergraduate majors and graduate programs through its 10 schools and colleges. DePaul proudly touts its commitment to preparing students to enter the workforce‚ÄĒ60% of undergraduates participate in an internship while at the university and more than 90% of recent undergraduate degree recipients were employed, continuing their education, or not seeking employment within six months of graduation.

 

Learn more about DePaul University and what it takes to get accepted.

 

9. Augustana College

 

Location: Rock Island, IL  

Acceptance Rate: 71%   

Middle 50% SAT: 1045-1360

Middle 50% ACT: 22-28

Undergrad Enrollment: 1,662

 

Augustana College is a liberal arts college founded in 1860 by Swedish Lutheran settlers and affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Despite the college‚Äôs church affiliation, students of all faiths are welcome and represented on campus‚ÄĒstudent groups include the Catholic Organization for Religious Experience, Hillel (Jewish student group), the Muslim Student Organization, and Interfaith Understanding. Augustana is known for its Auggie Choice Program, through which students can apply for $2,000 to fund an internship, research, or study abroad.¬†¬†

 

Learn more about Augustana College and what it takes to get accepted.

 

10. Bradley University

 

Location: Peoria, IL  

Acceptance Rate: 73%   

Middle 50% SAT: 1090-1270

Middle 50% ACT: 22-28

Undergrad Enrollment: 4,574

 

Bradley University was originally founded as a polytechnic school, but today offers more than 185 undergraduate programs in five colleges:

 

  • Foster College of Business
  • Slane College of Communications and Fine Arts
  • College of Education and Health Sciences
  • Caterpillar College of Engineering and Technology
  • College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

 

Bradley’s campus is within three hours of Chicago, Indianapolis, and St. Louis, which offers students excellent employment opportunities following graduation. The three-year average for graduates who started a career, graduate school, or other postgraduate experience within six months of graduation is 93%. 

 

Learn more about Bradley University and what it takes to get accepted.

 

What Are Your Chances of Acceptance?

 

Wondering what your odds are of admission at one of the Land of Lincoln’s renowned schools? CollegeVine can help. Our free chancing engine uses factors such as your grades, standardized test scores, and extracurricular activities to predict your odds of acceptance at hundreds of schools in Illinois and across the country.

 

Our chancing engine can also help you build a balanced school list. By providing you with your odds of acceptance, you can strategically assign safety, target, and reach schools and put yourself in the ideal position to get into a great fit school. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today to get started!

 


Short Bio
A graduate of Northeastern University with a degree in English, Tim Peck currently lives in Concord, New Hampshire, where he balances a freelance writing career with the needs of his two Australian Shepherds to play outside.