The 11 Best Colleges in the Midwest

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America’s Heartland—the Midwest—is known for its friendly residents who pass time together at state fairs and sporting events. The region boasts major cities like Chicago, Kansas City, and Detroit, but is also spotted with smaller tight-knit communities and towns. 


At its core, the Midwest is known for being welcoming to anyone and everyone. This includes a welcoming college culture! Each August, new freshmen begin their studies at dozens of Midwestern universities. Read along to learn more about the best colleges in the Midwest and what you need to get in.


The 11 Best Colleges in the Midwest


University of Chicago


Location: Chicago, Illinois

Acceptance Rate: 7%

Middle 50% SAT: 1510-1560

Middle 50% ACT: 34-35

Undergraduate Enrollment: 6,600


UChicago is known for the intellectual curiosity of its teachers and students. The university has a long history of free and open discourse, making it an exciting place for young and passionate minds to come together for important conversations. The university has significantly more graduate students than undergraduate students, but that doesn’t mean the undergraduate population gets left behind. Rather, it allows undergraduates to have advanced opportunities, including research and networking opportunities. UChicago teachers focus on learning for the sake of learning and on expanding the boundaries of human knowledge and abilities.


Learn more about UChicago and what it takes to get accepted.


Northwestern University


Location: Evanston, Illinois

Acceptance Rate: 9%

Middle 50% SAT: 1460-1540

Middle 50% ACT: 33-35

Undergraduate Enrollment: 8,600


Northwestern is a school of well-rounded and motivated students. It is a Big Ten school, with a vibrant sports community and a significant number of students involved in Greek life. At the same time, the university is consistently highly ranked for its academic excellence. Northwestern is known for its school spirit, its many traditions, and the fact that the color purple is featured all over campus. The school has great name recognition and students are typically very successful after graduation.


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


Washington University in St. Louis


Location: St. Louis, Missouri

Acceptance Rate: 16%

Middle 50% SAT: 1450-1560

Middle 50% ACT: 33-35

Undergraduate Enrollment: 7,700


The students, faculty, and staff at WashU epitomize the friendly and supportive Midwestern spirit. Students at the school say that the large university lacks the coldness of other schools and feels very familial. In that same vein, the university is very supportive of its undergraduate population, with many established resources and programs that address student needs. Simply put, WashU undergraduates have access to anything they need for success. One example of the university’s commitment to student success is the Cornerstone program, which provides free tutors and assistance to students who are struggling in particular subjects.


Learn more about WashU and what it takes to get accepted.


University of Notre Dame


Location: Notre Dame, Indiana

Acceptance Rate: 18%

Middle 50% SAT: 1400-1550

Middle 50% ACT: 32-35

Undergraduate Enrollment: 8,600


Notre Dame is strong in academics, school spirit, and football. It was founded as a private Catholic institution in 1842 and, while you do not have to be Catholic to attend, the school is still known for devout students, mass services throughout the week, and religious iconography. Notre Dame culture largely centers around traditions, many of which take place through the dorms. Dorms are gender-divided and 98% of students stay in their same dorm for 3-4 years. In addition to dorm culture, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team brings students together to show off their school spirit at football games and tailgates.


Learn more about Notre Dame and what it takes to get accepted.


University of Michigan


Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan

Acceptance Rate: 25%

Middle 50% SAT: 1380-1550

Middle 50% ACT: 32-35

Undergraduate Enrollment: 30,300


While UMich is much larger than many of the other great schools in the Midwest, its size brings with it many benefits. Most importantly, there’s always something to do at UMich, whether you want to go to a Greek life recruiting event, support the Wolverines at “the Big House,” venture out to a concert in the city, or study at one of the school’s 20 libraries. UMich has it all. Additionally, because the school is large, there is a diverse representation of students from different places and with different interests. 


Learn more about UMich and what it takes to get accepted.


Carleton College


Location: Northfield, Minnesota

Acceptance Rate: 20%

Middle 50% SAT: 1380-1520

Middle 50% ACT: 31-34

Undergraduate Enrollment: 2,000


Carleton College is a top liberal arts school that recognizes the value of deep thinking. The school has a very low student-to-faculty ratio, meaning that students get the attention they need to succeed. Carleton’s campus is situated in a small town in Minnesota, leading to a laid-back culture where students are free to be themselves and form tight communities.


Learn more about Carleton and what it takes to get accepted.


Grinnell College


Location: Grinnell, Iowa

Acceptance Rate: 24%

Middle 50% SAT: 1320-1530

Middle 50% ACT: 30-33

Undergraduate Enrollment: 1,700


Grinnell is a unique school due to its commitment to social justice and equity. Notably, the school practices need-blind admissions and uses its endowment to fund merit scholarships that increase socioeconomic diversity. Grinnellians are generally liberal, socially active, and engaged in whatever they are pursuing. Grinnell is exclusively undergraduate, allowing professors to focus on encouraging curiosity and engagement in younger students.


Learn more about Grinnell and what it takes to get accepted.

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Case Western Reserve University


Location: Cleveland, Ohio

Acceptance Rate: 29%

Middle 50% SAT: 1350-1490

Middle 50% ACT: 31-34

Undergraduate Enrollment: 5,200


Case Western is known for its outstanding research. It is particularly well-known for its top-notch engineering program, as well as its programs for nursing and medicine. Academics are taken very seriously at Case. That being said, while students are committed, they are not competitive or cold. The school’s intensity does not create a negative culture, but rather a culture of encouragement as students and professors communally value academic achievement.


Learn more about Case Western and what it takes to get accepted.


Macalester College


Location: Saint Paul, Minnesota

Acceptance Rate: 31%

Middle 50% SAT: 1330-1460

Middle 50% ACT: 29-33

Undergraduate Enrollment: 2,100


Macalester is a liberal arts college that emphasizes global citizenship and establishes an intellectual foundation for its students to impact the world at large. It is an excellent school with good financial aid and a beautiful campus in a Saint Paul neighborhood that gives students access to the entire Twin Cities area. Macalester’s class sizes are small like the size of its student body, a fact that helps foster a close community. The school’s community is also a product of the requirement that students live on campus for their first two years.


Learn more about Macalester and what it takes to get accepted.


Kenyon College


Location: Gambier, Ohio

Acceptance Rate: 36%

Middle 50% SAT: 1270-1460

Middle 50% ACT: 29-33

Undergraduate Enrollment: 1,700


Kenyon College is known as “the Writers’ College” as its academic intensity centers itself around writing. Professors at Kenyon know their students’ names and create a community where student input is valued. The strong bonds between professors and students can be seen by the fact that professors commonly stop and chat with their students when they see them on the Middle Path (the main drag that runs through campus). Generally, Kenyonites are known for being quirky, cerebral, and artsy and for creating a work-hard, play-hard culture on campus.


Learn more about Kenyon and what it takes to get accepted.


Oberlin College and Conservatory


Location: Oberlin, Ohio

Acceptance Rate: 36%

Middle 50% SAT: 1280-1480

Middle 50% ACT: 29-33

Undergraduate Enrollment: 2,700


Oberlin College is known both for its world-class music conservatory and its highly-ranked liberal arts program. Oberlin itself is a very small town, with just a few restaurants, that is isolated from the rest of Ohio. That being said, like most small liberal arts schools, the school works hard to foster an involved community. The Oberlin student body is generally composed of liberal and unconventional students who enjoy discussing politics, culture, and philosophy. With regards to student life, Oberlin’s music conservatory sponsors over 500 concerts each year and there are hundreds of student groups to get involved in.


Learn more about Oberlin and what it takes to get accepted.


Find out more about other schools in the Midwest that may lead to high returns on investment and future success.


What Are Your Chances of Acceptance?


Each of these schools has a different average acceptance rate, and your personal chances of acceptance at these schools may be higher or lower than the average acceptance rate.


To find out your personal chances of acceptance at each of these top schools in the Midwest, or any other schools you are interested in, use CollegeVine’s chancing engine. By taking into account your grades, test scores, and extracurriculars, we’ll estimate your odds of acceptance at different schools and give you tips on improving your profile. 


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Brooke Elkjer
Blog Writer

Short Bio
Brooke is going into her senior year at the University of Southern California and is originally from Dallas, Texas. She is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in English and a Bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience. Brooke is the associate literary producer for the intersectional feminist production company on campus, ART/EMIS. She also is a Resident Assistant (RA) and a student worker for the Thematic Option Honors GE Program. In her free time, Brooke enjoys reading, writing, and watching Gilmore Girls.

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