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Duke University
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Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


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10 Best Colleges in Washington

What’s Covered:


Washington is a leader in the nation—the state has grown everything from world-renowned companies like Amazon, Microsoft, and Starbucks to commodities like apples, cherries, and hops (Washington grows more of these than any state). Another thing Washington is a top producer of is colleges. The state is home to top-notch public schools like the University of Washington and nationally known Jesuit schools like Gonzaga. Washington is even home to the city with the highest percentage of college degree holders, Seattle. 


Keeping the state at the forefront of higher education are the 10 best colleges in Washington.


Our Ranking Methodology


Our list of the 10 best colleges in Washington 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 nation-wide rankings in their entirety here.


Best Colleges in Washington


1. University of Washington


Location: Seattle, WA   

Acceptance Rate: 56%   

Middle 50% SAT: 1220-1430

Middle 50% ACT: 27-33

Undergrad Enrollment: 35,582 


The University of Washington was founded in 1861 as the Territorial University of Washington. Although the University of Washington is among the best colleges in Washington today, it almost didn’t make it. The university closed four times in its first 15 years. Not helping the college in its early years was its choice of nicknames—the Sun Dodgers—a nod to the region’s notoriously gray weather. Gloomy weather has done little to deter the enthusiasm of University Washington students, however; it’s where the Wave was invented (spectators rising in unison mimicking the motion of a wave) and is home to one of the loudest college football stadiums in the nation


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


2. Whitman College


Location: Walla Walla, Washington    

Acceptance Rate: 54%   

Middle 50% SAT: 1260-1420

Middle 50% ACT: 29-33

Undergrad Enrollment: 1,360


Founded in 1859 as Whitman Seminary, the college abandoned its religious affiliation decades ago and today boasts of its sectarian and political independence. Whitman is known for its 3-2 programs in engineering, forestry and environmental management, and oceanography. For these programs, the college partners with another university to allow participants to earn two complementary degrees in five years. Whitman’s 3-2 programs produce well-rounded graduates sought after by employers and are one reason why the college has such positive outcomes after graduation:


  • 64% begin careers
  • 20% enroll in graduate school
  • 6% receive a prestigious fellowship
  • 5% pursue other interests


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


3. Gonzaga University


Location: Spokane, WA   

Acceptance Rate: 73%   

Middle 50% SAT: 1180-1330

Middle 50% ACT: 25-30

Undergrad Enrollment: 4,852


In addition to being one of the best colleges in Washington, Gonzaga University is also one of the most prestigious Jesuit colleges in the country. The college was founded when Father Joseph Cataldo purchased land for the campus in 1887 with 936 silver coins. Although the college is Catholic-affiliated, 27 different faiths are found on campus. Gonzaga is known nationally for its men’s basketball team—its made 21 straight NCAA Tournament appearances—but its football team has been undefeated since 1941. (Of course, the football team hasn’t won, either—it was dropped during World War II due to the lack of available men to play and never brought back.)


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


4. Seattle University


Location: Seattle, WA   

Acceptance Rate: 83%   

Middle 50% SAT: 1220-1430

Middle 50% ACT: 27-33

Undergrad Enrollment: 4,299 


Washington State is home to two of the 27 Jesuit colleges in the U.S., Gonzaga being one and the University of Seattle being the other. At the foundation of a SeattleU education is the Jesuit tradition, which focuses on helping students develop personally, spiritually, and academically, while instilling a sense of responsibility for themselves and their community. In this spirit, Seattle University students engage in community service at a three-time higher rate than the national average. Students, faculty, and staff contribute 200,000 hours of service annually. The university is also on the Sierra Club’s list of “Cool Schools,” a ranking of the nation’s most sustainable colleges and universities.


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


5. Washington State University | WSU


Location: Pullman, WA

Acceptance Rate: 80%   

Middle 50% SAT: 1020-1210

Middle 50% ACT: 20-26

Undergrad Enrollment: 25,470


Founded in 1890, Washington State University is the state’s first land-grant university. Today, WSU has grown to offer 101 majors, 79 master degrees, and 65 doctorates through its 11 colleges:


  • Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences
  • Arts and Sciences
  • Business
  • Communication
  • Education
  • Engineering and Architecture
  • Honors
  • Medicine
  • Nursing
  • Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences
  • Veterinary Medicine


WSU is known for its diverse campus, with students coming to the school from all 50 states and 98 countries. WSU also earns high marks from the LGBTQ community, earning five stars on the Campus Pride Index, a tool that gauges an institution’s commitment to LGBTQ-inclusive policy, program, and practice.


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


6. University of Puget Sound


Location: Tacoma, WA   

Acceptance Rate: 84%   

Middle 50% SAT: 1150-1370

Middle 50% ACT: 25-30

Undergrad Enrollment: 2,299


The University of Puget Sound is a private liberal arts college founded by Methodist clergy. The University of Puget Sound maintains its affiliation with the Methodist Church, however, today the college strives for inclusivity. Students of all faiths and backgrounds are welcome, nearly 25% of undergraduates identify as students of color, and the school received four stars on the Campus Pride Index. Community service is an important aspect of an undergraduate’s time at the University of Puget Sound, with more than 75% of students participating. 


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


7. Walla Walla University


Location: College Place, WA

Acceptance Rate: 72%   

Middle 50% SAT: 990-1220

Middle 50% ACT: 19-25

Undergrad Enrollment: 1,683


Walla Walla University was founded in 1892 and is affiliated with the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. Like other Christian colleges, Walla Walla University integrates faith and academics. Students of all backgrounds are welcome to attend Walla Walla University, although they are expected to live up to the Seventh-Day Adventist standards outlined in the university’s code of conduct, which prohibits, among other things:


  • Premarital sex 
  • Accessing or possessing pornographic material 
  • Gambling 
  • Possession and use of alcohol 
  • Possession and use of tobacco


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


8. Pacific Lutheran University | PLU


Location: Tacoma, WA   

Acceptance Rate: 86%   

Middle 50% SAT: 1100-1290

Middle 50% ACT: 23-29

Undergrad Enrollment: 2,544


Founded in 1890 by Scandinavian immigrants, Pacific Lutheran University has maintained ties with the Lutheran Church from its start. PLU is rooted in rigorous liberal arts education and has produced 106 Fulbright Scholars since 1975. PLU is notable for its 4-1-4 academic calendar, which features two 15-week semesters (four classes each) with a four-week January term (or “J Term”) sandwiched between them that provides PLU students with the opportunity to immerse themselves in a single subject or field and allows time for in-depth exploration. 


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


9. University of Washington-Bothell Campus


Location: Bothell, WA

Acceptance Rate: 88%   

Middle 50% SAT: 1050-1265

Middle 50% ACT: 20-27

Undergrad Enrollment: 5,659 


The University of Washington-Bothell is one of three campuses in Washington’s state university system. University of Washington-Bothell Campus students can choose from over 55 majors—ranging from American & ethnic studies to physics—through the its five schools:


  • School of Business
  • School of Educational Studies
  • School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences
  • School of Nursing & Health Studies
  • School of Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM)


The University of Washington-Bothell Campus has built a reputation for student success after graduation. Payscale ranks the school 81st for in-state students and 143rd for out-of-state students (out of 1,978 institutions) in its rankings of best value colleges. 


Learn more about the University of Washington-Bothell Campus and what it takes to get accepted.


10. Whitworth University


Location: Spokane, WA   

Acceptance Rate: 91%   

Middle 50% SAT: 1050-270 

Middle 50% ACT: 21-28

Undergrad Enrollment: 2,368


Founded in 1890, Whitworth University is a private liberal arts college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church. Whitworth is known for its close-knit campus; students are required to live on campus their first two years and the student-faculty ratio is 11:1. The university attracts a diverse student body—31% of domestic students are from Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities, and international students make up just under 5% of undergraduates. Students from 33 states and 40 countries can be found on campus.


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


What Are Your Chances of Acceptance?


Wondering what your odds of admission are at one of the best colleges in Washington? CollegeVine can help. Our free chancing engine uses a variety of factors—including grades, standardized test scores, and extracurricular activities—to estimate your odds of acceptance at hundreds of schools in the evergreen state and across the country.


Our chancing engine can also help you build a balanced school list of colleges in and outside of Washington. By providing your odds of acceptance, you can strategically assign safety, target, and reach schools and put yourself in the best position to get into a college that fits your needs and meets your expectations. 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.