Best Colleges in Illinois
Between the Ivy League colleges of the East Coast and the public UC system in California, many students might forget about the best colleges in the Midwest. However, the best colleges in Illinois have a lot to offer students with a vast array of interests.
In this article, we will review some of the best universities in Illinois, including the best universities in Chicago. We’ll also look at the best public universities in Illinois and the best community colleges in Illinois. Then, we’ll look at the best colleges in Illinois for different majors, like the best colleges in Illinois for pre-med and the best colleges in Illinois for business. Finally, we’ll offer some general tips for building your college list and choosing the best university in Illinois for you.
How many colleges are in Illinois?
There are a total of 184 colleges in Illinois. The majority of these are private, nonprofit colleges, but there are also 60 public colleges and 35 for-profit colleges. Many of the best colleges in Illinois are located in the state’s largest city, Chicago. However, you’ll also find great schools in suburban college towns like Champaign and Bloomington as well as rural areas like Macomb. These numbers also do not include the 48 community colleges in the state, which are listed on the Illinois Community College Board website.
Colleges in Illinois Map
In this section, we will take you through our Best Colleges in Illinois map. Our Best Colleges in Illinois map highlights some of the major cities and university towns in the state.
Chicago is home to many of the best colleges in Illinois, including the University of Chicago and Northwestern. These schools are not just two of the best colleges in Illinois, but two of the best colleges in the country.
Also in the Northeastern part of the state is the city of Urbana-Champaign, home of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). The nearby city of Bloomington also boasts two of the best public colleges in Illinois: Illinois State University and Illinois Wesleyan University.
Later on, we’ll go into more detail about each of the best colleges in Illinois mentioned here, as well as many more schools on the Best Colleges in Illinois map. You can use this Best Colleges in Illinois map to plan college visits and learn more about different college locations.
What are the top universities in Illinois?
Next, let’s learn more about the best colleges in Illinois. Some of the best colleges in Illinois include the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
These top universities in Illinois have distinguished themselves with high academic rankings, great athletic programs, and strong national reputations.
Our list of the top 10 best universities in Illinois will help you identify the best colleges in Illinois based on national rankings. So, let’s take a closer look at those rankings for the top 10 best colleges in Illinois.
Top 10 Best Colleges in Illinois
According to U.S. News & World Report, the following schools represent the top 10 best colleges in Illinois:
Best Colleges in Illinois
Located in Hyde Park, the University of Chicago is the best university in Illinois—and one of the best in the country. The national University of Chicago ranking is #6, and the acceptance rate at UChicago is about 5%. UChicago offers more than 50 majors, giving students a solid liberal arts foundation with opportunities to specialize.
Located in Evanston, just north of Chicago, Northwestern University is also both one of the best universities in Illinois and a top 10 school nationally. The Northwestern ranking in U.S. News is #10 overall, only slightly lower than the UChicago ranking. Additionally, the Northwestern ranking contributes to its low 7% acceptance rate. Northwestern offers over 100 different majors and minors as well as a liberal arts core curriculum.
UIUC is located in the city of Urbana Champaign and is at the top of the list of the best public colleges in Illinois. The UIUC ranking in U.S. News is #41 overall. However, the UIUC ranking among public universities is much higher at #13. Their overall acceptance rate is 60%, but that number will be lower for out-of-state applicants. As a land-grant university, UIUC offers many opportunities for undergraduate research across its 16 undergraduate and graduate colleges.
Located on the west side of Chicago, the University of Illinois Chicago is part of the University of Illinois system and one of the best public universities in Illinois. The University of Illinois Chicago ranking in U.S. News is #97 overall. However, it does fall into the top 50 public schools in the country. With over 85 majors to choose from and a vibrant urban campus, UIC has a lot to offer.
Located between Chicago and Evanston, Loyola Chicago is the city’s only Jesuit University. The Loyola University Chicago ranking in U.S. News is #115, making the Loyola University Chicago ranking not quite as high as the University of Illinois Chicago ranking. However, the school is still in the top 5 best colleges in Illinois. Loyola’s majors span eight different colleges and include a school dedicated to environmental science and sustainability.
Illinois Institute of Technology, also known as Illinois Tech, is located in Chicago. The school’s ranking in U.S. News is #127 overall, and its acceptance rate is 66%. As a technical university, IIT has designated colleges for Computer Science, Design, and Architecture as well as the more typical colleges of Arts and Sciences and Engineering.
DePaul University is located in Chicago and is the largest Catholic university in the US. The Depaul University ranking in U.S. News is #137 overall, with an acceptance rate of 69%. The DePaul University ranking situates it among the best colleges in Illinois. Students looking for a Christian university in Illinois often seek out DePaul because it combines Catholic education with a big city atmosphere.
A private university located in Peoria, Bradley University’s ranking in U.S. News is #166 overall and its acceptance rate is 76%. Bradley is home to a renowned speech team, winning a respectable number of national titles in recent decades. The school also offers strong business programs.
Located in Normal, IL, Illinois State University is the oldest public university in Illinois and is located in the city of Normal. Illinois State’s ranking in U.S. News is #219 overall and its acceptance rate is 92%.
While Southern Illinois University has two campuses, the Carbondale campus has a higher national ranking. The school is known as one of the stronger public universities in the state. The university’s ranking in U.S. News is #263, and its acceptance rate is 95%.
What is the oldest college in Illinois?
The oldest university in Illinois is McKendree University. The school was founded by Methodist pioneers in 1828 and began as a religious institution called “Lebanon Seminary.” McKendree’s religious affiliation persists to this day. In fact, McKendree University remains one of the best Christian colleges in Illinois.
Students will find a religious presence on campus in the Center for Faith and Spirituality and the Center for Community Service. The school offers extensive programs in education, psychology, and nursing as well as a B.A. in religious studies.
The acceptance rate at McKendree is 78% according to U.S. News. Students can apply to McKendree for free, and they offer financial aid packages to cover the cost of attendance. You can learn more about the oldest university in Illinois by visiting their website or scheduling a campus tour.
Best Public Universities In Illinois
The University of Illinois system not only contains some of the best public colleges in Illinois, but some of the best colleges in Illinois overall. In fact, the University of Illinois system contains three of the best public universities in Illinois and also the best public universities in the Midwest. The three locations for the Illinois University system include Springfield, Chicago, and Urbana-Champaign.
The Chicago campus has a diverse blend of Illinois residents, as well as international students and students from other states. UIC also has a high population of first-generation college students. Overall, UIC is one of the best colleges in Illinois and offers a wide range of majors and programs across its sixteen different colleges. UIC also trains nearly a third of all new doctors in Illinois, making it a great university in Illinois for pre-med.
The Urbana-Champaign campus is the home of one of the best public universities in the midwest. The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is one of the best colleges in Illinois as well as one of the best public colleges in the midwest. UIUC is the #13 public school in the country according to U.S. News. Plus, Illinois residents with family incomes less than $67,100 per year may qualify for free tuition at UIUC.
The University of Illinois system does contain some of the best colleges in Illinois, but there are plenty of other strong public colleges in Illinois. Students can choose from Northern, Eastern, Southern, and Western Illinois campuses. In addition, Illinois State University, located in Bloomington, has the distinction of being the oldest public university in the state.
Is University of Illinois a good school?
The University of Illinois Urbana Champaign is the highest-ranking public school in the state, meaning it is at the top of the list of best public colleges in Illinois and the best colleges in Illinois overall. UIUC is also located in one of the top 10 college towns in the United States. This gives the UIUC campus a welcoming suburban atmosphere and a nurturing community.
UIUC is also a strong research center with a vast network of labs and centers working to address issues such as world hunger, poverty, climate change, and more. As a land grant university, UIUC ranks 3rd in the country in research funding.
UIUC is a prime example of how a public school can become one of the best colleges in Illinois, ranked only behind UChicago and Northwestern. In addition, UIUC is not the only public school on the top 10 best colleges in Illinois list. The rankings also feature the University of Illinois Chicago, Illinois State University, and Southern Illinois University–Carbondale. All of these schools are among the best public colleges in the midwest.
Which University of Illinois is the best?
Overall, UIUC is the best public university in Illinois.
It is no surprise that UIUC is recognized as the best university in Illinois within the state university system. The high ranking makes UIUC a popular choice of school especially for Illinois residents. However, while UIUC is the highest-ranked public school in the state, that doesn’t mean it is the best fit for every student.
Those looking for a more urban school setting may prefer one of the best universities in Chicago over UIUC. Balancing national rankings with personal preferences and needs is crucial to building a successful college list! See our resources here for help deciding what the best university in Illinois is for you!
Best Community Colleges in Illinois
There are a wide variety of reasons that a student may choose to enter a community college. Some students intend to pursue a career that does not require a four-year college degree. Others are looking to start their journey at a two-year college to save money and then transfer to a four-year university through the Illinois Articulation Initiative.
One of the best community colleges in Illinois is Elgin Community College, located just outside of Chicago in the city of Elgin. Elgin Community College is one of the best colleges in Illinois for all types of students, particularly for veterans. They also have a variety of excellent transfer pathways. This includes one program for engineers that provides guaranteed admission to the Grainger School of Engineering at UIUC. These programs help students looking to transition from a community college to a four-year state university.
Another of the best community colleges in Illinois is Lincoln Land Community College, located in the capital city of Springfield. Lincoln Land has a wide variety of transfer programs across the humanities, arts, and sciences, Plus, students who transfer will have the same diplomas as those earned by students who attended for all four years.
Is community college free in Illinois?
Unfortunately, community college is not free in Illinois. However, community colleges do offer scholarships and financial aid to students who attend. So, if you file your FAFSA and earn good grades in high school, you can reduce your tuition.
There are other discounts available for attending community colleges. At Lincoln Land, for example, students who live within Lincoln Land’s federal district can attend classes for half the price paid by those in other areas of Illinois. So, even though the tuition is not free at these community colleges, they are still the most affordable higher education options in the state.
Best Christian Colleges in Illinois
So far we have talked mostly about the best public universities in Illinois and explored some of the universities in Illinois rankings. However, another type of university in Illinois offers a high-quality education in a smaller, more faith-centered environment. Next, let’s explore the best Christian colleges in Illinois.
These best Christian colleges in Illinois have various religious affiliations, from the Catholic DePaul University to the Methodist McKendree University.
Some of the best Christian colleges in Illinois, as calculated by Niche rankings, include:
Best Illinois Christian colleges
Wheaton College, located just outside of Chicago, offers a truly diverse Christian College experience. Rather than being rooted in the tradition of a single denomination, Wheaton celebrates the shared beliefs of all Christians. 90% of students live on campus, allowing for deep, faith-based communities to form.
Moody Bible College, also located near Chicago, is the perfect school for students who want to pursue a career in a religious setting. Students at Moody often go on to pursue careers in the seminary and other faith-centered professions.
Augustana College, located in Rock Island on the border between Illinois and Iowa, was founded in 1860 by Swedish immigrants of the Lutheran faith. The school grew into a liberal arts and sciences college but still retains its Lutheran roots. Augustana offers nearly 100 different major or minor programs and is great for those entering health fields.
Positioned on the North Side of Chicago, North Park University has a student population of around 2,900 undergraduates. Though the university was founded in the Evangelical Covenant Church and there is a seminary on campus, the religious influence is not as strong as it is at other Christian colleges in Illinois.
Our next school is Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights. Trinity was founded much later than the other Christian Universities in Illinois on this list. Established in 1959 by members of the Reform Christian Church, Trinity offers a liberal arts education rooted in the mission and values of Christianity. Students can join Christian religious organizations and take classes with a Christian focus.
Best Colleges in Chicago
Although the best universities in Illinois are spread out throughout the state, Chicago and its suburbs remain the center of higher education in Illinois. With a diverse array of sports teams, museums, performance venues, and restaurants, there is always something fun to do in Chicago. Plus, 35 different Fortune 500 companies have their headquarters in Chicago, the second most in the country behind only New York City.
Students who are interested in experiencing life in a big city should look at the best universities in Chicago. These schools not only offer a high-quality education but also a vibrant urban setting. Later on, we’ll explore the college rankings and other details about the best colleges in Chicago.
What colleges and universities are in Chicago?
There are many universities that call Chicago home. Overall, the best universities in Chicago take a variety of forms.
Some of these best universities in Chicago include well-known schools like the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, and the University of Illinois–Chicago. Some of the lesser-known best colleges in Chicago include DePaul University and Loyola University Chicago. We’ll discuss many of these schools later on in our best colleges in Chicago rankings section.
How many colleges are in Chicago?
The best colleges in Chicago are spread across the city. The total number of schools in the Chicago metropolitan area is around 40. These colleges range from community colleges to private religious schools to large state universities.
Top 5 Best Colleges in Chicago
According to the U.S. News University in Illinois college rankings, these five schools are the best universities in Chicago:
1. University of Chicago
2. Northwestern University
3. University of Illinois Chicago
4. Loyola University Chicago
5. Illinois Institute of Technology
We’ve already provided details on these schools earlier in this article, but feel free to explore each school’s website for more extensive information.
Additionally, keep in mind that every student has different needs. So, these top five schools in Chicago may not be your top five schools as you create your college list.
What is the best university in Chicago?
Based on rankings, the University of Chicago is the best college in Chicago.
Out of all the best colleges in Illinois, the highest-ranked school according to U.S. News is the University of Chicago. While the University of Chicago is a top-quality university in Illinois, it won’t necessarily be the best fit for every student. However, for students who want a rigorous learning environment, UChicago can be a great option.
Because of the high University of Chicago ranking, admission to UChicago is extremely competitive. Applicants are required to write a minimum of three essay responses and provide two teacher recommendations.
UChicago is a very academically rigorous school, and all students are required to take core classes in small, discussion-based settings. Students who succeed at the University of Chicago are those who enjoy stimulating discussion, have a passion for their subject, and want to get involved with many different extracurricular activities.
Is University of Chicago an Ivy League school?
Though the University of Chicago is one of the best universities in Illinois, it is not a part of the Ivy League. It does share many of the features of Ivy League schools, including academic rigor and beautiful campus architecture.
All of the Ivy League universities are located in the Northeast. So, students who are interested in an Ivy League education should check out UChicago for a similar environment in a different college location.
Best colleges in Illinois by major
We have talked a lot about the best colleges in Illinois, but no one school has the best program in every academic discipline. Students will spend the majority of their time at college taking classes within their chosen major or double major so finding a school that excels in that specific area is vital.
Below, you will find rankings of some of the best colleges in Illinois for some of the most popular majors. It is vital to ensure the colleges you are considering can support you in your chosen field. This is especially true if you have a specific major in mind that might not be offered at some colleges. For additional support, check out these CollegeAdvisor.com resources about college majors.
Best colleges in Illinois for Pre Med
Below, you’ll find our list of the top five best colleges in Illinois for pre-med. It is important to note that “pre-med” itself is not a major. Instead, most students select a major in the sciences, often biology, and then enter their school’s pre-medicine track.
Best colleges in Illinois for Pre Med
Northwestern students have the option to choose any major they want and still be on the pre-med degree track. Students can also apply to attend the Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine after earning their undergraduate degree. This provides high achieving pre-med students with a track to earn medical school acceptance in their junior year.
University of Chicago
University of Chicago prides itself on its high medical school acceptance rate, which is nearly double the national average. All students at UChicago take core liberal arts and sciences classes, which helps them prepare for the MCAT and succeed in medical school and beyond.
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
UIUC has an excellent pre-health program with comprehensive plans for students to follow as they navigate through their undergraduate courses. Most students enter med school from UIUC with a major in the sciences from the School of Molecular and Cellular Biology, though other pathways through chemistry and neuroscience are possible.
Loyola University Chicago
Like most liberal arts colleges, Loyola Chicago does not have a designated “pre-med major,” but students at Loyola do still go on to medical school and careers in medicine. Loyola’s pre-med advising program helps students interested in medicine complete their required coursework, prepare for the MCAT, and apply to medical schools.
University of Illinois Chicago
Like Northwestern and UIUC, University of Illinois Chicago has a designated medical school and offers select students guaranteed admission provided that they complete undergraduate prerequisite courses and maintain good standing. Students can declare pre-med as an educational goal, which allows students flexibility in their major.
Best Colleges in Illinois for Business
The following list contains the top five best colleges in Illinois for business. While there are no definitive rankings of the best colleges in Illinois for business available online at the undergraduate level, this list reflects some of the top colleges with high-ranking MBA programs. So, students who study at any of the best colleges in Illinois for business listed below will have plenty of post-graduate options, including an MBA.
Best colleges in Illinois for Business
Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management is home to the school’s MBA and other business programs. Students enter the business school after completing a Bachelor’s degree in a wide range of fields including both STEM and the Humanities.
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
UIUC’s Gies College of Business offers both graduate and undergraduate courses for students to explore. Students can choose from a diverse array of majors, including marketing, finance, and data science. Plus, students can apply to Gies without declaring a specific major and then explore their options to decide on the best fit for them.
University of Chicago
UChicago’s Booth School of Business offers MBA, Ph.D., and Executive Development courses at the graduate level. Like Northwestern, students cannot attend Chicago Booth as undergraduates but must apply as either graduate or professional students. Chicago Booth also has campuses in London and Hong Kong.
Illinois Wesleyan University
Illinois Wesleyan’s School of Business and Economics is a business school rooted in a liberal arts tradition. While the focus may be on courses in economics and finance, students supplement these courses with a broad range of arts and sciences disciplines. This gives students a well-rounded education with many transferrable skills.
The Driehaus School of Business has both undergraduate and graduate courses available. With its location in Chicago, Driehaus students have access to internships in a wide range of industries. Students can also specialize their major to focus on fields like sports, hospitality, and real estate.
Art Schools in Chicago
Finally, the following are three of the best art schools in Chicago. While there are many schools that offer visual and performing arts majors, these art schools in Chicago focus exclusively on courses in artistic disciplines.
Art Schools in Chicago
The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) offers primarily visual arts majors in both 2D and 3D media. Students can also explore tracks in art history or art education in addition to the many studio art majors offered at the institute. Additionally, there are paths for those interested in fashion design and film development at SAIC.
The American Academy of Art College does not have as many fine arts programs as other art schools in Chicago. However, the college is excellent at preparing students for various careers in film media with majors like art direction, graphic design, and 3D modeling and animation.
Columbia College Chicago is a comprehensive fine and performing arts school. In addition to visual arts programs, they also offer majors in theater, music, and other performing arts. Columbia also offers majors in the fast-developing field of game design, for students interested in creating or developing art for games.
How do I choose the best college in Illinois for me?
As you are exploring the best colleges in Illinois, we recommend that you pick out the college criteria that matter most to you. Every student has different wants and needs when it comes to college. So, figure out your most important criteria to narrow down the long list of choices.
As you add colleges to the list, make sure you have a good mix of reach, target, and safety schools on your list. To figure out where you should categorize a given college, look at the average GPA for the most recent incoming class and compare it to your own. Remember that a college’s ranking is not everything—you should always center your own needs and priorities as you build your college list. So, the best colleges in Illinois for you are not necessarily the ones with the highest rankings.
Best Colleges in Illinois – Final Thoughts
In this article, we have covered nearly every university in Illinois including the best Christian colleges in Illinois, the best public universities in Illinois, and the best colleges in Illinois. Every university in Illinois is different. If you do your research, you’re bound to find your dream school at one of the best colleges in Illinois.
With so many options in Illinois alone, it can be overwhelming to determine which schools are the best universities in Illinois for you. At CollegeAdvisor, we’re here to guide you through every aspect of the college admissions process with one-on-one expert advising. To get started, register for a CollegeAdvisor.com account.
This article was written by senior advisor, Alex Baggott-Rowe. Looking for more admissions support? Click here to schedule a free meeting with one of our Admissions Specialists. During your meeting, our team will discuss your profile and help you find targeted ways to increase your admissions odds at top schools. We’ll also answer any questions and discuss how CollegeAdvisor.com can support you in the college application process.