Top Illinois Colleges

12 of the Best Colleges and Universities in Illinois

Illinois has some excellent options for higher education. From giant research universities to small liberal arts colleges, from rural schools to Chicago campuses, Illinois offers something for everyone. The 12 top Illinois colleges listed below vary so much in size and type of school that they are simply listed below alphabetically rather forced into any sort of artificial ranking. Schools were selected based on a range of factors including retention rates, four- and six-year graduation rates, value and financial aid, student engagement, and academic strengths.

All of the schools below are selective, but admissions standards do vary considerably The University of Chicago and Northwestern University are the most selective universities, and you can learn about the admissions standards for all schools with this comparison of SAT scores for Illinois colleges and comparison of ACT scores for Illinois colleges.

Augustana College

Augustana College, Illinois
Augustana College, Illinois. Smallbones / Wikimedia Commons

Augustana College earned a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for its strengths in the liberal arts and sciences. This private liberal arts college can also boast of a high percentage of students who go on to graduate school. Financial aid is ; nearly all students receive grant aid is generous, and nearly all students receive significant grant aid.

Fast Facts (2018)
Location Rock Island, Illinois
Enrollment 2,543 (all undergraduate)
Acceptance Rate 64%
Student / Faculty Ratio 12 to 1

DePaul University

DePaul University in Chicago
DePaul University in Chicago. Richie Diesterheft / Flickr

Among its many distinctions, DePaul University ranks as the largest Catholic university in the United States. The university has highly ranked service-learning programs. On the athletic front, the DePaul Blue Demons compete in the NCAA Division I Big East Conference.

Fast Facts (2018)
Location Chicago, Illinois
Enrollment 22,437 (14,507 undergraduates)
Acceptance Rate 68%
Student / Faculty Ratio 15 to 1

Illinois College

Sturtevant Hall at Illinois College
Sturtevant Hall at Illinois College. Illinois College / Wikimedia Commons

A small private liberal arts college, Illinois College has the distinction of being the oldest college in Illinois. The school earned a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for its strengths in the liberal arts and sciences. The college takes pride in the dedication of its student to community service. Athletic teams compete at the NCAA Division III level.

Fast Facts (2018)
Location Jacksonville, Illinois
Enrollment 983 (all undergraduate)
Acceptance Rate 76%
Student / Faculty Ratio 13 to 1

Illinois Institute of Technology

IIT, Illinois Institute of Technology
IIT, Illinois Institute of Technology. Lucia Sanchez / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

One of many excellent schools in Chicago, the Illinois Institute of Technology is a private research university with a science and engineering focus. Architecture and engineering programs are highly rated, and the school is an excellent educational value with its high levels of grant aid. The campus sits next to the White Sox stadium.

Fast Facts (2018)
Location Chicago, Illinois
Enrollment 6,753 (3,026 undergraduates)
Acceptance Rate 58%
Student / Faculty Ratio 12 to 1

Illinois Wesleyan University

Ames Library at Illinois Wesleyan University
Ames Library at Illinois Wesleyan University.

Emilymarvin / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0 

Like many highly regarded private liberal arts colleges, Illinois Wesleyan University takes pride in the personal attention students receive thanks to small classes and a low student to faculty ratio. Psychology, business, nursing, and biology are all popular with students.

Fast Facts (2018)
Location Bloomington, Illinois
Enrollment 1,693 (all undergraduate)
Acceptance Rate 59%
Student / Faculty Ratio 11 to 1

Knox College

Knox College
Knox College. Jeff Hitchcock / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

A hidden gem, Knox College is a private liberal arts college that was founded in 1837 by anti-slavery reformers. Small classes, a low student/faculty ratio, and good grant aid are all defining features of this small and attractive college.

Fast Facts (2018)
Location Galesburg, Illinois
Enrollment 1,333 (all undergraduate)
Acceptance Rate 74%
Student / Faculty Ratio 11 to 1

Lake Forest College

Young Hall at Lake Forest College
Young Hall at Lake Forest College. Royalhawai / Wikipedia

Another of the state's excellent private liberal arts colleges, Lake Forest College can be a great choice for strong students who don't always perform well on standardized tests—the school was an early adopter of a test-optional admissions policy. The college takes pride in its engaged network of alumni and the high percentage of graduates who find jobs or are admitted to graduate school within six months of graduation.

Fast Facts (2018)
Location Lake Forest, Illinois
Enrollment 1,512 (1,492 undergraduates)
Acceptance Rate 58%
Student / Faculty Ratio 12 to 1

Loyola University Chicago

Loyola University Chicago
Loyola University Chicago.

 Amerique / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0

Loyola University Chicago ranks as one of the nation's top Catholic universities. The university has a highly regarded business school, and strong programs in the liberal arts and sciences earned the school a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. Loyola has two campuses: a northern campus on the Chicago waterfront and a downtown campus just off the Magnificent Mile. Ramblers competes in the NCAA Division I Missouri Valley Conference.

Fast Facts (2018)
Location Chicago, Illinois
Enrollment 17,007 (11,919 undergraduates)
Acceptance Rate 68%
Student / Faculty Ratio 14 to 1

Northwestern University

Northwestern University
Northwestern University. Photo Credit: Amy Jacobson

Northwestern University has a wide range of distinctions. It is one of the most selective universities in the country, and it ranks among the most selective universities in the country. It is also home to one of the nation's best law schools and best pre-med schools for future doctors. The school is a member of the NCAA Division I Big Ten athletic conference.

Fast Facts (2018)
Location Evanston, Illinois
Enrollment 22,127 (8,642 undergraduates)
Acceptance Rate 8%
Student / Faculty Ratio 6 to 1

University of Chicago

University of Chicago
University of Chicago. Luiz Gadelha Jr. / Flickr

The University of Chicago is one of the most selective universities in the United States, and admission is more challenging than at many of the Ivy League schools. The university has broad strengths, and it gained membership in the Association of American Universities for its strong research programs, and a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strengths in the liberal arts and sciences. The attractive University of Chicago campus is centrally located in the city.

Fast Facts (2018)
Location Chicago, Illinois
Enrollment 17,002 (6,632 undergraduates)
Acceptance Rate 7%
Student / Faculty Ratio 5 to 1

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, UIUC
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, UIUC. Christopher Schmidt / Flickr

UIUC, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, is one of the top public universities in the United states, and it also tends to rank among the top of the nation's top engineering schools. The university is a member of the Association of American Universities for research strengths, and it has chapter of  Phi Beta Kappa for strengths in the liberal arts and sciences. On the athletic front, the university is a member of the NCAA Division I Big Ten Conference.

Fast Facts (2018)
Location Champaign, Illinois
Enrollment 49,702 (33,915 undergraduates)
Acceptance Rate 62%
Student / Faculty Ratio 20 to 1

Wheaton College

Wheaton College Illinois
Wheaton College Illinois. Teemu008 / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

A private Christian liberal arts college, Wheaton College is one of the 40 schools featured by Loren Pope in Colleges that Change Lives. The diverse student body represents over 55 church denominations, and students will receive plenty of personal attention with the school's low student/faculty ratio and small classes.

Fast Facts (2018)
Location Wheaton, Illinois
Enrollment 2,944 (2,401 undergraduates)
Acceptance Rate 83%
Student / Faculty Ratio 10 to 1