Top Washington State Colleges

Learn about the Top 11 Colleges and Universities in Washington

Washington State offers a wide range of options for higher education. From large research universities to small liberal arts colleges, Washington is home to a little of everything. The top Washington colleges listed below vary so much in size and mission that I have simply listed them alphabetically rather than force them into any sort of artificial ranking. Any ranked comparison of a small private college to a large public institution will be dubious at best. That said, Whitman College is the most selective school on the list.

All schools were selected for inclusion based on a range of factors including four- and six-year graduation rates, retention rates, academic offerings, student / faculty ratio, and overall value.

Gonzaga University

Gonzaga University—Foley Center Library
Gonzaga University—Foley Center Library. SCUMATT / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Spokane, Washington
  • Enrollment: 7,563 (5,304 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private Catholic university
  • Distinctions: Educational philosophy focuses on the whole person—mind, body and spirit; ranks highly among master's institutions in the West; member of the NCAA Division I West Coast Conference; good grant aid; healthy 11 to 1 student to faculty ratio
  • For acceptance rate, test scores, costs and other information, visit the Gonzaga University profile

Pacific Lutheran University

Anderson University Center at Pacific Lutheran University
Anderson University Center at Pacific Lutheran University. Joe Mabel / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Location: Tacoma, Washington
  • Enrollment: 3,207 (2,836 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private university affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
  • Distinctions: Good grant aid; 12 to 1 student / faculty ratio; active study abroad programs; strong mix of liberal arts and professional programs for a small university; over 100 clubs and activities
  • For acceptance rate, test scores, costs and other information, visit the Pacific Lutheran University profile

Seattle Pacific University

Seattle Pacific University
Seattle Pacific University. Westlake78 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0
  • Location: Seattle, Washington
  • Enrollment: 3,688 (2,876 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private university affiliated with the Free Methodist Church of North America
  • Distinctions: 13 to 1 student / faculty ratio; most classes have under 30 students; good grant aid; strong Christian identity; member of the NCAA Division II Great Northwest Athletic Conference
  • For acceptance rate, test scores, costs and other information, visit the Seattle Pacific University profile

Seattle University

Sullivan Hall at Seattle University
Sullivan Hall at Seattle University. SaintIggy / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0
  • Location: Seattle, Washington
  • Enrollment: 7,291 (4,685 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private Jesuit university
  • Distinctions: 11 to 1 student / faculty ratio; average class size of 18 students; students come from all 50 states and 76 other countries; located in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood; competes in the NCAA Division I Western Athletic Conference
  • For acceptance rate, test scores, costs and other information, visit the Seattle University profile

University of Puget Sound

University of Puget Sound Residence Hall
University of Puget Sound Residence Hall. The Kevin / Flickr
  • Location: Tacoma, Washington
  • Enrollment: 2,666 (2,364 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: small private university
  • Distinctions: Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences; 11 to 1 student / faculty ratio; good grant aid; easy access to both the city and the Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges; NCAA Division III athletic programs
  • For acceptance rate, test scores, costs and other information, visit the University of Puget Sound profile

University of Washington Bothell

University of Washington Bothell
University of Washington Bothell. Joe Mabel / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Location: Bothell, Washington
  • Enrollment: 5,970 (5,401 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: regional public university
  • Distinctions: Young university that opened in 2006; popular majors in technical and professional fields; average class size of 23; located 14 miles from downtown Seattle; high marks for value
  • For acceptance rate, test scores, costs and other information, visit the UW Bothell profile

University of Washington Seattle

University of Washington
University of Washington. clpo13 / Flickr
  • Location: Seattle, Washington
  • Enrollment: 47,400 (32,099 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: public research university
  • Distinctions: Flagship campus of the Washington state university system; attractive campus sits on the shores of Portage and Union Bays; member of the Association of American Universities for research strengths; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strengths in the liberal arts and sciences; member of the NCAA Division I the Division I Pacific Twelve Conference
  • For acceptance rate, test scores, costs and other information, visit the University of Washington profile

Washington State University

Thompson Hall at Washington State University
Thompson Hall at Washington State University. Candy29c / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Pullman, Washington
  • Enrollment: 31,478 (26,098 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: public university
  • Distinctions: Over 200 areas of study; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strengths in the liberal arts and sciences; member of the NCAA Division I Pacific 12 Conference; home to one of the country's largest athletic centers
  • For acceptance rate, test scores, costs and other information, visit the Washington State University profile

Western Washington University

Western Washington University
Western Washington University. Joe Wolf / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0
  • Location: Bellingham, Washington
  • Enrollment: 16,121 (15,170 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: public university
  • Distinctions: Highly ranked regional university; close to 75% of classes have fewer than 30 students; higher retention and graduation rates than many comparable universities; member of the NCAA Division II Great Northwest Athletic Conference
  • For acceptance rate, test scores, costs and other information, visit the Western Washington University profile

Whitman College

Whitman College, Memorial Hall
Whitman College, Memorial Hall. Chuck Taylor / Flickr
  • Location: Walla Walla, Washington
  • Enrollment: 1,475 (all undergraduate)
  • Type of Institution: private liberal arts college
  • Distinctions: One of the country's top liberal arts colleges; focus is entirely on undergraduate education; chapter of  Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences; impressive 9 to 1 student / faculty ratio; several science and professional programs collaborate with top schools like Caltech, Columbia, Duke and Washington University
  • For acceptance rate, test scores, costs and other information, visit the Whitman College profile

Whitworth University

Whitworth University
Whitworth University. Brent Soderberg / Flickr / CC BY 2.0
  • Location: Spokane, Washington
  • Enrollment: 2,776 (2,370 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private liberal arts institution affiliated with the Presbyterian Church
  • Distinctions: 11 to 1 student / faculty ratio, and the great majority of classes have under 30 students; good grant aid; ranks highly among master's institutions in the West; millions of dollars spent on upgrades and expansions in recent years
  • For acceptance rate, test scores, costs and other information, visit the Whitworth University profile