Top Wisconsin Colleges

Learn About 11 of the Best Wisconsin Colleges and Universities

Wisconsin has a wide range of options for both public and private institutions.  From a large public research university like the University of Wisconsin at Madison to small eco-friendly Northland College, Wisconsin has schools to match a variety of student personalities and interests. The 11 top Wisconsin colleges below are listed alphabetically to avoid the often arbitrary distinctions used to distinguish #1 from #2, and because of the impossibility of comparing a small private college with a huge state institution. 

The schools were chosen based on their academic reputations, curricular innovations, first-year retention rates, six-year graduation rates, value, financial aid and student engagement. Keep in mind that the criteria used for inclusion on this list may have little to do with the features that would make a college a good match for you.

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Middle College, Beloit College's First Building
Middle College, Beloit College's First Building. Robin Zebrowski / Flickr
  • Location: Beloit, Wisconsin
  • Enrollment: 1,358 (all undergraduate)
  • Type of Institution: private liberal arts college
  • Distinctions: 11 to 1 student / faculty ratio; average class size of 15; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences; large number of graduates go on to earn PhDs; curriculum emphasizes experiential learning, independent research, and fieldwork
  • For acceptance rate, test scores, costs and other information, visit the Beloit College profile
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Carroll University
Carroll University. Photo Courtesy of Carroll University
  • Location: Waukesha, Wisconsin
  • Enrollment: 3,508 (3,039 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private Christian liberal arts college
  • Distinctions: 16 to 1 student / faculty ratio; 50 student clubs and organizations; most students get grant aid; academic experience built upon "Four Pillars" of integrated knowledge, gateway experiences, lifelong skills and enduring values
  • For acceptance rate, test scores, costs and other information, visit the Carroll University profile
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Lawrence University
Lawrence University. Bonnie Brown / Flickr / CC BY 2.0
  • Location: Appleton, Wisconsin
  • Enrollment: 1,557 (all undergraduate)
  • Type of Institution: private liberal arts college and music conservatory
  • Distinctions: 9 to 1 student / faculty ratio; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences; featured in Loren Pope's Colleges That Change Lives; 90% of students have one-on-one instruction by graduation; 44 international programs
  • For acceptance rate, test scores, costs and other information, visit the Lawrence University profile
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Marquette Hall at Marquette University
Marquette Hall at Marquette University. Tim Cigelske / Flickr
  • Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • Enrollment: 11,491 (8,334 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private Catholic university
  • Distinctions: chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences; 14 to 1 student / faculty ratio; 116 majors and 65 minors; strong programs in business, nursing and the biomedical sciences; member of the NCAA Division I Big East Conference
  • For acceptance rate, test scores, costs and other information, visit the Marquette University profile
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The Grohmann Museum at MSOE, the Milwaukee School of Engineering
The Grohmann Museum at MSOE, the Milwaukee School of Engineering. Jeramey Jannene / Flickr / CC BY 2.0
  • Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • Enrollment: 2,906 (2,681 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private engineering school
  • Distinctions: one of the country's top undergraduate engineering colleges; 16 to 1 student / faculty ratio; average class size of 21; home to the Grohmann Museum;
  • For acceptance rate, test scores, costs and other information, visit the MSOE profile
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McLean Environmental Living and Learning Center at Northland College
McLean Environmental Living and Learning Center at Northland College. Photo Courtesy of Northland College
  • Location: Ashland, Wisconsin
  • Enrollment: 541 (all undergraduate)
  • Type of Institution: environmental liberal arts college affiliated with the United Church of Christ
  • Distinctions:  interdisciplinary core curriculum explores the relationships between the liberal arts, the environment, and our planet's future; all students earn an environmental studies minor; small classes; member of the Eco League with four other colleges
  • For acceptance rate, test scores, costs and other information, visit the Northland College profile
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Ripon College
Ripon College. TravisNygard / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Location: Ripon, Wisconsin
  • Enrollment: 794 (all undergraduate)
  • Type of Institution: private liberal arts education
  • Distinctions: excellent value with good grant aid; high graduation rate compared to similar schools; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences; 11 to 1 student / faculty ratio; average class size of 20
  • For acceptance rate, test scores, costs and other information, visit the Ripon College profile
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The Campus Center at St. Norbert College
The Campus Center at St. Norbert College. Royalbroil / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Location: De Pere, Wisconsin
  • Enrollment: 2,175 (2,096 undergraduates)80
  • Type of Institution: private Catholic liberal arts college
  • Distinctions: 13 to 1 student / faculty ratio; average class size of 22; focus on the development of the whole person -- intellectual, personal and spiritual; over 60 student clubs and organizations; Honors Program with a living-learning community
  • For acceptance rate, test scores, costs and other information, visit the St. Norbert College profile
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Main Hall at the University of Wisconsin La Crosse
Main Hall at the University of Wisconsin La Crosse. Jo2222 / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: La Crosse, Wisconsin
  • Enrollment: 10,490 (9,706 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: public university
  • Distinctions: average class size of 26; students come from 37 states and 44 countries; 88 degree programs for undergraduates; located in the scenic 7 Rivers Region on the Upper Mississippi
  • For acceptance rate, test scores, costs and other information, visit the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse profile
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University of Wisconsin Madison
University of Wisconsin Madison. Richard Hurd / Flickr
  • Location: Madison, Wisconsin
  • Enrollment: 42,716 (30,991 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: public university
  • Distinctions: flagship campus of the Wisconsin university system; 900-acre waterfront campus; member of the Association of American Universities for strong research programs; chapter of Phi Beta Kappa for strong liberal arts and sciences; one of the top ten public universities in the country; member of the NCAA Division I Big Ten Conference
  • For acceptance rate, test scores, costs and other information, visit the University of Wisconsin at Madison profile
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Wisconsin Lutheran University
Wisconsin Lutheran University. txnetstars / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • Enrollment: 1,188 (1071 undergraduates)
  • Type of Institution: private Christian liberal arts college
  • Distinctions: 12 to 1 student / faculty ratio; average class size of 16; 34 majors and 22 minors; 30 student clubs and organizations; good graduation rate compared to similar colleges; most students receive grant aid
  • For acceptance rate, test scores, costs and other information, visit the Wisconsin Lutheran College profile
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