Best Colleges in Wisconsin

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Updated on July 6, 2023
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Colleges in Wisconsin include some of the nation's most respected research institutions — the state houses nearly 100 colleges and universities with prestigious Carnegie classification. The University of Wisconsin Madison is the flagship institution of the state university system, which includes 25 additional campuses across Wisconsin.

Many of the best colleges in Wisconsin offer both on-campus and online programs. Learners can pursue a variety of popular majors and specialized programs, preparing for careers in high-demand areas like technology and medicine. Students can choose from public or private schools, as well as two-year or four-year institutions.

Read on to learn more about our ranking methodology and explore the best colleges in Wisconsin.

Top 10 Colleges in Wisconsin

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#1 University of Wisconsin-Madison Madison, WI
#2 University of Wisconsin-La Crosse La Crosse, WI
#3 University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Eau Claire, WI
#4 Beloit College Beloit, WI
#5 Lawrence University Appleton, WI
#6 University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Whitewater, WI
#7 University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Stevens Point, WI
#8 College of Menominee Nation Keshena, WI
#9 University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Oshkosh, WI
#10 University of Wisconsin-River Falls River Falls, WI

How We Rank Schools

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At BestColleges, we believe a college education is one of the most important investments you will make. We want to help you navigate the college selection process by offering school rankings that are transparent, inclusive, and relevant for online students.

Our rankings are grounded in a few guiding principles and use the latest statistical data available from trusted sources. Read our Ranking Methodology. We hope our approach helps you find the school that is best for you.

Best Accredited Colleges in Wisconsin

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Best Colleges in Wisconsin

  1. University of Wisconsin-Madison

    Madison, WI



    Founded in 1848, the University of Wisconsin Madison is the flagship campus of the extensive UW System. The oldest and largest public university in the state, UW covers 936 acres and welcomes more than 40,000 students each year.

    Highly respected as a Public Ivy university, UW engages in extensive research activities, with nearly 100 scientific centers and programs dedicated to agriculture, arts, education, engineering, and other major fields. Students can choose from a large catalog of more than 200 undergraduate majors and certificates, in addition to more than 250 master's, doctoral, and professional programs. Outside of class, students can take advantage of NCAA athletics, Greek life, three museums, nearly 900 student organizations, and arts and culture events.

    Required first-year application materials include official test scores, two essays, and a letter of recommendation. UW looks for students with academic success along with demonstrated qualities of leadership, community involvement, and achievement.

  2. University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

    La Crosse, WI



    The University of Wisconsin La Crosse boasts an annual enrollment of more than 10,000 students, a 128-acre residential campus, and one of the largest operating budgets in the UW System. Involvement opportunities include NCAA athletics, recreational sports, cultural events, student organizations, and campus activities scheduled throughout the week.

    Organized into three colleges and two schools, UW-La Crosse offers 101 undergraduate programs, 28 graduate programs, and two doctoral programs in physical therapy and student affairs administration/leadership. Students can major in areas like biochemistry, communication, sports science, international business, and public health. Students who prefer or require the flexibility of online learning can pursue individual courses or one of 14 complete programs through distance learning.

    To be considered for admission, incoming first-year students must provide test scores, transcripts, and two essays. UW-La Crosse looks for students with strong academic achievement, demonstrated leadership ability, extracurricular involvement, and other special talents.

  3. University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

    Eau Claire, WI



    The University of Wisconsin Eau Claire's campus is located on 333 acres near the banks of the Chippewa River. The school serves as home to 28 major buildings and a vibrant student community numbering more than 10,000 individuals. Off campus, the university also owns nearly 500 acres of forest and marshland, which are utilized for class use and environmental research.

    Four colleges offer more than 80 undergraduate programs in areas like business, arts, sciences, education, human services, nursing, and health sciences. Graduate students can pursue 12 different options, including several master's degrees, a doctor of nursing practice, and an education specialist degree in school psychology. Several certificates, degrees, and individual courses use an asynchronous online format.

    UWEC's admissions office considers academic performance and experience outside the classroom. Prospective students must submit high school transcripts; test scores are considered but not required.

  4. Beloit College

    Beloit, WI



    Beloit College is the oldest continually operated college in Wisconsin. It was founded In 1846, two years before Wisconsin achieved statehood. This private liberal arts institution enrolls approximately 1,400 students each year. The 65-acre campus offers student housing, Greek life, varsity athletics, and accredited art and anthropology museums.

    The school's undergraduate catalog encompasses dozens of majors and minors, including comparative literature, critical identity studies, geology, physics, and theatre. The college also encourages hands-on practice, internships, and field work. Everyone begins their first semester with the Spark program, where they are paired with a faculty member advisor who assists each student in designing their course of study and finding community experiences that connect well with coursework.

    Undergraduate admission requires high school transcripts, a secondary school report, and a teacher recommendation. Optional components include test scores, additional recommendations, and art portfolios.

  5. Lawrence University

    Appleton, WI



    Lawrence University is a residential liberal arts college and a conservatory of music. The university has a main campus in Appleton; a center in London, England; and a 441-acre estate on Lake Michigan, which serves as a destination for retreats, seminars, concerts, and theatre performances.

    Approximately 1,500 students attend Lawrence each year, where they pursue 35 bachelor of arts options, four bachelor of music options, and a five-year bachelor of arts and bachelor of music dual degree. Available areas of study include computer science, economics, film studies, linguistics, and pre-law. The conservatory offers majors in music, music composition, music education, music performance, and music theory. Lawrence students can engage in off-campus study at various domestic and international destinations.

    General undergraduate admission requirements include transcripts, an essay, and a teacher recommendation. Prospective conservatory students must also provide a music teacher evaluation, submit a music resume, and attend an audition.

  6. University of Wisconsin-Whitewater

    Whitewater, WI



    Founded in 1868, the University of Wisconsin Whitewater officially joined the UW System in 1971. The university serves a diverse student body of about 13,000 individuals. The campus hosts frequent events, Greek life, an independent newspaper, a student-run radio station, and NCAA athletics.

    UWW organizes academics into six main colleges, including its graduate school. Undergraduates can select their program of study from more than 50 majors and 119 minors. The most popular options at UWW -- accounting, marketing, finance, elementary education, and business -- align with the school's reputation as a top business school and its history as the oldest teacher's college in Wisconsin. Graduate academic options include 16 certificates, 15 master's degrees, and one doctoral degree.

    UWW evaluates applicants based on various academic and nonacademic factors, including leadership, community service, and creativity. Prospective first-year students who plan to attend classes on campus must provide high school transcripts and ACT/SAT scores.

  7. University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point

    Stevens Point, WI



    The University of Wisconsin Stevens Point is a public university with three campuses located in Stevens Point, Marshfield, and Wausau. The main UWSP campus attracts more than 7,000 students each year and offers residence halls; Greek life; extracurricular activities; NCAA athletics; and student-run television, newspaper, and radio projects.

    UWSP grants associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees. The undergraduate catalog offers more than 40 majors and 70 minors. Students interested in earning a bachelor's and master's simultaneously can pursue one of the college's five-year, dual-degree programs. These are available in dietetics, business administration, natural resources, and sustainable food and nutrition. USWP also offers extensive online options, including four undergraduate programs and 10 graduate programs.

    Prospective undergraduates can apply online by filling out the Common Application or the UW System Application. Required components include high school transcripts and ACT or SAT scores. Aspiring music, dance, and theatre arts majors must complete an audition and/or interview.

  8. College of Menominee Nation

    Keshena, WI



    With campuses in Keshena and Green Bay, the College of Menominee Nation is a tribal institution serving a diverse student body of American Indian and non-Indian students. The 52-acre, nonresidential main campus on the Menominee Indian reservation provides academic and recreational spaces for student and community use.

    CMN works to meet the academic and professional needs of all learners by offering continuing education courses, trade and technical diplomas, career- and transfer-ready associate degrees, and bachelor's programs. Available areas of study include pre-engineering technology, substance abuse counseling, digital media, education, and public administration. Outside the classroom, students can get involved in a variety of clubs and organizations.

    As an open-enrollment institution, CMN charges no application fee and guarantees admission to all prospective students who possess a high school diploma or the equivalent. ACT scores or alternative placement testing may be required in some cases.

  9. University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh

    Oshkosh, WI



    The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh originally opened in 1871 as Wisconsin's third normal school, dedicated solely to teacher training. A century later, after the addition of a liberal arts curriculum, UW-Oshkosh joined the UW System. Today, about 14,000 students attend its campuses in Oshkosh, Fond du Lac, and Fox Cities each year.

    UW-Oshkosh offers NCAA athletics, Greek life, diverse clubs, and student-run media organizations. Undergraduates can select from nearly nearly 200 majors, minors, and concentrations. The graduate school serves as home to 15 master's and two doctoral programs.

    Available areas of study include the second-largest nursing program in the state, along with disciplines like criminal justice, education, kinesiology, and management. Sixteen programs feature online or hybrid formats.

    General first-year admission requirements include high school transcripts and ACT or SAT scores.

  10. University of Wisconsin-River Falls

    River Falls, WI



    Situated on 226 acres near the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area, the University of Wisconsin River Falls enrolls more than 6,000 students each year. Programs at this liberal arts institution hold accreditation from many major organizations, including the National Association of Schools of Music and the Council of Social Work Education.

    The university boasts more than 70 available areas of undergraduate study, like agricultural business, animal science, conservation and environmental planning, literature, mathematics, and stage and screen arts. UWRF also offers 22 graduate degrees, certificates, and licenses, including Montessori teacher education programs. Outside of the classroom, students can engage in an active residential community, filled with opportunities for global travel, socialization, sports and athletics, and campus activities.

    UWRF welcomes about 1,250 new first-year students to campus each year. To apply, prospective learners must submit transcripts and test scores. Individuals pursuing music majors must also complete an audition.

Top Degree Programs in Wisconsin