5 Best Colleges in Wisconsin – 2024

May 14, 2024

best colleges in Wisconsin

The Badger State is home to the University of Wisconsin whose Madison branch draws elite high school students from around the world. Yet, there are also some excellent private school options, including some lesser-known liberal arts gems that are worth a look. The following list of the 5 best colleges in Wisconsin is meant to give you a sense of the array of wonderful higher education options in the state. The data in each profile card is intended to give a better sense of the academic offerings and outcomes at each institution. If you happen to be a resident, you have public options that will allow you to stay close to home for college without sacrificing a single ounce of quality, while simultaneously maximizing the value of your tuition dollar.


Click here to read our methodology for the Best Colleges in Wisconsin. As you’ll see, some schools with spectacular (and deserved) reputations simply do not happen to fare well on metrics such as student-to-faculty ratio or spending per student. We understand that a list based solely on prestige/general reputation would look different than what you will find below.

Best Colleges in Wisconsin

Here’s a quick preview of the 5 Wisconsin-based institutions that made our list. Detailed profiles and stats can be found when you scroll below.

1) University of Wisconsin-Madison

2) Beloit College

3) Lawrence University

4) Marquette University

5) Milwaukee School of Engineering

All of the schools profiled below have a history of sending graduates to the most desirable employers and graduate schools in the country. College Transitions will provide you with—when available—each school’s:

  • Enrollment
  • Cost of Attendance
  • Acceptance Rate
  • Median SAT
  • Median ACT
  • Retention Rate
  • Graduation Rate

We will also include a longer write-up of each college’s:

  • Academic Highlights – Includes facts like student-to-faculty ratio, average class size, number of majors offered, and most popular majors.
  • Professional Outcomes – Includes info on the rate of positive outcomes, companies employing alumni, and graduate school acceptances.
#1 Best College in Wisconsin
University of Wisconsin – Madison

University of Wisconsin – Madison

  • Madison, WI

Academic Highlights: There are 230+ undergraduate majors offered across eight schools and colleges, including the top-ranked School of Business and College of Engineering as well as the College of Letters and Science, the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, and the Schools of Nursing, Education, Pharmacy, and Human Ecology. Undergrads can expect a mix of large and small classes, with 44% of sections enrolling fewer than 20 students. Business (18%), biology (12%), the social sciences (11%), and engineering (10%) are most popular.

Professional Outcomes: In a recent year, 46% of job-seeking grads graduated with an offer.  Top employers included UW-Madison, Epic, Kohl’s, Oracle, Deloitte, and UW Health. Across all graduating years, companies employing 250+ alumni include Google, Target, Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, PwC, Accenture, and Meta. 28% of recent grads enrolled directly in graduate/professional school; the majority stayed at UW–Madison while others headed to Columbia, Northwestern, and Carnegie Mellon. The university is the top producer of Peace Corps volunteers.

  • Enrollment: 37,230 (undergraduate); 12,656 (graduate)
  • Cost of Attendance: $28,916 (in-state); $58,912 (out-of-state)
  • Median SAT: 1440
  • Median ACT: 30
  • Acceptance Rate: 49%
  • Retention Rate: 94%
  • Graduation Rate: 89%

#2 Best College in Wisconsin
Beloit College

Beloit College

  • Beloit, WI

Academic Highlights: Over 40 majors and minors are available at Beloit and the student-to-faculty ratio is an exceptional 9:1, meaning that class sizes are quite small. In fact, 72% of sections enroll fewer than 20 individuals. In terms of majors, the greatest number of degrees are conferred in the social sciences (21%), the physical sciences (11%), business (8%), psychology (8%), the visual and performing arts (8%), English (7%), and foreign languages (7%).

Professional Outcomes: 93% of graduates are employed or in grad school within six months of earning their degree. All told, 63% of alumni eventually go on to earn an advanced degree. Top employers of Beloit grads include Amazon, Chicago Public Schools, Northwestern Mutual, Deloitte, Epic, the School District of Beloit, Microsoft, Apple, and IBM. Those who major in economics and business have a mid-late career average salary of $155,000.

  • Enrollment: 964
  • Cost of Attendance: $72,150
  • Median SAT: 1295
  • Median ACT: 28
  • Acceptance Rate: 66%
  • Retention Rate: 82%
  • Graduation Rate: 71%

#3 Best College in Wisconsin
Lawrence University

Lawrence University

  • Appleton, WI

Academic Highlights: There are 65 majors and minors at LU. An 8:1 student/faculty ratio allows for extremely small class sizes—the majority of sections contain only two to nineteen students, and many independent study/1:1 music instruction courses also are available. The visual and performing arts (23%), the social sciences (16%), and biology (14%) comprise the most popular areas of study at LU. The world-renowned Conservatory of Music enrolls approximately 350 undergraduates.

Professional Outcomes: Of the 350 graduates in one recent graduating class, an impressive 99% had already reached their next employment or postsecondary destination. Among the 73% of that group who had landed their first jobs, business/finance, social services/nonprofit, the arts, health care/pharmaceutical, and media/communications were the most popular industries. Over the last few years, graduates have gone on to master’s and doctoral programs at schools such as Carnegie Mellon, Duke, Dartmouth, Emory, Georgetown, and UPenn.

  • Enrollment: 1,426
  • Cost of Attendance: $67,299
  • Median SAT: 1350
  • Median ACT: 30
  • Acceptance Rate: 72%
  • Retention Rate: 88%
  • Graduation Rate: 78%

#4 Best College in Wisconsin
Marquette University

Marquette University

  • Milwaukee, WI

Academic Highlights: With a 13:1 student-to-faculty ratio, the university is able to keep 50% of class sections at 19 or fewer students. The average lower-division class size is 33, and the average upper-division course enrolls 25. The College of Business Administration conferred 26% of total undergraduate degrees in 2022. The next most popular disciplines were biology (14%), engineering (11%), the social sciences (11%), and health professions and related programs (9%).

Professional Outcomes: Sixty-six percent of the Class of 2022 enjoyed full-time employment within six months of graduation, although that figure varied widely by discipline. Within the College of Business Administration, 82% had landed a job, and 77% of College of Engineering grads did the same. The largest employers were GE Healthcare, Northwestern Mutual, Rockwell Automation, and Baird. Out of those headed to grad school, 53% were pursuing a master’s degree, 27% were pursuing a medical or health-related degree, 11% entered law school, and 3% began a PhD program.

  • Enrollment: 7,528
  • Cost of Attendance: $64,440
  • Median SAT: 1260
  • Median ACT: 28
  • Acceptance Rate: 87%
  • Retention Rate: 90%
  • Graduation Rate: 83%

#5 Best College in Wisconsin
Milwaukee School of Engineering

Milwaukee School of Engineering

  • Milwaukee, WI

Academic Highlights: MSOE offers 22 majors and another 11 graduate programs and sports a student-to-faculty ratio of 12:1. Almost half of all course sections are intimate affairs of under 20 students and you’ll rarely encounter a large lecture hall, even as a freshman. An astounding 71% of all degrees conferred are in the engineering realm. Health programs (12%), business (9%), and computer science (6%) are next in popularity.

Professional Outcomes: This school has a lot to brag about in terms of postgraduation outcomes starting with a 99% placement rate and a $76,647 average starting salary. Students regularly take advantage of the Career Connections Center and connect with the school’s corporate partners which include Cognex, Miller, HED, Associated Bank, ASYST, GE Healthcare, Hydrite, Nordco, and ULINE.

  • Enrollment: 2,575
  • Cost of Attendance: $64,115
  • Median SAT: 1280
  • Median ACT: 28
  • Acceptance Rate: 63%
  • Retention Rate: 82%
  • Graduation Rate: 71%

We hope you have found our list of the Best Colleges in Wisconsin to be useful and informative as you continue your college search process. We also invite you to check out some of our other resources and tools including: