10 Most Beautiful Colleges in the Midwest

The 10 colleges on this list have been chosen as the most beautiful in the Midwest. Though there are surely more than 10 beautiful midwestern colleges, the following schools were chosen and ranked based on the following criteria.


Awards & Recognition (2 points for an international accolade; 1 point for an American accolade; 1 for appearing on the National Register of Historic Places): Whether a national award or an honor bestowed by a group or organization, any recognition a campus has received played a large part in the placement of a school on this list. Generally speaking, the larger and more recent the honor, the higher the college was placed.

Student Enjoyment (1 point per notable feature): While most of the features described in this article can be appreciated visually by both students and visitors, those campuses with features that can be physically enjoyed by the school's student body (such as botanical gardens or hiking trails) were given higher priority.

Number of Notable Features (1 point for each notable feature): Campuses with more than one significant or celebrated building or feature were ranked higher than those with a single notable feature.

Other (1 point each): Those campuses with other notable characteristics, such as historical significance or environmental friendliness, were also considered.

In the event of a tie, the higher-ranking campus was chosen by the author based on characteristics such as natural terrain and climate, historical significance, or academic reputation.

Ranking the Prettiest Colleges in the Midwest

10. The Ohio State University

(12 points)

Columbus, Ohio

The Ohio State University is a gem of Columbus, appropriately located right downtown, with a big historic green connecting the campus to the rest of the city. But the green is just the start of it. The walkable nature of The Ohio State University is unmatched; very few surface lots exist on the campus, while brick streets and walkways are plentiful. Students and visitors alike enjoy walking the campus, which is one of the best preserved in the nation.

9. College of the Ozarks

(14 points)

Point Lookout, Missouri

There are few places in America more beautiful than the Ozarks, and tiny liberal arts College of the Ozarks takes full advantage of that natural beauty. Sprawling along the White River, the 1,000-acre campus overlooks beautiful Lake Taneycomo. Students and visitors alike can enjoy a walk through the verdant grounds, which includes a working mill,  greenhouses, and a rose garden tended entirely by students. Collegiate-style buildings grace the campus, though perhaps none is more breathtaking than the Williams Memorial Chapel. Built in the Gothic style, the chapel is appropriately located at the heart of the campus.

8. Wheaton College

(14 points)

Wheaton, Illinois

A unique  college campus, most of Wheaton College’s buildings are more than a century old (though some tastefully designed newer buildings have popped up in recent years). One such building is the 150-year old Blanchard Hall, which was once the only building on campus and remains the most iconic. Students and visitors walking across campus will still be greeted with the chimes of its bells -- the perfect soundtrack to a collegiate environment as picturesque as they come. Other notable campus buildings include the modern Science Center and the classically designed Billy Graham Center.

7. John Brown University

(16 points)

Siloam Springs, Arkansas

Spread over 200 acres, John Brown University is a piece of paradise in the midst of the beautiful Ozarks. Lining public common areas and quieter walking paths alike, dogwood trees have become one of the most recognizable elements of John Brown. However, the crown jewel of the campus is  the Cathedral of the Ozarks. Completed in 1957, the cathedral features both a chapel and several academic facilities. Just outside the cathedral doors is the campus’ main quad, which serves as a popular spot for students to relax, study, or take part in a game of frisbee or soccer.

6. Indiana University -- Bloomington

(19 points)

Bloomington, Indiana

Bloomington, Indiana is the ultimate college town. More than 1,000 miles of bike and running trails encourage students to explore and exercise outdoors. The many stores, restaurants, and coffee shops located just steps from campus are popular hangouts for students. Students and visitors alike are welcomed onto campus via the Sample Gates. Many of the campus buildings constructed of Indiana Limestone sourced locally, and were built during the Great Depression by the WPA. Not surprisingly, many of these beautiful buildings have found spots on the National Registrar of Historic Places.

5. Notre Dame University

(21 points)

South Bend, Indiana

Take a walk through the Notre Dame University campus, and you may think you’ve stepped onto the grounds of an old English university. The 1,250-acre campus is filled with tree-lined walkways and hidden garden areas. Notre Dame’s most famous building is the golden-domed Main Building, though its most magnificent is the neo-Gothic Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Consisting of a towering, national record-breaking bell tower and large stained-glass windows, the basilica is almost always featured on the list of stunning churches in the United States.

4. Hope College

(23 points)

Holland, Michigan

Lovely Hope College is home to the Dimnent Memorial Chapel, which consistently ranks as one of the most beautiful college buildings in the country. Built in the American Gothic style with Bedford stones, the impressive building was completed in 1929 by Chicago-based architect William K. Johnston. The 120-acre campus is carefully maintained and full of green spaces for students to enjoy. When students are not in the classroom, they can wander through charming Holland, which Gallup and Healthways recently named the second best city in America for personal well-being.

3. Hillsdale College

(23 points)

Hillsdale, Michigan

Little Hillsdale College has been around since 1844, but has become in recent years well-known as a bastion of Conservative thought. The tree-lined main quad is surrounded by brick academic buildings and the iconic Central Hall and clock tower. Visitors come from far and wide to view the collection of statues dedicated to highly respected statesmen such as Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Ronald Reagan, Winston Churchill, and Margaret Thatcher. The town of Hillsdale is slowly turning into a charming college town, though students are still likely to see Amish buggies on their walk to church or downtown.

2. University of Chicago

(24 points)

Chicago, Illinois

University of Chicago is a beautiful urban campus located in Chicago’s prominent Hyde Park area, about seven miles south of downtown. The University’s Rockefeller Chapel was built by -- you guessed it -- the Rockefeller family, and is one of the best examples of architecture in the Midwest. Most of the campus’ other buildings, many of which are listed on the National Registrar of Historic Places, are built in the Collegiate Gothic architecture which mimics the University’s English rival, Oxford University.

1. Kenyon College

(25 points)

Gambier, Ohio

Established in 1824, Kenyon College is an Episcopal-affiliated liberal arts college in rural Gambier, Ohio. The 1,000-acre campus has repeatedly been named one of the most beautiful colleges in the country, most notably by Forbes. Buildings on campus are a distinctive mix of architectural styles, including modern, Collegiate Gothic, and American Gothic. Impressive campus buildings include Old Kenyon dormitory and the modern-style Horvitz Hall Studio Art Building. When they are not in the classroom, students can enjoy the popular Middle Path, a tree-lined walkway that acts as a central link on the campus.

GCD Staff November 2016


This concludes our coverage of the prettiest colleges in the Midwest region.