Best Colleges in Minnesota

portrait of Staff Writers
Staff Writers
Read Full Bio

Contributing Writer

The staff writers for BestColleges collaborate to deliver unique, student-driven content on topics such as career development, college life, and college planning....
Updated on September 28, 2023
Learn more about our editorial process

Minnesota ranks among the most educated states in the country, in both average level of educational attainment and the quality of education available. As a major center of education in the Midwest, the state is home to schools of all types and sizes -- from small, elite liberal arts colleges like Carleton and Macalester to massive state schools like the University of Minnesota. To help you select the right Minnesota school for you, we compiled the following ranking, which offers an overview of the top colleges in the state.

Below, you'll find information on 25 of the best colleges in Minnesota, including information related to each school's reputation, selectivity, notable academic offerings or campus features, and online enrollment options. This list attempts to pinpoint unique features of each school, but it should serve as the beginning -- not the end -- of your research.

In terms of livability for college graduates, Minnesota ranks about average, with an unemployment rate near the national average (3.3% as of November 2019) and a cost of living slightly below the national average. The state hosts a diverse economy that includes one of the country's top bioscience sectors, along with other major industries including data centers and operations, manufacturing, clean and renewable energy (particularly wind power), banking and finance, and agriculture and livestock products.

Best Accredited Colleges in Minnesota

  1. St Olaf College

    Northfield, MN



    Located in Northfield about 45 miles south of the Twin Cities, St. Olaf College ranks among the top liberal arts colleges in the country, serving around 3,000 students annually. As a baccalaureate institution, St. Olaf serves undergraduates exclusively, offering bachelor of arts and bachelor of music degrees. Students choose from dozens of majors in the arts and sciences, including Latin American studies, music education, political science, race and ethnic studies, and women's and gender studies.

    St. Olaf ranks as one of the top colleges in the country in terms of the number of students who study abroad, with 73% of the 2017 graduating class participating in international programs. The school boasts more than 120 domestic and global study programs, and St. Olaf embeds global issues into much of its undergraduate curriculum. Many students participate in multiple study abroad trips, gaining cross-cultural perspectives in countries such as New Zealand, Cuba, and China.

  2. Carleton College

    Northfield, MN



    Another of the country's top liberal arts college, Carleton College also operates in Northfield, exclusively serving more than 2,000 undergraduate students. Carleton boasts one of the highest rates of graduates who go on to pursue doctorates, and the school's alumni include several Rhodes and Fulbright Scholars. Students choose from more than 60 academic majors and minors in the arts and sciences, including astronomy, creative writing, East Asian studies, public policy, studio art, and literary and cultural studies.

    Carleton ranks among the most selective colleges in the country, and students benefit from a highly rigorous curriculum. All first-year students complete an introductory argument and inquiry seminar, while all seniors complete a comprehensive project focused on their major; this project requires extensive work under close faculty supervision. These projects may take several forms, depending on a student's interests and aspirations. Past projects have required students to produce major research papers, design mobile apps, and direct short films.

  3. University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

    Minneapolis, MN



    A major public research university based in Minneapolis and Saint Paul, the University of Minnesota ranks as the largest public school in the state, enrolling more than 50,000 students annually. Home to 19 academic colleges and schools, UMN boasts some of the country's top-rated programs in fields such as clinical psychology, healthcare management, midwifery, public health, and speech-language pathology. UMN also ranks among the country's top research institutions, and the school boasts connections to 30 Nobel laureates.

    UMN offers academic and professional degrees at all levels, with over 140 undergraduate majors and more than 200 graduate programs available. As one of the largest universities in the country, UMN also hosts more than 300 centers and institutes for specialized research and education, including the Minnesota Population Center, the Institute for Translational Neuroscience, the Center for Cognitive Sciences, and the Institute on the Environment.

  4. Macalester College

    Saint Paul, MN



    Located in Saint Paul, Macalester College ranks among the top liberal arts colleges in the country, providing undergraduate education to a student body of about 2,100 pupils. Though small in enrollment, the school offers more than 60 areas of study, including community and global health, critical theory, German studies, international development, and urban studies. Macalester offers several pre-professional programs, including pre-law and pre-medicine, and students can also design their own interdisciplinary major.

    As one of the country's most exclusive liberal arts colleges, Macalester offers many opportunities for learning outside the classroom, including internships, independent study projects, off-campus courses, and study abroad programs. Students can earn up to 10 credits each year through independent study and internships, completing approved programs during the winter and summer terms. Macalester also emphasizes international study, and many majors require study abroad experiences as part of their curriculum.

  5. College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University

    Collegeville, MN



    Formed in 1961 through a partnership between two liberal arts schools, the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University offers students the resources and academic diversity of two complete institutions. Originally functioning as two separate schools -- Saint John's University for men and the College of Saint Benedict for women -- these schools now operate in tandem, with students taking courses and using facilities on both campuses. The colleges maintain gender separation only in housing; all other facilities are coeducational.

    CSBSJU functions primarily as an undergraduate institution, enrolling around 3,600 students in bachelor's programs. The school offers dozens of majors and minors in the liberal arts and sciences, including biochemistry, book arts, classical languages, Hispanic studies, and sociology. Undergraduates can also select from several pre-professional programs in fields including dentistry, veterinary, and optometry. The school offers a small selection of graduate programs that all focus on religious subjects, such as ministry and theology.

  6. Gustavus Adolphus College

    Saint Peter, MN



    A private liberal arts college affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Gustavus Adolphus College serves around 2,400 students from its campus in St. Peter, which is located about 10 miles north of Mankato. The college enrolls undergraduate students exclusively, offering bachelor of arts programs in more than 70 major areas, including African studies, comparative literature, computer science, gender and sexuality studies, and physical therapy. Gustavus also offers several pre-professional programs, including pre-law, pre-medicine, and pre-engineering.

    The school's small size allows for personalized support for its students. All incoming first-year learners enroll in a first-term seminar that builds foundational skills in critical thinking and academic writing; this seminar is conducted under the guidance of a professional advisor. The college emphasizes writing skills throughout the undergraduate curriculum, and all students receive free tutoring from the school's writing center. Students also benefit from strong internship and career development programs focused on academic and professional growth.

  7. Minnesota State University-Mankato

    Mankato, MN



    Enrolling more than 15,000 students annually, Minnesota State University, Mankato ranks among the largest schools in the state. Minnesota State Mankato hosts a comprehensive selection of degrees, including more than 130 undergraduate programs and more than 90 graduate programs. The school also offers several fully online bachelor's and master's programs in subjects including applied leadership, dental hygiene, technical communication, business administration, and special education.

    Minnesota State Mankato emphasizes cross-cultural exchange and global education, ranking among the top schools in the nation for international student enrollment. The university's student body represents more than 90 countries and includes over 1,300 international students who receive comprehensive support from the Kearney Center for International Students and the Center for English Language Programs. Minnesota State Mankato also hosts a large study abroad program through its Center for Education Abroad and Away.

  8. Winona State University

    Winona, MN



    A public school serving undergraduate and graduate students, Winona State University enrolls around 9,000 students annually. Based in the city of Winona -- about an hour west of Rochester -- the school broadly groups its academic offerings under five distinct colleges, including business, education, liberal arts, nursing and health sciences, and science and engineering. WSU hosts more than 80 undergraduate programs and more than 40 graduate programs, with a selection of hybrid and online degrees also available.

    WSU students of all levels receive support from the Warrior Success Center, which offers tutoring, access services, and academic advising. All enrolled students can use WSU's tutoring services for assistance with coursework and assignments, including generalized assistance with math and writing as well as help in specialized subjects such as economics, accounting, and statistics. Access services provide accommodations for students with physical and mental disabilities, while college advisors offer career and degree planning.

  9. University of Minnesota-Duluth

    Duluth, MN



    One of the University of Minnesota System's major regional outposts, the University of Minnesota Duluth enrolls around 11,000 students annually, offering more than 90 degrees at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Undergraduates can pursue more than 150 majors and minors, including cultural entrepreneurship, deaf studies, jazz studies, marketing and graphic design, and professional writing. The school's graduate offerings include two options in tribal administration and governance and tribal resources and environmental stewardship.

    UMD provides comprehensive support for students through its Academic Writing and Learning Center, such as academic tutoring and supplemental instruction. This includes the UMD Seminar -- a one- or two-credit course that helps new students transition into higher education. The school's tutoring center offers tutoring for all undergraduate subjects and majors, with individual and group sessions available. The school's writer's workshop provides in-depth writing assistance for students of all levels and all writing assignments.

  10. University of Minnesota-Morris

    Morris, MN



    One of the only public liberal arts schools in the state, the University of Minnesota Morris serves around 1,900 students annually from its campus in western Minnesota. The school offers undergraduate education exclusively, with nearly 70 majors and minors available in a variety of fields, including African and black American studies, data science, English and creative writing, jazz studies, and sustainability leadership. Students can also design their own interdisciplinary major by completing courses in multiple fields of study.

    Morris students benefit from an active academic community with many opportunities for research and other creative activity. Students can conduct original research under close faculty supervision, pursuing an approved area of interest. Morris hosts an annual undergraduate research symposium, in which students present their academic research, creative works, and art performances. Students can also participate in professional internships and field experiences, as well as a variety of study abroad programs.

Explore other colleges in Minnesota