3 Affordable Hidden Gem Colleges in the Midwest

We find that many students we work with are attracted to the same group of colleges, often in Texas, Colorado or on either coast. And that’s great because there are so many wonderful colleges and universities in those areas. However, one of the most fun aspects of our jobs is introducing students to incredible schools they may have never heard of in other parts of the country.

On a recent college tour to Indiana and Illinois, we visited a few hidden gems that not only have unique stand-out academic programs, but also more affordable price tags and cost of living than many coastal areas. Check out these three colleges to see if they might be a fit for your student.

Illinois Institute of Technology

For students who are STEM-focused and enjoy hands-on learning, Illinois Institute of Technology “offers exceptional preparation for professions that require technological sophistication, an innovative mindset, and an entrepreneurial spirit.” It’s signature program, Interprofessional Projects (IPROs), groups 10-15 students together across academic disciplines to work on a real-world project. These projects have produced patents, products and have attracted employers; all students complete at least one project before they graduate.

Why might your student choose Illinois Institute of Technology?

  • More than 98% of Illinois Tech students receive some type of financial aid

  • Your student is involved in VEX or FIRST robotics (there is considerable merit aid up to $25,000 for those students)

  • Your student loves STEM and is a budding engineer, scientist, entrepreneur, or architect

  • Your student wants a small-sized school (about 2,900 undergrads) in a large city.

  • Your student is interested in a co-terminal degree (IIT has combined programs in many areas leading to a bachelor and graduate degrees, including B.S./J.D.)

Butler University

Students who want a liberal arts experience with discussion-based classes but also want features of a larger institution, such as Division 1 athletics, 65 possible majors, and a robust research culture, may find Butler to be a perfect fit. Nationally known for its music and fine arts programs, especially its conservatory-style ballet program, Butler prides itself on its strong student involvement in the arts. One out of every eight student is involved in fine arts either as a major or through extracurricular participation. With 96% of students receiving tuition discounts through merit-based scholarships up to $20,000, Butler can be an affordable option.

Why might your student thrive at Butler?

  • They are interested in research (Butler hosts the largest annual undergraduate research conference in the U.S.)

  • They want to live on a beautiful campus in a mid-sized city (Indianapolis is the 16th largest urban area in the U.S.)

  • Your student doesn’t know what they want to major in (the most popular major for first years to choose when applying is Exploratory Studies, which includes personalized academic and career exploration and advising)

  • Your student feels most comfortable in a medium-sized school (about 4,500 undergraduates).

  • Your student loves bulldogs (Trip, the bulldog mascot, is wildly popular on campus and sometimes delivers acceptance letters to applicants in person!)

DePauw University

All you have to do is check out DePauw’s list of notable alumni  to be impressed. Author Barbara Kingsolver is an alum. So is the CEO of TOMS, the CEO of Teach For America and the former CEO of Walt Disney. Boston Celtics Basketball Coach Brad Stevens was in the class of 1999. As Mark McCoy, the president of DePauw told us during our visit, “DePauw turns out leaders.” As a leader in liberal arts education, DePauw recently unveiled its Gold Commitment, a guarantee that each student who graduates will be employed or accepted to graduate school within six months or DePauw will provide them with an entry level opportunity or a tuition free semester to further develop their skills.

Why might your student consider DePauw?

  • They’re interested in being involved in Greek life (68% of students join fraternities or sororities)

  • Your student needs a small, test-optional college (DePauw has about 2,300 students)

  • Your student needs substantial financial aid (average total packages are $27,000-$29,000)

  • Your student wants a large variety of experiential learning opportunities (through DePauw’s Centers, students learn a variety of technical and interpersonal skills)

  • Your student feels most comfortable in a pretty, small town environment on a campus that is 100% residential