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The Big 10 is a collection of universities that belong to one of the most prestigious collegiate athletic conferences in the United States. Despite its name, the conference actually consists of 14 colleges. These schools are known for their large size, competitive athletic programs, and vibrant school spirit. Big 10 schools are primarily located in the Midwest region.
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Big 10 School Lineup
Here’s a breakdown of each Big 10 college, listed from largest undergraduate population to smallest:
1. Ohio State University
- Location: Columbus, Ohio
- Acceptance Rate: 52.0%
- Undergraduate Enrollment: 46,984
Known as THE Ohio State University among its students, this school’s standout feature is its football team. The Buckeyes have won eight national championships and had ten undefeated seasons. Aside from athletics, OSU offers over 200 undergraduate majors and ranks in the top 10 for 18 graduate and professional programs.
2. Penn State University
- Location: University Park, Pennsylvania
- Acceptance Rate: 56.5%
- Undergraduate Enrollment: 40,639
Penn State is another school with a powerhouse football team. The Nittany Lions have won four conference championships and two national titles since joining the Big 10. Outside of sports, Greek life plays a significant role at Penn State, with over 17% of the student body involved in fraternity or sorority organizations. The university is also well-regarded for its engineering program.
3. Michigan State University
- Location: East Lansing, Michigan
- Acceptance Rate: 71.1%
- Undergraduate Enrollment: 39,176
Founded as an agricultural school in 1855, MSU has since expanded to offer over 200 programs of study. The College of Agriculture & Natural Study remains one of its most renowned divisions. The College of Education is also highly regarded, ranking first in elementary and secondary teacher education. Additionally, the university is recognized as a leading research institution.
4. Rutgers University
- Location: New Brunswick, New Jersey
- Acceptance Rate: 60.1%
- Undergraduate Enrollment: 36,158
Known as the birthplace of college football and the eighth-oldest college in the nation, Rutgers University has a rich history. Its main campus is located in the college town of New Brunswick, just 30 minutes away from NYC. Rutgers offers a diverse range of over 120 undergraduate majors, with psychology and computer science being popular choices.
5. University of Minnesota
- Location: Twin Cities, Minnesota
- Acceptance Rate: 52.0%
- Undergraduate Enrollment: 35,165
The University of Minnesota’s urban campus is situated in the vibrant Twin Cities area of Minneapolis and St. Paul. U of M students enjoy the lively culture of the region but also face the challenge of harsh Minnesota winters. The university has a strong tradition of volunteerism and provides numerous opportunities for students to engage in hands-on service learning.
6. Purdue University
- Location: West Lafayette, Indiana
- Acceptance Rate: 52.0%
- Undergraduate Enrollment: 34,920
Purdue University is renowned for its College of Engineering, which offers undergraduate degrees in 14 areas. The university’s College of Liberal Arts also provides various programs, including political science, anthropology, communication, languages, and interdisciplinary studies. In athletics, the Boilermakers excel in men’s and women’s basketball.
7. University of Illinois
- Location: Urbana & Champaign, Illinois
- Acceptance Rate: 62.2%
- Undergraduate Enrollment: 34,120
The University of Illinois is located in the twin cities of Urbana and Champaign, within a few hours’ reach of major cities like Chicago and Indianapolis. As one of the nation’s top research institutions, UIUC offers students the opportunity to engage in research across various fields. The university also boasts one of the largest Greek systems in the country and a multitude of student organizations.
8. University of Wisconsin
- Location: Madison, Wisconsin
- Acceptance Rate: 53.0%
- Undergraduate Enrollment: 33,456
While known for its reputation as a top party school, UW Madison is also recognized for its excellent academic programs. The university offers more than 200 undergraduate majors and is home to highly-ranked graduate schools in education, public affairs, business, and engineering. Situated on the south shore of Lake Mendota, UW offers outdoor activities such as running, biking, and sailing.
9. Indiana University
- Location: Bloomington, Indiana
- Acceptance Rate: 77.9%
- Undergraduate Enrollment: 33,084
Indiana University is nationally acclaimed for its men’s basketball team, which has won 22 Big Ten Conference Championships and five NCAA titles. The university is also home to a prestigious school of music, a top-notch business school, and an outstanding school of computer technology. Located in Bloomington, the university benefits from a vibrant cultural scene.
10. University of Michigan
- Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan
- Acceptance Rate: 22.9%
- Undergraduate Enrollment: 31,266
The University of Michigan is the second-most selective Big 10 school and one of the most highly respected public universities in the nation. It is a member of the Public Ivies, a group of public institutions known for their academic excellence. UMich is renowned for its research and its contribution to entrepreneurship and innovation.
11. University of Maryland
- Location: College Park, Maryland
- Acceptance Rate: 47.1%
- Undergraduate Enrollment: 30,511
The University of Maryland’s campus is only eight miles away from Washington D.C., offering unique opportunities in journalism, public policy, public health, and political science. With 90 majors across 12 colleges, students have a wide range of choices. The university also has a diverse student population, with students coming from 130 different countries.
12. University of Iowa
- Location: Iowa City, Iowa
- Acceptance Rate: 82.6%
- Undergraduate Enrollment: 23,482
The University of Iowa, located in Iowa City, is renowned for its contributions to healthcare and literature. The university’s hospital research has led to significant medical discoveries. Additionally, the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop, founded in 1936, offers the oldest creative writing degree program in the U.S.
13. University of Nebraska-Lincoln
- Location: Lincoln, Nebraska
- Acceptance Rate: 79.6%
- Undergraduate Enrollment: 20,478
The University of Nebraska is located in Lincoln, a city known for its abundant parkland. The university comprises eight undergraduate colleges with a wide range of majors. Students can choose from over 150 programs of study and engage in numerous social and extracurricular activities.
14. Northwestern University
- Location: Evanston, Illinois
- Acceptance Rate: 9.1%
- Undergraduate Enrollment: 8,327
Unique among the Big 10 schools, Northwestern is a private university with the lowest acceptance rate and the highest level of prestige. It offers Ivy League-level academics along with the liveliness and school spirit associated with Big 10 colleges. Located near Chicago, Northwestern provides students with access to a major metropolitan area.
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Distinctive Qualities of Big 10 Schools
While each Big 10 school has its own unique character, they share several defining qualities:
With the exception of Northwestern, Big 10 schools are large public universities. Most have undergraduate enrollments exceeding 30,000. In total, these schools have over 520,000 students and 5.7 million living alumni.
Research and Academics
Big 10 schools are renowned for their extensive research programs and academic quality. They emphasize research and offer a wide range of undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs.
Although the selectivity of Big 10 schools varies, they generally fall within the middle range of acceptance rates. Northwestern, being the most selective, has an acceptance rate of 9%, while other schools hover around 50-60%.
Athletics played a crucial role in the formation of the Big 10 schools. They are all part of the Big 10 athletic conference, which was established over a century ago. Big 10 sports events are often held in impressive facilities and televised nationally.
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Advantages of Choosing a Big 10 School
If you appreciate a strong sense of school spirit, attending a Big 10 school will not disappoint. Students at these colleges are passionate about their institutions, especially when it comes to athletics. Big 10 schools offer an exciting and engaging college sports experience.
While not on the same level as Ivy League institutions, Big 10 schools are known for their excellent academic programs. You will have access to a wide range of majors and research opportunities.
Big 10 schools have vibrant campus cultures, with a multitude of student organizations, clubs, and Greek life. With hundreds of activities to choose from, you’ll find a lively and dynamic atmosphere.
Drawbacks of Big 10 Schools
Large Class Sizes
If you prefer small class sizes and personalized attention from professors, a Big 10 school may not be the best fit for you. Due to the large student population, it may be challenging for professors to know every student personally.
Limited Geographic Diversity
Keep in mind that Big 10 schools tend to have a higher percentage of in-state students due to lower in-state tuition costs. If you’re seeking a diverse student body from all over the country, you may find fewer out-of-state students at these schools.
Be prepared for relatively harsh winters if you choose to attend a Big 10 school. While weather should not be the sole factor in your decision, it is worth considering the climate of the region.
Is a Big 10 School the Right Choice for You?
Whether or not a Big 10 school is the right fit for you ultimately depends on what you desire in your college experience. If you’re looking for a research-intensive institution with a renowned athletic program and a vibrant campus culture, a Big 10 school may be a perfect match. However, if you prefer the advantages of a smaller school, you should carefully consider whether a Big 10 college aligns with your personal preferences.
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