The Midwest of the United States consists of 12 states in the northern middle portion of the country, making people everywhere scratch their head wondering why the Pacific Ocean isn’t closer. These states are (from west to east) South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio. The northern border of these states run along Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario.
The Midwest is a natural fit for Canadian students, as bordering states/provinces share so much in common. The Canadian prairies bleed into the Dakotas. The rugged landscape around the Great Lakes creates shared passion for outdoor recreation. And the land border between Detroit and Windsor carries the most international freight daily in the world!
With 751 colleges and universities in this region (see Table), there are options available for every student. For the urban-dweller, Chicago is one of the largest cities in the United States resplendent with opportunities for internships and entertainment from business to the arts. If you are looking for an intimate campus feel in the middle of the big city, VanderCook College of Music is one of the smallest campuses in the United States with only 107 students.
Of course the Midwest is most well-known for their suburban and rural towns. For a student looking for the “college-town” experience, Midwestern universities are the place to be. Ohio State University boasts one of the largest undergraduate student populations in the United States at 66,444. They are widely known for their Division I football team and stadium (“The Shoe”) which is the third largest in the United States and can hold more than 104,000 fans.
A wide range of industries
Because the Midwest covers such a large swath of the United States, you can pursue almost any field of study in this region. Let’s take a deeper look at some of the key industries in this location.
The image of corn fields is almost synonymous with the Midwest. The University of Nebraska’s mascot is the Cornhusker after all! Although referred to as the “Corn Belt,” this region also grows significant quantities of soybean, vegetables, fruits, berries, nuts, and greenhouse plants. Additionally, livestock is an important part of Midwestern agriculture. If you are considering a career in agriculture, the Midwest has many top universities in this field. Kansas State University offers 16 majors in their College or Agriculture including Pre-Veterinary medicine, Agribusiness, Agricultural Journalism and Management, and even Bakery Science and Management.
Two-year colleges are an excellent place to gain specialized technical knowledge related to agricultural fields. For example, Bismarck State College has Associate’s degree programs in Farm and Ranch Management and Agriculture Industry and Technology. If you are interested in dairy farming, technology, and management, Wisconsin is well-known for their love of cows and cheese! Four community colleges in Wisconsin have degrees in this field, including Fox Valley Technical College (FVTC) in Appleton. FVTC has 14 majors in Agriculture, 5 in Horticultural, 6 in Laboratory Science, 5 in Natural Resources, and 3 in Outdoor Power. An excellent destination for the future farmer!
Manufacturing is the largest industry in the Heartland. For students who are interested in majors such as Supply-chain management, industrial engineering, or electrical engineering, there will be no shortage of internship opportunities. According to a Forbes study of 363 city centers across the United States, the Midwest has four out of the top twelve manufacturing centers. Grand Rapids, Michigan ranked third on the list, a town with three, small liberal arts colleges. One of which, Calvin University, has majors in Business, Communications, and Computer Science with the option of Engineering concentrations.
The suburbs of Detroit are still a manufacturing hub, coming in sixth in the Forbes survey. The automobile industry was created and still has a foothold in this region. For students interested in automobile manufacturing, the University of Michigan at Dearborn is a small university that is very integrated with the automobile industry. For tech focused-students, Lawrence Technological University offers Engineering, Science, and Design majors. LTU is the only U.S. based team that competes in the annual Canadian Engineering competition “the Great Northern Concrete Toboggan Race.”
Purdue University’s (West Lafayette, Indiana) Engineering program is highly ranked and well-regarded worldwide. As such, it has 18 majors including Materials Engineering, Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering, and Nuclear Engineering. For students interested in the Manufacturing industry, Purdue has plentiful offerings.
More than 16% of Canadian students pursue a degree in health fields when studying in the United States. This is a larger percentage than any other international group. Health and human services is the second largest sector in the Midwest, making this a great location to pursue this field. The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota is world-renown for innovations in medicine. For the few than 1,000 students who attend University of Minnesota, Rochester, they get to have hands-on experience in this clinic.
Healthcare is more than medicine. There is an entire industry of health workers making the system happen. Healthcare administration is available at many universities in the Midwest and is a thriving career choice. Rush University in Chicago specializes in health fields and beyond management and administration they have incredibly specific, niche majors and concentrations like Blood Bank Technology, Transformative Leadership in Nursing, and Religion Health & Human Values.
Northern Michigan University has a variety of health field options, but they are currently receiving a lot of attention for being on the forefront of “Medicinal Plant Chemistry.” With medical marijuana gaining ground in legality, it is important to have scientists who are trained in this emerging field! This major is currently of high interest to Canadian students, as the country adapts to the legalization of recreational marijuana.
Be the next Innovator
If you are looking to become the next scientific innovator, three of the top twenty-five most innovative universities in the world are in the Midwest.
The University of Michigan (U-M) system has three campuses with the main campus in Ann Arbor. U-M’s reputation is in having strong science and engineering options, but with such a large, robust campus, there are also very strong programs in the humanities, social sciences, and the arts. U-M has a Center of Academic Innovation which benefits faculty across the entire university. For example, they have an Educational Technology component where any faculty can personalize their course through software tools. If one of the software tools is not exactly what a teacher is looking for, the center’s staff will help them build it!
Northwestern University is a private university just outside of Chicago in Evanston, Illinois, and is one of the most selective universities in the region. Northwestern has an Innovation and Entrepreneurship Ecosystem. They recognize that innovation needs to spread throughout all departments and schools to really make an impact. For example, Northwestern has a 11,000 square foot modern co-working space open to students across all disciplines called The Garage. Since its inception, more than 200 students have founded start-ups in The Garage.
The University of Wisconsin (UW) system is one of the largest systems of public higher education in the United States with 13 universities across 26 campuses, serving approximately 170,000 students. UW’s flagship campus is in Madison, a city known for being a fun and quirky college town with close access to the great outdoors. At UW-Madison, the College of Engineering hosts an annual multi-day celebration called “Innovation Days.” This is a great opportunity for students to show off what they have been creating, and to bring their innovative ideas to life with the Transcend Competition.
For students interested in cooperative (co-op) education, the University of Cincinnati (UC) in Ohio is considered the leader in the United States in co-op programs. Because of this dedication to co-op, the university has Research & Innovation at the forefront of what they do. For example, UC scientists invented antihistamines and the oral polio vaccine. Current students looking to launch a start-up will find assistance at the Office of Innovation which assists in attracting outside investors and entrepreneurs.
Bustling arts centers
As the largest city in the region, Chicago is prized for its arts and entertainment scene. The city is constantly a-buzz with exhibits, presentations, and shows. For students who are looking to capitalize on this experience at an arts-specific school, both Columbia College Chicago (CCC) and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) are located right in downtown. CCC boasts alumna Lena Waithe and Abby Bryant. They have strong programs in the performing arts and is considered a top study destination for up-and-coming comedians. SAIC is a top-choice for students interested in Design, including video games, visual communication, and furniture.
The University of Chicago has approximately 6,300 students and although it is highly selective, does not require the SAT or ACT in the admissions process. This innovative school, that baffles applicants with their strange supplemental essay questions, has dozens of Interdisciplinary Centers and Programs. For the artistically minded, the university houses centers like the Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry and the Center for Italian Opera Studies, and has interdisciplinary majors like “Poetry and Poetics” and “Committee on Creative Writing.”
Minneapolis is oftentimes overlooked as an arts hub, but the residents of Prince’s birthplace will always remind you that their city is rocking! For those who are interested in working in the music industry, Augsburg University has a Bachelor of Arts in Music Business with excellent internship connections to the local music scene.
If you are an orchestral musician, look no further than the Conservatory at Oberlin College in Ohio. Widely regarded as one of the finest conservatories in the United States, Oberlin has 560 conservatory students. Because Oberlin is a liberal arts college with a wide range of majors, almost half of these students double major. Areas of study range from instrument to vocal concentrations to composing and theory.
Some of the best tuition options in the United States
Due to the shared border, the Midwest has some very generous scholarships and tuition discounts, many of which are specifically for Canadians. Manitoba and Minnesota have “Tuition Reciprocity” agreement which allows any Manitoba resident to pay in-state tuition at one of Minnesota’s 31 community colleges (approximately $5k annually) or 12 public universities (between $10-16k annually).
Most of North Dakota’s public universities additionally have a contiguous state/province discount with Saskatchewan and Manitoba. A few extend this discount to all Canadians or even all international students! Minot State University is known for having one of the most affordable tuitions in the United States at around $7,500 annually.
Many Michigan universities provide Canadian scholarships, particularly those on the border. Saginaw Valley State University has a “Red and White award” valued at in-state tuition. Wayne State University has a “Great Lakes Award” for Ontario residents. And the University of Michigan at Dearborn has a generous merit scholarship structure for all Canadians. Even those without a targeted Canadian award may have generous scholarships for all students. Finlandia University offers very generous scholarships to all of their incoming students, regardless of citizenship.
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By Jenika Heim, EducationUSA Advisor, educationusacanada.ca