Do you want to break out of your comfort zone and attend a college far from home? Read our list of the best colleges outside of the Midwest!

Trust me; I know that choosing the right college can feel like an overwhelming decision. With so many factors to consider, it can feel next to impossible to get that right balance between having a successful career post-graduation, not drowning in student debt, and still choosing a school where you can actually enjoy your student experience.

If you’re leaning towards a college outside of the Midwest, I’m here to help you cut through the noise and find a school that is right for you. We’ll also spend a bit of time trying to analyze whether or not a fancy degree from an elite school is even worth the hard work and serious student debt (spoiler alert: it’s a complicated question).

Get ready to pack your best freshman fits because it’s time to get down to it!

Is an Elite School Worth the $erious Debt?

Before we start examining individual schools, it’s worth taking a few moments to determine whether or not the sky-high costs associated with attending the country’s elite colleges and universities is even worth it.

Sure, a degree from an Ivy League school is always going to carry some serious prestige, but let’s be honest – who has a spare $300,000 lying around just for an undergraduate degree? If you’re wondering if that fancy degree will guarantee you the type of high-paying job that will make it easy to pay off your student debt, the truth is it can get a bit complicated.

In reality, it will depend on the type of degree you graduate with, as well as your ability to network and gain experience during and after your studies. I won’t lie, in some fields, where you graduated from really matters.

With that said, it’s less relevant in other fields. Some just want you to be competent and willing to work hard, while other fields can be a bit of an “old boys club” where the name on your degree enhances your reputation.

I’d suggest weighing up the average post-grad salaries for your chosen field. Try reaching out for an informational interview with someone active in the field. Many people will be flattered and willing to share their experiences. You can also look into online resources. Even asking a question in the right subreddit can be hugely beneficial.

Where Should You Go?

Now, let’s take a look at some top colleges outside of the Midwest. I chose these schools because they have strong reputations but don’t charge the outrageous tuition fees that make them borderline inaccessible to those who don’t have rich parents or the outrageous grades/athletic ability needed for a full-ride scholarship.

Affordable Colleges With Impressive Reputations Outside of the Midwest:

1. University of Texas at Austin – Austin, Texas

Got a thing for country music and BBQ? Saddle up and consider applying to UT Austin. The school boasts an impressive engineering program, as well as a growing variety of tech options.

Plus, the school has plenty of connections with some major companies, which can help you land the type of internship that can set you on the right path to a six-figure income.

On top of that, Austin itself offers a lot more than most people think. The music, comedy, and arts scenes are all blowing up, so there’s plenty for you to do off campus. As the UT Austin tagline says: “What starts here changes the world.”

2. University of Washington – Seattle, Washington

They say the west coast is the best coast. I don’t necessarily agree, but spending your undergraduate years in the Pacific Northwest would be an incredible experience. With that said, U of W offers much more than the city it’s located in. The school has an incredibly strong IT program, as well as some unique specializations that are bound to become in demand in the future, like environmental studies.

Plus, being situated in Seattle, there are plenty of nearby job and internship opportunities that you can take advantage of!

3. University of Virginia – Charlottesville, Virginia

Want to stay a little bit closer to home? UVA is a public university that offers a great blend of affordability and a rich academic tradition. With some incredibly famous alumni, like Edgar Allan Poe and Robert F. Kennedy, it’s no wonder the school has incredible business, law, and arts programs.

Plus, the campus is fire! You’ll feel like you’re in a movie as you walk to class. Since the school has been there since 1819, the surrounding area also has the ideal college town vibe.

4. University of Arizona – Tucson, Arizona

Craving some heat and looking for a truly unique student experience? Consider applying to UA! It has a truly impressive pre-med program, as well as some stellar options for aspiring STEM program graduates. It’s a particularly good school for any stargazers looking to get into the fields of astronomy or aerospace engineering. Check it out!

5. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – Chapel Hill, North Carolina

UNC offers everything you’d want out of a top college without the soul-crushing tuition fees you have to pay at the Ivy League schools. For those looking to gear their studies towards business, they have a variety of programs that can give you a huge head start in a field where any advantage really matters. Plus, UNC has some strong ties with some of the nation’s leading companies, like Google and Goldman Sachs.

The campus is also beautiful, and the off-campus scene is exactly what you would want. Huge bonus, you get to wear throwback UNC Michael Jordan basketball jerseys.

Final Words

While the jury is still out when it comes to deciding if a prestigious university degree is worth the cost, one thing is for sure – you can still have an amazing student experience and graduate with a lucrative degree by attending some of the nation’s other top schools.

Ultimately, where you attend college will depend on your specific goals and financial situation. Consider the schools we outlined above, but don’t be afraid to do your own research and ask questions.


  • Chris Kane

    Chris Kane is a military veteran and former business owner currently living in the Des Moines, Iowa, metro. Chris is an inveterate entrepreneur and avid web developer who is not shy about sharing his opinions.