Harvard Of The Midwest: Is Washington University In St. Louis the Harvard of the Midwest?

The United States of America is divided into various regions and subregions. Different agencies use different factors to group the 50 States into regions that satisfy their needs.

For instance, the US Census Bureau divides the US into four regions namely the Northeast, the Midwest, the South and the West. Other agencies have their own classification of regions that might be completely different from this.

Based on the US Census Bureau definition of regions, the Midwest states include

Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota and South Dakota. The term “Harvard of the Midwest” is used to describe a college in any of the Midwestern states that has similar features as Harvard University.

You see, there are people who consider Harvard to be the best school in the US. According to USNews, Harvard ranks #2 in Best National Universities while it ranks #1 in Best Value Schools.

It’s an extremely prestigious, world-class school. That is the quality that people associate with a school in the Midwest when they call it “Harvard of the Midwest.”

Now, it is important to understand the fact that the term “Harvard of the Midwest” is not an official designation. It is merely a marketing gimmick used by schools who are trying hard to piggyback on the prestige of Harvard University.Is Washington University In St. Louis

Other times, it may simply be a term people generally use to describe a school they perceive to be very similar to Harvard in the Midwest.

That said, this piece will provide more insight into the term “Harvard of the Midwest” and its implications for schools in the Midwest.

Is Washington University in St. Louis the Harvard of the Midwest?

Washington University in St. Louis is a private research university located in Greater St. Louis, Missouri. It was established in 1853,

however it was in 1976 that the Board of Trustees added the phrase “in St.Louis” to the official name of the school to avoid confusion about the location of the school.

Washington University in St. Louis is accredited by Higher Learning Commission, which is a regional accreditation agency recognized by the US Department of Education.

With an acceptance rate of 14 percent, it is considered to be a most selective school when it comes to admission. The university also has one of the highest graduation rate in the US at 93.7 percent.

On the homepage of its website, Washington University in St. Louis boasts of 242 inventions in 2019-2020. It is also stated on the homepage that the university offers over 1,500 courses across more than 90 fields of study.

In addition, the USNews ranks Washington University in St. Louis as #16 in Best National Universities and #20 in Best Value School.

It is the same ranking where Harvard University came in second and first respectively. Thus, it is safe to say that Washington University in St. Louis is a great school by all metrics.

However, the same ranking put University of Chicago in #6 Best National University and #19 in Best Value School. It is the first university from the Midwest to appear in the list.

Hence, while Washington University in St. Louis is a great school, it cannot be truthfully regarded as Harvard of the Midwest.

Is University of Michigan really the Harvard of the Midwest?

University of Michigan is a public research institution established 1817. As such, it is the oldest university in the whole of Michigan. It was first located in Detroit before it was moved to Ann Arbor in 1837 where the central campus is still located till date.

University of Michigan is a relatively prestigious university with an R1 Doctoral Universities classification. This implies that the university has very high research activity.

Like most post-secondary institutions in the Midwest, the University of Michigan is accredited by Higher Learning Commission.

The university has an acceptance rate of 23 percent and a graduation rate of 91.2 percent. USNews also ranked University of Michigan #24 in Best National Universities.

Now, all these are great stats and the university is undoubtedly a great one. But these stats do not justify dubbing the University of Michigan “Harvard of the Midwest.”

Washington University in St. Louis has better stats and so does other universities including the prestigious University of Chicago.

That said, the origin of referring to the University of Michigan can be traced to an impromptu speech delivered by John F. Kennedy on the steps of Michigan Union in 1960.

It was a speech given during his campaign for presidency. The speech was intended to communicate the intention of Kennedy to establish the Peace Corps as a new way to serve the country and humanity.

Specifically, the speech started thus:

“I want to express my thanks to you, as a graduate of the Michigan of the East, Harvard University.”

The opening remark of John F. Kennedy effectively equated the University of Michigan to Harvard University. Bear in mind that he was a graduate of Harvard University himself and he was speaking to students of the University of Michigan.

The students, of course, were very happy with the comparison and the name was flipped from “Michigan of the East” referring to Harvard University to “Harvard of the Midwest” referring to University of Michigan.

The name stuck to this day. However, University of Michigan does not refer to itself as “Harvard of the Midwest” rather the official alias of the university is “Wolverines.”

Hence in terms of recognized stats, the University of Michigan cannot be regarded as “Harvard of the Midwest.” But the university could be rightfully referred to as “Harvard of the Midwest” in deference to the speech of John F. Kennedy.

What is the best college in the Midwest?

The states in the Midwest have a lot of great colleges including University of Michigan, Northwestern University, University of Notre Dame and Washington University in St. Louis.

However, the best college in the Midwest is the University of Chicago. It is the closest to an Ivy League school in the Midwest.

In fact, most people agree that the University of Chicago is the real “Harvard of the Midwest.” The comparison is even more fitting because both University of Chicago and Harvard University are private universities.

University of Chicago was founded in 1890 and located in Chicago, Illinois. It is regarded as one of the best universities in the US and it is also ranked among the most competitive universities in the US.

Specifically, USNews ranked University of Chicago as #6 in Best National Universities which makes it the first university in the Midwest to feature on the list. Keep in mind that Harvard University is #2 on the list.

The university has an acceptance rate of 6 percent and a graduation rate of 94.73 percent. In contrast, Harvard University has an acceptance rate of 4.64 percent and a graduation rate of 97.1 percent.

University of Chicago is the closest thing to Harvard University in the Midwest and it is undoubtedly the best college in the Midwest.

Which universities are Harvard’s biggest rivals?

Harvard University belongs to a special category of universities known as the Ivy League schools.

Ivy League schools refer to a group of the most elite universities and colleges characterized by extreme competitiveness of admission processes, academic distinctions and social prestige.

Simply put, they outshine all other schools in every conceivable way and by any imaginable metric. Harvard University is one of the eight Ivy League schools in the United States.

Others include Princeton University, Yale University, Dartmouth College, Brown University, University of Pennsylvania, Cornell University and Columbia University.

The other Ivy League schools are the only schools that can compete fairly against Harvard University. As such, Harvard University’s biggest rivals are the seven other Ivy League schools. Others can only play catch up.


This article has taken a comprehensive look at the term Harvard of the Midwest and how it relates to Washington University in St. Louis as well as the University of Michigan.

It also provides valuable insight into the best college in the Midwest and schools that constitute the biggest rivals of Harvard University. We hope you find it helpful.










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Written By Michael Larry


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