Anyone who stops by Northwestern University is sure to be impressed by its stellar academics and beautiful location on the shore of Lake Michigan. The long campus in Evanston, Illinois, is divided between the creative arts and journalism students on its south end and the engineering and pre-professional schools to the north. While Northwestern has the resources and size of a Big Ten school, it also fosters a feeling of community among its diverse student body of about 9,000 undergrads and 14,500 graduate and professional students.

Northwestern students apply their high-school overachiever work ethic to busy extracurricular and academic schedules, and the school's quarter system keeps them jumping from exam to exam. Majors include cognitive science, earth and planetary sciences, and German.

Much of the social life at Northwestern centers on the active Greek scene, as well as the attractions of downtown Chicago, which is a quick ride away on the L. But the winter weather can be a downside — you don't know wind chill until you've experienced a 15-below walk to class. Northwestern boasts a 94% graduation rate, and its students tend to do well on the job market after leaving school.