Illinois’s Best Graduate Schools of 2021

Graduate school may be a critical step in your higher education, whether you are interested in expanding your knowledge, learning a specialization, or earning advanced credentials required by your profession. The best graduate schools in Illinois offer advanced degrees, such as master’s and doctoral degrees, as well as opportunities for independent research, mentorships, and professional networking.

Illinois’s Best Graduate Schools of 2021

Colleges and Universities in Illinois

Illinois offers over 130 higher education institutes throughout the state. More than half of those schools are private, including the well-known DePaul University, Northwestern University, and Loyola University Chicago. While tuition at these three private schools can be costly, ranging from $44,000 to $55,000, graduation rates are high. Tuition at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Illinois State University, the state’s two largest public universities, however, is lower, falling in the range of $13,000 to $15,000.

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While some of these universities have large student populations, Illinois is also home to many small schools, including Benedictine University and National Louis University. Students choosing to study at one at an Illinois college can pursue degrees in areas like criminal justice, social work, nursing, education, religious studies, communications, and medicine. Additionally, Illinois offers several loan forgiveness program for qualifying students pursuing careers as teachers, public defenders or prosecutors, or nurses.

From the skyscrapers in Chicago to the vast prairie lands in the north, Illinois is a place where city meets country. Students can grab a Chicago-style hotdog on the way to a Cubs game, explore the ancient sandstone cliffs in the Shawnee National Forest, or admire an exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago, all while attending one of The Prairie State’s universities or colleges.

The higher education institutes in Illinois have also produced many prominent alumni, including Stephen Colbert, Hugh Hefner, and Kurt Vonnegut. Students hoping to walk the same streets as these well-known individuals can check out some of the state’s top programs and universities.

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What are Illinois’s Colleges & Universities?

Illinois’s Best Overall


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There are 28 doctorate-granting universities in Illinois, 21 of which meet our criteria. The top 20 graduate schools below are composed of both private and public schools that satisfy the following four conditions:

  1. It must be a non-profit institution.
  2. It must be fully accredited.
  3. It must offer doctoral degrees and a broad array of graduate degrees.
  4. It must have a graduation rate greater than 50%.

How do we determine Illinois's best graduate schools?

The people affiliated with a school are ultimately what make it great. This is why influence gets at the heart of what is truly best in education. At the undergraduate level, the best colleges and universities are those with the highest concentration of influence. Our Concentrated Influence metric adjusts overall influence by size of undergraduate student body, thus allowing smaller schools to compete with larger schools so long as they have proportionately as strong influential faculty and alums.

But at the graduate level, the combined influence score of a college or university’s top academic influencers is the best indicator of academic excellence. Overall influence, and not influence controlled by other variables, thus becomes the best gauge of academic excellence at the graduate level. Where smaller size is an advantage at the undergraduate level (hence Concentrated Influence), graduate studies benefit from a large and vibrant community of graduate students, who promise to become the new generation of academic influencers.

If you are serious about finding the best graduate schools, you should be asking where the most influential professors are teaching, and whether their graduates themselves are advancing the school’s reputation for academic excellence. Most ranking sites rely on an opaque combination of reputation surveys and arbitrary performance metrics. Influence, as measured by our InfluenceRanking engine, provides a ranking that is free from bias, insulated from manipulation, and reflective of real-world educational outcomes.

Find out more about our methodology here.

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20 Best Grad Schools in Illinois

  1. #1

    University of Chicago

    #8 institution's historical influence
    #8 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $59K

    Acceptance

    7%

    Graduation

    96%

    Student body

    13K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1535/34

    Chicago, IL

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    What is University of Chicago known for?

    University of Chicago’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Mathematics
    • Economics
    • Philosophy
    • Biology
    • Physics
    • Literature
    • Political Science
    • Psychology
    • Law
    • Business

    Most Influential Alumni

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  2. #2

    Northwestern University

    #29 institution's historical influence
    #24 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $59K

    Acceptance

    9%

    Graduation

    95%

    Student body

    19K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1495/34

    Evanston, IL

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    What is Northwestern University known for?

    Northwestern University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Medical
    • Mathematics
    • Law
    • Literature
    • Philosophy
    • Economics
    • Communications
    • Engineering
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. #3

    University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

    #52 institution's historical influence
    #162 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $17K

    Acceptance

    63%

    Graduation

    86%

    Student body

    54K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1340/29

    Champaign, IL

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    What is University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign known for?

    University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Engineering
    • Computer Science
    • Mathematics
    • Biology
    • Physics
    • Business
    • Chemistry
    • Psychology
    • Literature
    • Communications

    Most Influential Alumni

  4. #4

    University of Illinois Chicago

    #305 institution's historical influence
    #795 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $15K

    Acceptance

    73%

    Graduation

    63%

    Student body

    28K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1145/24

    Chicago, IL

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    What is University of Illinois Chicago known for?

    University of Illinois Chicago’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Medical
    • Biology
    • Mathematics
    • Philosophy
    • Engineering
    • Computer Science
    • Chemistry
    • Physics
    • Literature
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  5. #5

    Illinois Institute of Technology

    #207 institution's historical influence
    #1135 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $50K

    Acceptance

    61%

    Graduation

    72%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1295/29

    Chicago, IL

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    What is Illinois Institute of Technology known for?

    Illinois Institute of Technology’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Engineering
    • Computer Science
    • Mathematics
    • Law
    • Business
    • Physics
    • Chemistry
    • Economics
    • Education
    • Political Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  6. #6

    DePaul University

    #456 institution's historical influence
    #308 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $41K

    Acceptance

    70%

    Graduation

    71%

    Student body

    19K

    Chicago, IL

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    What is DePaul University known for?

    DePaul University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Law
    • Religious Studies
    • Philosophy
    • Education
    • Computer Science
    • Political Science
    • Literature
    • Mathematics
    • History
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  7. #7

    Wheaton College

    #366 institution's historical influence
    #1019 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $39K

    Acceptance

    87%

    Graduation

    88%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1330/29

    Wheaton, IL

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    What is Wheaton College known for?

    Wheaton College ’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Religious Studies
    • Philosophy
    • Literature
    • Business
    • Education
    • Communications
    • History
    • Biology
    • Political Science
    • Engineering

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  8. #8

    Illinois State University

    #765 institution's historical influence
    #834 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $13K

    Acceptance

    81%

    Graduation

    68%

    Student body

    19K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1120/23

    Normal, IL

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    What is Illinois State University known for?

    Illinois State University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Biology
    • Engineering
    • Literature
    • Business
    • History
    • Communications
    • Political Science
    • Medical
    • Psychology
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  9. #9

    Loyola University Chicago

    #338 institution's historical influence
    #254 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $46K

    Acceptance

    71%

    Graduation

    76%

    Student body

    15K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1225/27

    Chicago, IL

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    What is Loyola University Chicago known for?

    Loyola University Chicago’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Medical
    • Business
    • Law
    • Philosophy
    • Biology
    • Religious Studies
    • Education
    • Psychology
    • Literature
    • History

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  10. #10

    University of Illinois Springfield

    #1952 institution's historical influence
    #1369 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $12K

    Acceptance

    77%

    Graduation

    55%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1107/22

    Springfield, IL

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    What is University of Illinois Springfield known for?

    University of Illinois Springfield’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Communications
    • Education
    • Political Science
    • Law
    • Psychology
    • Literature
    • Computer Science
    • Medical
    • History
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

  11. #11

    Western Illinois University

    #971 institution's historical influence
    #642 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $13K

    Acceptance

    67%

    Graduation

    46%

    Student body

    7K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1050/21

    Macomb, IL

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    What is Western Illinois University known for?

    Western Illinois University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Business
    • Education
    • History
    • Communications
    • Political Science
    • Medical
    • Computer Science
    • Biology
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  12. #12

    Trinity International University

    #1523 institution's historical influence
    #1355 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $33K

    Acceptance

    86%

    Graduation

    53%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1045/22

    Deerfield, IL

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    What is Trinity International University known for?

    Trinity International University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Religious Studies
    • Philosophy
    • Education
    • History
    • Literature
    • Business
    • Medical
    • Psychology
    • Communications
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  13. #13

    Olivet Nazarene University

    #3097 institution's historical influence
    #759 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $37K

    Acceptance

    67%

    Graduation

    65%

    Student body

    4K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1070/22

    Bourbonnais, IL

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    What is Olivet Nazarene University known for?

    Olivet Nazarene University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Religious Studies
    • Education
    • Psychology
    • Biology
    • Business
    • Literature
    • Medical
    • History
    • Nursing
    • Engineering

    Most Influential Alumni

  14. #14

    Dominican University

    #3802 institution's historical influence
    #371 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $35K

    Acceptance

    76%

    Graduation

    63%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1100/22

    River Forest, IL

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    What is Dominican University known for?

    Dominican University ’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Business
    • Medical
    • Literature
    • Law
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Psychology
    • Sociology
    • Philosophy

    Most Influential Alumni

  15. #15

    Lewis University

    #3496 institution's historical influence
    #784 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $34K

    Acceptance

    66%

    Graduation

    70%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1105/24

    Romeoville, IL

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    What is Lewis University known for?

    Lewis University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Business
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Criminal Justice
    • Literature
    • Medical
    • Religious Studies
    • Engineering
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  16. #16

    Benedictine University

    #2298 institution's historical influence
    #672 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $32K

    Acceptance

    61%

    Graduation

    46%

    Student body

    4K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1076/22

    Lisle, IL

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    What is Benedictine University known for?

    Benedictine University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Education
    • Computer Science
    • Medical
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Criminal Justice
    • Psychology
    • Physics
    • Engineering

    Most Influential Alumni

  17. #17

    Governors State University

    #2222 institution's historical influence
    #828 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $10K

    Acceptance

    48%

    Graduation

    24%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    935/19

    University Park, IL

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    What is Governors State University known for?

    Governors State University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Medical
    • Political Science
    • Computer Science
    • Psychology
    • Criminal Justice
    • Biology
    • Communications
    • History
    • Mathematics
  18. #18

    McKendree University

    #2157 institution's historical influence
    #1222 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $32K

    Acceptance

    70%

    Graduation

    54%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1063/23

    Lebanon, IL

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    What is McKendree University known for?

    McKendree University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Business
    • Nursing
    • Computer Science
    • Criminal Justice
    • Psychology
    • Medical
    • History
    • Sociology
    • Political Science
  19. #19

    Aurora University

    #2697 institution's historical influence

    Tuition + fees

    $26K

    Acceptance

    84%

    Graduation

    58%

    Student body

    6K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1047/20

    Aurora, IL

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    What is Aurora University known for?

    Aurora University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Social Work
    • Business
    • Nursing
    • History
    • Medical
    • Political Science
    • Mathematics
    • Religious Studies
    • Engineering
  20. #20

    University of St. Francis

    #6627 institution's historical influence
    #1266 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $35K

    Acceptance

    60%

    Graduation

    60%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1125/23

    Joliet, IL

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    What is University of St. Francis known for?

    University of St. Francis’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Medical
    • History
    • Education
    • Nursing
    • Communications
    • Social Work
    • Psychology
    • Political Science
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

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