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What are Big Ten Universities?

What are Big Ten Universities?

Big Ten Universities’ is a term that has been going around for a while, but there is actually much more to this term than meets the eye. Despite being known as the ‘Big Ten’, this is actually a group of 14 American universities that have come together to form an athletic conference. These institutions provide world-class education in a variety of disciplines, including business, engineering, medicine, and more. In addition to their outstanding academic programs, they also boast impressive research activities and faculty members with world-renowned expertise. This blog will discuss what these universities offer to students and why they are considered among the top choices for higher education.
1. What are the Big Ten Universities?

The Big Ten typically refers to specific NCAA Division I universities who compete in the same Football Bowl Subdivision.

However, the term actually originated with a group of 7 universities in the late 1800s who collaborated to create a cooperative and organized means of competing against one another in sporting events. The group fluctuated between 7 to 9 universities until 1917, the first time that the media used the term ‘Big Ten’. The term was officially recognized in 1987. Additionally, four more universities were invited to join the conference, making the Big Ten consist of 14 total universities, with its headquarters in the Midwest. Of these 14, Northwestern is the only private school, and does not spend as much funding on athletics as other schools. Maryland and Rutgers were recently added to the Big 10; however, they are not located in the Midwest.

Over time, these fourteen universities began to collaborate beyond athletes. These more academic and community-related alliances became known as the Big Ten Academic Alliance. Funded by the Provosts of the member universities, the institutions have generated unique academic opportunities for students and faculty members.

Screenshot 2023 10 07 at 12.37.51 AM
Source: B1G Academic Alliance
The schools in the Big 10 are:
SchoolUS News RankingLocationAcceptance Rate (%)Average SAT
University of Illinois47Champaign, IL591,340
Indiana University68Bloomington, IN77.91,255
University of Iowa83Iowa City, IA82.61,235
University of Maryland59College Park, MD44.21,375
University of Michigan23Ann Arbor, MI22.91,435
Michigan State University83East Lansing, MI71.11,210
University of Minnesota68Minneapolis, MN56.71,370
University of Nebraska-Lincoln136Lincoln, NE78.21,240
Northwestern University9Evanston, IL9.11,495
Ohio State University49Columbus, OH53.71,355
Pennsylvania State University63University Park, PA75.91,190
Purdue University49West Lafayette, IN59.81,315
Rutgers University-New Brunswick63Piscataway, NJ61.21,320
University of Wisconsin-Madison42Madison, WI54.41,390
2. What is unique about Big 10 Schools?

Athletics School Spirit
Because the Big 10 Schools were formed from the Big 10 Conference, which is the oldest Division I collegiate athletic conference in the United States, it is important to understand that Division 1 is the highest level of intercollegiate athletics sanctioned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). These schools have large budgets for athletic programs, and being a part of a Division 1 school means students have lots of school spirit and pride. Students also have opportunities to participate in community school-spirit-focused activities, such as game days. If you walk around the campus or the college town area, you will see the college colors everywhere: through clothing, drinks, or just the general spirit of excitement in that area.

If you are an athlete, applying to a Big Ten school could benefit you professionally and financially, as talented athletes often receive generous scholarships, and the school’s reputation will give you a leg up in your professional career. Being an athlete at a Big 10 school means receiving personal attention from your coaches to ensure you are on top of your game, from mental and physical health to academic performance. Each year, Big 10 schools jointly spend hundreds of millions of dollars on sports. For example, in 2020, they spent around 150 million dollars on athletics. The top 3 biggest spenders are Ohio State, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

Northwestern and the University of Michigan have the most selective acceptance rates among the fourteen schools. Moreover, Northwestern is also the smallest school on the list. Other schools are generally not as demanding. Because these schools focus on athletics, it would be particularly interesting to see the athlete enrollment numbers for each school; however, that information is not publicly available. In terms of admission statistics, Northwestern tops the list with an average SAT score of 1495, while others are around 1200. On average, the acceptance rate of all 14 schools is about 57%, with an enrollment rate of 28%.

Being at a Big 10 school offers many opportunities for academics. All the schools on the list are well-known and respected academically; they are all excellent public universities in the country, with many of them being ranked in the top 50 by U.S News – the University of Michigan and Northwestern being among the most prestigious. Being at a large school means that you have a wide variety of options for majors and degrees as compared to smaller private schools in the United States. For example, the University of Michigan offers 280 degree programs in 14 schools and graduate schools, whereas Williams College only offers 36 distinct undergraduate degrees.

13 out of 14 schools on the list are public research universities; therefore, they offer various resources and funding for students and faculty members who want to do research. Each year, these schools engage in $10 billion in funded research. Along with the funding, the Big 10 universities also have research-oriented initiatives: 

  • Google Book Search Project: the schools collaborate with Google to digitize 10 million volumes across Big Ten Academic Alliance library systems.
  • OmniPoP: a network hub for researchers from Big Ten Academic Alliance universities to collaborate with each other and other research “hubs” worldwide. 
  • Summer Research Opportunities Program: provides qualified undergraduate students with intensive research experiences. 

In addition to research initiatives, Big Ten Academic Alliance also offers access to inter-institution library collections, technological collaborations at reduced costs, a course-sharing mechanism for students across the alliance, and other benefits for students in these institutions. 

3. Should you attend a Big Ten School?

Regardless of whether or not a school is a Big Ten school, you should first consider what kind of school you want to attend. Several questions below can help you brainstorm and narrow down your options:

  • Do you prefer a big school or a small school?
  • Where do you want to go to school? A suburban area? Urban area?
  • With your current grades, academic performance, and extracurricular activities, list your safe, reach, and dream schools.
  • What schools offer the major that you are interested in studying?
  • Do you prefer a school with a lot of school spirit and a big focus on athletics events?
Above are some examples of questions to help you get started with brainstorming. You should also think about how much each individual factor matters to you. For instance, for some students, studying in New York City is of most importance to them above any other factors. However, others may prefer a research-oriented environment, where they can research with professors starting in their sophomore year. You can use this College Application Planner to write down your thoughts and keep track of college applications. At the end of the day, students need to find a school that fits their interests and passion while providing them with resources and an environment to motivate and challenge them to strive harder, both academically and professionally. With this knowledge about the many things that Big Ten Universities have to offer, you can make more educated decisions about your plans for the future. 


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