Considering the Top Universities in Washington for Your College Experience

This year, an estimated 3.5 million students will graduate from a U.S. high school. It’s a time of excitement, anxiety, and pressure as young people determine where they will spend the next two or four years of their life.

For those students who want to go to school in Washington, this article on the best universities in Washington will be especially helpful. These reviews will cover both public universities in Washington and private universities in Washington.

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Award Emblem: Top 6 Best Universities in Washington

You may have landed on this article because you’re only considering universities in Washington. With so many fantastic schools across the country to choose from, it’d be no surprise if students were drawing up pro/con lists, spreadsheets, and more to help them decide.

If you’re considering universities in Washington state, you’re probably curious about the state’s vibe and whether it’s the kind of place you’d want to live in.

Washington is an outdoorsy state, notable for its tech scene, and famous for being one of the first states to legalize the recreational usage of marijuana. There is also no state income tax in Washington.

On the other hand, Washington has a reputation for dreary weather. And even though there is no state income tax, there is a relatively high sales tax (6.5%) compared to other parts of the country, and it can go up even higher depending on the locality.

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AdvisoryHQ’s List of the Top 6 Best Universities in Washington State

List is sorted alphabetically (click any of the university names below to go directly to the review for section for that university)

Top 6 Best Universities in Washington | Brief Comparison & Ranking

Top Universities in Washington

Undergraduate Tuition

Gonzaga University

$19,490 (per semester)

Seattle University


University of Puget Sound

$23,920 (per semester)

University of Washington


Western Washington University


Whitman College


Table: Top 6 Best WA Universities | Above list is sorted alphabetically

What to Consider While Considering Universities in WA

If you are one hundred percent decided on attending school in Washington State, then you’ve made your job a lot easier by focusing on one geographic area. But there are still several factors for students to consider when weighing their options of WA state universities.

Variety of Majors and Degrees

Some schools offer the bare bones when it comes to areas of specialization. Students can choose from the basics like English or History or Biology, and if they wish to narrow their focus, they simply must wait until they go to graduate school.

Other universities offer specialized programs at the undergraduate level in addition to multidisciplinary programs that incorporate approaches from a number of different disciplines. If you want a unique education or a program that is distinctive, you’ll need to do some research into the programs offered by WA state universities.

Location, Location, Location

Even if you’ve settled on Washington as your state of study, it’s good to remember that there are internal differences even at the state level. When choosing universities in Washington State, keep in mind the atmosphere you’re looking for.

top universities in washington

Source: 50States.com

If you would like the traditional college experience that is campus-centric and based around your dorm, then a college town that is slightly removed from urban areas may be your best fit. If you are more interested in the urban, downtown experience, then take the time to look at the specific location of your choice of universities in WA.


People tend to think that the pricier the college, the better the degree. While the most expense degrees certainly come with a lot of prestige, going to an Ivy League school (or any private university for that matter) is not vital for securing a well-paying job after you graduate; it’s more important to have the necessary skills.

When comparing your options of Washington state universities, think about your financial situation. Will going to a pricier college require you to take out more in student loans? Is there a school where you can receive the same education and carry less debt after graduation?

It’s not just your tuition you need to think about. There’s also the cost of living:

  • Rent
  • Food
  • Transportation (If you are not living on campus)
  • Rainy day fund for emergency expenses

These days, having a degree is more important than where it is from, and even if you do get a prestigious degree, it is no longer a guarantee of a job. So be mindful of your finances when choosing between Washington state universities.

Opportunities for Financial Aid

Another important consideration when choosing between universities in Washington is financial aid and scholarship opportunities. Many students will be offered tremendous scholarships from state schools and choose to attend an expensive out-of-state school simply for the name value. If you can graduate from university debt-free or as close to debt-free as possible, take that option. 

Average Class Size

You want to attend a university with an environment you can thrive in. If you prefer smaller average class sizes, this is information you should be looking for when comparing universities in Washington state.

Internship Opportunities

More and more universities in WA and elsewhere are offering practical skills training for students in the form of internships and co-op positions. These are extremely important in today’s work environment: fewer companies are offering on-the-job training and candidates with prior experience are highly valued. 

You don’t even have to know which university you want to attend yet. Once you have an idea of the programs you’re interested in, you can check out the program information for all of the WA universities to see whether they include practical training.

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Detailed Review – Top Ranking Best Universities in Washington

Below, please find the detailed review of each of the WA universities on our list of the top universities in Washington. We have highlighted some of the factors that allowed these universities in Washington to score so well in our selection ranking.

Gonzaga University Review

Gonzaga is a private, Catholic university in Spokane. It was founded in 1881 with $936. It is one of the top private universities in Washington with a 131-acre campus that boasts more than 105 buildings.

Gonzaga stands out among the private universities in Washington for its guiding principle of care for the individual or “Cura personalis.” The school’s mission is “to integrate science and art, faith and reason, science and contemplation.”

Variety of Undergraduate Programs

As one of the top private universities in Washington, Gonzaga offers a wide variety of undergraduate study options. These are some of the many programs that Gonzaga offers:

  • Arabic
  • Broadcast Studies
  • Business Administration (with several concentrations including finance, marketing, and international business)
  • Classical Civilizations
  • Engineering (with several concentrations including civil, computer, and mechanical engineering)
  • International Studies
  • Military Science
  • Nursing
  • Public Relations

Summer Session

This is one of the private universities in Washington that offers courses during the summer. Students who wish to get ahead in their degree or do some learning with a lighter course load can sign up to earn credits during the summer months.

Gonzaga outlines a number of benefits for participating in Summer Sessions:

  • Fulfill requirements
  • Save money with the tuition discount (almost 30% off!)
  • Focus with a lighter course load
  • Benefit from smaller classes
  • Interact more closely with professors
  • Stay engaged in the Spokane community during summer
  • Enjoy uninterrupted learning with year-round studies

There are courses available during three different summer sessions. There are two six week sessions and one twelve week session.

  • Session 1 — May 22 to June 30
  • Session 2 — July 5 to August 11
  • Session 3 — May 22 to August 11

Study Abroad Opportunities

A cherished memory for many university graduates is their time spent studying abroad. As one of the top universities in Washington state, Gonzaga supports the ambitions of its students who wish to supplement their education with a global experience.

The Study Abroad office’s mission is to provide students with the support they need to pursue immersive, global opportunities that are in line with the school’s values. Their office provides a list of programs and countries where students can receive credits, but Gonzaga students are not limited to these programs.


As one of the top universities in Washington, the full-time fee (12 – 18 credits) for undergraduate studies, per semester, is $19,490. The school does have a financial aid office to help students gain access to resources and assistance.

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Seattle University Review

Seattle University is the ideal place for someone who wants to get both a theoretical and real-world understanding of their subject matter. Your search for Washington state universities may be focused on universities in Seattle, in which case this institution will be high on your list.

Among the universities in Seattle, this institution is one of the private universities in Washington. It is a Jesuit Catholic university situated in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. This is one of the best universities in Washington with a rich history stretching back to its founding in 1891.

There are over 7,400 undergraduate and graduate students at Seattle University, one of the best universities in Seattle.

Seattle University - private universities in washington

Image Source: Pexels

Variety of Undergraduate Programs

This is one of the Washington state universities that offers many undergraduate programs. Those considering Seattle University on their list of universities in Washington state will be happy to see that their program options include the following:

  • Art History
  • Asian Studies
  • Criminal Justice
  • Cultural Anthropology
  • Digital Design
  • Environmental Studies
  • Film Studies
  • Medieval Studies
  • Modern Languages and Cultures
  • Sport and Exercise Science
  • Strategic Communications
  • Theology and Religious Studies

Detailed Enrollment Statistics

An important but often forgotten variable to take into consideration is enrollment statistics. When you compare WA state universities, you may want an understanding of which programs are the most popular and how diverse the campus is.

Seattle University offers an overview of their enrollment statistics that detail the percentage of people who enter specific degree programs (i.e., Albers School of Business and Economics, College of Arts and Sciences, College of Nursing), the gender breakdown of their students, and the racial background of their student population.

Seattle University is also one of the universities in WA that makes the average GPA and SAT scores of their admitted students easily accessible on their website.

Jesuit Tradition

Seattle University is guided by its Jesuit tradition and values. Students are encouraged to be critical thinkers and challenge accepted forms of knowledge. Moreover, they stress that they are not one of the universities Washington state that simply pump out graduates for the workforce. Instead, they actively instill a sense of community and personal responsibility into their students.


As one of the private universities in Washington, Seattle University is rather expensive. Their tuition comes to $42,120 for three quarters per year. This is not including other expenses like room and board, books, the technology fee, and the recreation fee.

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University of Puget Sound Review

The University of Puget Sound is a private liberal arts college located in Tacoma, Washington. It is one of the top universities in Washington state that emphasizes the importance of critical thinking in addition to entrepreneurship and innovation. There are approximately 2,600 students.

Variety of Undergraduate Programs

There is a wide variety of undergraduate programs offered by this school, including the following:

  • African American Studies
  • Asian Languages and Cultures
  • Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
  • Business & Leadership
  • Chemistry
  • Computer Science
  • Education Studies
  • French Studies
  • International Political Economy
  • Neuroscience
  • Politics and Government
  • Religious Studies

Rich Campus Life

It’s not surprising that the University of Puget Sound offers a rich campus life. As a liberal arts college, it prioritizes collaboration, creativity, and proactivity. Students considering universities in Washington state may be interested in the following features of this school:

  • Student government
  • Athletics
  • Events (detailed in their online events calendar)


As one of the top universities in Washington state (and one of the private institutions to boot), the University of Puget Sound has a steep tuition fee of $23,920 per semester.

University of Washington Review

The University of Washington is one of the public universities in Washington as well as one of the top universities in Washington state. It is also a research university that plays a vital role on the local and national levels.

Variety of Undergraduate Programs

As one of the best universities in Washington, this school offers a wide variety of undergraduate programs for its students. They include the following:

  • American Ethnic Studies
  • Applied and Computational Mathematical Sciences
  • Biochemistry
  • Classical Studies
  • Economics
  • Ethnomusicology
  • Greek
  • Industrial Design
  • Jewish Studies
  • Microbiology
  • Painting and Drawing
  • Percussion
  • Physics

Pre-Health and Pre-Law Advising

It’s only natural that one of the top universities in Washington state offers resources for preparing students for the next stage of their academic career. This school offers pre-health and pre-law advising.

The pre-health program provides guidance for students interested in pursuing professions in medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, or physiotherapy. The advisors help students explore available career options, discuss what they entail, and provide assistance in applying to the appropriate graduate school.

The same idea applies to pre-law advising. While the University of Washington does not offer pre-law majors or minors, they do help students decide whether the legal field is right for them. As one of the best universities in Washington state, they have a vested interest in ensuring their graduates pursue professions that are well-suited for them.

The University of Washington stands out from other public universities in Washington by giving students interested in law the opportunity to attend a pre-law club meeting, join a pre-law fraternity, attend a law school class, or try out a legal internship.


As one of the public universities in Washington, UW is less expensive to attend than many other schools. The tuition and mandatory fees for 2016/2017 came to $10,753.

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Western Washington University Review

Western Washington University boasts 15,000 students and 160 academic programs. Located in Bellingham, it is one of the public universities in Washington that promises an environment that is “large enough for you to define yourself and small enough that you make a difference.”

Western Washington University - public universities in washington

Source: Pexels

Variety of Undergraduate Programs

This is one of the public universities in Washington that offers a large assortment of undergraduate programs for its students. Some of those programs include:

  • Accounting
  • American Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology/Biology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Biochemistry
  • Biology/Anthropology
  • Business Administration – Finance Concentration
  • Computer and Information Systems Security
  • Political Science
  • Statistics
  • Theatre Arts
  • Urban Planning and Sustainable Development

Campus Recreation Services

Part of choosing between private or public universities in Washington is finding a place where you can be happy for four years. Student life and campus resources play a large role in making students feel at home during their college years.

Students at Western Washington University can grab a Rec Center Membership and benefit from the diverse programming the center offers, including:

  • Aquatics
  • Wall Climbing
  • Fitness (i.e., cardio and weight room, group fitness classes)

There are also intramurals that students can participate in.


For 10-18 credits per quarter, Western Washington University charges $7,143 for residents and $19,495 for non-residents.

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Whitman College Review

Whitman College offers a beautiful campus and rich learning environment for its students. Located in Walla Walla, Washington, it is one of the private universities in Washington that offers interdisciplinary research opportunities and small class sizes.

There are a number of features that make this school stand out from other private universities in Washington and public universities in Washington:

  • More than 1,400 trees on campus
  • A 9 to 1 student to teacher ratio
  • 70% of students participate in intramural sports
  • 87 off-campus programs in over 40 countries

Variety of Undergraduate Programs

Whitman College is one of the top WA universities. As a result, they offer a wide range of programs for their students.

  • Anthropology
  • Asian and Middle Eastern Studies
  • Astronomy
  • Chemistry
  • Economics
  • Environment Humanities
  • Geology
  • German Studies
  • Philosophy
  • Religion
  • Rhetoric Studies

Student Employment

Balancing work, school, and a social life can be extremely difficult for students. What makes it easier is having a job on campus that understands you’ll need time off around exams and when big projects are due.

Whitman College offers campus job opportunities for student enrolled in Federal Work Study. Students can simply log in to iEngage and apply for jobs. They can also contact a specific department if they are interested in working for them.

A great initiative Whitman College participates in as one of the best universities in Washington is their America Reads/America Counts program. These programs provide tutors for math and literacy to local elementary schools. It’s funded by the Federal Work Study program and the State Work Study program.


Again, Whitman College’s tuition is pricier since it is one of the private universities in Washington. Tuition for the 2015/2016 school year was $45,770.

Conclusion—Top 6 Best Universities in Washington

There are a number of public universities in Washington and private universities in Washington. While researching the top universities in Washington, your decision will ultimately come down to:

  • Your desired area of study
  • Location
  • Campus resources
  • Budget

Of course, there will be other factors to consider when looking for the best universities in Washington, like enrollment statistics, study abroad opportunities, and more. The trick is taking the time to make a list of the pros and cons of your top picks so that you can make the college admission (and hopefully acceptance!) process as smooth as possible.

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