College. It’s the big question mark in most of your minds right now. How are you supposed to know where you want to spend the next four years? There are so many options when it comes to choosing schools that it’s hard to keep them all straight—big, small, public, private, liberal arts, pre-professional. The decision haunts you throughout junior and senior year and as if that’s not bad enough, people will not stop asking, “So what schools are you looking at?”
For most of you, college advisors, teachers, friends and parents are your source of information on potential schools. Often, popular schools are at the top of the list and lesser-known colleges are overlooked. We’ve all heard of Harvard, Yale and the Big Ten, but those aren’t the only great schools out there. Her Campus has compiled a list of great colleges you may not have heard of or considered, because it’s always good to have more options...
Undergrad: about 1,700 students
Location: Tall grasses and flowering plants give Grinnell the nickname, “Little School on the Prairie.” The Grinnell campus spans 120 acres of rural Iowa. One student described feeling “a certain comfort knowing it’s just us amongst the cornstalks.”
Why It’s Great: Known for its strong social activism, Grinnell is nationally ranked among schools for sending volunteers to the Peace Corps.
Awards: Grinnell is in the top 1 percent of colleges and universities for PhDs per graduate.
Fun Fact: The Huffington Post awards Grinnell amongst “The Most Hipster Colleges.” They write, “Iowa isn't necessarily a destination for the cool and connected, but isn't that the kind of thing hipsters love? It's pre-cool (or maybe post-cool) irony, like mom jeans, giant teddy bear sweaters and aviator glasses.”
Undergrad: about 1,600 students
Location: The campus is located in the Hudson Valley on a whopping 600 acres of beautiful forestry and woodlands where students can enjoy horseback riding, hiking and canoeing. The Big Apple is only 90 miles away and easily accessible by train. Better yet, Bard offers opportunities for students to intern and research in New York for up to two semesters.
Why it’s Great: For students looking to spend a semester or two in a big city, Bard has a Globalization and International Affairs Program as well as collaborations with Rockefeller University for even more opportunities to learn. Freshmen at Bard are required to live in dorms, some of which include “alcohol free,” “quiet” and “wellness” themes.
Awards: US News ranks Bard in the top 40 best liberal arts colleges.
Fun Fact: Freshmen at Bard arrive at school three weeks earlier than the rest of the students for an orientation to academics, community life and the Bard campus.
The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College.
Clemson, South Carolina
Undergrad: about 14,600 students
Location: The Clemson campus is a suburban setting in Clemson, South Carolina next to Hartwell Lake, where students sail, swim and fish. There’s a definite college town feel on campus and students can walk to the city of Clemson to shop, eat and enjoy the nightlife.
Why it’s Great: Greek life is huge at Clemson so if you’re looking to join a sorority, this is the place to be. Clemson has Division I sports and sporting events are part of the social scene. The Clemson Tigers have tons of school spirit.
Awards: College Prowler rates Clemson’s Greek System with an A and says the “Best of” Clemson is football season, school pride, friendliness of the town and a sense of pride and happiness.
Fun Fact: Clemson has been celebrating Homecoming since 1914! The week before the game, sororities, fraternities and other student organizations build Homecoming displays that will be judged on the football field the day of the game. Tigerama is the night before the big game and is one of the nation’s largest student-run pep rallies complete with the crowning of Miss Homecoming, skits and fireworks.
Clemson’s Homecoming tradition
Claremont McKenna College
Undergrad: about 1,200 students
Location: Claremont McKenna is located in the college town of Claremont about half an hour away from downtown LA. CNN/Money magazine rated Claremont the fifth best place to live in America, and the highest rated in California.
Why it’s Great: CMC prepares its graduates well for successful careers in the real world. Nearly half of the students study abroad or complete off-campus studies and internships. According to a 2009 PayScale report, CMC ranked 1st among all liberal arts colleges for the highest starting salary, and 77% of students attend grad school within five years of graduating.
Awards: The Princeton Review2011 lists Claremont McKenna among the nation’s top twenty schools in about a million categories including: "Happiest Students" (2), "Most Popular Study Abroad Program" (11), "Best Career Services" (7), "Dorms Like Palaces" (8), "Lots of Race/Class Interaction" (16), "Most Politically Active Students" (10), "Most Accessible Professors" (12), "School Runs Like Butter" (7), "Great Financial Aid" (13), "Easiest Campus to Get Around" (8), and "Best Quality of Life" (4). How’s that for awards?!
Fun Fact: The Marian Mine Cook Athenaeum holds over a hundred events for students at CMC including formal dinners, speakers four nights a week, wine and cheese receptions with professors, and free daily afternoon tea (including pastries and chocolate-covered strawberries… yum!).
The CMC Campus
Saint Mary’s College
Notre Dame, Indiana
Undergrad: about 1,600 students
Location: This suburban campus is located in Indiana among 100 acres of trees and gardens. St. Mary’s is across the street from the University of Notre Dame, which expands the opportunities for St. Mary’s students, including classes and Division 1 sporting events (and cute, smart guys!).
Why it’s Great: St. Mary’s is an all girls’ school with most classes no larger than 15 students.
Awards: SMC has six nationally accredited academic programs: social work, art, music, teacher education, chemistry, and nursing.
Fun Fact: A Notre Dame Co-Exchange program encourages Saint Mary’s students to take up to two classes per semester at the University of Notre Dame.
St. Mary’s girls attend the Fighting Irish football games.
Colorado Springs, CO
Undergrad: about 2,000 students
Location: Gym shoes are a must! CC, as the locals call it, is located in Colorado Springs at the base of Pikes Peak (part of the Rocky Mountains). Students use their location to their advantage by climbing, biking and hiking in their off time. Student-run programs offer backpacking, skiing and kayaking excursions.
Why It’s Great: CC is on the “Block Plan,” meaning a student takes just one class every three-and-a-half weeks. Not to mention students get mini vacations each month called “Block Breaks”—four-and-a-half-day breaks to recharge before a new course.
Awards: CC is a leader in innovative teaching. The Breaking Bread program reimburses teachers for hosting student dinners in their homes. Each year, there are about 200 total events.
Fun Fact: All first-year students complete a four-day service trip before freshman year.
A View of Pike's Peak from Colorado College
Undergrad: about 2,000 students
Location: Denison, known as the Big Red, is located atop a little hill in the suburbs of Granville, Ohio. Just below the hill is a small town filled with cute restaurants and shops. Free shuttles are provided to students looking to visit Columbus.
Why it’s Great: Denison is a huge sports school. The school is DIII and more than 75% of the students play sports at some level. However, the small school prides itself on creating well-rounded students who gain confidence through intimate classrooms and encouragement from amazing teachers.
Awards: Denison has won the NCAC All-Sports Trophy 10 of the last 13 years, and has won a total of 109 team NCAC championships. 100% of faculty have earned the highest degree in their field.
Fun Fact: Steve Carrell and Jennifer Garner both attended Denison.
University of Hawaii- Manoa
Undergrad: about 20,300 students
Location: Located, literally, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Students spend time surfing and swimming at the local beaches. The UH is located just outside downtown Honolulu. What’s home to UH students is a hot tourist spot that thousands of travelers flock to each year.
Why it’s Great: The UH is famous for its spectacular diversity and celebration of different cultures. The focus of the University is global awareness and local responsibility. Not to mention great Division I sports (Go Rainbow Warriors!).
Awards: The 2011 U.S. News & World Report law school ranks the William S. Richardson School of Law 2nd best in student/teacher ratio. The Shidler College of Business undergraduate program ranks 19th in International Business in U.S. News & World Report: America’s Best Colleges 2009.
Fun Fact: The Stan Sheriff Center hosts UH basketball and volleyball, and once held the Miss Universe Pageant.
The University of Hawaii-Manoa
College of Charleston
Undergrad: about 10,000 students
Location: Campus is located in the hub of the historic city of Charleston, South Carolina, known for its phenomenal architecture, art and southern traditions.
Why it’s Great: The College of Charleston was founded in 1770, making it the oldest municipal college in the entire country. The founders of the College include three signers of the Declaration of Independence and three signers of the Constitution. If you’re interested in outer space or sea, the College has grants for research in both areas.
Awards: Princeton Review; U.S. News and World Reportregularly ranks the College of Charleston among the best southern master's level universities.
Fun Fact: Both “The Notebook” and “Dear John” were filmed in the famous city of Charleston.
Remember the scene in 'The Notebook' where Lon is waiting for Allie outside her school?
The College of Charleston was used as the backdrop for Allie's college.
Undergrad: about 2,400 students
Location: Dickinson College has a self-proclaimed, “small-community allure” that draws students from all over the map. Carlisle, Pennsylvania, a town of about 200,000 people, has been voted one of the country’s “best places to raise a family” and one of America’s “most livable cities.” Students rent college-owned red bicycles to get around town and venture a mere 25 miles to Harrisburg for even more fun things to do.
Why it’s Great: Along with NCAA Division III sports, students enjoy a competitive scene of intramural sports like sand volleyball, ultimate Frisbee, ice hockey and badminton (to name a few). Forrest Craver, a football player, coach and graduate of Dickinson was one of the earliest innovators of intramural sports. Since the 1920’s, students have been playing intramural sports at Dickinson.
Awards: College Prowler lists close-knit student body, attractiveness of campus and happy students as some of the best things about Dickinson. “92% of students return after their freshman year.”
Fun Fact: Dickinson offers a learning community to groups of freshman students with similar interests to live together and take at least two of the same classes together.