The 8 Most Creative Colleges in the Country

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When you think “college education,” you probably conjure up images of a large lecture hall, right? Well, one of the best things about college is that many schools allow you to get creative in the classroom! These eight schools prove that education is way more than listening to professor’s lecture and taking notes. Their innovative and unique approaches to learning have made them some of the best places to get creative.

1. Rhode Island School of Design (Providence, RI)
At Rhode Island School of Design (or RISD), the learning process is seriously hands-on. Although RISD is known as being an art school, many students who attend this university don’t necessarily enter with the hopes of being the next Picasso. While they do have many art-focused majors (including everything from ceramics to sculpting to fashion design), other majors include education, philosophy, and English. According to RISD’s official site, “There are many RISD alumni who choose to apply the critical thinking and creative problem-solving skills they learned at RISD to a wide range of other pursuits.” This likely has to do with the school’s president, John Maeda. A software engineering M.I.T. grad, Maeda has described himself as being “the I.T. guy that became president.” Maeda proves that a creative background can be beneficial no matter your career. RISD also boasts a dual-degree program with Brown University. Students are able to combine majors at RISD with concentrations at Brown, creating a more well-rounded education. The program is five years long. Students apply for the Dual Degree Program by applying and being accepting to both institutions and then being approved by a separate Brown/RISD admissions committee.

2. Brown University (Providence, RI)
This Ivy League university is often noted as being the most creative of the Ivies. Aside from a writing requirement, there is no curriculum at Brown, which allows students to freely discover and explore their area of interests with some of the best professors in the country. Brown boasts the Student Creative Arts Council, a board of students from different art-related departments in Brown. These students are able to use their interest in the arts to implement change at Brown and in the surrounding community. Their tasks including planning events throughout the year, including the Spring Arts Festival, and jurying the Student Grant Award applications. 

3. Emerson College (Boston, MA)
Are you award show-obsessed? Then Emerson might be your dream school. Emerson is home of the EVVY Awards, the largest student-run, multi-camera award show in the nation. The EVVYs have become nationally recognized with a first place award at The National Association of College Broadcasters Awards and have received two national Telly Awards. Maggie Monahan, the co-Head Writer of the 2012 EVVYs cites this unique award shows as being “the best part of [her] Emerson career.” Being able to take what you learn in the classroom and put it towards a real life project is one of the most unique things about Emerson. “Just like so much else on campus, it gives you that real world experience,” says Maggie. “There are few things better than hearing a joke that you wrote, get delivered then hear the entire Cutler Majestic laugh.” 

4. New York University's Gallatin School of Individualized Studies (New York, NY)
At Gallatin, a college within New York University, students can design their own program, based on their personal interests and goals. It is each student’s responsibility to design her own concentration. As a result, some Gallatin students can get a bit carried away with their creativity (students have had concentrations in “The Simpsons” and “Keeping it Real”), but, for the most part, Gallatin consists of highly motivated and imaginative individuals. Gallatin allows you to focus on more than one area of interest. Students are able to focus in Business and Public Relations or Art History and Architecture. You’re also able to narrow the scope of your study at Gallatin —you can focus on fashion journalism or poetry, if you already know exactly what you want to do. Throughout your education, you have an advisor with whom you work closely to help you develop your concentration and, at the end of your Gallatin experience, you must complete an oral examination, in which you reflect upon your experiences at the school. Gallatin is by no means a free-for-all — it’s certainly an innovative place for education filled with driven students.

5. College for Creative Studies (Detroit, MI)
The name says it all, right? This school offers Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees in 11 majors and is a great school if you know you want to go into the field of art. The school was named by BusinessWeek as one of the 60 best design schools in the world. At the College for Creative Studies, seniors have the option of working independently and, while they do have guidance from the faculty, they work mostly on their own to cultivate their craft.

6. Hampshire (Amherst, MA)
Hampshire College is one of 40 colleges profiled in Colleges That Change Lives for “developing potential, values, initiative, and risk-taking” in students. The college was founded in 1965 as an experiment in alternative education and still refers to itself as a college that is “experimenting.” At Hampshire, students don’t receive numerical grades. Instead, professors give students written evaluations. This allows students to focus on their own personal advancements, rather than becoming competitive with other students.

7. Eugene Lang College: The New School For Liberal Arts (New York, NY)
This unique school has a student-directed curriculum. No, this doesn’t mean students call all the shots. What does mean is that undergraduates are not required to take general education courses. Instead of taking a core curriculum, students at Eugene Lang spend their first two years exploring topics that interest them before selecting a major. The major choices at Eugene Lang are intentionally broad. “I’m majoring in Gender Studies, but I’m not studying what everyone else who is majoring in Gender Studies is,” explains Cara, a junior at Eugene Lang. “You study what interests you about your major.” All classes at Eugene Lang are seminar-style, which allow students to talk about the factor of their major that interests them.

8. Oberlin College (Oberlin, Ohio)
When you think of the start of a new year, you probably think getting new textbooks, receiving your syllabus, and purchasing school supplies, but Oberlin has a bit of a different tradition. At the beginning of each semester, students are able to participate in Oberlin’s Art Rental Program. For five dollars, students can rent paintings by artists including Andy Warhol, Renoir, and Picasso. The paintings are rented on a first come, first served basis. As a result, many students begin camping out 48 hours before doors open at the beginning of each semester. These pieces serve as more than just pretty works of art to hang in your dorm. The idea was created “to develop the aesthetic sensibilities of students and encourage ordered thinking and discrimination in other areas of their lives.”

Know of another creative school that should have made our list? Leave a comment!

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About The Author

Michelle King is currently pursuing a Publishing degree from Emerson College. She was a web intern at Seventeen magazine this past summer and ultimately hopes to move to New York and go into web publishing. Her role models are Jane Pratt, Amy Poehler, Megan McCafferty, and her brother. She loves traveling (she's been to 14 countries), attending concerts (her dream is to see Florence + the Machine live), long distance running, and playing around with clothes and makeup. Women who can do lipliner perfectly are also her role models.

Editor's Note

Exciting news, collegiettes: Her Campus's College Rankings 2015 are finally here! Did your school make the cut?

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