In your search for your dream school, you’ve come across plenty of great reach schools, good target schools, and reliable safety schools. You’ve even bookmarked the Pre-Collegiette Guide on your computer. But what about those awesome schools that somehow fly under the radar? Don’t panic, pre-collegiettes™, we aren’t going to let you miss out on considering these hidden gems in your college search. So that’s why we’ve compiled a list of ten great yet lesser-known schools to add to your list, because you should always know all your options!
1. Centre College
Undergrad: About 1,200 students.
Location: Located in Danville, Kentucky, Centre has all the charm of the South while still maintaining its college campus feel. Time Magazine even named Centre as one of the nation’s outstanding small towns for its friendly locals and relaxed atmosphere. Student activities take place mostly on campus, but Lexington is less than an hour away for big concerts or shopping.
Why It’s Great: Greek life is huge at Centre, and freshmen get to wait until February to rush so they have more time to explore the college. One Centre student says, “Greek parties definitely dominate the night life. They provide a setting for your group of friends to hang out, dance, or hook-up. Every frat house is open to every student regardless of Greek affiliation or non-affiliation and is very welcoming.”
Awards: Ranked #20 for most “Service-minded” schools by Newsweek.
Fun Fact: Ninety-eight percent of faculty holds the most advanced degree in their field, and there are no teaching assistants.
2. College of William and Mary Undergrad: About 6,000 students.
Location: The campus is located in downtown Williamsburg, Virginia and it’s just as beautiful as you might imagine. Students can enjoy the peacefulness of Lake Matoaka or go hiking in the ten miles of trails surrounding it called College Woods.
Why It’s Great: As the second oldest university, W & M is rich in history and academics. And with a 12:1 student faculty ratio, students from W & M can brag about their personalized education and close professor relationships.
Awards: W & M ranked sixth among all public universities in U.S. News & World Report in 2011.
Fun Fact: Right before winter break every year, there is a Yule Log ceremony, where students gather in the Wren Courtyard to listen to live music and speeches from fellow students on international holidays. At the end of the ceremony the college president reads Twas The Night Before Finals or How The Grinch Stole Christmas dressed as Santa Claus!
3. Rice University
Undergrad: About 3,000 students.
Location: Rice University is located in the heart of Houston, with theaters, bars, clubs, and concerts only a short cab ride away. There is no shortage of entertainment or inspiration, and Kiplinger’s Finance recently marked Houston as a city where creative people will thrive.
Why It’s Great: The majority of freshmen will join one of the university’s 11 residential colleges, which each have their own dining halls and dorms on campus. About 75% of undergrad students will reside at their college until they graduate, and Rice students have compared the friendly rivalry against other colleges to Hogwarts! “There is a lot of spirit and love for your college, so it makes leaving home a lot easier,” said Marie Valovska, a Rice freshman.
Awards: The Princeton Review ranked Rice as #1 for best quality of student life in 2010 and 2011.
Fun Fact: Twice a month, students can participate in a naked run around campus called the Baker-13.
4. Drexel University
Undergrad: About 14,000 students.
Location: The campus is located in the exciting University City district of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where students have the nightlife of Philly at their fingertips. Students can take advantage of sports arenas, concert venues, and trendy clubs.
Why It’s Great: Over half of the students from Drexel come from out of state, and with them many different outlooks on life guaranteed to broaden your horizons. Drexel is known for its rigorous engineering and technical programs, as well as awesome co-operative (co-op) programs that often get Drexel Dragon grads their first job out of school.
Awards: The co-op program was ranked as one of the 20 best in the nation by U.S. News and as one of America’s “Top 25 Most Connected Campuses” by the Princeton Review/Forbes.com.
Fun Fact: Drexel ranked among the top 25 universities that have produced the highest number of successful business leaders that have gone on to become CEOs of Fortune 100 companies by Newsweek and The Daily Beast.
5. University of Northern Colorado
Undergrad: About 10,000 students
Location: The Northern Colorado campus is in Greeley, Colorado, about 50 miles northeast of Denver. There is plenty of green space around campus for students to relax and hang out on, as well as take in views of the Rocky Mountains. When they want a break from class in Greeley, there are community festivals, entertainment venues, restaurants, and shopping.
Why It’s Great: The Northern Colorado Bears love all athletic events, including everything from varsity and club to outdoor adventures. “Before every home game, the marching band walks through West Campus and we play the UNC fight song for people in the residence halls. It’s fun getting everyone excited and pumped up for football games,” says one UNC student.
Awards: College Prowler rates UNC’s campus housing an “A” for being so clean and spacious.
Fun Fact: One in three students at Northern Colorado is the first generation of their family to go to college!
6. Kenyon College
Undergrad: About 1,600 students.
Location: Kenyon is located in hilly Gambier, Ohio, where the campus and the small town intertwine into a tight-knit community. The campus is spread throughout the town, giving the students and the locals a strong sense of community. There is a 380-acre nature reserve nearby, which students can explore on their own or with a class.
Why It’s Great: The students and professors work closely together, and oftentimes students end up babysitting their kids! “I have not met a professor who is unwilling to meet with students, and more often than not, professors invite students into their homes, out for coffee, or for a walk down Middlepath, just to chat,” gushed one student.
Awards: U.S. News & World Report ranked Kenyon #33 of national liberal arts colleges.
Fun Fact: The strong English program at Kenyon is one of the top in the nation, and has earned national acclaim for The Kenyon Review.
7. College of Wooster
Undergrad: About 2,000 students.
Location: The College of Wooster is located in Wooster, Ohio, or as the students fondly refer to it, “Woo.” An hour drive from Cleveland, Wooster is a suburban town setting in the heart of Amish country. A walk through campus will make you feel like you’re in a true college atmosphere, with tall trees and grass surrounded by Gothic architecture.
Why It’s Great: Wooster students and faculty have a great relationship, both inside and outside of the classroom. “They pay excellent attention to any needs their students have. For example, I found myself in some pretty easy classes this semester and so I went to my adviser and had a meeting with her for about two hours about how I can challenge myself more now and continue to do so next semester,” said Katrina Margolis, a freshman at Wooster.
Awards: Ranked “Top 5” By U.S. News and World Report for excellence in teaching.
Fun Fact: Wooster is known for its Independent Study Program- a year-long class one-on-one with a professor in which you work on a project to show what you have learned from your four years at school.
8. Lindenwood University
Undergrad: About 7,500 students.
Location: Lindenwood is in St. Charles, Missouri, only half an hour drive northwest of St. Louis. In suburban St. Charles, students can go to the movies, bowling alley, restaurants, and antique shops, but with a fun and upbeat student atmosphere, athletics and student organization events are always taking place on campus.
Why It’s Great: Lindenwood just opened Evans Commons in August, a brand new student recreation center where students can do everything from work out, play intramurals, watch movies, study, and eat until one in the morning. They also hold LU Palooza, an all day annual music festival where past performances have been bands like Gym Class Heroes!
Awards: The Lindenwood Lions wrestling team finished second in the nation this year.
Fun Fact: Their new performing arts center opened with a concert by Liza Minelli!
9. Franklin College
Undergrad: About 1,100 students.
Location: The small town of Franklin, Indiana fits in perfectly with the tight-knit campus setting of Franklin. And for those times when you want to get out of campus, Indianapolis is only 20 minutes away.
Why It’s Great: With such a small student body, it’s easy to feel a sense of family at Franklin, and it gets started right away. Welcoming activities for freshmen include pushing your new classmates in shopping cart races through campus! The alumni network is known for giving insider tips to Franklin students on careers and internships.
Awards: Ranked #13 of Midwest Colleges by U.S. News and World Report.
Fun Fact: Franklin became the first co-educational institution after admitting women as students in 1842.
10. Colby College
Undergrad: About 1,800 students.
Location: Colby College is perched atop a hill overlooking the small city of Waterville, Maine, which offers students a variety of coffee shops and restaurants. The scenery of this Maine school is just as beautiful as you’d expect it be, and the campus is a State Wildlife Management Area and home to the 128-acre Perkins Arboretum wildlife refuge.
Why It’s Great: Students at Colby don’t let the snow stop them from enjoying themselves in and out of the classroom. Students are heavily involved in clubs and intramurals, and there is even a co-ed woodsmen team who practice old time logging skills like log-rolling and pole climbing!
Awards: Colby ranked #21 on U.S. News and World Report’s National Liberal Arts Colleges and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency named Colby its 2010 Green Power Challenge conference champion for their effort to make only green-power purchases.
Fun Fact: More than two thirds of the student body studies abroad and Colby runs its own programs in France, Spain, and Russia.