10 Colleges You Might Not Be Considering But Should

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In the process of making your college list, it’s easy to get swept up by the colleges with the biggest names and most prestige. The most common way you learn about a college is through word of mouth–either your friend’s sibling went there, a celebrity is an alum, or you hear about it in the news. However, you’re missing out on some of the best colleges if you rely only on word of mouth! Here are 10 of our recommendations for under the radar colleges you should check out!

1. Tulane University

Key features: culture of service, no application fee

Located in New Orleans, LA, Tulane University is a great place to experience the vibrant culture of the south. Tulane not only offers excellent curriculum, such as the freshman TIDES seminars (featuring class sizes of 15 students and intimate interactions with professors), but also has built a strong culture of public service inspired by Hurricane Katrina, allowing students to participate in real-life service projects related to their own respective field of study.

2. Bard College

Key features: Moderation, Senior Project, dual degree programs

Bard prides itself on its interdisciplinary focus and programs; beyond the college’s core curriculum and special 5-year dual degree programs (one of which awards a B.A. with a Bachelor of Music degree), Bard is also known for the Moderation and Senior Project parts of its unique academic track–through the college’s special academics, students are encouraged to form their own plan of study.

3. Bennington College

Key features: Field Work Term, Plan Process

Bennington College has an extremely unique requirement for all its students: the Field Work Term (FWT). FWT is a seven-week period (usually during January and February) where students work in various locations on projects encouraging early networking and field experience, typically relating to their field of study; no classes are held during this period. Another special aspect of Bennington academics is its Plan Process: students are allowed to map out and discover their own desired path of study with the help of advisors along the way.

4. Elon University

Key features: core curriculum, College Coffee

One of the best (and most beautiful) colleges in the South, Elon believes in a strong academic environment for its students. Outside of its academics, Elon also has unique traditions such as the College Coffee event every Tuesday, located at Phi Beta Kappa plaza; at this campus-wide gathering, students and professors alike gather at the plaza to load up on coffee and snacks and socialize.

5. Hamilton College

Key features: no distribution requirements, senior program

Hamilton College features no distribution requirements; other than a writing program, students are free to choose their own courses and form their own academic plan. During the senior year, students complete a senior program, varying from student to student, which could involve presentations, research, or papers, all depending on the student’s unique academic path.

6. New Jersey Institute of Technology

Key Features: excellent location, top job placement

Close to both New York City and the Jersey Shore, the New Jersey Institute of Technology is in a prime location for both a stroll in the city and a beach day. One of the leading schools in job placement post-graduation and widely known for its excellent research facilities, NJIT is widely considered an underrated school.

7. Reed College

Key Features: Pass/No-Pass system, honor principle

Reed College–deemed eclectic or eccentric by many–is well worth a good, long look. Apart from the Gray fund (a fund that brings many events to campus and Reedies away on fantastic daytrips) and their honor principle (loosely defined as a self-governance principle the Reed community follows that depends on collective self-reflection on wrong-doing and cooperation, allowing for minimal external regulation and legislation), Reed College is also an academic powerhouse. That’s not all–while students’ grades are reported to the registrar, Reedies don’t receive typical grade reports, and instead are encouraged to focus on learning, rather than grades, and as a result, there is no Dean’s List or Honor Roll.

8. Wake Forest University

Key Features: Rolling the Quad, open curriculum

Wake Forest University has a strong athletic spirit (one famous WFU tradition is Rolling the Quad, where everyone covers the center of campus with streamers or white tissue after athletic victories), but also great academics (check out their first-year seminars!). There’s an open curriculum option where students can design their own course of study with the approval of a committee. When applying there’s another plus--you can send them standardized test scores...or not, your choice!

9. Pomona College

Key Features: Claremont Consortium, Ski-Beach Day

The first of the Claremont Colleges, Pomona College is a small institution with tiny classes averaging 15 students per class. As a part of the Claremont Consortium, Pomona students have the opportunity to take courses at any of the other colleges (Claremont Graduate University, Claremont McKenna College, Harvey Mudd College, Keck Graduate Institute, Pitzer College, and Scripps College) in the consortium and socialize with more than just Pomona students. One fun Pomona tradition: the annual Ski-Beach Day, where students ski in the morning before heading down to the beach in the afternoon.

10. Grinnell College

Key Features: no distribution requirements, diversity, academic programs

Racial diversity, LGBTQ friendliness, energetic student activism–all of these are found at the humble Iowan Grinnell College. Events are never scarce on campus–even famous presidential race candidates have previously spoken at the college. Grinnell’s academics are well known for their excellence; there are no distribution requirements but many incredible academic programs, such as the 3-2 Engineering program (engineering students spend 3 years at Grinnell before heading to one of four other universities for 2 more years to receive a B.A. from Grinnell and a B.E. from the other institution).

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