Ten Treasure Colleges
After looking far and wide for a college that’s right
for you, you might feel like the perfect college simply doesn’t
exist. Maybe it’s because you are truly original, or maybe your
criteria are so unique that a meaningful search presents too great
a challenge. Alternative schools don’t necessarily fit neatly into
any one category. The truly unique colleges can be public or private,
co-ed, or gender specific; large or small; urban or rural. But what
they have in common is an ability for students to achieve greatness,
even students who may never have considered themselves extraordinary.
So with you in mind, here are ten schools that offer a little of
everything, as well as a little something extra.
Even if none of the following colleges fit your needs,
they should provide food for thought. These schools have demonstrated
a commitment to students both in and outside of the classroom. What they
all share in common is a focus on the individual, dedication to
serving others in society, and the creation of a community of learners.
Berea College provides evidence that the best things in
life are free. Students at this unique liberal arts school receive
full-tuition scholarships in exchange for 10–15 hours per week of
work. They also receive a superior education from faculty who are
consistently regarded as among the best and most committed in the
nation. Combine this with a philosophy dedicated to serving the
community and the result is graduates with both the tools and drive
to change the world.
SparkCollege profile: Berea College
Perhaps no school in the country challenges its students
more intensely than Reed College in Portland, Oregon. Despite a
de-emphasis on grades, Reed students consistently achieve academic
excellence and recognition. Reed has produced 56 Fulbright fellows,
104 National Science Foundation fellows, 2 Pulitzer Prize winners,
31 Rhodes Scholars, and 2 MacArthur Genius Award winners. If you
have what it takes to meet the academic demands, Reed could be the
perfect school for you.
SparkCollege profile: Reed College
St. John’s (New Mexico/Maryland)
St. John’s College is a co-ed liberal arts college with
campuses in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Annapolis, Maryland, that
offers one of the most unique degree programs in the nation. Students
at St. John’s don’t use textbooks and they are not subjected to
lectures. Instead, they read from the “great books” and discuss
the meanings of those texts with their classmates and instructors.
The emphasis here is not on memorizing knowledge, but understanding
knowledge. Like Reed College, St. John’s students go on to graduate
school and win prestigious awards at rates as high as any Ivy League
SparkCollege profile: St. John’s (Santa Fe), St. John’s (Annapolis)
The Evergreen State College (Washington)
Private colleges have not cornered the market on unique
teaching and learning. The Evergreen State College offers a liberal
arts education at public school–tuition rates. Students at Evergreen select
interdisciplinary programs that combine several subject areas; instead
of grades students receive narrative evaluations of their performance.
Plus, the students provide feedback for their instructors at the
end of each quarter. Evergreen students carry this same level of
interactivity into the community and are among the most socially
active and responsible students in the country.
SparkCollege profile: The Evergreen State College
Deep Springs College (Nevada)
The only all-male and the only two-year college in this
list, Deep Springs might very well be the most unconventional school
in the country. With an average class size of four (yes, four),
perhaps no college in the land can match the depth of discussion
students have with their teachers and classmates. Located on a remote
ranch in the Nevada desert, students must work in exchange for the
free tuition; they only pay for travel, books, and incidental costs.
What they get in return is an intense two-year education.
SparkCollege profile: Deep Springs College
UC Santa Cruz (California)
The only other public college on this list, UC Santa Cruz,
like Evergreen, employed narrative evaluations instead of letter
grades. Recently they began issuing letter grades due to the number
of enrolled students surpassing 15,000. Nevertheless, UC Santa Cruz
is still able to offer the best of an intimate education with a
big campus feel. UC Santa Cruz students go on to Ph.D. programs
at a rate that rivals any of the elite colleges.
SparkCollege profile: UC Santa Cruz
Grinnell College (Iowa)
With the highest rate of Peace Corps volunteers of any
college in the nation, tiny Grinnell College in Iowa lives up to
a reputation of service before self. This sense of helping others,
however, begins in the classroom. With a 10 to 1 student to faculty
ratio, Grinnell ensures that each student participates in an active
learning experience that is the hallmark of a quality liberal arts
SparkCollege profile: UC Santa Cruz
Mt. Holyoke (Massachusetts)
The only women’s college on the list, this South Hadley,
Massachusetts, school was actually the first women’s college in
the country and remains the longest continuously running women’s
college in the world. This academically rigorous, yet intimate school
has a reputation for producing great writers.
SparkCollege profile: Mt. Holyoke
Earlham College (Indiana)
Students at Earlham College know they’re different. Earlham
students are more interested in becoming better people than getting
better-paying jobs. This tiny Indiana liberal arts college—where students
and faculty are on a first-name basis—produces graduates with a
commitment to helping others. Graduates also go on to great things.
SparkCollege profile: Earlham College
Albertson College (Idaho)
Who would think that a tiny college in Idaho would consistently
rank as one of the best liberal arts college deals year after year?
But combine a rigorous academic course load with faculty who really
care about student development, and the result is an impressive
list of graduates that includes Pulitzer Prize winners, Academy
Award winners, and two former governors.
SparkCollege profile: Albertson College