Hidden Gems

Schools where the education supersedes the recognition.

By Explore Editor

Bard College

Bard students pride themselves on being weird, and for those that would rather spend a Friday night discussing Dadaism over cans of PBR than discussing the Jets game over keg cups of bud light, Bard could be the perfect fit. Elsa, a senior dance major says, "Bard students are certainly hyper-intellectual, but only because they seek to understand the world and because they are encouraged from their first day of college to push the envelope and expand their perspectives and ways of thinking and approaching problems." With an undergraduate population of less than 2,000 students, Bard is a tight-knit community of forward-thinking education both in and out of the classroom. "While the average person might not recognize Bard College in conversation, it is without a doubt an accredited institution with very strong academics. All the teachers are practicing professionals in their field of study, and the option of commuting up from New York City seems to strengthen the overall quality of the faculty," explains another student.


Bates College

Bates College is located in Lewiston, ME, a picturesque New England town about 45 minutes north of Portland. Like the town, the college skates by under the radar and both students and locals tend to like it that way. "At Bates you're definitely not a number like some big schools, the professors know you by name, and are genuinely concerned about your success. The administration is absolutely phenomenal! They really genuinely care about you." Students at Bates College praise the school not only for the academics, but also the tight-knit community. One senior says, "Bates is not just a four-year college; it's a home. People don't come to Bates solely for the fantastic education. They come for the great sense of community that is found on campus. Through athletics, clubs and organizations, classes, and dorm life, a strong sense of community is formed."


Colorado College

Colorado College is clearly the best private liberal arts school in the state, and stands out for both its idyllic Rocky Mountain setting and academics. With its location in Colorado Springs, the Evangelical Christian capitol of the world, the school is home to an interesting mix of conservative and liberal-minded students. Ben, a freshman, explains, "Students tend to be very environmentally aware and almost universally accepting of all kinds of lifestyles and opinions, but you will also find evangelical Christians rooming with dreadlocked atheist stoners, and they still get along great!" Students at CC rave about the school's unique block plan system. According to Lily, another freshman, "I'm able to fully immerse myself in the subject and feel like I'm able to retain information better because of the daily repetition and connections made from something learned the first week to something studied on the final day. And it sticks with you even after you've moved on to a new course, which is a testament to how ingrained the knowledge of a topic becomes within you."


Denison University

Students at small universities often cite the campus' intimate community as one of the biggest benefits, and Denison is no different. "The best thing about Denison is our sense of community. It's a small school, approximately 2,100 students and completely residential. Everyone is on campus all the time and there is a lot of interaction between students," says Becca, a psychology major. As one of the top liberal arts schools in the Midwest, Denison students also praise the small classroom sizes and close relationship with professors. According to another psychology major, Lauren, "I see my professors (and other faculty!) around all the time. It's really nice to be able to start up a casual conversation with them and benefit from their wisdom and experience about classes."


Grinnell College

With its liberal bent, intimate size, and quirky student body, Grinnell College is the perfect school for a very specific type of student who may not have found his or her niche in high school. As one freshman describes, "The best thing about Grinnell is the people. Not only are they brilliant and self-motivated, they're supportive and welcoming and willing to help each other, inside and outside the classroom." Students at Grinnell are focused less on getting the best grades and more on fostering a positive academic community and learning for the sake of learning. According to a sophomore Spanish student, "Students here are not competitive with each other. We do not care what you got on your SAT, or who has the highest GPA in our class. Sure we all strive to excel, but we're not sabotaging each other or not helping each other just to get a higher grade than our peer."


Knox College

Galesburg, Il isn't exactly a bustling cosmopolitan town, and the students who come to Knox College know that. The attraction of Knox is not the location, but the thriving academics, intellectual student body, and intimate class sizes. According to Levi, a sophomore, "Knox's small size makes it ideal for academics. I know nearly all of my professors pretty well. The classes are small so you get to know your fellow students. There is a great line of communication between faculty and students. It is just a great environment to work in." Jamie, a government major expands on the benefits of an education at Knox: "Knox focuses on learning for its own sake, but also has job placement and viable marketing techniques to make sure regardless of your major you have numerous opportunities upon graduation."


Mount Holyoke College

Like most single sex colleges, Mount Holyoke prides itself on an intimate community and rigorous academic program. Students praise the small class sizes and close relationship with professors, both in and out of the classroom. "The professors are just incredible. I love them. You can go sit in their office and have intense intellectual discussions, or you can just talk about how your weekend went. Outside of the classroom, you will always find students in intense debates. Always," says one student. Though the social scene may not be everybody's idea of excitement, the women of Mount Holyoke enjoy their unique style of weekend fun. Meg, a senior, says, "In my opinion, Mount Holyoke is pretty awesome. It's a place where I feel totally comfortable to be myself, even if that means strolling into a dance in my pajamas on a Friday night." If attending Mount Holyoke in the future, make sure to pack a teddy bear.


Sarah Lawrence College

Sarah Lawrence is the ideal college experience for anyone looking to gradually grow out of their Goth phase while getting a unique, intellectually-stimulating education in the process. One sophomore student says, "Sarah Lawrence's slogan is "You Are Different. So Are We." In a lot of ways, this is very true. The SLC experience is different from most other college experiences. Because all the academics are self-directed, people actually care about their work, and not because of getting good grades (because we don't have grades!) but because of their personal curiosity and internal motivation." Students at SLC are constantly raving about the school's intimate classroom size and the relationship they have with professors. "No matter who you are, you will find a group of friends here and the best classes ever. The best thing about SLC is that when you find the professors you really click with, they become your friends and mentors. They will be the people that you will forever thank."


Wabash College

An all-male college may not be at the top of every high school guy's list, but the students at Wabash are unanimous in their praise for the school's atmosphere. "Wabash College is an excellent school for men, and it certainly isn't for everybody. But, I cannot not articulate how this college has changed my life; it truly is amazing, and I think our nation needs to wake up and see the importance of all-male education at the college," says one student. The liberal arts education at Wabash is one of the best in the country and students may actually appreciate the lack of "distraction" found at co-ed schools. "Students study a lot at Wabash. I spend about 3-4 hours a night in the library. As a matter of fact, the library is a pretty regular campus meeting spot. We don't have a student union or anything, so we see men from across campus a lot at the library since most students are forced to study regularly to do well in class."


Whitman College

Students at Whitman College embody the liberal-minded culture of the Pacific Northwest and the unique spirit of its oddly named home of Walla Walla, WA. One history major describes the student body: "Whitman students love to get involved. IM sports are a major part of campus life, as are theater productions, guest lecturers, concerts, community service projects, and a variety of interest groups. Although Whitties work hard during the week, they have lots of fun on the weekends." With an undergraduate population hovering around 1,500, students also benefit from very small class sizes and close relationships with professors. "The 10:1 student to faculty ratio is fantastic. Getting a hold of professors has never been a problem, and I know many professors outside of the classroom through class dinners at their house or babysitting their kids," says a senior film studies major.


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