Cool schools: the author of the best 345 colleges picks his top 20 underrated gems – The Princeton Review

Cool schools: the author of the best 345 colleges picks his top 20 underrated gems – The Princeton Review – Selecting A School

Robert Franek

Some colleges get a lot of press while other quality schools fly under the radar. Robert Franek of The Princeton Review has selected 20 great schools that don’t always grab the headlines but are definitely worth checking out. Whether it’s a stellar academic reputation, an unusual internship program, or a vibrant student body, these colleges have something exciting to offer. Note that all costs include tuition, fees, books, and supplies. Room and board (R&B) is listed separately. Size refers to number of undergraduates.

1. Albertson College of Idaho, Caldwell, ID

WWW.ALBERTSON.EDU. COST: $14,700 R&B: $5,000 SIZE: 824

Although Albertson is known as a “liberal arts” college, one of the most popular majors here is business administration. The school boasts small classes (average size is 15) and lots of personal attention from the faculty. Biology students often combine classroom work with field trips to the Owyhee and Sawtooth Mountains. A good percentage go on to medical school. Look to the alumni for proof of Albertson’s academic reputation: The school has produced six Rhodes scholars, two governors, Academy Award and Pulitzer Prize winners, the co-discoverer of vitamin B-12, and the man who perfected a method to freeze french fries.


2. Assumption College, Worcester, MA

WWW.ASSUMPTION.EDU COST: $21,765 R&B: $8,210 SIZE: 2,050

Assumption College has all the features of a small college: one on one interaction with professors, manageable class sizes, and fellow students who are names not numbers. And Worcester, Massachusetts, the oft-overlooked neighbor to its famous rival, Boston, is a smokin’ town for college students–cheap and user-friendly! Assumption students cash in on their beautiful campus and close-knit student population, while just outside the gates lay nine other colleges. Can you say “undergrad HEAVEN?” Majors of note are business, psychology, and a unique program in social and rehabilitation services.


3. Butler University, Indianapolis, IN

WWW.BUTLER.EDU COST: $22,040 R&B: $7,040 SIZE: 3,667

Looking for a small school with big-city connections? Look no further! Butler University has the right combination of talented professors and small classes to make even the shyest student comfy. Professors deserve special mention for their professional network–they are hooked up to the pulse of Indianapolis, and students benefit from great internships. Popular majors are business/marketing, health sciences, and education.


4. Chapman University, Orange, CA

WWW.CHAPMAN.EDU COST: $25,590 R&B $8,200 SIZE: 3,263

All the undergrads at Chapman brag that theirs is one of the most socially responsible communities in the country. The school’s ideal sunny, warm location is another big source of pride. Chapman is committed to hiring talented faculty and continually growing the college curriculum. One of the most recent additions is the School of Film and Television, and visual/performing arts is the most popular major. Other top majors are business and communications.


5. Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO


While special bragging rights go to the departments of engineering, biology, physical sciences, and veterinary medicine, all CSU students report a stellar overall experience in a large university setting. Though most CSU undergrads hail from Colorado, the university actively seeks students from across the country to diversify its campus. The social scene is jumping with a place for urban hipsters, nature lovers, and everyone in between.


6. DePaul University, Chicago, IL

WWW.DEPAUL.EDU COST: $18,750 R&B: $7,300 SIZE: 13,020

DePaul offers a campus to suit any taste: there’s one urban and one suburban. Students here report unparalleled programs in business, computer science, and pre-professional studies, but are also quick to point out how DePaul’s learn-by-doing mantra infuses the educational experience. Undergrads are expected to take advantage of the many opportunities Chicago has to offer through community service, work-study, or internships.


7. Drew University, Madison, NJ

WWW.DRE.EDU COST: $31,031 R&B: $7,644 SIZE: 1,558

Forget everything bad you ever heard about New Jersey and prepare to be dazzled! Located 25 miles outside of New York City, Drew offers its small student population big city access while maintaining a small town feel at home. Home is a huge (at least by Jersey standards) campus in the woods. Notable programs include poly-sci, theater, economics, foreign languages, and killer off-campus semesters. Drew-ids are a close knit, liberally minded group who dig working and playing hard!


8. Flagler, St. Augustine, FL

WWW.FLAGLER.EDU COST: $8,110 R&B: $4,450 SIZE: 1,921

While Ponce de Leon never found the fountain of youth in Flagler’s hometown of St. Augustine, students report near perpetual youth in an academic environment bursting with life. Where else can you find profs who come to class in floral shirts and shorts? And students get personal attention with average class sizes of 21. Within its traditional liberal arts core are many unique majors, including Latin American studies, Spanish, and sports management, as well as a highly touted deaf education program.


9. Hawaii Pacific University, Honolulu, HI

WWW.HPU.EDU COST: $10,368 R&B: $3,805 SIZE: 6,899

Some say “Aloha Spirit” is an attitude; others call it a way of life, but all agree that it is embodied by the friendliness that pervades HPU. This liberal arts school counts diversity as a key element of its undergrad experience. More than half of the students come from abroad, and more than half study business/marketing. A reasonable sticker price and paradise outside every door are just icing on the cake. As one student said: “… on weekends, there’s always Waikiki”–nice, dude.


10. Hood College, Frederick, MD

WWW.HOOD.EDU COST: $22,175 R&B $7,420 SIZE: 820

Located outside the Baltimore- Washington D.C. corridor, Hood is a college in transition. The school, which had an all-female resident population, recently began to offer on-campus housing to males. What hasn’t changed is a racially diverse student body that feels secure, energized, and ready to work. The school honor code is a way of life. No profs are present during student exams EVER! Social sciences, history, education, and legal studies are among the top majors.


11. New College of the University of South Florida, Sarasota, FL


One of the best deals in higher education can be found on the Gulf of Mexico. Once a private school, but now the honors institution in the Florida state university system, this college stresses academic freedom with rigorous standards–all at state school prices. College life is very similar to a graduate-student experience. Students receive written evaluations instead of grades, and they pursue independent research and often publish in scholarly journals.


12. Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA

WWW.ODU.EDU IN-STATE COST: $5,278 OUT OF STATE: $14,428 R&B: $5,636 SIZE: 13,578

As a large commuter school, Old Dominion draws heavily from the local community: students straight from high school learn side-by-side with working professionals and enlisted folks from Norfolk’s military base. Students sure aren’t complaining–they laud their classroom experience, citing both the accommodating faculty and the diverse student population. The top major is health sciences, and all students are guaranteed work or internship experience for credit.


13. Prescott College, Prescott, AZ

WW.PRESCOTT.EDU COST: $21,050 R&B: $6,200 SIZE: 500

Independence and liberal thought are the hallmark of Prescott. The school’s curriculum focuses on environmental studies, and both students and faculty view the college’s natural setting as the best possible classroom. Students are given the option to not receive grades for coursework. Faculty focuses on the relationships of students to the world around them. White Prescott might appear a bit crunchy, students say more layers are here than meet the eye, citing their commitment to openness and respect for differences.


14. Richmond University, The American International University, London, GB

WWW.RICHMOND.AC.UK COST: $16,650 R&B: $8,800 SIZE: 911

With a mission to educate leaders for the world stage, Richmond ensures their grads will hit the ground running. As an international university, students here are educated in both the U.S. and the U.K. traditions. Richmond’s credentials read like a love letter to a student seeking that European flair–faculty from all over the world, London internships, international field projects, campuses in Florence and Rome–the list goes on!


15. St. John’s University, Queens, NY

NEW.STJOHNS.EDU COST: $17,850 R&B: $9,700 SIZE: 14,708

Bright lights, big city … great school! If you’re considering colleges in New York City, St. John’s should make your short list. The university boasts an ultra-diverse student body, dedicated faculty, brand new computer facilities, comfy dorms, and generous financial aid. Freshmen say the school runs like a Swiss watch and they never get lost in the crowd. Location is an obvious benefit, too, with NYC internship and job prospects galore.


16. Seattle University, Seattle, WA

WWW.SEATTLEU.EDU COST: $18,855 R&B: $6,700 SIZE: 3,561

Seattle University is a small Jesuit school located in the middle of Seattle. If urban diversity makes you feet all tingly, than you should know abut SU. Students brag about SU’s excellent faculty, administrators, and a wonderfully diverse student population. Whether you’re religious, a favor, cross-country runner, of all of the above, there’s a place for you at SU. It’s unique University Design Center allows engineering students to work with major local firms.


17. Shippensburg University of PA, Shippensburg, PA

WWW.SHIP.EDU IN-STATE COST: $5,740 OUT-OF-STATE: $12,688 R&B: $5,086 SIZE: 6,500

With around 6,000 undergrads Shippensburg offers that “Goldilocks” niche. You know–not too big, not too small, but “just right.” Students report top-notch faculty and small classes. Make no mistake, though, at Shippensburg you’ll work hard, and party hard, which is just how the undergrads here like it! While the rural surroundings make for a beautiful backdrop, it’s up to you to make your own fun on campus. Top majors include business, education, and protective services/public administration.


18. Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX

WWW.TTU.EDU IN-STATE COST: $3,952 OUT OF STATE: $9,616 R&B: $6,236 SIZE: 22,768

Grade-A programs in engineering, physics, agriculture, and architecture are just a few of the specialties at this Texas-sized school located in the city of Lubbock. While most students hail from the Lone Star State, all have a clear sense of pride about their future alma mater, and they’re not afraid to show it! TexasTech profs consistently get high marks from their student minions, and so too does the college’s passionate alumni network. Greeks dominate the social scene, so make sure you pack your toga!


19. University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC

WWW.WELCOME.UBC.EDU COST: $17,612 R&B: $7,188 SIZE: 32,376

The third largest university in the third largest city in Canada might sound middle-of-the-road, but UBC is far from mediocre. This northern gem in a picturesque setting racks up major points for its top-notch academics. Besides its large international population, UBC offers a great value for the U.S. dollar, and the co-op program provides opportunities for everyone. First year students, take note of the Arts One and Science One programs … both are the liberal arts at their best!


20. University of Louisiana, Lafayette, LA


The University of Louisiana–Lafayette is the second largest university in the state system, with a solid liberal arts curriculum and very competitive programs in computer science, education, nursing, and engineering. Students appreciate small classes and the highly regarded honors program. The undergrad population is mainly locals who are proud of their boisterous social scene–rage on, you Ragin’ Cajuns! Out-of-staters with a 2.5 GPA usually pay the same as residents.


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