Cool schools

Cool schools – Selecting a School

Jennifer Grappone

Some colleges get a lot of press while other quality schools fly under the radar. CAREERS & COLLEGES 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, supplies, and estimated personal expenses. Room and board (R&B) is listed separately. Size refers to number of undergraduates.

1. Alice Lloyd College, Pippa Passes, KY


COST: $2,190


R&B: $2,680

SIZE: 557

At Alice Lloyd, students admitted from 100 central Appalachian counties in Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, and Ohio do not have to pay tuition; and those eligible for the Pell Grant don’t pay for room and board, either. But college here is not a “free ride.” Besides keeping up with studies in business, education, and social sciences, students are required to work 10 hours a week at jobs ranging from grounds maintenance to cafeteria duty. This small, Christian college expects students to give back to the Appalachian community as well–e.g., students in the school’s Circle K Club assist needy families in the surrounding area.

2. Antioch College, Yellow Springs, OH


COST: $22,542

R&B: $5,132

SIZE: 656

To give students a real-world perspective, Antioch stresses its co-op internship program, offering four months of work with class time. Co-op students have assisted at a pottery business in Mexico, served soup to the homeless, and worked in a Fortune 500 company in New York City. Antioch has a reputation for attracting socially active students–vegetarians, feminists, environmentalists, and peace protesters. Professors hand out practical narrative evaluations instead of grades. When students stress out, the 1,000-acre nature preserve provides relief.

3. Ball State University Muncie, IN



OUT-OF-STATE: $13,380

R&B: $4,790

SIZE: 16,284

David Letterman’s alma mater is no joke–the school places heavy emphasis on research, and majors range from genetic biology and nuclear medical engineering to home economics and jewelry design. When it comes to sports, the school offers everything from badminton to rugby, and a new sports psychology center will help “mentally condition” athletes. Star-gazers can enjoy the on-campus planetarium, and more earthly diversions are provided by the fraternities and sororities.

4. Bowdoin College

Brunswick, ME


COST: $29,250

R&B: $7,000

SIZE: 1,600

Bowdoin is a sticker-shock school with a total cost above $36,000, but to give some perspective, the average need-based aid package is $22,400. The science programs are highly rated, especially in chemistry, biology, and environmental science. The median class size is 16 and the faculty is accessible. Living in the Pine Tree state, students unwind with hiking, camping, and other outdoor activities. If the lobster bake is any indication, the food is pretty palatable.

5. California Institute of Technology Pasadena, CA


COST: $23,817

R&B: $6,543

SIZE: 929

Located just outside Los Angeles, this small school emphasizes engineering and the sciences. In fact, Caltech manages the jet propulsion laboratory for NASA. Many students balance a heavy academic load with activities (Cheerleading Squad, Folk Music Society, Muslim Students Association, various sporting clubs, among others.) The school is famous for Ditch Day–students skip classes to pull pranks (OK-some students end up duct-taped to trees). Caltech has a strong commitment to providing need-based and non need-based financial aid.

6. California State University, Monterey Bay, Seaside, CA



OUT-OF-STATE: $8,383

R&B: $5,220

Multiculturalism is a driving force at CSUMB, from its diverse student body to its foreign language requirement. The school does not offer traditional majors but more comprehensive areas of study. One doesn’t study biology but enrolls as an Earth Systems Science & Policy major, learning a broad scope of science and policy formation. Clubs include the American Sign Language Club, Monterey Bay for a Sustainable Environment, and the “Wet & Soggies” Dive Club.

SIZE: 3,400

7. Colby College

Waterville, ME



SIZE: 1,814

Colby may be high-priced, but offset by financial aid, its actual cost drops significantly. Colby is especially known for its science programs. Young astronomers research at the campus observatory; the geology department boasts a complete collection of geological maps; the greenhouse is home to more than 200 species of plants. Students often cut loose in the great outdoors, and 90 clubs support interests from the athletic to the political to the artistic.

8. College of St. Catherine

St. Paul, MN


COST: $18,427

R&B: $4,922

Nicknamed St. Kate’s, this university is the country’s largest Catholic college for women–although men attend some classes. The school emphasizes job experiences through internships at 3M and Pfizer, and through co-op programs in fashion merchandising with the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York and the Fashion Institute of Design in Los Angeles. Hands-on learning pays off-87 percent of St. Kate’s grads are employed within one year after graduation. Plus, students not only enjoy the thrills of St. Paul, but Minneapolis as well.

SIZE: 3,399

9. Colorado State University

Ft. Collins, CO



OUT-OF-STATE: $17,163

R&B: $5,286

SIZE: 18,817

CSU’s eight colleges focus on integrating studies with hands-on experience. Even during spring break, CSU students are hands-on. Through an alternative spring break, they perform community service, from clean up efforts on Catalina Island to assisting patients with HIV/AIDS in Seattle. Cultural diversity is celebrated with Asian Fest, Black Awareness Month, and a Native American Powwow. The student center is one of the 10 best in the country, according to The New York Times.

10. Drexel University

Philadelphia, PA


COST: $21,082

R&B: $8,705

SIZE: 9,879

A firm believer in co-op education, Drexel may be most noteworthy for its business school and engineering programs, particularly in electrical and architectural engineering. Its College of Media Arts and Design has been gaining recognition since television writer Jonathan Estrin became its dean. The college trains students in fashion design, film, the performing arts, and architecture. And Philly provides students with plenty of entertainment.

11. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

Prescott, AZ


COST: $15,710

R&B: $400 – $1,000/MONTH

SIZE: 1,672

If aeronautics is on your career radar, then ERAU might be the place for you. The equipment and facilities include a supersonic wind tunnel, an aviation safety center, and 157 instructional aircraft. Besides the traditional student clubs, FRAU offers the Electric Car Team and the Rocket Experimentation Project. ERAU has campuses around the country, and grads comprise more than a quarter of all commercial U.S. pilots.

12. The Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising

Los Angeles, CA


COST: $16,000 – $22,000 (DEPENDING ON AREA OF STUDY)

R&B: $400 – $1,000/MONTH

SIZE: 4,000

As the courses at FIDM demonstrate, the fashion industry means much more than designing sleek clothes for the impossibly thin. On FIDM’s four California campuses, students learn about textile design, cosmetics and fragrance merchandising, theater costumes, international manufacturing, and film and TV costume design, to mention a few. Graduates earn associate and professional designation degrees, and many find work through an impressive alumni network in excess of 25,000 worldwide.

13. Florida State University

Tallahassee, FL



OUT OF STATE: $12,341

R&B: $5,610

SIZE: 26,211

Established in 1851, FSU is Florida’s oldest, and one of the largest, continuous institutions of higher education. FSU fosters a diverse student body; its National Hispanic Scholars program waives tuition for qualified students. Among FSU’s many special facilities are the School of Motion Picture, Television, and Recording Arts and Project Amistades, which extends educational programs to migrant farmers. FSU students also take pride in their football team, the Seminoles, which is known as a “perennial national championship contender.”

14. Fordham University

Bronx, NY


COST: $24,370

R&B: $8,745

SIZE: 6,812

Fordham is an intellectual and natural oasis in the concrete jungle of New York City. Its main Bronx campus soothes students with its gothic architecture and the sunny lawns. A quick shuttle ride brings students to the bustling midtown campus. Fordham’s courses are wide-ranging from international business to engineering to the performing and visual arts. Professors are accessible with convenient office hours; most students are fun and outgoing (you’ve got to be in NYC).

15. Ithaca College

Ithaca, NY


COST: $22,092

R&B: $8,615

SIZE: 5,788

Ithaca prides itself on a diverse curriculum, including its highly regarded physical therapy and communications programs. Class size is typically 10 to 19, giving students optimum opportunities to interact with the professors. Overlooking Cayuga Lake, the campus is five minutes from downtown Ithaca and near other universities, such as Cornell and Syracuse.

16. Longwood University

Farmville, VA



OUT OF STATE: $12,674

R&B: $4,734

SIZE: 3,294

According to the recent National Survey of Student Engagement, Longwood’s students rated their school one of the most engaging in the country. Besides its prestigious teaching program, Longwood specializes in archaeology and botany. Its science museum and flora collection are top-notch. For relief from the rigorous academics, Longwood students turn to their fun Greek system, which provides many inspired social events.

17. Reed College

Portland, OR


COST: $26,070

R&B: $6,280

SIZE: 1,326

For a rigorous academic challenge at a small private liberal arts college, consider Reed. Academic opportunities include study abroad, independent study, pre-med and pre-vet programs, as well as dual-degree programs with other schools in engineering, computer science, and environmental science. Reed owns the only nuclear research reactor partially staffed by undergraduates. Reed’s campus offers easy access to city amenities, but because this city is Portland, students live surrounded by natural beauty.

18. University of North Dakota

Grand Forks, ND



OUT OF STATE: $10,137

R&B: $3,614

SIZE: 9,122

Located in frequently frigid north-central U.S., UND and its John D. Odegard School for Aerospace Science, attract students worldwide (although many students hail from Minnesota). Other popular majors are business/marketing, education, and forensic anthropology. UNO owns the state’s largest library, and despite the remote location, students find social events on and off campus, such as bike races, football games, ice hockey, non-alcoholic parties, and movies.

19. University of Texas

Austin, TX



OUT-OF-STATE: $12,274

R&B: $5,491

SIZE: 37,194

It’s only natural that the country’s largest university be located in Texas. UT-Austin has a student body of more than 35,000 on a campus that covers 350+ acres. As an NCAA and Big 12 Conference member, the UT-Austin Longhorns are very popular. If the campus doesn’t have what you want, then Austin certainly does. Named the No. 3 “City in the Nation to Have It All” by A&E Network, Austin offers various outdoor music festivals, sporting events, and cultural celebrations.

20. University of Vermont

Burlington, VT


IN-STATE COST: $10,430

OUT-OF-STATE: $21,974

R&B: $6,000

SIZE: 7,406

Although it’s on the pricey side for out-of-state students, UVM challenges its students with rigorous coursework. The professors are very accessible and some of the top majors are physical therapy, business, and environmental studies. Skiing tops the pastimes list, the politics are liberal, and the environment is a top concern of many students.

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