When acclaimed education writer Loren Pope first set out to share with students, families, and college counselors his thoughts about higher education, his goal was to provide insights that would allow people to make more informed choices. Too often college choices are made based on false perceptions, misinformation, or a lack of information—and these uninformed choices have led to higher dropout, transfer, and failure rates in higher education.
After much research, Mr. Pope began championing a small group of less well-known colleges for their life-changing success with students, and soon after the organization of Colleges That Change Lives came into being.
The member colleges and universities—from 24 states and with enrollments ranging from 350 to 4,000—have been recognized in various editions of the book Colleges That Change Lives. That said, this is not meant to be an "all inclusive list" of liberal arts colleges but rather an example of colleges with characteristics and outcomes that lead to life-changing possibilities for their students.
To find a college that changes lives, look for these distinguishing attributes:
- Low student-to-faculty ratios that foster collaboration, engaged learning, and personal attention. Classes are taught by professors, not TAs.
- Faculty are dedicated and passionate about teaching, advising, and mentoring undergraduate students.
- A commitment to undergraduate education that focuses on the liberal arts and sciences. Opportunities for undergraduate research are prevalent.
- A living and learning environment that is primarily residential and emphasizes the benefits of community, personal growth, participation, and involvement.
- Smaller student enrollments that allow students to be known and recognized as individuals.
- Out-of-classroom learning opportunities that provide students with an added perspective about themselves, their interests, and the global community. Participation in internships, study abroad, service to others, and special interest activities is common and expected.
- Holistic admission policies including "test-optional" applications for admission. These schools take into consideration everything about an applicant—not just their numbers on an application.
- Alumni networks that help graduates with professional and career development opportunities as well as foster lifelong friendships based on an involved and engaged undergraduate student experience.
- An ideal living and learning environment where students can meet and exceed their own expectations for personal intellectual growth.