Colleges That Change Lives

Changing Lives. One Student at a Time.

Counselors FAQ

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How is the non-profit Colleges That Change Lives different from the book?

Colleges That Change Lives, Inc. (CTCL) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement and support of a student-centered college search process. Our goal is to help each student find a college that cultivates a lifelong love of learning and that provides the foundation for a successful and fulfilling life beyond college. CTCL was founded as a result of Loren Pope's book of the same name, and in following Mr. Pope's ideals we believe that the criteria most college-bound students and their parents and counselors use--such as name and prestige--do not acknowledge the importance of understanding an individual student's needs and how they "fit" with the mission and identity of a college community.

The current record number of applications to college, coupled with narrowly focused media stories about college admissions, have led the public and even the high school counseling community to believe that college choices are severely limited. CTCL aims to correct this misconception by presenting accurate information about college accessibility at sessions around the country and by providing college counseling information and resources through the CTCL.org website and other outreach efforts.

Colleges That Change Lives is recognized by the IRS as a non-profit, charitable 501(c)(3)organization and donations are tax-deductible. Contact us for information about how to contribute and support our mission.

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How can I get a CTCL Event to come to my area?

The CTCL colleges love taking their message on the road, and the opportunity to meet directly with students, their families, and counselors is the highlight of each program. Because the CTCL events are funded completely by the colleges and universities involved (and not by the author, publisher, or other third-party source), they carefully select dates and locations that show promise for good attendance.

If you would like a CTCL event to be held in your area, please contact Executive Director Maria Furtado. Groups of counselors working together have been particularly successful in putting together proposals to bring a CTCL event to their area.

In addition, many of the CTCL Member Colleges Deans and Directors are willing to come to your school to speak as part of panels or individually about the CTCL philosophy of a student-centered search process and why they are members of the non-profit organization.

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What kind of academic profile are CTCL schools looking for in applicants?

With so many individual schools and a range of admission policies and procedures within the group, it's impossible to create one list of criteria necessary for admission to all the CTCL schools. However, it is safe to say that each CTCL school looks for students who will be a good match—intellectually and personally—with the mission of their college.

In reviewing an application, the admission committees at each CTCL school seek evidence that a student is ready and able to succeed in their academic programs as shown not only by challenging course work, particularly in the most recent two years of high school, but also through letters of recommendation and the student's own written statements. A growing number of the CTCL schools do not require students to submit SAT or ACT test scores and those who do recognize that test numbers alone never determine a student's admissibility.

Rather, CTCL schools look at the whole student, giving significant consideration to a student's ability to balance their academic life with other activities such as a part-time job or a special interest; examples of leadership in school or community activities; and other personal talents or qualities the student offers. If you are counseling a student and are unsure of their potential match with a CTCL school, we suggest you contact that college or university directly to learn more about their admission process and expectations.

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What kind of student is a good fit for a CTCL school?

The CTCL schools share a number of qualities that create noteworthy teaching and learning environments—from considerable student-faculty interaction, to significant opportunities for co-curricular activities, to active residential campuses where the majority of students live on campus. Students who are excited about learning and want to be engaged in their own education will enjoy the opportunities CTCL colleges offer to personalize their own course of study, from creating an interdisciplinary major to determining which internship or research project to complete.

Students who want to be exposed to a variety of perspectives, in both class discussion and casual conversation, thrive on CTCL campuses where students and faculty represent a myriad of backgrounds and experiences. And, perhaps most importantly, students who want to work in a collaborative, not competitive, environment, where faculty serve as teachers, advisors, mentors and even friends, will be well suited at CTCL schools and those like them.

Of course, it is important to remember that the CTCL schools each have their own uniquely distinctive personality determined by their history, mission, location and even size. Therefore, it's very unlikely that a student would be a great match for all of the CTCL schools, and it is important to further investigate—and visit when possible—any colleges a student is seriously considering.

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Why are some of these schools in certain editions of the book and not in others?

When Colleges That Change Lives was published in 1996, Loren Pope sought to profile a small group of lesser-known, small liberal arts colleges that met his high standards and lengthy criteria for the distinction of being named as a "college that changes lives"—where faculty were dedicated teachers, the learning environment was engaging, and graduates achieved significant and measurable outcomes, in spite of not being nationally recognizable.

When revising the book in later years, Mr. Pope replaced colleges that had become more well known or those for whom rankings had indeed become a more important part of their admission process with colleges that he thought better fit the focus of the message in his book.

Mr. Pope passed away in 2008. To keep Loren’s legacy alive and his message current, his family worked with his longtime literary agent to chose a writer to update future editions of Colleges That Change Lives.

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How were these schools chosen?

Loren Pope's work as a journalist and more specifically as the education editor for The New York Times introduced him to much of the data and research available about higher education in the United States. However it was later, when founding the College Placement Bureau and working with college-bound students, that Mr. Pope set out to become a hard-nosed consumer who learned firsthand about the colleges and universities across the nation.

Over 30 years of work and research—including numerous "stealth" campus visits; in-depth interviews with students, alumni, faculty and administrators on college campuses; and significant work with students applying for admission and transitioning to college—led to the creation of Mr. Pope's list and the book known as Colleges That Change Lives.

After Mr. Pope's passing in 2008, his family and longtime literary agent chose a writer with a journalism background and an understanding and passion for the liberal arts to update the 2012 edition of the book.

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Do schools pay to be included in this book? How is this book any different than any other guidebook?

Colleges That Change Lives was written based on Loren Pope's significant experience in journalism and in the field of college counseling. For three decades, Mr. Pope worked directly with students as they applied for college admission; he also maintained contact with those students throughout their college careers and later after their graduation. It was based on the sum of these experiences that the final 40 schools were selected for his first edition.

In Colleges That Change Lives, Mr. Pope seeks to provide college-bound students and their families with an alternative philosophy about college choice by educating them about the specific qualities and characteristics that are necessary for a meaningful, life-changing educational experience. Unlike many other guidebooks that rely on surveys completed by the colleges themselves or are a simple accumulation of public data on colleges and universities, Colleges That Change Lives offers the reader a more in-depth view of these  liberal arts colleges and universities, which have met Mr. Pope's criteria for selection.

The schools selected for this distinction were, in many cases, neither aware of Mr. Pope’s stealth campus visits nor of his intention to write the book. The colleges and universities featured in Mr. Pope's books do not pay to be included in his book. Conversely, the Pope Family and Penguin Books do not fund the non-profit organization CTCL, the annual events, or this web site.

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