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The 50 Most Amazing College Campuses

The 50 Most Amazing College Campuses

Beautiful College Campuses

When choosing a college, many students overlook one of the most important factors:  quality of life.  At The Best Colleges one of our goals is to emphasize to students the importance of the context and learning environment in which they choose to get educated.  In polling that we’ve conducted of recent college graduates, there is one thing in particular that stands out as playing a vital role in how a student perceives her last four years of education.  The campus setting.  And beautiful college campuses rule the day.

Because students who graduate from beautiful campuses typically report higher overall satisfaction with their college experience, we decided to put together these rankings of the 50 prettiest college campuses in the United States.

50. University of Minnesota


Not only is the main campus of the University of Minnesota located in the “Happiest City in America” it also starts our list of the prettiest college campuses in the country. Ranked as a Public Ivy school for its excellence in academic standards, this campus boasts great facilities like the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum, and the oldest building on campus, Pillsbury Hall.  Students will enjoy the view between the East and West sides of campus as they cross the Mississippi river via the Washington Avenue Bridge.


49. Wake Forest University


Consistently ranked among the Top 25 universities in the country, Wake Forest boasts the T.K. Hearn Plaza (the Quad) as a hub for student life. This feature allow for plenty of social gathering opportunities and is also the site of the infamous “Rolling the Quad” after major sports victories for the Demon Deacons.  The Reynolda Campus area hosts all of the Undergrad programs as well as a few of the Graduate programs, in buildings that pull from regional architectural influences.  The Z. Smith Reynolds Library, named after the foundation for which major funding was dispersed during the early 1900s, features views of the 350 acres designated in the Carolina hills for the campus.


48. University of Colorado-Boulder


Among the top public universities in the country, the University of Colorado also features great facilities to round-out student life and benefit social experiences.  The main campus west end features The Hill which includes lots of shopping, bars, restaurants and some prime residential spots for students wishing to not live in a dormitory setting.  One of the most well-known buildings on the sprawling campus is the Mackey Auditorium. The building houses most performing arts programs for the University and was fashioned with a Neo-Gothic style.  Most buildings on campus incorporate local products like sandstone and multi-leveled roofs that feature red tiles.  Campus also features the Center for Community AKA the “C4C” a state-of-the-art facility for students which features commonly used student facilities as well as a 25% more energy efficient dining hall for the students.  It’s not just the views that are great from the C4C, you can also eat there 24 hours a day.


47. Northwestern University


While everyone loves a good weekend in Chi-town, students attending the suburban campus of Northwester in the Evanston, Illinois area will tell you that the historical importance of their campus adds to its charm.  Located on the edge of Lake Michigan, the campus offers great spring and summer breezes but may also see a few feet of lake-effect snow in the winter!  Students will be greeted by “The Arch” as they walk onto the main campus, introducing you to the late 1800′s architecture.  University Hall is the second building constructed on campus (1869) and the oldest building still standing. In a vast difference from the “historical” side of campus don’t miss the University Library, built in 1970, which features a Brutalist style.


46. Scripps College


Ranked as one of the top private college’s exclusively for women in the country, the gorgeous California campus features mostly Mission Revival-inspired architecture including the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery and the Margaret Fowler Garden area.  The campus, which prides itself on sustainability, also features lush landscaping throughout the campus, that features tulip trees, sycamores, almond and orange trees. The Claremont campus has been featured in The Princeton Review for accolades such as “Dorms Like Palaces” (#4), “Most Beautiful Campus” (#17), and “Best Campus Food” (#19).


45. Bryn Mawr College


Named for the town it’s located in (itself named for a Welsh word meaning “big hill”), this Pennsylvania campus features beautiful buildings such as the M. Carey Thomas Library which is surrounded by the Cloisters area, an open area of the campus that includes a fountain and green space. Much of the campus was designed by noted landscape designers Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted. Some of the women’s college’s other notable buildings include the beautiful Great Hall building and the Marjorie Walter Goodhart Theater, full of ornamental ironwork designs by Samuel Yellin in the Gothic Revival style.


44. Texas A&M University


Texas A&M boasts one of the largest campuses in America at 5200 acres. When you think of Texas A&M you think about the 12th man and Kyle Field.  Steeped in tradition, the crowds at Aggie Football games are some of the best in the land.  Spread out on the vast campus is the library of former President of the United States, George H. W. Bush, as well as the Corps Arches in the Quadrangle, an area featured to honor and welcome Cadets to the campus.


43.  Florida State University


The Tallahassee chop has a long history in college football but exploring the gorgeous campus is as good a way to spend a Saturday as taking in a Florida State football game.  The Florida State campus features several historical “Southern Style” dorms and buildings as well as the stoic Heritage Tower and the signature Spanish moss sprawling over the campus.  The Heritage Grove is one of the most noteworthy areas of Florida State, featuring several interesting buildings and sports complexes as well the Westcott building, one of the most prominent on campus.


42. Rice University


Located in downtown Houston’s Museum District, Rice University has still found a way to provide plenty of green space for its students.  Priding itself as an emotionally responsible campus, Duncan Hall, the Math and Science Center, is one of the favorite buildings on campus. Two newer residential dorms, McMurtry College and Duncan College, are LEED Gold certified.  Based on the request of the University’s first president’s watchful eye, nearly every building on campus was crafted in Byzantine style featuring sand and pink-colored bricks, large archways, and columns.


41. Sweet Briar College


Located at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Sweet Briar College is another women’s college on our list of beautiful campuses.  Most of the campus buildings feature the architecture of Ralph Adams Cram.  One of the highlights of the campus is the Equestrian center (situated on approximately 130 acres) which hosts the schools 7-riding teams.  21 of the 30 campus buildings have been designated by the National Historic Registrar’s office as historic buildings.


40. University of California-Santa Cruz


When you compile a lists of the most beautiful campuses in the country, you could in theory list dozens of schools up and down the Pacific Coast that get a huge boost for their beautiful settings but for our list we’re only including the best of the best.  The campus of UC Santa Cruz certainly fits. It’s nestled near Monterrey Bay and boasts natural wonders like Porter Caves, a hiking trails and open space reserve called Pogonip, and multiple views of California’s trademark Redwoods.


39. University of San Diego


The small private University of San Diego features stunning Pacific Ocean views from the Alcalá Park corner of campus but of course, with the campus being in San Diego it’s all gorgeous.  If the Alcala views aren’t enough for you, stroll around campus and you’ll be able to take in breath-taking views of the San Diego Harbor, the Coronado Islands, and La Jolla. Nearly every building located on the campus features a 16th-century Spanish Renaissance architectural style, of course keeping close to the founders Catholic roots.


38. Wellesley College


Located just 12 miles west of downtown Boston, one of the top women’s institutions in the country has loads of charm.  The 500 acre campus offers elite female students opportunities with over 50 bachelor degrees as well as the opportunity to compete in NCAA Division III sports.  The campus was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., who hailed from Boston, and was determined that the look of the campus would not be average but far superior to any other campus.  Some favorite spots on campus designed by Olmstead and his team include the wooded areas surrounding Lake Waban and the open meadows contained within the limits of campus.  The designers made sure to design the campus so that it was well integrated into the topography of the area, instead of following the typical quad surrounded by buildings set up that was popular and ubiquitous at the time.


37. Rollins College


Nestled just outside of Orlando, Florida, Rollins College sits along the banks of Lake Virginia.  This small private college boasts great year-round weather and keeping with the Florida lifestyle, even offers something called “Fox Day” every year, a time when all students are encouraged to miss class and enjoy the local community (i.e. Disney!).  In 2000, the New York Times did a feature on a campus standout, a memorial called the Peace Monument, which was constructed of a German artillery shell surrendered by Germany at the end of the First World War.


36. Whitman College


While you may have heard of Whitman College, you may not realize that it is located in Wall Walla, Washington. The campus, built around the natural beauty of Walla Walla, features miles of trails, streams, ponds, and numerous outdoor sculptures.  Many of the buildings on campus cling to a Victorian design scheme, but several of the new facilities have been erected with more modern designs. One of the largest areas of the campus is known as Ankeny Field, which is the main quad area.  The campus also holds the deed to a local nature preserve, the Johnston Wilderness Campus, which is used for social events and research purposes.


35. Duke University


While Duke is commonly recognized as a top institution of learning, it can also claim beautiful grounds. The 8600 acre campus features highlights like the Duke Chapel and the Perkins Library.  Nearly every building on the west side of campus was constructed with Collegiate Gothic architecture in mind.  Some of the east side campus buildings, including several dormitories, have been designed Georgian-style, including the famous Baldwin Auditorium. For the nature lovers, the Duke Forest is a must see.  The over 700 acre-wood contains a variety of trees and is an active area for science research. The Sarah P. Duke Memorial Gardens is also a must visit.


34. Sonoma State University


One of the top “green” campuses in the country, nearly every building on the Sonoma State campus has set the standard for small universities to give their students the best overall experience.  The nearly 59,000 square foot student center has been a model for colleges around the country, as it was built with sustainability in mind.  The facility was constructed using UV ray reflective roofing, recycled rubber indoor track, recycled glass reinforced structural brick, recycled seat belts to upholster seating, and reclaimed water plumbing non-potable water systems. The campus is not just environmentally friendly with it’s buildings, it also has a wonderfully close relationship to local nature, with miles of walking trails and fantastic access to Redwood trees.


33. University of Alabama


The 1800 acre Alabama campus features many Greek Revival buildings.  Several buildings (4) on the campus, including the President’s home, were all built pre-Civil War, survived the conflict, and are still used today. The center of the campus is the Quad, fronted by a campanile equipped with a 25-bell carillon. The campus includes many cultural centers, including an art museum, a Natural History museum, the Allen Bales Theater, Marion Gallaway Theater, Morgan Auditorium, and the Frank M. Moody Music Building. The University also runs an arboretum.


32. United States Military Academy (West Point)


A campus filled with Neo-Gothic inspired buildings, all constructed from gray and black granite, must be the home of a prestigious campus.  About 50 miles north of New York City you will find the United States Military Academy.  The campus, which educates and trains some of our armed forces bravest, is considered a national landmark. The 15,000 acre campus offers stunning views of the famous Hudson River and Highland Falls.  The famous cemetery on grounds is the final resting place for some of the most prominent members of our country’s military including George Armstrong Custer, Winfield Scott, William Westmoreland and many Medal of Honor recipients.


31. University of the Pacific


Originally founded as California Wesleyan College, the now named University of the Pacific not only operates as a top institution in California but also a make-shift movie set.  High Time, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and The Sure Thing are just a few of the films that have used the picturesque campus for a backdrop.  One of the most commonly recognized symbols of the campus is the Burns Tower.  The bell tower can be seen all over the campus area and hovers over common student gathering places.


30. Washington University in St. Louis


Located in one of the quintessential “All-American” towns, St. Louis, Missouri, Washington University is one of the most prestigious research universities in the country. While the campus is divided into multiple locations, the total 11 million square feet of buildings include many notable and beautiful buildings, including Seigle Hall, Francis Field (site of much of the 1904 Olympic Games), and Danforth University Center.


29. University of Wisconsin-Madison


With a main campus located in the center of two massive lakes, Mendota and Monona, it’s no wonder that Wisconsin-Madison can offer 4 seasons of extra-curricular activities for the student body.  With a little over 900 acres to offer, Wisconsin is proud to host 4 national landmarks, including Bascom Hall, which is a hub for student life.  The campus, which is located just a mile from the capitol building, operates like a small city, offering students countless outdoor activities to round-out the student experience.  The views from campus overlooking the lakes are some of the greatest in the nation.


28. University of Mississippi (Ole Miss)


Ole Miss is the quintessential southern university, with beautiful classic buildings and a campus steeped in tradition. Football Saturdays here are a religious experience, and tailgating before a game in the Grove is one of the coolest college football experiences one can have. The Grove is populated with oak, elm and magnolia trees, and tents are added on fall Saturdays. Notable buildings include the Lycecum, which is the oldest building on campus (1848). It is pictured on the school’s official crest. Another interesting building, and piece of history, is the School of Medicine, which was used as a Civil War hospital for both Union and Confederate soldiers.


27. University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill


When we think of UNC we all think of the Dean Dome, the baby blue jerseys, and of course Michael Jordan but there’s much more to Chapel Hill than basketball.  The 700+ acre campus is divided into two sections, Polk Place and McCorkle Place.  Some of the most famous spots on campus are the gorgeous Old Well, a rotunda based on the Temple of Love in the Gardens of Versailles, which nurtures gorgeous landscaping and is the spot of many romantic moments for students.


26. Cornell University


The small town of Ithaca is the site of Ivy League school Cornell.  The quaint New York town overlooks the picturesque Cayuga Lake. The campus features 6 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places and access to local gorges, Fall Creek Gorge and Cascadilla Gorge, both of which provide spots for hiking and swimming.  The University also owns a 2,800 acre botanical garden, Cornell Plantations.


25. Amherst College


Ranked consistently as one of the top three institutions for higher learning in the country, Amherst College is also among the most beautiful.  College Row is the centerpiece at Amherst, consisting of multiple halls and Johnson Chapel.  The Quad is beautiful and a popular hangout spot in nice weather. Students at Amherst are also eligible to attend other beautiful colleges, including Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, Hampshire College, and the University of Massachusetts without any addition charge as they are all members of the Pioneer Valley institutions.


24. Yale University


Yale is of course at the top of the Ivy League, but there’s just as much to say about the campus nestled in the town of New Haven, Connecticut as there is the education offered.  Many of the buildings are built in the Collegiate Gothic architecture style but a key building on campus, Connecticut Hall (built in 1750), is in the Georgian style.  The campus has a decidedly Middle Ages feel to it. While the campus is gorgeous, Yale has even made inroads towards putting it’s stamp on the community also, by purchasing several mansions in the surrounding area, especially on Hillhouse Avenue. Yale is moving steadily towards an environmentally sustainable campus with eleven campus buildings as candidates for LEED design and certification.


23. Gettysburg College


Located adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park, Gettysburg College is a highly selective institution that pays homage to one of the most important battles in our nation’s history.  The quaint campus is often referred to as one of most gorgeous in the country.  The quad area of campus which sees a great deal of student social interaction is called Stine Lake.  It is not actually a lake, but the campus regularly experienced drainage issues in the early 1900s, often causing the quad and library to flood, hence the “lake” moniker. Something of a confusing situation for freshman.


22. Occidental College


With gorgeous Mediterranean style buildings, Occidental College in Los Angeles, consistently ranks as one of the most gorgeous campuses in the country.  The campus features gorgeous tree lines and superb social gathering areas also ranks as one of the top universities in California.  Several original buildings built in the early 1900s are still used today.  One of the most notable campus buildings is the Johnson Student Center, built in 1914. The designer of Occidental’s original buildings, Myron Hunt, was also the designer of the Rose Bowl.


21. Princeton University


The “Gray Stone” of Princeton is renowned. The campus is one of the oldest in America, and the oldest building on campus, Nassau Hall, was built in 1754.  The southern edge of the campus faces Lake Carnegie, and as you’d guess from the name, was donated by Andrew Carnegie. The lake was originally was designated for rowing but has since been transformed to a campus gathering point.  Another famous building located on campus is the Princeton University Chapel, the third largest college chapel in the world.


20. University of Washington-Seattle


The University of Washington at Seattle has easily one of the most stunning natural settings of any campus in America. The campus boasts great views of Mount Rainier, the Cascade Range, and the Olympic Mountains.  One of the favorite spots for students is the blooming cherry trees on the campus quad.  The oldest building on campus is the French-inspired Denny Hall built in 1895.


19. Stanford University


The 8000 acre campus nestled in the San Francisco Peninsula features stunning views of the San Francisco Bay.  Most of the campus was destroyed in the powerful 1906 San Francisco earthquake but was originally designed in a Spanish-colonial style, commonly known as Mission Revival, featuring red tile roofs and sandstone masonry.  Some buildings survived the 1906 earthquake such as the Quad, the old Chemistry building, and Encina Hall. The 1989 earthquake inflicted further damage to the campus, and the next two decades saw the school spend over a billion dollars to renovate and update the campus for better earthquake protection.


18. United States Naval Academy


The US Naval Academy is a small campus, but packs a lot of beauty into a small space. The Chapel is breathtaking, and Bancroft Hall is the largest dormitory in the world. The campus features many memorials and monuments, including a Pearl Harbor memorial and Battle Ensigns from famous ships that are displayed all over the campus.


17. University of Virginia


The beautiful grounds of the University of Virginia has always been admired for its unique Jeffersonian architecture, which includes the famous Rotunda. The campus draws thousands of visitors every year.  The American Institute of Architects called the rolling landscape and gorgeous buildings, “the proudest achievement of American architecture in the past 200 years.”


16. University of Notre Dame


Believe it or not there’s more to Notre Dame than Touchdown Jesus and Rudy. The campus is quite beautiful, and includes many interesting areas and buildings. The statue of the Virgin Mary can be seen blessing the Grotto, and was built in 1896 as a replica of the original in Lourdes, France.  The 1250 acre campus is divided into the “Old Campus” area and new.  Old Campus is now controlled by the two seminaries connected through the Catholic church, the Congregation of Holy Cross and current Basilica of the Sacred Heart.  The Golden Dome sits atop the main building, and is the inspiration for the famous golden Notre Dame football helmets.


15. Indiana University-Bloomington


The town of Bloomington, Indiana is the ultimate college town.  A campus filed with over 1,200 miles of bike and running trails, this quaint town not only encourages students to embark on a sense of community it nearly demands it.  Student can visit “off” campus stores, restaurants and coffee shops just a few steps from the limestone buildings in which they will live and learn.  The student building on the IU campus is listed on the National Historical Registrar.  The Sample Gates welcome students onto campus. Most of the campus is made of Indiana limestone sourced locally, and was built during the Great Depression by the WPA.


14. University of Chicago


The University of Chicago is an urban campus located in the Hyde Park area of Chicago, seven miles south of downtown. The campus features the Rockefeller Chapel, donated by the “Rockefeller” family, as well as some of the best architecture you’ll find in a college campus.  Most of the older buildings feature Collegiate Gothic architecture that mimics their English rival Oxford. With several buildings landing on the National Registrar of Historic Places, you can enjoy the history of Chicgao with a short stroll around campus.


13. Mount Holyoke College


Mount Holyoke is widely credited with leading the “green” initiative among elite college campuses.  With five buildings LEED certified, the Holyoke campus is not only providing sustainability for the region but protecting the natural environment and the Connecticut river.  Most of the campus is located within the Skinner State Park, providing amazing opportunities for students to hike, jog and bike.


12. Furman University


With a campus full of Georgian-style architecture, Furman University ranks among the top campuses in the country.  Several buildings on the campus surround a gorgeous lake, and iconic views of the campus Bell Tower are a must see.  Amongst the standout buildings, the James B. Duke Library encourages study, research and community.  The lush South Carolina campus has been named several times as one of the most beautiful places in the USA (Campus or Not) by the American Society of Landscape Architects.


11. Harvard University


Established in 1636, this campus is the oldest in America. The campus might be surprisingly urban to some, located just a few miles northwest of downtown Boston. Students live in one of twelve residential houses, and each house is basically self containing, with a dining hall, space for tutors, undergrads, and grad students, and a library and other student facilities. Notable buildings include Sever Hall, built in Richardsonian Romanesque style, and University Hall, built from 1813-15 of white Chelmsford granite.


10. University of Hawai at Manoa


Hundreds of thousands of tourists flock to the Hawaiian islands annually to embark on the vacation of a lifetime but what many people might not realize is that Hawaii contains a prestigious university with a long waiting list.  The campus features views of the famous volcano Diamond Head and is located just a few steps from the famous Waikiki Beach. This campus location is one of the most beautiful places in the United States.  Students are treated to extraordinary experiences studying at the campus run Lyon Arboretum and have unbridled access to the Polynesian Cultural Center, a hub for the history of the Hawaiian islands. Good luck getting any studying done living here!


9. Dartmouth College


The history of Dartmouth (founded in 1769) will make all of the history buffs very excited to check out Wentworth and Thorton Halls. Two of the original campus buildings, these facilities were constructed in 1820.  While Dartmouth has continued to offer extraordinary educational opportunities, they also work to complete the student-life experience by offering amazing access to the arts at “the Hop” the Hopkins center for the Arts.  The technology available to student in the Baker-Berry Library will make even students at MIT jealous.  And for those students who need to step outside and enjoy some fresh air, walking and hiking trails in the Upper Valley along the Connecticut River offer great year-round views.


8. College of William & Mary


The College of William & Mary may be considered an “old” campus but they are leading the way for elite East Coast schools in the global sustainability field.  The campus has over 1200 acres full of cozy wooded areas such as the Crim Dell pond. Most buildings on campus consist of Georgian and Anglo-Dutch architecture, and the highlight is the Christopher Wren building, the oldest collegiate building in the United States.  The campus also profits from tourists flocking to the historic Williamsburg, Virginia area every year.


7. Loyola Marymount University


Sitting on top of a bluff in the Del Rey Hills, Loyola Marymount offers one of the top campus locations in the country.  This classic California school boasts picturesque views of both Playa del Rey and the Pacific Ocean.  Loyola’s campus is covered in architectural and art-inspired sittings including the Sculpture Gardens and even walk-ways between educational buildings offer students glimpses to amazing artwork.


6. Emory University


With an awe inspiring classically gorgeous southern campus, Emory is easily one of our top campuses in the country.  This gem in the heart of Atlanta can offer students both an exceptional education as well as countless opportunities to expand their horizons.  The Michael C. Carlos Museum on campus houses the most extensive art collection in the Southeast, with pieces from around the world.  For the adventurous student, you can spend countless hours at Lullwater Park, comprising over 100 acres on campus that is dedicated to preserving the south and its natural environment.  Lullwater features walking and hiking trails as well as a view of the president of the University’s home.


5. Lewis & Clark College


There are many excellent universities in the Pacific Northwest but none can claims the title of “prettiest campus” like Lewis & Clark College can.  With extraordinary view of Mt. Hood, Lewis & Clark’s campus will inspire its students to get outside.  The 130+ acre campus sits at the top of Palatine Hill, in Portland, Oregon.  Attached to the campus is the Tryon Creek State Natural Area, an area which has inspired the college to continue “green” efforts working to make buildings on campus LEED certified.  The unique architecture of the campus has been named the best by design experts as well as one of the prettiest campuses by the Princeton Review.


4. Pepperdine University


Many visitors flock to the Catalina Islands every year for the views of the Pacific ocean but students attending Pepperdine University can wake up to those views everyday.  Pepperdine has some of the best student dorms in the country, and you can’t beat living right on the Pacific ocean. True to the spirit of the Pacific, several buildings on campus, including the Keck Science Center, feature Mediterranean architecture.  One of the most recognizable buildings on campus is the Phillips Theme Tower, surrounded by lush landscaping that provides a welcoming environment for students.


3. Sewanee


As the “official” University of the South, Sewanee University is the ultimate experience in southern living and education. With nearly every building paying homage to classic Goth-style architecture, the campus oozes southern charm. One of the most notable buildings is All Saints and of course, the Tennessee Williams Center.  The Williams attraction on campus provides funding for many student  experiences, through royalties from the family endowment. Sewanee has been featured in countless magazines as one of the most beautiful campuses in the country.


2. Kenyon College


Kenyon College has been recognized for its superior swimming and diving teams but many people around the country may not realize this college in Ohio is one of the most picturesque in the nation.  Known for its Gothic Revival architecture the campus features several buildings that have inspired designers around the country.  Ascension Hall is an imposing and impressive structure and Old Kenyon Hall, built in 1827, is believed to be the oldest Gothic Revival building in America. The setting for Kenyon is wonderfully rustic and the college was named one of the most beautiful in the country by Forbes in 2010.


1. Elon University


The wooded grounds of Elon were designated as a botanical garden in 2005, making the beauty of the campus a contributor to the educational experience, as the landscaping is used as both an aesthetic and educational resource.  Located in the heart of North Carolina, this campus not only offers an exceptional education but has been the site of several films, including Spike Lee’s He Got Game.  Elon has been named the prettiest campus in the country on multiple occasions, including landing at the top spot in rankings by the Princeton Review and the New York Times. We can’t argue, and Elon takes the top spot in our list of the prettiest college campuses.

Higher Education’s Bubble is About to Burst

“First — as with the housing bubble — cheap and readily available credit has let people borrow to finance education. They’re willing to do so because of (1) consumer ignorance, as students (and, often, their parents) don’t fully grasp just how harsh the impact of student loan payments will be after graduation; and (2) a belief that, whatever the cost, a college education is a necessary ticket to future prosperity (Glenn Harlan Reynolds, 2010).”

From the perspective of that ignorant student that believed blindly that any degree would be more profitable than no degree; student loan repayment is a painful lesson. Go into college with your eyes wide OPEN, and take the counsel of people who have made the mistakes- so you don’t have to.

Do you want specialized Independent Educational Consultation? Don’t break the bank:

Juniors… Get Ready!

High School Juniors prepare for CollegeJuniors

Hopefully, you have been examining your profile and doing everything you can do to make yourself ready for college. The admissions process isn’t overwhelming unless you procrastinate! Here’s the point of this article- next year you will start applying at the colleges that you have chosen. If you’re struggling to decide how to pick a college, you might want to check this article out or use the awesome AdmissionsSplash Facebook app. I want to go through the top 4 things that, as a junior, you ought to be doing over the course of the next year.

  1. Look over your High school Academic Transcript: This is your grades, your accomplishments… it’s you on paper. This document will help you to set realistic goals for which college to apply to based on your accomplishments. What are Admissions Officers looking for in a high school transcript? The extent to which you challenge yourself academically relative to the resources available to you. Academic areas that interest you. Your ability to perform; in other words, what do your grades reflect? The degree to which these factors overlap with the university’s character and priorities. Eva Ostrum in her book, The Thinking Parent’s Guide to College Admissions states, “Deans of admission around the country can usually characterize in a phrase or two what they hope a transcript will reflect about a student. Jim Sumner at Grinnell College hopes to see “intellectual engagement.” Harold Wingood at Clark University describes the ideal entering students as “academically independent, willing to take academic risks.” So this summer, look over your high school grades and look for these things: Letter grades and GPA, the difficulty of the course work, the types of classes (did you focus more in one or two subjects than in others?).
  2. Examine your extracurricular activities: Aren’t you glad to hear that it isn’t all about grades? Well, it is mostly about your grades and most colleges are really looking for students with a strong academic profile. You can, however, increase your chances of enrollment into your reach schools by supplementing your academic profile with strong extracurricular activities; and you can have a lot of fun in the process!  “Admissions officers at selective colleges and universities want to see commitment to activities over time rather than a series of single-year affiliations with various clubs or committees” (Ostrum). So there you have it, get involved with an organization or an activity and stay involved!
  3. Study for your Standardized Tests: Next to grades, your scores on the ACT or SAT (I & II) will be the most important part of the admissions process. Make sure that you take this test seriously. BY simply studying, you can raise your scores and by taking the tests more than once you can dramatically increase your score. This could be the difference between your reach school and your match school. Students who do not take these tests seriously do themselves a major dis-service. You will want a review time before you take the tests of about 8-12 weeks and you can utilize books, online test prep services (ePrep), or a tutor. Use the resources available to you and study for your tests. Also, plan to take the test at least twice.
  4. Essays: These essays are critical! If you have the grades and the test scores, then your college admissions essays need to help set you apart from the other 10,000 applicants who also have excellent grades and test scores. In order to have a winning essay, you will want to have help. Have one of your parents read it over and give you input, show it to your guidance counselor or a favorite teacher, or you can have someone like me look it over and provide feedback. Some characteristics of a winning college application essay are: They tell a story; They provide vivid examples that allow the reader to put himself in the student’s situation or mindset; They sound authentic, like they are coming from the student herself, rather than from a college-essay coach; and finally The writer gets to the heart of what she wants to say, so that the essay reflects who she is and what she cares about. Long story short, make it interesting and get to the point.

There are so many other things that go into preparing for college, but as a junior, you ought to be thinking about these key areas right now and you may want to consider some help. I offer a variety of services for students (and parents) to help students get ready for college. CAP is my online college prep course that will cover these things (and a lot more) in a four week online course. It is self directed and very easy to take so you can take the course as you need it, and once you sign up, you have access for an entire year! I also offer comprehensive in-person services that can help prepare you for college and help you get into the best school possible.

You can always call me: (619) 823-5974 (Nathan) or email me:

Origins of 10 famous schools

You might take for granted that big name schools like Yale and Stanford have always been around. While they do have histories that go back hundreds of years, they each had to start somewhere. Often, the stories about how these early colleges came into existence are quite interesting and make for great reading – even if you’re a college student somewhere else, as many of these schools played a key role in the formative years of the United States and the cities and states we know today. Here are just a few stories to educate you on how some of the biggest and most well-known colleges in the U.S. got their start.

  1. Stanford University: There is a myth about the origins of Stanford that is quite widespread. It states that a family wanted to set up a memorial to their son and approached the administration at Harvard where they were discouraged. Put off by the Ivy League school, they decide to set out westward to not only set up a memorial, but dedicate an entire school to their son’s memory. While the story is charming, it isn’t entirely true. Stanford University was started by Leeland Stanford, a California railroad tycoon to honor his son, but not because Harvard had shut him down. It was Stanford’s plan all along to replicate Harvard and other Ivy League schools on the West Coast, and the businessman and politician paid big bucks to bring out experienced teachers and administrators to start up the school. While Stanford U struggled through the turn of the century, it came to be an educational powerhouse after the establishment of industry in what today is known as Silicon Valley.
  2. Yale University: Founded in 1701, Yale is the third-oldest university in the United States – older than the country itself. The school was created as a place where clergy and political leaders could be trained in the new colonies rather than having to be imported from England. The story thickens, however, as unrest grew between rival school Harvard’s clergy and president over-religious politics, causing the latter to promote Yale in hopes that it would to return to the Puritan values he felt so strongly about. While the religious leaders of Yale were fairly conservative, they were also swept up in the spirit of the Enlightenment and encouraged students to learn just as much about science and the laws of nature as they did about theology. The school almost came to an early end during the American Revolution when British troops ordered it to be razed, but it was saved just in the nick of time and has gone on to become one of America’s most prestigious institutions of higher education.
  3. Princeton University: Princeton also holds the title of one of the oldest colleges in the United States. Established in 1746 by a group of New Light Presbyterians, the school served as a center of religious education for the region’s numerous Scotch-Irish immigrants. Yet only a few years after it was established, it was nearly destroyed. During the Revolutionary War, the school was severely damaged in the Battle of Princeton. George Washington led his troops against the forces of British General Cornwallis, eventually causing them to retreat into Princeton itself. There, British troops took cover in Nassau Hall, Princeton’s oldest and possibly most historic building. There, they were forced to surrender, a victory that helped raised morale in the army and increased enlistment– factors that may have played a role in the ultimate success of the revolution. Few schools can claim a history so intimately tied to that of the founding of our nation and while it took a toll on the school, Princeton has emerged as an academic powerhouse in the decades following the war.
  4. Georgetown University: The pilgrims may have come to America seeking religious freedom, but the country didn’t stay free from religious persecution for long. Following a defeat in the English Civil War, strict laws were enacted against Roman Catholic education and required the extradition of any known Jesuits in the colonies. It was not until the American Revolution that a Roman Catholic school could be founded, and that’s just what happened in 1789 with Georgetown University. The school had just started to grow and expand when the Civil War broke out, causing many buildings to be commandeered for use by Union troops. The school declared itself neutral territory and chose blue and gray as their school colors, representing the colors of the Union and Confederate uniforms. The war took a heavy toll on the school and it nearly went under until Patrick Francis Healy, a former slave, took it over and reformed the programs. Because of the rebirth he afforded the school, Healy is regarded as its second founder and played a major role in the continued success enjoyed today.
  5. The College of William & Mary: If you want historical schools, there’s only one older than the College of William & Mary. Founded in 1693 by a royal charter, the school helped to educate founding fathers Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe. Because it was so closely allied with the British royals, all school leaders were required to be members of the Church of England and declare their adherence to the Thirty-Nine Articles, a fact that would become an issue during the American Revolution when freedom of religion became a key issue for colonists. The school, like many others at the time, was not only interested in secular education but religious education as well. Because of this, colonists also set up a branch to help educate the Native American men of the area, hoping they would bring their lessons back to their tribes and share them. The school is ranked among the top in the nation today, but like Georgetown almost met its end when it was used to house Confederate troops during the Civil War.
  6. Tulane University: Tulane is unique among American universities in that, while today it is private, it was originally founded as a public institution of higher education. The school began in 1834 as the Medical College of Louisiana, in response to high levels of fatalities from illnesses like smallpox, yellow fever and cholera and a lack of properly trained doctors to treat them. At the time, it was only the second medical school in the entire southern United States. Through the next few years, the school would expand to include a law school and would be renamed the University of Louisiana. Yet the Civil War would be hard on the institution, and the agricultural depression and recession that followed the war would cause it to nearly go under. It was only the work of Paul Tulane, a wealthy businessman, which allowed it to survive. With his financial support and guidance, the school began to flourish and was eventually transferred from the state into private hands– the only such conversion to ever have taken place in American higher education. Today, Tulane is one of the premier colleges in the south, with a bright future and a rich history.
  7. Dartmouth College: Founded shortly before the American Revolution, Dartmouth is much different today than when it was created. Eleazor Wheelock, a Puritan minister, wanted to create a school to educate Native Americans to act as missionaries. After raising money at home and abroad, Wheelock would establish the beginnings of Dartmouth College. As it turns out, however, he didn’t plan the location of the school very well, and being far from any Indian lands it made recruitment nearly impossible. The school expanded to include educational programs for white students as well in order to stay afloat. Only a few short years after the college got on its feet it faced additional problems. The State of New Hampshire attempted to take over the school, and wanted to make it a public university. Dartmouth fought the state and the case went all the way to the Supreme Court when it was, as you can guess, decided in its favor. While the school puttered along throughout the 19th century, it was not until a grant given in the early 20th century that it truly emerged as the prestigious institution it is today.
  8. Columbia University: As the oldest college in New York and the fifth oldest in the nation, Columbia University has a rich history behind it. It was created by a royal charter given by King George in 1754 and was originally known as King’s College. After the Revolutionary War, this name understandably wasn’t particularly favorable, and the school was renamed Columbia College. What is interesting about the founding of this university, however, is what motivated state and local officials to petition to get the college there in the first place. At the time, Princeton University was a rising star in education on the East Coast, a fact that disturbed a number of conservative leaders at the time. Not only was Princeton a Presbyterian school interested in the ideals of the Enlightenment, but it also posed a threat to the cultural and intellectual superiority of New York. Spurred on by these concerns, New Yorkers established their own rival school with the help of the British Monarchy. This association may have helped it get its start, but it was also nearly its downfall, causing the university to be closed for eight years during and after the war.
  9. University of Pennsylvania: Another Colonial College, The University of Pennsylvania is an extremely old institution by American standards, getting its start in 1740. The University was founded by noted politician and inventor (not to mention founding father) Benjamin Franklin as a place where students would not only learn the essentials of classics, theology and academics, but would be able to prepare for careers in public service and commerce as well. Things the school is still known for today. Franklin’s proposed program of study became the basis for most modern liberal arts curricula, blending a variety of different disciplines to create a more well-rounded educational experience. Through the successive decades, the school has grown and expanded, with tens of thousands of students pursuing high regarded educational programs each year.
  10. University of Missouri: The first public institution of learning west of the Mississippi, the University of Missouri was founded in 1839 through the Geyer Act. Because having the university established in a local community was such a big deal, cities within the state battled it out, with Columbia winning after coming up with $117,000 in land and cash. The school had scarcely been around for two decades before the Civil War caused it to close, but it was not abandoned by the local citizens. They banded together to form the “Fighting Tigers of Columbia” bent on repelling anyone who intended to come into the city or college to loot or destroy it. Their determination inspired the school to name its teams after the group. While some of the original buildings on campus no longer stand, the University is today one of the biggest in the Midwest.

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10 Famous and Noteworthy College Commencement Speeches

Most college commencement speeches consist of bad jokes and bland advice, but there are a few that are made memorable by genuine wit and wisdom. Below are 10 noteworthy commencement speeches offering worldly advice from famous comedians, authors, politicians, entrepreneurs and even a prison inmate.

1. Winston Churchill (Harrow School)

Memorable quote: ‘Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never–in nothing, great or small, large or petty–never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.’

The commencement speech Winston Churchill gave to his old preparatory school in 1941 isn’t just famous because he’s Winston Churchill – it is also the shortest such speech on record. In fact, the above quote has been used by a whole slew of people who couldn’t come up with any other way to close their own commencement speeches.

2. Steve Jobs (Stanford University)

Memorable quote: ‘Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma–which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.’

Apple co-founder and famed college dropout Steve Jobs gave a highly respected commencement speech to Stanford University students in 2005. He wore his trademark blue jeans and sandals and shared three of the most pivotal points in his life. Jobs also encouraged students to pursue their dreams and dodge the obstacles that hold them back. His speech closed with the sign-off quote from the final issue of The Whole Earth Catalog: ‘Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.’

3. Jon Stewart (College of William and Mary)

Memorable quote: ‘I’m sure my fellow doctoral graduates–who have spent so long toiling in academia, sinking into debt, sacrificing God knows how many years of what, in truth, is a piece of parchment that, in truth, has been so devalued by our instant gratification culture as to have been rendered meaningless–will join in congratulating me.’

One of the most humorous commencement speeches in recent years was the speech comedian Jon Stewart gave in 2004 at the College of William and Mary. He began by assuring the parents in the crowd that they would not hear any language that was not common at a Tourette’s convention or profanity seminar. The entire speech was peppered with jokes, but Stewart also dished out valuable advice to graduates near the end, telling them to ‘love what you do’ and ‘get good at it.’

4. Theodor Geisel (Lake Forest College)

Memorable quote: ‘As you partake of the world’s bill of fare, that’s darned good advice to follow. Do a lot of spitting out the hot air. And be careful what you swallow.’

In 1977, the beloved Theodor Geisel (a.k.a. Dr. Seuss) was chosen as the commencement speaker for Lake Forest College. Both the students and faculty were surprised (yet pleased) when he stood up and recited an original poem called My Uncle Terwilliger on the Art of Eating Popovers in place of a traditional speech.

5. Mumia Abu-Jamal (Evergreen State College)

Memorable quote: ‘Out of the many here assembled, it is the heart of he or she that I seek who looks at a life of vapid materialism, of capitalist excess, and finds it simply intolerable. It may be one hundred of you, or fifty, or even ten, or even one of you who makes that choice. I am here to honor and applaud that choice and to warn you that, though the suffering may indeed be great, it is nothing to the joy of doing the right thing.’

In 1999, Mumia Abu-Jamal gave a controversial commencement speech to Evergreen State College via audiotape. The speech was controversial because Abu-Jamal was a death row inmate convicted of murdering a police officer. Students, law enforcement officers, the policeman’s widow, Congressman Tom DeLay and a number of others protested the school’s choice of speakers, but Abu-Jamal’s speech was delivered nevertheless. The 13-minute audiotape included comments on racial oppression and liberation as well as advice for graduating students.

memorable commencement speeches

6. Russell Baker (Connecticut College)

Memorable quote: ‘The best advice I can give anybody about going out into the world is this: Don’t do it. I have been out there. It is a mess.’

American columnist, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and political satirist Russell Baker amused Connecticut College students with his short, but memorable, commencement speech in 1995. The backbone of the speech was Baker’s list of ‘ten ways to avoid mucking up the world more than it already is.’ His advice included ‘sleep in the nude’ and ‘don’t take your gun to town.’

7. Will Ferrell (Harvard University)

Memorable quote: ‘After months of secret negotiations, several hundred secret ballots, and a weekend retreat with Vice President Dick Cheney in his secret mountain bunker, a Class Day speaker was chosen, and it was me. You obviously have made a grave error. But it’s too late now. So let’s just go with it.’

Love him or hate him, actor Will Ferrell is responsible for one of the funniest and most unorthodox speeches ever made at a Harvard commencement. The 2003 Class Day speech was full of jokes and included an uncanny George Bush impersonation.

8. Stephen Colbert (Knox College)

Memorable quote: ‘I have two last pieces of advice. First, being pre-approved for a credit card does not mean you have to apply for it. And lastly, the best career advice I can give you is to get your own TV show. It pays well, the hours are good, and you are famous.’

Stephen Colbert’s 2006 commencement speech at Knox College is one of the most oft-read speeches on the Internet. Colbert’s speech features his trademark humor and candid advice for college grads. He also shows off his ability to ask for a McDonald’s Happy Meal in five different languages.

9. David Foster Wallace (Kenyon College)

Memorable quote: ‘Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed.’

In 2005, a couple of years before his tragic suicide, influential postmodern author David Foster Wallace delivered the commencement speech at Kenyon College. Both witty and wise, the speech explored the value of a liberal arts education and offered some very practical advice on surviving the ins and outs of real life.

10. J.K. Rowling (Harvard University)

Memorable quote: ‘The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won, and it has been worth more than any qualification I ever earned.’

J.K. Rowling may be one of the best-selling authors of all time, but before she published Harry Potter she was an unemployed single parent one step away from homelessness. In her poignant 2008 commencement speech at Harvard, Rowling shared the value of failure and the importance of imagination.

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Choose the Right-Fit College: Know Thyself

“There are so many colleges out there that the prospect of finding the one that’s your perfect match can seem overwhelming. You may already know something about certain schools through things you’ve heard from friends, family, and reading college brochures, but how are you supposed to know which ones might be worth investigating and which one will ultimately be a good choice for you?

Think about it this way: You’re trying to match two elements–yourself and a college. While it can be tempting to start looking at different schools right away, take some time to get to know yourself better. This involves taking stock of more concrete things like your academic standing, and thinking about the more intangible parts of you: your personality, your likes and dislikes, and what makes you comfortable or uncomfortable. If you begin your search with a solid understanding of yourself, it will be easier to figure out what you should look for in a college.

Figure Out Your Academic Profile
College is about more than just academics, but taking classes, doing well, and learning is a significant chunk of what you’ll be doing. And you want to make sure that you go to a college that challenges you without being overwhelming. When the admissions officers read through your application, they’ll also be thinking about this and will be trying to figure out how well you’ll be matched up with the college’s academic profile. Other criteria will be important as well–your involvement outside of class, your drive and ambition, and the diversity of your experience–but how well you do in school and on standardized tests are important considerations.

Try to be as honest as possible as you think about your academic profile. If your grades and standardized test scores aren’t so great, that’s okay, and there are many colleges where you can be accepted, learn a lot, and have a great time. But if you apply to schools that don’t match your academic profile, you risk not having enough choices when it comes time to make your final decision.

Here are some questions you should consider. Their purpose is to get you thinking about where you stand academically and what college environment will be the best match for you:

  • How difficult are your high school courses and how well have you done in them?
  • What were your PSAT, SAT, or ACT scores? (You can always improve these, but think about how you compare generally to the other college applicants.)
  • Are you taking any advanced-placement (AP) classes?
  • How do you measure up to your peers? Are you one of the top students, near the top, or somewhere in the middle?

You should also think about your attitude toward studying and classes in general. Competitive colleges have extremely rigorous academics and if you don’t like to spend many hours reading tough material, you might want to apply to some less rigorous schools.

  • How curious are you about knowledge and learning in general?
  • Do you have good study habits and an ability to discipline yourself and work independently? (It wouldn’t hurt any of us to have better study habits, but think about how well you work on your own and how you handle difficult assignments.)
  • How do you deal with pressure?
  • Are you organized, good at managing your time, and prioritizing?
  • Are you good at seeking help with schoolwork when you need it?

Interest Groups
You want to apply to colleges that offer great classes and majors in the areas that interest you. For example, if you can’t go a day without statistics, then you probably need to look at some schools with great statistics departments.

Think about the following:

  • What academic subjects interest you?
  • What types of things do you like to study?
  • What are some of your favorite classes?

In addition to your academic interests, think about other things you enjoy doing–after all, you’ll only be spending part of your time studying.

  • What extracurricular activities are you involved in?
  • Is it important for you to continue with any of them in college?
  • What things do you like to do outside of school?

Try not to limit yourself too much. It’s a good idea to choose a college that satisfies your current interests, but know that some of them will probably change. There are a lot of subjects and activities you haven’t encountered yet and that may grab your attention once you get to college.

Some people go into their freshman year convinced they are going to study one thing for the next four years, and then that’s what they’re going to do for the rest of their lives. Most people don’t stick with that.

–Recent Grad

(Your) Personality Matters
Honest self-reflection about who you are and what you like is more likely to lead you to a school where you feel comfortable being yourself and supported in what you’re trying to achieve. If you can find this, you’ll feel happier in your surroundings and you’ll be more likely to perform well academically. Party schools are only fun if you love to party, and conservative college environments will drive you nuts if you’re more of an off-the-cuff kind of person.

Be honest about what you’re like and don’t feel like you have to be a certain way. Consider the following:

  • How do you socialize–do you like small groups, one-on-one interactions, or large crowds?
  • Do you like to be around people or do you need a lot of time to yourself?
  • Are you the life of the party or more shy and reserved?
  • Do you like to be close to your family or is being farther away healthier for you?
  • Do you love big, bustling cities? Or do you start to suffocate unless you’re being one with nature?
Be Brutally Honest
The more honest you are in evaluating yourself, the more likely it is you’ll find a college where you’re comfortable. College is a great time to grow and evolve–there’s no doubt about that. But try to be honest about your starting point: who you are and what’s important to you now.

Most of us have no problem acknowledging our strengths. But, let’s face it, it’s not a lot of fun to sit down and think about those things that we just wish would go away. Do it anyway. Maybe you wish your grades were better, but if they’re not, you’ll need to apply to some less competitive schools to make sure you have all the bases covered. Maybe you wish you didn’t get so freaked out when you’re under pressure. But if that’s the case, you’re going to have to look for a college atmosphere that’s more laid back.

It’s also important to be honest about your interests and preferences and to distinguish them from those of your peers. What works for someone else might not work for you.

Don’t Go It Alone
You don’t have to figure out everything on your own. Sometimes aspects of ourselves are so much a part of us that it can be difficult for us to see them. The people who know you well can help in your self-evaluation. Bounce some ideas off your friends, parents, and counselors. If there’s something you’re not quite sure about, ask them: “Where do you think I stand academically?” or “What type of campus setting might I strive in?”

Choosing where to go to college is a very personal decision, but it doesn’t mean that you have to make it in isolation.”


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Excerpted from:


From Choose the Right College and Get Accepted: How to Choose the Right College and Get in to Your Dream School by Students Helping Students. Copyright © 2005.

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College Admissions Prep Workshop

College Admissions Prep (CAP) The price goes up on Tuesday, 2/22/11, register NOW!

CAP is a 4-week Online College Admissions Prep Workshop that will present the key pillars of the college admissions process-  With just 90 minutes per week (30 minutes three times per week) you will learn the full scope of the college admission process through interactive discussion forums with other students & CLP advisors, lessons, video presentations, (short) quizzes, and essays. In this class you will actually apply for specific scholarships, and learn how to write essays you’ll find on the Common Application.