10 Colleges You Haven't Considered But Should

When it comes to choosing a college, there is a lot of conventional wisdom out there about which institutions are the best. Much of this insight holds true - no one is going to dispute the prevailing notion that Harvard is a great school, after all. What some people overlook, however, is that many smaller, lower profile institutions provide academic programs, student activities and facilities on par with those offered at higher profile colleges. Here are 10 such schools, in no particular order.

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By Douglas Fehlen

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Evergreen College

Evergreen College is not for everyone, but what makes it different from other schools is exactly what appeals to students who do find an academic home there. Evergreen, located in Olympia, Washington, is a public institution that allows individuals to create their own academic programs by picking classes from across the curriculum. The objective is to provide students with the opportunity to take responsibility for their education and engage in team-oriented, interdisciplinary coursework. Applied internships are available for students to round out their education with real world experience.

Grinnell College

Perhaps due to its location in sleepy central Iowa, Grinnell College escapes the notice of many prospective students. But strong academics and an excellent faculty definitely make the school worth a look. Grinnell prides itself on offering students frequent one-on-one interaction with professors, the goal being to provide individuals with mentoring that will allow them to flourish and grow in a chosen discipline. Additionally, students have greater independence in selecting courses than at most other schools, and active, discovery-based learning is a focus. Rounding out the school's benefits is a tight-knit and active student body.

College of Charleston

While location should never be the sole factor in selecting a college, some institutions feature locales that make them inherently more appealing than other schools. The College of Charleston, situated in a picturesque city near the Atlantic coastline, is just such an example. Students are able to experience historic Charleston as they attend classes and participate in some 150 clubs and organizations. And when homework's done, the beach isn't far. Academically, the school is no slouch: The College of Charleston offers strong programs in business, education, biology and other disciplines through six different schools.

Oberlin College

Oberlin College, located in northern Ohio, is a private institution with an undergraduate enrollment of about 3,000. The small student body allows for an intimate learning environment where professors interact with students in a meaningful, mentoring capacity. Making Oberlin unique from many others is the dual presence of a liberal arts college and conservatory of music. The school also features an art museum housing a collection that is among the five largest college art collections in the nation. Each year the college and conservatory put on hundreds of concerts, recitals, plays and dance productions.

SUNY Geneseo

The State University of New York (SUNY) at Geneseo may lack national name recognition, but the school has a long tradition of providing top-tier academic programs. While the curriculum and extracurricular activities reflect those available at a private liberal arts college, SUNY Geneseo is a public institution and thus much more affordable. For this reason, the School is known by many as the 'Ivy of the SUNYs.' SUNY Geneseo's locale is also a point of attraction for many students: Its verdant campus in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York makes for an idyllic setting in which to study. Read Education Insider's interview with a SUNY Geneseo student.

College of Wooster

The College of Wooster, located in northern Ohio, is a private institution known for rigorous academic programs. Roughly 97% of the school's 2,000 enrollees live on campus, which makes for a close-knit student community. Attending Wooster, which boasts a student-faculty ratio of 11:1, also allows students to closely collaborate with instructors. An independent study program gives students the opportunity to work one-on-one with an advisor from the faculty. The project culminates in a written thesis or another high-level project in which students must demonstrate mastery of concepts within their discipline.

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The College of William and Mary

Despite being the second-oldest university in the nation, The College of William and Mary is overlooked by many prospective students. Those who do attend the school enjoy the small-school feel amidst the historic environs of Williamsburg, Virginia. Featuring top-flight academic programs, William and Mary is one of eight identified 'Public Ivies' - a designation indicating that the school provides superior higher ed programs at an affordable price. Students definitely appreciate their opportunity to study at William and Mary; the school boasts the second-highest graduation rate among national public research universities.

Macalester College

Located in St. Paul, Minnesota, Macalester College strives to be a gateway to the world. The private liberal arts college has an emphasis on incorporating international perspectives into the curriculum, a fact supported by the statistic that three out of five Macalester students study abroad. The school has a reputation for intellectually vigorous academic programs that are designed to ready the next generation of global leaders. Macalester boasts such notable alumni as former Secretary General of the United Naitons Kofi Annan and former Vice President Walter Mondale.

The College of New Jersey

The College of New Jersey is a small public institution that is quietly building a national reputation for itself. Students are drawn to the school's strong academic programs and high quality of life. The College of New Jersey features more than 50 majors in seven academic schools and the acclaimed 'First-Year Experience' program. This program has paid dividends: The College of New Jersey has a freshman-to-sophomore retention rate of 95%. Nearly all freshmen live on the school's Ewing, New Jersey, campus, which has been compared in appearance to the grounds of Ivy League institution.

Lehigh University

A private institution located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Lehigh University offers impressive academic programs in engineering, economics, education and the arts, among other disciplines. Lehigh has a reputation for being a strong research university, including in many cutting-edge fields of science. The school's 10:1 student-faculty ratio ensures that individuals have a lot of face time with professors. Interdisciplinary study and hands-on learning are important points of emphasis at Lehigh, where students can even craft their own academic programs from among the schools dozens of areas of instruction.

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