Most people can name 20-30 colleges off the top of their head. There are over 4,000 universities worldwide. I want to introduce you to 44 universities you may not have heard of. If you are looking for great liberal arts colleges to apply to, you should definitely check out CTCL (Colleges That Change Lives). CTCL is a non-profit organization. Visit their website at ctcl.org. You can also check out the book at your local library; the author is Loren Pope. The book is a great resource to flip through and view universities by location. Their member institutions are a perfect fit for students looking for a challenging academic curriculum with more hands-on experience in their undergraduate environment.
- What does CTCL do as an organization? – Their main goal is to educate students, counselors and family members about colleges that they might not have heard of. Their process is more informed, streamlined and introspective. They are strong advocates for the liberal arts and all their member schools are known for their quality liberal arts programs.
- How are the colleges selected? – The late Loren Pope, who was responsible for the list believed that the residential liberal arts experience is the ideal way for college students to learn. As of 2016, CTCL has 44 member schools that are all part of a non-profit organization interested in working together with students and parents to educate them about the liberal arts college scene.
- Who are the ideal candidates for the CTCL member institutions? – Any student who is looking for a college experience that includes extensive interaction with the faculty members will be best served by the CTCL schools. Since the class sizes are small, the faculty members act as mentors and not just advisers. Small schools create an excellent intellectual space in which the students get to live and learn. They are challenged, supported and they get to interact with a diverse group of both domestic and international students.
- Do they ever drop or add colleges? – No school has yet been removed from the organization. If the school is no longer able to offer a strong liberal arts program or change their educational system and admission process and make it less student-centered, they would no longer fit with the organization and their message. Colleges can be added if they follow the founding principles.
- Where can I learn more about CTCL? – If you want to know more about CTCL and its attendant institutions, visit their website. You can also follow them on Twitter and Facebook using the hashtag #CTCLColleges. They post regular updates on their specially curated tours for parents and students across the nation. They also have a lot of smaller events in which the executive director of the organization talks more about CTCL and the process of the college
Agnes Scott College – 1889, Decatur, GA
This Presbyterian-founded, women-only liberal arts college, with its current student population of 914, nonetheless boasts some impressive distinctions. Renamed in 1906 in honor of the mother of a magnanimous benefactor, Col. George Washington Scott, this is “the first institution of higher learning in Georgia to receive regional accreditation.” Since 1920 Agnes Scott has been in the top 10% of American colleges whose student complete their Ph.D. degrees. Agnes Scott is also listed among 2018’s Best Colleges’ National Liberal Arts Colleges.
This particular institution has a rich and fascinating history, more than can adequately be conveyed in this little summary. It is also ranked NCAA Division III – U.S. South, and one of their guiding philosophies is to operate on the Honor System, which trusts the integrity and best judgement of each individual. I would strongly recommend learning more about this enchanting and well-respected college. https://www.agnesscott.edu/
Cornell College – 1853, Mount Vernon, IA
This institution, often confused with Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, even includes a page on their website which proudly states “We’re Not In Ithaca”. Cornell College also has a proud history, and their picturesque campus is on the National Registry of Historical Places. Cornell should be considered a pioneer in human rights: in 1858 it was the first college “West of the Mississippi” to award a degree to a woman, and a few years later to give equal pay to a female faculty member. In 1870 Cornell declared that “color and race shall not be considered a basis of qualification in the admission of students”.
Cornell College also has a very unique curriculum, introduced in 1978: “One Course At A Time”, wherein students attend one intensive, complete course for 3.5 weeks before moving on to another course.
Other notable facts about this college include Cornellians being regular recipients of Fulbright Scholarships, and their annual “Eyes of the World” multicultural show. Also, Mount Vernon, Iowa is among Arthur Frommer’s “America’s Coolest Small Towns”. Frommer is known for the magazine Budget Travel. https://www.cornellcollege.edu/index.shtml
Ohio Wesleyan University – 1842, Delaware, OH
This institution has perhaps the most unusual and storied history of these few spotlights: it had its beginning in a repurposed old hotel building, the purchase of which was essentially crowdfunded by the townspeople – for $10,000 in that time. Now many of their sites are also listed on the National Registry of Historical Places.
A phrase from their website which captivated me was the school’s offering of an “all-you-can-experience buffet” for those with a passion “for life and learning”. There are too many amazing facets to this university that I cannot possibly touch upon everything here; please do yourself a favor and check out this school, particularly if you have zeal for international issues. A distinguishing feature of Wesleyan is the Global Scholars Program, the motto of which is “Think Big, Go Global, and Get Real”. Described as a “competitive” program for “high-achieving first year students”, once accepted, these students retain that designation for their four years, and those upperclassmen who maintain the required high standards throughout their time have the opportunity to earn a $2000 theory-to-practice grant, specifically intended to fund “an approved international research or study project of their choice”.
A few more impressive factoids about Wesleyann: their Selby Stadium is the fourth largest privately-owned Division III stadium in the country, according to their website. Forbes has listed Wesleyann among their “Most Entrepreneurial Colleges”. I truly want to tell you more about this remarkable university, but we have to move on. Be sure to read about their three objectives which constitute a success for their students. https://www.owu.edu/
Guilford College – 1837, Greensboro, NC
Guilford still operates by the Core Values adopted by its Quaker founders. These guiding Values are: Community, Diversity, Equality, Excellence, Integrity, Justice, and Stewardship.
This college has been a member of CTCL for 21 years. Guilford offers 41 majors and 52 minors, and 83% of their graduates are employed within their first year after leaving, which is 15% higher than the national average. Their teacher-to-student is an incredible 1:1, and this institution was included in the 2016 Fiske Guide to Colleges as a “Best Buy”.
Discussing Stewardship and Diversity, Princeton designates Guilford as a “green” college, the grounds of Guilford were once part of the Underground Railroad, and 40% of the incoming 2020 class are students of color. Guilford adds yet another notable history to CTCL’s list, and their website displays “Your 4-1-0 Guarantee: Four Years, One Tuition, No Worries”. https://www.guilford.edu/
Southwestern University – 1840, Georgetown, TX
Southwestern claims to be the second school West of the Mississippi to offer coeducation (after Agnes Scott, see above). A self-descriptor which immediately caught my attention is: “Education for Tomorrow: Creating the 21st Century Thinker”. Once again I’m unable to cram all of the compelling facts about this school into a few paragraphs.
Just one example of this is their annual Shilling Lecture Series: this year’s speaker was Jonathan Haidt, a prominent social psychologist and author of the NY Times Bestseller The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided By Politics And Religion. His lecture was “The Age of Outrage: What It Is Doing To Our Universities, and Our Country”. If that is not captivating enough, past speakers include conservationist Jane Goodall, former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley, anti-death penalty activist and author Sister Helen Prejean, former Secretary of State James Baker III, Former Prime Minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and our 39th POTUS, Jimmy Carter. This is to name only a few.
The bottom line is that CTCL colleges are student focused learning institutions. The member colleges challenge the notion that only Ivy League universities are capable of offering challenging courses and top-notch faculty. The CTCL metrics of what constitutes a great learning environment are more varied and interesting than the ones used by most college guidebooks and their effectiveness as a measure of quality education is evident in the results they produce. The member colleges also have resources for students who have learning disabilities. If you are planning to apply to a liberal arts college, their site will help you make a more informed decision about your path of education.
About the author:
Kristen Moon is an independent college counselor and founder of MoonPrep.com. Moon Prep provides one-on-one tutoring services catered to university admissions. They guide students through the entire application process including: completing applications, personal statements, supplemental essays, student resumes, scholarships, and financial aid. Their specialty lies in the Ivy League, direct medical programs (BS/MD), and highly competitive universities.