Colleges That Change Lives
40 Schools You Should Know About Even If You're Not a Straight-A Student
A Book Review by Karen M. Gibson
Colleges That Change Lives
40 Schools You Should Know About Even If You’re Not a Straight-A Student
by Loren Pope
Director of the College Placement Bureau
author of Looking Beyond the Ivy League: Finding the College That’s Right for You
Is a college education in your child's future? Are you concerned about finding the right college for your child? Will your child be happier at a smaller college where “faculty and students work closely together, learning is collaborative rather than competitive, students are involved in their own education, there is much discussion of values, and there is a sense of family”?1 Finding a college that meets the needs of our children can be a stressful process. We are all familiar with the larger, well-known colleges and universities, but how do we weed through the thousands of smaller colleges that exist across this country?
Loren Pope’s book, Colleges That Change Lives, gives the reader an in-depth look at 40 exceptional colleges throughout the U.S. Pope chose these colleges because their “magic is not in what they do … it is in how they do it.”2 He further states, “These schools share two essential elements: a familial sense of communal enterprise that gets students heavily involved in cooperative rather than competitive learning, and a faculty of scholars devoted to helping young people develop their powers, mentors who often become their valued friends.”3
In the introductory chapters, Pope discusses the ways smaller colleges of America, like those highlighted in his book, “serve(d) a wider range of abilities yet produced higher proportions of scientist, scholars, and people who wind up in Who’s Who than those who take only a fraction of the “A” Students.”4
“The Learning Disabled of Today will be the Gifted of Tomorrow” is the title of a chapter devoted exclusively to the needs and futures of students labeled as disabled learners. He makes a convincing case for the ‘late-blooming’ learners, whether dyslexic, ADD/ADHD, or any other labeled ‘learning disabled,’ and how the smaller colleges are better able to tailor their learning environment to the students, rather than expecting the students to conform to the school.
Many home educators are concerned about their children’s ability to gain entrance to a college. We are confident our children can meet the academic challenges but the school designed documentation and testing can be worrisome. Pope’s comments are reassuring. On page 24 he says, “… colleges that change lives are eager to have homeschoolers apply. All these colleges will view them sympathetically and very carefully; in other words, as favorably as those with high school transcripts, and in some cases more favorably.” Several Admissions Directors are quoted concerning what they look for in homeschool applicants, both personally and in the area of documentation.
Each college description is quite detailed, including pros and cons and information about special programs and courses. Information highlighted include:
- history of the founding of the school
- % of PhD’s from the school
- size of faculty
- # of faculty that are alumni
- physical size and description of the campus
- % of faculty to hold advanced degrees
- size (numbers) of student body
- % of students local, out of state, foreign
- % of students who receive financial aid, scholarship, work study jobs, etc.
- median SAT scores for freshmen in both verbal and math
- % of applicants accepted
Pope also provides a Glossary listing Admissions Directors, addresses, phone numbers, and a few web sites of the colleges.
One area in which Pope should have elaborated more fully was scholarships and tuition. Although Pope provides some information about scholarships there is no mention of tuition costs. I realize these figures would quickly become outdated, but it is still information that is needed when looking into a college.
Another area where Pope could have given more information was specifics about small colleges and the scholarship monies they offer. Families need to be told that the smaller colleges often have more scholarship funds to give to their students. Our family's experience has been that it can be less expensive to attend a smaller, private college, even though their initial tuition costs are higher than the state universities, simply because of the amount of scholarship monies they can offer.
Those of you with a child nearing college age will find the information in Colleges That Change Lives very reassuring and helpful. I enjoyed reading about the many different college environments and picturing which would best fit each of my children. This book would have been very welcome when I was planning to go to college and will certainly be referred to in the coming years as my children look to college and the future.