Colleges You’ve Never Heard Of Have a Lot to Offer!

You never really know what will bring a “hidden gem” college out into the limelight, but sometimes sports playoffs bring previously lesser-known schools to our attention.

Last year, March Madness brought us Florida Gulf Coast University – a four-year college sometimes thought to be a community college. They beat basketball titans Georgetown and San Diego State on the way to the Sweet Sixteen, making all of us scratch our heads and say, “who?”

I haven’t visited FGCU yet, but here’s some basic information: just over 90% of students are from Florida; the rest are from out of state and international. About a third of the 12,000+ students live on campus. Average GPA for accepted students is about 3.3, and average SAT scores are around 1500 (all three sections). You can learn more about this public institution both here and here.  One of my colleagues posted photos from her visit to FGCU here.

This year, Bryant University took out mighty lacrosse powerhouse Syracuse. Most college counselors know Bryant as very strong for its business program; about 80% of students are management or business majors. Bryant’s 3,000+ student campus is located just a few miles outside of Providence, RI, and its 77% four-year graduation rate exceeds most UC campuses by almost 20%. Bryant is moderately generous with financial aid; a large proportion of students receive both loans and scholarships, though the school does not guarantee it will meet demonstrated need. Some students with no demonstrated need receive grants as well. Because of the heavy emphasis on business, Bryant is one of the few colleges in the country with more male than female students; the ratio is about 58%/41%. Average GPA for accepted students is 3.3; average SAT scores are around 1600-1700. Founded in 1863, Bryant celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2013! You can learn more about Bryant here and here.

Here’s another one you may not have considered: Eckerd College. It’s also on Florida’s Gulf Coast, in St. Petersburg. One of the Colleges That Change Lives, Eckerd is well-known for its science and marine biology programs. But Eckerd is also one of the few colleges that is pet-friendly!! Check out their extensive resources for dog and cat-owning students!

I had lunch recently with a representative from Emmanuel College; Emmanuel is right in the heart of Boston, 2 blocks from Fenway Park. Its location immediately adjacent to Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital makes Emmanuel a great place for students to study a diverse array of health science-related disciplines. A Catholic college, Emmanuel is co-ed and meets a good amount of demonstrated financial need. Average GPA of accepted students is about 3.2, and average SAT scores around 1600 (three sections). You can learn more about Emmanuel here.

I always like to throw in a few of my own favorite hidden gems from my college visits:

  • Ohio University was founded before Ohio State and is about half the size – 17,000+ students. VERY STRONG business and communications programs (Matt Lauer is an alum!) and amazing school spirit. More about Ohio University here.
  • Bradley University is in Peoria, Illinois – the heartland of America – and the school spirit overflows on this campus! This mid-sized school – about 5,000 undergrads – is a great place for engineers, nursing students and students interested in media and communications. More about Bradley here.
  • Worcester Polytechnic Institute is a great place for math and science quick-learners. The academic terms are just seven weeks long and WPI puts a heavy emphasis on experiential and project-based learning. More about WPI here.
  • High Point University is an amazing campus with a unique ability to inspire students to strive for excellence in college and beyond. Their biomechanics lab – where you would study if you were a kinesiology, exercise science, sports medicine or physical therapy major – is literally second only to Nike’s lab in Portland. You will fall in love if you visit. More about High Point University here.
  • Linfield College – Linfield has a beautiful campus in McMinnville, Oregon.  Professors are hands-on; students collaborate with them inside and outside of the classroom.  Marketing students have internships in nearby wineries to learn the industry.  More about Linfield College here.

The list of hidden gem colleges could go on forever! I visit between 30 and 50 colleges per year – partially because I know you don’t have time to visit that many! You can see all of the California colleges I’ve visited here, and all of the out-of-state colleges I’ve visited here.

Oh by the way – if you’re planning on going to graduate school – like medical school, law school or business school – you want to think about going to a college where you will rise to the top of your class.  Most graduate programs are looking for students who shine in the college environment.  Here’s a list of the undergraduate colleges that Harvard Law School students attended.  It’s likely you haven’t heard of a number of them.  All that matters is that Harvard Law School has heard of them!

Looking for a great source for hidden gem colleges?  Colleges That Change Lives is an organization of mostly small, mostly liberal arts colleges that give students across the academic spectrum the opportunity to have an amazing, hands-on college experience.  They will host college fairs on July 30th and 31st at the Universal Hilton in Universal City.  No need to RSVP!  It’s a great way to meet admissions officers from 42 colleges all in one night!

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