Reviewed by the Davidson Institute for Talent Development.
Every fall, high school juniors across the country begin the college frenzy. College entrance exams, information fairs, and mailboxes full of flyers consume the lives of those searching for the next step in the educational trajectory. With over 4,000 colleges and universities in the United States, where does one start? Often times, when students begin exploring colleges, they look at majors offered, national rankings, and prestige. With this in mind, Education Editor Loren Pope set out to profile 40 distinctive colleges that foster collaboration, low student to faculty ratios, unique learning experiences, and a commitment to undergraduate education, all of which are factors typically not listed on the national rankings. Through research, campus visits, and student and faculty feedback, Pope crafted Colleges That Change Lives: 40 schools that will change the way you think about colleges.
Pope’s informal writing style offers a straightforward, realistic representation of each college he describes in Colleges That Change Lives. The first edition, released in 1996, made a profound impact on students, parents, and counselors alike. Ten years later, Pope followed up with alumni of the schools originally profiled to determine the long-term impact of the educational setting. Published in 2006, the second edition not only contains college summaries, but also information for homeschoolers and students with learning disabilities who are applying to college.
Pope begins the book with a must-read section consisting of important factors to consider when choosing a college, including size, type, and level of challenge. He then separates the college profiles by region: Northeast, South, Midwest, Southwest, and Northwest. Interestingly enough, he does not discuss colleges located on the West Coast. Each college profile is unique, and Pope makes it a point to describe each college in depth while not comparing any of them or their attributes. He tells an almost story-like tale, weaving in history, location, teaching style, peer relations, living quarters, and other sundry items worth thinking about when choosing a college. The additional “ten years later” section also provides great insight into what past attendees thought of their experience. In essence, each college described is the same–an institution with collaborative learning, a sense of community, and admissions criteria that take the whole student and his/her potential into account. However, with the unique profiles Pope created, each college is offered a chance to stand out.
Pope stresses the importance of good fit throughout his commentary. He shares his unique college profiles with the hope students will look beyond the Ivy League and into schools with character, personality, and a lot to offer undergraduates. Colleges That Change Lives is a great read for any student in the midst of searching for colleges. Pope’s book definitely lives up to its subtitle: 40 schools that will change the way you think about colleges.
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