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USACollegeChat Podcast

Apr 30, 2015

We are continuing our series on looking at colleges outside your comfort zone by taking a virtual tour of public colleges and universities in the Great Lakes region. Show notes for today's episode are available at In our last episode, we started our virtual tour of colleges by focusing in on the five states in Great Lakes region: Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin. We looked at public universities—both the flagship state public universities and other public universities in those states. In this episode, we will continue our look into the Great Lakes states by switching our focus to private colleges and universities. Again, we want to make it clear that there is no statistical basis for the colleges we are going to name in each region. No college has asked us to name it, and no college has paid us anything to name it. These are entirely our own choices. To be sure, some of the colleges we will name will require that your child have very good high school grades and college admission test scores to get in. Others will be a bit easier, especially if a college is looking for out-of-state students to enhance its student body’s geographic diversity. But, because each student’s profile of grades and test scores and extracurricular activities and outside-of-school experiences is his or her own unique package, it will be up to you to look at your child’s high school record to see which colleges might be appropriate. Two general notes: First, when we talk about the colleges and universities in this episode, we are going to be talking about the main campus—that is, the one that most people associate with that institution—in those cases where an institution has more than one campus. Second, because enrollment figures are not necessarily comparable when reported by various colleges, you should use the figures we provide here just as an approximation of the actual campus enrollment—but one that is good enough to let you know whether your child would feel comfortable there. 1. Private Colleges and Universities The Great Lakes states have a wide array of private higher education institutions—from small liberal arts colleges to larger universities, including some of our country’s finest. Let’s start with a renowned private university, with a reputation for serious students: the University of Chicago. The University of Chicago enrolls about 5,000 undergraduates in the College, which is dedicated to providing a comprehensive liberal arts education for its students through discussion and debate in the classroom. Along with the required Core Curriculum of humanities, arts, natural sciences and math, social sciences, and foreign language, undergraduates can major in one of over 50 majors. The University seems committed to making itself affordable to students who need financial aid, but your child would need truly excellent high school grades and college admission test scores to be admitted. Not far north from Chicago in suburban Evanston, Illinois, is the main campus of Northwestern University, well known for decades for its theater program, its Medill School of Journalism, and, more recently, for its competitive graduate business school. A member of the Big Ten athletic conference (like the flagship public universities in the Great Lakes states), Northwestern offers a traditional college atmosphere in a beautiful setting on Lake Michigan. With its 8,000 full-time undergraduate students (and just as many graduate students), Northwestern is certainly not small, but it is not nearly as large as its public colleagues. Like other good private universities, its tuition is high, and your child will need very good high school grades and college admission test scores to get in. Moving over into northern Indiana next to South Bend and just 90 miles from the city of Chicago is probably the best-known Catholic university in the U.S.: the University of Notre Dame. Because of its excellent national reputation, it draws its approximately 9,000 undergraduates and its graduate students as well from across the globe. Notre Dame’s undergraduate students study in 65 majors in four colleges (arts and letters, science, engineering, and business). As befits a university that is “at once rigorously intellectual, unapologetically moral in orientation, and firmly embracing of a service ethos,” according to Notre Dame’s website, about 80 percent of students do some voluntary service-learning experiences. Notre Dame has an impressive 96 percent graduation rate—which means that students who start are highly likely to graduate, which is not true for many colleges, unfortunately. And we all know Notre Dame has a history of great football teams (can you say Fighting Irish?). By the way, we should note that about 80 percent of Notre Dame’s students are Catholic, in case that makes a difference either way to your child. As we have been saying, your child will need very good high school grades and college admission test scores to get in. Let’s look at two small private colleges in Ohio, both of which have long histories and great reputations: Kenyon College and Oberlin College. Kenyon, located in the tiny town of Gambier, near Columbus, enrolls about 1,600 undergraduate students, drawn nationally and internationally. It offers 35 traditional liberal arts and sciences majors and prides itself on its small class size, typically about 15 students. One of Kenyon’s claims to fame is its support for the founding in 1939 of the literary magazine The Kenyon Review, by poet and critic John Crowe Ransom, who was recruited by Kenyon’s president for that purpose. Another is being named as one of the most beautiful campuses in the world, according to a group of architects interviewed by Forbes. Another is the 34 NCAA (Division III) swimming and diving championships its men have won in the past 36 years. Another is its good theater program, with alumni/alumnae like Paul Newman and Allison Janney. Oberlin College, located in Oberlin, near Cleveland, enrolls about 2,300 undergraduates in its College of Arts and Sciences and about 600 undergraduates (and a tiny number of graduate students) in its highly respected Conservatory of Music, the oldest continuously operating conservatory in the U.S. (since 1865). Offering 47 liberal arts and sciences majors and eight music majors in the Conservatory, Oberlin also prides itself on its small class size, with about 75 percent of its classes having fewer than 20 students. Oberlin has a proud history as the first higher education institution in the U.S. to adopt a policy to admit African-American students (1835) and the first coeducational college to award bachelor's degrees to women (1841). Your child would need very good high school grades and college admission test scores to be admitted to either Kenyon or Oberlin. A Look at 13 Interesting Choices. is a nonprofit organization that was founded after the publication of a book entitled Colleges That Change Lives, by Loren Pope, a retired New York Times education editor. Updated several times since it was first published, there are now 44 colleges and universities profiled in the book and on the organization’s website. Those that are included are not necessarily famous institutions, but they all care deeply about individual students and strive to make the college into a community to support students. Many of the institutions have engaging and experiential aspects to their programs—such as internships, international and intercultural programs, and service-learning projects. Most of the institutions are smaller colleges and universities that have proved to be successful at developing students both personally and academically so that they can succeed in life after their undergraduate college years. Interestingly, 14 of the 44 institutions on the list are located in the Great Lakes states. You should read about them in the book or on the website, because you will want your child to attend one of them if you do. Here are the ones in the Great Lakes states: In Ohio: Ohio Wesleyan University, Denison University, the College of Wooster, Antioch College, and Hiram College In Illinois: Knox College and Wheaton College In Wisconsin: Lawrence University and Beloit College In Michigan: Kalamazoo College, Hillsdale College, and Hope College In Indiana: Earlham College and Wabash College (one of the handful of U.S. colleges that still admits only men) Because these institutions are relatively small and thus are not particularly well known outside of their geographic region, it is my feeling that out-of-state students with a good high school record might have a decent chance of being accepted. 2. Colleges with a Special Academic Focus In an earlier episode of NYCollegeChat, we talked about colleges that have a special academic focus, like the arts or business or engineering. In our two-episode tour of the Great Lakes region, we have already mentioned two institutions that have well-known schools of music as part of the institution: the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University Bloomington and the Conservatory of Music at Oberlin College. But the Great Lakes region also is home to one of our nation’s finest art colleges: the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), located adjacent to the world-famous art museum in downtown Chicago. SAIC draws 3,200 students globally into undergraduate and graduate studies in a wide variety of art and design majors, including all of the visual arts plus fashion design, art history, arts administration, architecture, film and animation, art education and art therapy, and more—along with a full array of liberal arts courses. As with all colleges specializing in the arts—whether visual arts, music, or dance—applications require a portfolio of student work. So, only talented students need apply. The Great Lakes region also is home to one of the relatively few institutions more or less dedicated to the study of engineering: the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) in Wisconsin. MSOE offers 12 undergraduate engineering majors and four graduate engineering majors. In addition, MSOE offers majors in business, mathematics, and nursing. With an undergraduate enrollment of about 2,500 students, the typical class size is 21 students and typical lab size is 11 students. Its admissions guidelines concerning high school grades and college admission test scores seem quite reasonable, especially for an engineering school, which is typically very hard to be admitted to. Listen to the podcast to find out about… College life in the middle of a city vs. college life in the middle of nowhere Questions colleges should answer for you, like what their safety statistics are Questions you might want to raise about sensitivity to and accommodations for religious or cultural differences among students Find links to all the higher education institutions and programs we mention at Connect with us through… Subscribing to NYCollegeChat on iTunes, Stitcher, or TuneIn! Following us on Twitter @NYCollegeChat Reviewing parent materials we have available at Policy Studies in Education Inquiring about our consulting services if you need individualized help Following us on Facebook at Ask your questions or share your feedback by… Leaving a comment on the show notes at Calling our hotline at (516) 900-NYCC Emailing us at to ask a question if you want us to answer it privately