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Best small colleges in America

  • #10. Amherst College

    - Location: Amherst, MA
    - Undergraduate enrollment: 1,855
    - Student-to-faculty ratio: 7:1
    - Acceptance rate: 13%
    - Graduation rate: 93%
    - Six-year median earnings: $65,000
    - Two-year employment rate: 90%

    Amherst College was founded in 1821 and emphasizes liberal arts and critical thinking. It's defined by its small classes, open curriculum, and emphasis on undergraduate education. It is part of the Five College Consortium including Mount Holyoke College, Hampshire College, Smith College, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The consortium has four centers for specialized study of the Americas, East Asia, world languages, and women’s studies.

     

  • #9. Washington & Lee University

    - Location: Lexington, VA
    - Undergraduate enrollment: 1,825
    - Student-to-faculty ratio: 8:1
    - Acceptance rate: 21%
    - Graduation rate: 95%
    - Six-year median earnings: $76,100
    - Two-year employment rate: 94%

    Washington & Lee University combines liberal arts with undergraduate programs in business and journalism, as well as a graduate law school. It is the ninth-oldest institution of higher education in the country, and its motto is “not unmindful of the future.” A gift of 100 shares of James River Canal Company stock from George Washington helped the school when it was struggling in the 18th century, while Robert E. Lee served as its president in the mid-1800s.

  • #8. Colby College

    - Location: Waterville, ME
    - Undergraduate enrollment: 2,000
    - Student-to-faculty ratio: 10:1
    - Acceptance rate: 13%
    - Graduation rate: 90%
    - Six-year median earnings: $58,100
    - Two-year employment rate: 92%

    Colby College was founded in 1813 and is the 12th-oldest private liberal arts college in the country. Its “Jan Plan” allows for all manner of exploration, from ecosystems in Belize to studying Italian literature in Italy. Other innovations the school is known for include its graduate-level research opportunities and its tradition of close collaboration with professors.

  • #7. Haverford College

    - Location: Haverford, PA
    - Undergraduate enrollment: 1,308
    - Student-to-faculty ratio: 8:1
    - Acceptance rate: 19%
    - Graduation rate: 92%
    - Six-year median earnings: $60,700
    - Two-year employment rate: 92%

    Haverford College expects all of its students to be involved in research and to learn from their professors’ scholarship. Its academic centers support research and the arts on campus and helps students travel across the world. Its Honor Code is written and governed entirely by its students, and most classes are seminars with an emphasis on discussion and debate.

  • #6. Williams College

    - Location: Williamstown, MA
    - Undergraduate enrollment: 2,042
    - Student-to-faculty ratio: 6:1
    - Acceptance rate: 13%
    - Graduation rate: 95%
    - Six-year median earnings: $59,000
    - Two-year employment rate: 90%

    Students at Williams College can major in core areas of study and can choose concentrations, or courses grouped around certain topics. There are no required courses, but all students take at least three in arts and humanities, three in social sciences, three in science and mathematics, and at least two that are writing-intensive. The Williams tutorials are adapted from the Oxford University system.

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  • #5. Carleton College

    - Location: Northfield, MN
    - Undergraduate enrollment: 2,077
    - Student-to-faculty ratio: 9:1
    - Acceptance rate: 20%
    - Graduation rate: 93%
    - Six-year median earnings: $54,200
    - Two-year employment rate: 91%

    Carleton College was founded in 1866 by the General Conference of the Congregational Churches of Minnesota, led by Northfield businessman Charles M. Goodsell: Today it has no formal religious affiliation. Every course at Carleton is taught by a professor, not a teaching assistant. Its academic centers include ones for global and regional studies, community and civic engagement, and "writing across the curriculum."

  • #4. Harvey Mudd College

    - Location: Claremont, CA
    - Undergraduate enrollment: 887
    - Student-to-faculty ratio: 8:1
    - Acceptance rate: 14%
    - Graduation rate: 92%
    - Six-year median earnings: $88,800
    - Two-year employment rate: 89%

    The humanist goal of Harvey Mudd College—another member of the Claremont Colleges—is “to educate engineers, scientists, and mathematicians well versed in all of these areas and in the humanities and the social sciences so that they may assume leadership in their fields with a clear understanding of the impact of their work on society.” The school was chartered in 1955 and opened just as the Space Race was getting underway, with an emphasis on technical training. It offers bachelor of science degrees in biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering, mathematics, physics, and independent study.

  • #3. Bowdoin College

    - Location: Brunswick, ME
    - Undergraduate enrollment: 1,825
    - Student-to-faculty ratio: 9:1
    - Acceptance rate: 10%
    - Graduation rate: 95%
    - Six-year median earnings: $65,500
    - Two-year employment rate: 93%

    Bowdoin College was founded in 1794, making it older than the state of Maine itself. It is a liberal arts school that requires each student to complete one first-year seminar and one course in one of the following areas: mathematical, computational, or statistical reasoning; the natural sciences; social difference; international perspectives; or visual and performing arts. One other fact: 761 Snickers bars were eaten on 2018 orientation trips, or about 1.5 bars for each first-year student.

  • #2. Pomona College

    - Location: Claremont, CA
    - Undergraduate enrollment: 1,559
    - Student-to-faculty ratio: 7:1
    - Acceptance rate: 8%
    - Graduation rate: 94%
    - Six-year median earnings: $58,100
    - Two-year employment rate: 90%

    All Pomona College students take critical-inquiry seminars as they start their studies. Offerings include Molecules and the Mind, on the use of psychoactive medication, and I Disagree, about the importance of disagreement. One that typically focuses on vaccines, Science and the Public’s Health, will be reshaped to address the coronavirus pandemic. A liberal arts school, and one of the Claremont Colleges, Pomona offers courses in the arts, humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences.

  • #1. California Institute of Technology

    - Location: Pasadena, CA
    - Undergraduate enrollment: 948
    - Student-to-faculty ratio: 3:1
    - Acceptance rate: 7%
    - Graduation rate: 92%
    - Six-year median earnings: $85,900
    - Two-year employment rate: 89%

    California Institute of Technology is a science and engineering institute that delves into fundamental scientific questions, and its students work closely with faculty in small classes toward undergraduate and graduate degrees. The institute manages NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which explores the planets of our solar system, and owns and operates research facilities such as the Seismological Laboratory and the Palomar Observatory. It also cofounded and comanages the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO).

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