Book Review: Colleges That Change Lives

Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools You Should Know About Even If You’re Not a Straight-A Student (Revised Edition), by Loren Pope
Paperback – 304 pages, Penguin USA

This book has caused quite a stir among the Web’s college-discussion-group crowd. As the subtitle implies, it’s about a group of colleges that offer extraordinary educational value and a long-term quality of life for their students. What colleges is Pope talking about? Here’s a sampling of those that are, as the cover text declares, “well-kept secret[s] in a status industry.”

From the Northeast:

Bard College, Annadale-on-Hudson, New York Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, Pennsylvania Goucher College, Towson, Maryland St. John’s College, Annapolis, Maryland Hampshire College, Amherst, Massachusetts

From the South:

Centre College of Kentucky, Danville, Kentucky Milsaps College, Jackson, Mississippi Hendrix College, Conway, Arkansas Lynchburg College, Lynchburg, Virginia Eckerd College, St. Petersburg, Florida

From the Midwest:

Antioch College, Yellow Springs, Ohio Cornell College, Mount Vernon, Iowa Earlham College, Richmond, Indianaw Hope College, Holland, Michigan St, Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota

From the Southwest and Northwest:

Austin College, Sherman, Texas Southwestern University, Georgetown, Texas The Evergreen State College, Olympia, Washington Reed College, Portland, Oregon Whitman College, Walla Walla, Washington

That’s only half of the schools Pope profiles. Never heard of any of these? Welcome to the club. Pope’s inventory would puzzle most high school counselors and many independent counselors. The point Pope tries to bring out is that just because a college is less well known, doesn’t mean that it’s any less great. There are some truly outstanding colleges profiled here and Pope provides some memorable text to support his selections. He claims that his candidates “outdo the Ivies and research universities in producing winners [and] they work their magic on the B and C students as well as on the A students.” Now there’s an endorsement that thousands of parents and high schoolers can embrace.

You’ll find evaluations of each school’s program and “personality,” as Pope puts it. You’ll also get the inside scoop from real students (one of my favorite sources of college truth) as well as faculty and administrators’ opinions. One of the more important aspects of the book is the attention paid to what happens to the colleges’ graduates and what they thought of their experiences at their respective alma maters.

Pope comes from the be-a-good-consumer school of higher education shopping, much like you’ll find our opinions here at College Confidential. As he notes, America’s higher education system is the envy of the world. Every year, legions of students from other lands hope to make the trek to America to find their college destiny at one of the huge group of top quality schools that most of us just take for granted. Pope pokes us and reminds us of the treasures we often overlook or, in fact, know nothing about. This is an inspiring book.

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