April 20, 2020
The Polar Vortex is here! I'm seeing headlines such as: “CHICAGO COLDEST EVER! FROSTBITE IN MINUTES! -60° WIND CHILL MINNEAPOLIS." Note the all-caps, exclamation-pointed emphasis. When I read that headline, the first people I thought of were the students at the University of Chicago, Northwestern University and all the other campuses over which The Vortex will sweep (and has already swept) this week.
It isn't like the regular non-Vortex winter hasn't already caused issues here in the northern climes. Yesterday, I had to make a death-defying trip over the frozen, icy tundra of my driveway in my wife's Honda CR-V. The snow and ice covering my concrete-paved driveway would require a CAT D-9 bulldozer to break it loose. Mother Nature is showing no mercy here at the start of 2019.
To facilitate my wife's venture to the grocery store, I moved her car to the end of the driveway, which will probably be its new parking spot, outside of the garage, until all this ice and snow loosens up -- hopefully by June or July. The outside air temperature has been hovering just above zero this past week and for the next three mornings, it will be FROSTBITE IN MINUTES! “Just above zero" reminds me of late comedian George Carlin's bit as the Hippy Dippy Weatherman. He reported, “The temperature is zero. No weather today."
Thus, I've been thinking about cold colleges. For those of you high schoolers searching for candidate schools to apply to this fall, keep in mind that weather is an important component of your search. If you're from the south, you may not be interested in spending the winter months where you can get frostbite in minutes. Conversely, If you're from the north, you may not appreciate having to take a shower every time you get back from class, due to the high heat and humidity of your southern campus.
Just for grins and giggles (as a friend of mine always says), then, in light of the perilous Polar Vortex that's flash-freezing America, I thought I would do a quick survey to find the coldest campuses in the United States. This may be of interest to both those of you who love warm weather and to you skiers out there. The former group should probably avoid these schools. The latter may want to send an application.
I searched for “America's coldest colleges." That took me immediately to The Weather Channel's site and its roundup of the 25 Coldest Colleges in North America. Although the article focuses on the entire North American continent, I'll limit my highlights here to colleges that are in the United States. Turn on your space heater and have a look at a few of them. I've included some general text from their respective websites for those I've listed.
– Champlain College– Burlington, Vt. Founded in 1878, Champlain College is a small, not-for-profit, private college overlooking Lake Champlain and Burlington, Vermont, with additional campuses in Montreal, Canada, and Dublin, Ireland. Our career-driven approach to higher education prepares students for their professional life from their very first semester.
For the fourth year in a row, Champlain was named a "Most Innovative School" in the North by U.S. News & World Report's "America's Best Colleges" 2019 regional rankings and listed among The Princeton Review's "The Best 384 Colleges" in 2019. Champlain is also featured in the 2019 Fiske Guide to Colleges as one of the "best and most interesting schools" in the United States, Canada and Great Britain as well as recognized as a 2019 College of Distinction for its "Engagement, Teaching, Community and Outcomes." ...
– Northern Illinois University– Dekalb, Ill. True to its “coldest" status, NIU was closed due to the weather this week. This message was prominently displayed on its website.
Weather Status Update - 12 p.m., 1/28/19 -- Details: Closures remain as previously announced: All NIU campuses will reopen at 5 p.m. today, Monday, Jan. 28. Evening classes and events will be held as scheduled. The main campus in DeKalb will be closed from 10 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 29 until 10 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 30. Satellite campuses will be open and operating on their regular schedules. [More cold-affected actions are detailed here.]
– Beloit College– Beloit, Wis. Beloit College was founded in 1846, when Wisconsin was still a territory. The early curriculum was built on the classical tradition, but students were given an unusual amount of freedom to choose their own courses. Today, Beloit is recognized for its longstanding commitment to curricular innovation, and its first-year initiatives and international education programs.
The Beloit College community is diverse and noted for its passionate engagement with ideas and the world. Its 1,300 students are from nearly every state, the District of Columbia, and 44 nations. Forty percent of its students are domestic minorities or students from countries other than the United States. ...
– Middlebury College– Middlebury, Vt. From its proud history spanning more than two centuries, Middlebury College has emerged as one of a handful of the most highly regarded liberal arts colleges. Middlebury is unique among these schools in being a classic liberal arts college that also offers graduate and specialized programs operating around the world.
The College is committed to educating students in the tradition of the liberal arts, which embodies a method of discourse as well as a group of disciplines; in our scientifically and mathematically oriented majors, just as in the humanities, the social sciences, the arts, and the languages, we emphasize reflection, discussion, and intensive interactions between students and faculty members. Our vibrant residential community, remarkable facilities, and the diversity of our co-curricular activities and support services all exist primarily to serve these educational purposes....
– St. Lawrence University– Canton, N.Y. St. Lawrence University is a vibrant, collaborative community of learners who value thought and action. Students tap their full potential as they embrace the natural environment, engage with global challenges, and experience the relevance and adventure of a liberal arts education in a complex and changing world.
The mission of St. Lawrence University is to provide an inspiring and demanding undergraduate education in the liberal arts to students selected for their seriousness of purpose and intellectual promise....
– Macalester College– St. Paul, Minn. Macalester was founded in 1874 on a firm belief in the transformational power of the liberal arts education. Since then, our students and alumni have demonstrated that power as a force for positive change, in turn attracting a growing community of learners from around the world.
Today Macalester is recognized as a global leader among liberal arts colleges, with the highest standards for scholarship and a continuing commitment to internationalism, multiculturalism, and service to society....
– Carleton College– Northfield, Minn. Carleton College is committed to providing a true liberal arts education, a curriculum that challenges our students to learn broadly and think deeply. Instead of training for one narrow career path, Carleton students develop the knowledge and skills to succeed in any walk of life.
… The most important thing our students gain is how to learn for a lifetime. Critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, effective communication: these are the tools that transform a collection of facts and figures into a way of understanding the world. Learn more about academic life at Carleton.
– University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire. Discover your purpose and passion. Prepare to go after your dreams — including the ones you didn't know you had. Blugolds are not defined by one discipline or profession. Instead you're encouraged to embrace your multiple passions. We call this the Power of AND. Many opportunities will help you discover your AND. An experience in another country or culture might make you think differently about the world, or faculty-student collaborative research may allow you to present at a national conference. That friend you met in the dorms or a student org could become a business partner. The possibilities are endless.
– Concordia College– Moorhead, Minn. Aha! Another weather-related announcement greets Concordia website visitors:
WEBSITE ALERT: College Closed Jan. 29. The college will be closed on Tuesday, January 29. All classes and activities are canceled and campus offices are closed. Designated essential personnel should report to work as scheduled.
And this, aptly, under “Why Leave Your Dorm Room?" [If you can!] -- Living in the dorms is great. It's basically like living in a hotel for eight months with your best friends with no parents to tell you what to do (RAs not included). In the residence halls, you have a place where you can hang out and watch Netflix or play video games, or focus on your schoolwork and get things done. It really is the complete package....
– Minnesota State University Moorhead– Moorhead, Minn. Concordia College's neighbor, MSU Moorhead must be a heartier institution because there are no weather-related closure notices on its website. Often referred to as a 'big-little city,' Moorhead & Fargo provide the cultural benefits of a metropolitan lifestyle.
Moorhead, Minn. and Fargo, N.D. offer a bustling college town atmosphere in a metropolitan area with a population of approximately 200,000, with three major colleges (MSUM, Concordia, and NDSU) inside a two-mile radius.
- Small-town community feel
- Affordable housing
- Diverse dining options
- Excellent mass-transit
- Rich arts community
- Low unemployment rate
- Low crime rate
- Frequent sporting events
- [Plus -60-degree wind chills!]
Although I didn't list all 25 of the coldest colleges, it appears that Moorhead, Minn., has a corner on cold. Check the complete article for the entire Top 25. I'm getting cold just thinking about it.
As I mentioned above, the point of my post here is to make you aware of the impact of weather on your college choices. One of the better strategies for choosing a college in colder climes would be to visit in the depths of winter. If you can handle walking across campus in minus-degree wind chills and deep, blowing snow, then you should have no problem spending at least four winters there.
Bottom line: Look before you leap (and freeze)!