Rich educational opportunities support student learning and development at college according to the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) at Indiana University for Postsecondary Research. NSSE suggests that students ask colleges the following questions to learn about the college’s rich educational opportunities:
“How many courses include community-based service-learning projects?
What types of honors courses, learning communities, and other distinctive programs are offered?
How many students get practical, real-world experience through internships or off-campus field experiences?
How many students study in other countries?
What co-curricular activities are most common (performing arts, athletics, fraternities and sororities, guest speakers, etc.)?”
Here are examples of rich educational opportunities at colleges and universities:
More than seventy courses combine academics with service work in the community (George Washington University).
As an alternative to a major and a minor, students can do the Nexus program which builds opportunities for internships, off-campus research, and public presentations in addition to coursework. Participating students can select from one of nine pre-professional tracks (Mount Holyoke College).
Community service organization arranges for students to volunteer in about 600 placements (Smith College).
Students dorm their freshman year with those in their first year seminar class (The College of New Jersey).
Students complete an independent study project in the last two years of college (College of Wooster).
Students staff and manage nine campus businesses (University of Massachusetts – Amherst).
The Outside the Classroom curriculum is an optional co-curricular program that rounds out the college experience with activities in leadership development, sense of self, service to others, and art appreciation (University of Pittsburgh).
Students can spend a semester getting hands-on conservation education from the Smithsonian Institution, George Mason University, and wildlife protection agencies (George Mason University).
All students do independent research for three years in the January term and all complete a senior project or write a thesis that they defend before a faculty committee (New College of Florida).
Here are six unusual colleges and what makes them different:
Colorado College – Students take one course at a time.
Deep Springs College – With a total enrollment of no more than 30 men, this elite college is a working ranch in the Nevada desert that awards associate’s degrees and charges no tuition.
Landmark College – This Vermont college is just for bright students with learning disabilities, ADHD or Autism Spectrum Disorder.
New College of Florida – New College, Florida’s public honors college, has no grades or GPAs. Students develop a contract with their adviser each semester and get a written evaluation, instead of grades. Students do individual research and/or group projects.
St. John’s College – With campuses in Annapolis, Maryland and Santa Fe, New Mexico, all students read and discuss the Great Books, about 150 of them.
Webb Institute – Webb is a tuition-free engineering college on Long Island with 100% job placement. Students can get a Bachelor of Science Degree in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering.
What’s your favorite unusual college and what makes it different?
When I think of a state college, I generally think of a medium to very large college with big lecture halls. New College of Florida (NCF), however, is an honors state college with only 800 students and an average class size of 18. The liberal arts and sciences college is on the water, in Sarasota.
Not only, is the college unusual in its size, but it is unusual in its academics. There are no grades. All students do independent research for three years in the January term and all complete a senior project or write a thesis which they defend before a faculty committee. In lieu of grades, there is a written narrative for each class taken. Each semester students prepare a contract of work that they negotiate with heir advisor, a professor. About 80% of graduates go on to graduate school.
A student who would fit in here is a liberal student who can drive their own education. There is no core curriculum. Everyone must take 1 course in humanities, 1 course in social sciences, 1 course in natural sciences and a total of 8 liberal arts course. On the Thursday and Friday before a new semester’s registration, professors give 15-minute snippets of their classes, which students can take before registering. Tutorials, which are self-designed classes are popular. Professors generally teach 2 classes and may support up to 5 or 6 tutorials. The college offers about 300 classes per year.
The cost for out of state students isn’t too bad either. While the Cost of Attendance is $43K per year, every out-of-state student who gets accepted gets a minimum of a $15K merit scholarship making the price comparable to in-state fees for Rutgers. Currently, about 20% of students are from outside of Florida and they are trying to increase this percentage. NCF is a member of the National Student Exchange so you can attend another college in the US or abroad, and pay the NCF tuition.
This is a residential college which can accommodate up to 640 students with on-campus housing. The rest of the student body lives locally. There are 60-80 clubs and organizations and students can start their own club or organization. While there are intramural and club sports, there are no NCAA sports teams. Sailing is the only intercollegiate team. There is no Greek life at NCF. The college accepts the Common App and has rolling admissions with a priority deadline of November 1.