May 19, 2010

Why the Colleges That Change Lives

This weekend, the annual Colleges That Change Lives (CTCL) tour kicks off with an opening event in Orlando, Florida, followed by a quick trip up the coast to Washington, D.C. On Sunday May 23, the 40 CTCL schools will host hundreds of students from the DC area for an information session followed by college fair at the Marriott Bethesda North Hotel and Conference Center. And you’re invited.

But you never heard of these colleges? That’s partly the point. When Loren Pope originally came up with the CTCL idea and began promoting a handful of lesser-known schools, he was concerned that too many college choices were made based on misperception, misinformation, or even a total lack of information. And bad decisions lead to bad outcomes such as higher dropout, transfer, or failure rates.

To support a better college search process, Mr. Pope looked for colleges and universities that encourage a lifelong love of learning and provide “the foundation for a successful and fulfilling life beyond college.”

As a group, the CTCL schools share common characteristics, which are outlined on the CTCL website including

• low student-to-faculty ratios that foster collaboration, engaged learning, and personal attention
• a commitment to undergraduate education focusing on the liberal arts and sciences
• a living and learning environment that is primarily residential and emphasizes the benefits of community, personal growth, participation, and involvement
• smaller student enrollments
• out-of-classroom learning opportunities including participation in internships, study abroad, service to others, and special interest activities
• holistic admission policies including several with “test-optional” routes to admission
• alumni networks that stand ready to help graduates with professional and career development opportunities

In her speeches around the country, current CTCL executive director Marty O’Connell challenges students (and parents) to reconsider the notion that “a college can’t be any good if I’ve never heard of it.” Using examples of “famous” people, she suggests that “the name and visibility of a college choice has much less to do with success in life than do the experience and opportunities students take advantage of during their college years.” And where better than at one of the Colleges That Change Lives.

For more information on the Colleges That Change Lives, visit the CTCL website.

Picture of Eckerd College found on Wikipedia.

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