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Colleges That Change Lives

af Loren Pope

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368754,146 (3.71)3
In this revised and expanded guide, College Placement Bureau Director Loren Pope profiles forty colleges that excel at developing potential, values, initiative, and risk-taking in a wide range of students. This new edition includes a revised group of colleges and for the first time addresses the issues of home schooling, learning disabilities, and single-sex education. Pope encourages students to be hard-nosed consumers when visiting colleges, and shows how the college experience can enrich every young person's life, whether they are "A", "B", or "C" students.Included in the profiles are: -- Evaluations of each school's program and "personality"-- Interviews with undergraduates, professors, and deans-- Information on what happens to the graduates and what they think of their college experience.… (mere)
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This book has been on my “meaning to read” shelf for nearly 20 years, and I finally got around to it, long after it had any relevance for me or any of my children. Why now? In the previous book I read, I found out that Loren Pope as a young $25/week copy editor for a Washington daily paper convinced Frank Lloyd Wright to design a house for him. Such is the life of a reader, illustrative of the twists and turns my own education took.
Despite the lack of immediate relevance, I’m glad I read it, if only for the paradoxical effect it had. One thing that obviously turned Pope on was for a faculty member at a school he was investigating say: “I wish I had studied here instead of [insert name of big-ticket, well-known research university here].” Yes, that speaks well of the small, lesser-known schools Pope touts. But inversely, it also demonstrates that even at the schools Pope maligns for, in his estimation, cheating their students, it was possible for students there to become the kind of self-directed, life-long-learning educators who became caring teachers at these life-changing schools. So something went right.
In the end, Pope’s message is mixed. Education is, as he maintains, learning how to learn, to critically analyze information, and communicate clearly. In other words, there is a healthy dose of self-directions required. Even if one concedes that the schools Pope highlights promote these and other life-enriching skills in a more conscious, focused way, in the end it is the responsibility of each person to become an educated adult.
Perhaps one reason I put off reading this book is that I share with those faculty members Pope loves quoting a tendency to fantasize how my life would have differed had I made wiser, better-informed decisions about my education 50 years ago, and I was afraid this book would reinforce that. Paradoxically, it did the opposite, and I am more atoned with the places where I ended up, even though they did many things Pope rightly decries. Instead of focusing on this, I appreciated anew things that were right in those less-than perfect learning environments. That is perhaps the lasting value of this book, even though the specific 40 schools featured might have changed again had Pope lived to do a third edition, as they did in his second. Despite the repetitive nature of the entries, and the tiresomely-zippy nature of an ex-journalist’s prose, Pope thinks hard about what an institute of higher learning could and should be. He challenges prospective students and their parents to look beyond schools with big reputations and commensurate price tags and to think like consumers. There is no one school perfect for everyone, and there is a big payoff in analyzing not only schools but oneself in the interest of a better match-up.
For all the diversity in the 40 schools Pope covers, what he writes of one applies to his estimation of all: “a growth hormone that raises kids’ trajectories and instills the power to soar. The Ivies take in fast-track kids and turn out fast-track graduates not much changed.” I’m not sure that it’s necessary to run down the Ivies to praise these schools; I believe the college experience anywhere profoundly changes nearly everyone. Pope’s favorite high school student seems to be the B or even C student with middling SATs who blossoms unexpectedly because of the experience at one of these lesser-known schools that are both challenging and nurturing. He never mentions students such as I was, with indifferent grades, poor study habits, but astronomical SATs at a fast-track high school. Where should I have gone, Mr. Pope? Maybe St. John’s, but if you ask tomorrow, I might say Marlboro or Bard. In the end, it doesn’t matter.
The specific recommendations might change. What doesn’t is this: Pope highlights the things good schools do well, giving the reader the tools to make a better-informed choice. In the process, he helps us all think about the nature of education. Recommended for anyone interested in the question of quality in higher education.
A final note: I didn’t read the second edition, but the first (1996), and it contained one of the most delicious typos I’ve encountered in a while, when he cites the author of a best-selling philosophy textbook, “Attacking Faculty Reasoning.” ( )
  HenrySt123 | Jul 19, 2021 |
What I liked about the way Loren Pope approached colleges was that there was no "one-size fits all" school. Having a few kids approaching college-age, we want to look at the child and what the school have in common--rather than just applying to the schools that are in our area. It takes a lot of thinking, talking, digging, etc. to find the right match of student & school and I like that the author takes the time to rate what each school does well. It cuts down on some of the homework we parents have to do. ( )
  obedah | Mar 26, 2014 |
Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Colleges You Should Know About Even if You Aren’t a Straight-A Student by Loren Pope. Epiphany-OviedoELCA library section: 12 F, Teen, Planning Your Future. What makes these colleges so excellent that they change lives? They are collaborative rather than competitive, and have low faculty-student ratios and small classes. Many of these colleges look for high school students “in the rough,” with average SAT scores, who, with a little guidance and individual attention, will blossom into wonderful contributors to society. Some of these schools are just overlooked, yet have much to offer.
The schools are divided into regions of the country to make it easier to see which schools are in your general area. Did you know that “Civil War” director Ken Burns’ alma mater, Hampshire college in Massachusetts, has a film school to rival UCLA’s? Who knew that Guilford College, a Quaker school in North Carolina, has one of the best oil geology majors in the nation, or that Agnes Scott, a women’s college in Atlanta is great for economics or biology because of its close proximity to both a Federal Reserve branch and the Centers for Disease Control? A word of caution: the author rates these schools so consistently highly that you’ll have to read some other college guides to get a more balanced view.
Some of these schools have lower costs, and offer scholarships which make them very competitive in price, or even cheaper, than Big State U. Many of these schools prefer to accept a teen with an 1150 SAT rather than one with a 1350, who they believe will choose a more selective school anyway. In return your teen gets individualized attention, small “live” classes rather than video-streamed classes with hundreds of students (common at large state colleges), real input in her choice of studies, and friendly fellow students. Who wouldn’t blossom in that kind of atmosphere? ( )
  Epiphany-OviedoELCA | Sep 26, 2011 |
This book takes a realistic look at about 40 colleges which are outside the mainstream but which are fairing better than the ivy league and super well known schools in terms of the success of their students in the real world.I would recommend this book to any one who is embarking on college visits and searches.

It opened my eyes to small colleges out there and I’ve found two more, Clark and Hampshire, that I really want to visit. ( )
  jacketscoversread | Nov 22, 2008 |
I might agree that the "Ivies" are over-rated but this book just gushes on and on about how wonderful these 40 schools are. All of them are perfect and idyllic and everyone who ever went to any of them is a wonderful success and had a wonderful time at the school. Somehow, I have to think the real world is a little less rosy than the picture this book paints. If you read one of the school descriptions you've pretty much covered them all as only the names and the adjectives for "wonderful" and "idyllic" change. Basically, it reads as though these 40 schools got together and decided to save money by publishing one sales brochure that includes all of them.

Check this one out from the library, read the first couple of chapters, skim through the descriptions for a few schools and write down the school names from the table of contents. Now get online and see if you can actually learn something about the school aside from the "fact" that it's idyllic and wonderful.

PS. I'm not knocking the schools, just the book. A little less sales and a little more info would have been nice. ( )
1 stem Awfki | Jan 24, 2008 |
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In this revised and expanded guide, College Placement Bureau Director Loren Pope profiles forty colleges that excel at developing potential, values, initiative, and risk-taking in a wide range of students. This new edition includes a revised group of colleges and for the first time addresses the issues of home schooling, learning disabilities, and single-sex education. Pope encourages students to be hard-nosed consumers when visiting colleges, and shows how the college experience can enrich every young person's life, whether they are "A", "B", or "C" students.Included in the profiles are: -- Evaluations of each school's program and "personality"-- Interviews with undergraduates, professors, and deans-- Information on what happens to the graduates and what they think of their college experience.

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