Selective Universities Admissions Series: 4 Not Just Ivy League Part 2

Great Universities are not just the Ivy Leagues, Part 2

State Universities

Thus far, we’ve talked only about selective private colleges and universities. Good as some are, these schools hold no monopoly in offering outstanding educational programs. There are exceptionally good state supported schools, and, from careful selection and hard work, a discerning applicant can glean an education as good as one from the prestigious private schools.

To name a few outstanding state schools, consider the following (in no particular order):  

 IMAGE CREDIT: ANDREW FAULKNER

IMAGE CREDIT: ANDREW FAULKNER

And this list is far from complete.  All of these schools, with the possible exception of William & Mary, are research universities, places where the production of new knowledge is a key part of their mission. A couple of caveats: if, as a Florida resident (where Unmaze Me was founded and from where many of its earliest readers hailed), you attend an out of state, state-supported university, expect to face out of state tuition, which usually runs considerably higher than tuition for in-state students. 

In recent years, many states have run into financial troubles and by way of curtailing their spending, their legislators have cut financial support to their state universities. Given that these universities have taken as a key part of their mission the discovery of new knowledge, which often makes its way into the economy in the form of start-up corporations and even entire industries, I believe that the politicians who trim university budgets are unknowingly killing off future economic growth in their state. (If only they knew what they were doing to their constituents; but that’s a topic for an entirely different essay.)  In response to budget cuts, administrators at many of the best state schools have increased the proportion of out of state students so they can harvest additional, badly needed tuition dollars to maintain the quality of their programs.  

This means good news and bad news for out of state applicants.  Good news first:  there are more out of state openings today at many first rank public research universities than ever before.  The bad news:  costs have risen in many of these institutions to the point that out of state students may pay almost as much as they’d pay to attend a private college or university. Moreover, efforts at such institutions to bolster tuition aid overwhelmingly favor the in-state kids, not their peers from beyond state borders.

Small Colleges

Aside from Williams and Cornell (College, not University), little has been said in these posts about the small, private liberal arts schools. I recall being told by my old college advisor that there are maybe 50-60 such colleges from which one can receive a superb undergraduate education. 

Without exception, they require a good deal of reading and (perhaps more important) writing, and their better students go on to the best graduate and professional schools. Reverting back to Williams, with an entering class of 555, each student comes to know his/her classmates much more intimately than their peers who attend Cornell University, where 3,330 freshmen scattered throughout 7 separate colleges suggests that students who prize intimacy might wish to look somewhere else. Moreover, classes at small colleges tend to be small, so students get to know their professors, and vice versa, much more closely than at universities. This contrasts most sharply with large state universities where introductory survey classes of up to 1,000 students may be taught by one lecturer. Food for thought…

Having spent this time talking about what sort of school to which you might apply, the next posts in this series will turn to the admissions process specifically.