About this time 10 years ago I was collecting e-mails from hundreds of high school counselors and teachers for what became the Hidden Gems college list of “100 schools that deserve more attention than they are getting.”
The list appeared in my 2003 book “Harvard Schmarvard: Getting Beyond the Ivy League to the College That Is Best for You.” To my surprise, that book is still selling. Most of my books have had very short lives, but that one hit a nerve, and is the reason why I do these Admissions 101 columns to keep the conversation going on what our admissions system is missing.
I think it is time to update that list, which my publisher entitled “100 Colleges That Are Better Than You Think.” Ten years ago, I asked counselors and teachers to tell me about the little-known colleges that their former students raved about when they came back to their old high schools for a visit. I said I wanted to know about undergraduate institutions “that had proven to be much better than their small reputations would suggest.”
Here are the first 10 schools on that list, ranked by the frequency of mentions:
1. Elon University, Elon, N.C.
2. Earlham College, Richmond, Ind.
3. Clark University, Worcester, Mass.
4. College of Wooster, Wooster, Ohio
5. Kalamazoo College, Kalamazoo, Mich.
6. Rhodes College, Memphis, Tenn.
7. Guilford College, Greensboro, N.C.
8. Occidental College, Los Angeles, Calif.
9. Washington College, Chestertown, Md.
10. Illinois Wesleyan University, Bloomington, Ill.
I welcome comments here on what colleges you think belong on that list today. If you prefer to reach me by e-mail, my address is firstname.lastname@example.org. I will return to this subject as the summer goes on, since this is prime time for visiting colleges. Students and parents looking for the right school need all the help they can get. I am particularly interested in good state colleges, which I did not have enough of on the original list.
No need to tell us about colleges everyone has heard of. Amherst, Dartmouth, the University of Chicago, Berkeley and Stanford don’t need us. But there are plenty of great schools whose values get in the way of much press agentry. Let’s give them a boost.