Finding a college can be a daunting, not to say terrifying experience. Your selection may affect what you end up doing for a living and the friends you have as an adult; how you think and perceive the world; and possibly even who you marry. Adding to the pressure is the fact that college comes at a time in our lives when we’re peculiarly impressionable, when the music we enjoy and the experiences we go through have a power to shape us in a way they don’t in later life.
That’s why respected magazines and websites have done the hard work of compiling lists of the best colleges based on cost, majors offered, and quality of education, among other factors. In this list we’ve taken those factors into consideration, but we’ve also looked at factors such as natural environment and uniqueness: what do these colleges offer that you can’t find in other colleges?
Alabama: Samford University
Founded in 1841, Samford University is located in a suburb of historic Birmingham. It contains a divinity school, a law school, a school of business, a college of arts and sciences, a college of arts, and a school of nursing. In the 2014 list of best regional universities published by U. S. News and World Report, Samford was ranked third.
Alaska: University of Alaska Anchorage
The largest university in Alaska, the University of Alaska Anchorage enrolls 17,000 students on four campuses that are connected to one another by a series of paved trails. Located amid the sprawling forests of south-central Alaska, the university has a reputation for scenic beauty.
Arizona: Prescott College
A small, private liberal arts college located near Prescott Valley, Arizona, Prescott College has an enrollment of approximately 1,200 students. The school is known for its environmental studies programs, which include degrees in earth science, wilderness leadership, natural history, and ecological design. However, the school also offers degrees in writing, psychology, photography, and literature, among others.
Arkansas: John Brown University
An ecumenical Christian university with a 200-acre campus, John Brown University (f. 1919) began life as a fundamentalist institution of higher learning, but has grown to include students from all denominations. This commitment to inclusivity is reflected in its emphasis on academic excellence: it was ranked the number one baccalaureate school in the region by U. S. News and World Report in 2014.
California: Scripps College
Founded in 1926, Scripps College is a progressive college designed exclusively for women. The school is notable not only for its rigorous educational environment but for its extraordinarily beautiful 30-acre campus, which includes a rose garden, tree-lined walkways, and buildings designed in the Colonial Revival architectural style (a style reminiscent of many old Spanish missions in California).
Colorado: University of Colorado Boulder
The best-known university in the University of Colorado system, the University of Colorado Boulder is a research-intensive public university that has produced a disproportionate number of America’s top scientists and astronauts. Renowned for the beauty of its mountainous landscapes, the university was built in a unique architectural style, Tuscan Vernacular Revival, which updates the “classic” Gothic style to include sandstone and red-tiled roofs.
Connecticut: Yale University
Widely ranked among the best universities in the United States, Yale University (f. 1701) was one of the first institutions of higher learning on the North American continent (preceded only by Harvard and the College of William and Mary). Today it comprises 12 schools and includes the third-largest university library in the country (totaling some 15 million volumes). Notable alumni include former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, dozens of actors and actresses, four secretaries of state, and 19 Supreme Court justices. It is also a popular setting for stories in all media, including the shows Gilmore Girls and FRINGE and the movie The Good Shepherd (2006).
Delaware: University of Delaware
The largest university in Delaware, the University of Delaware enrolls 20,000 students (both graduate and undergraduate students) on four campuses. A famously research-intensive university, UD offers a curriculum heavily geared towards science, history, engineering, politics, and public policy.
Florida: Ave Maria University
If you’ve ever wanted to know what it would be like to live in a town that’s also a university, Ave Maria University is your best bet. This private Catholic university (f. 2003) enrolls 2,000 students in the planned community of Ave Maria, Florida, a town which is largely owned and operated by the school.