Alternate Colleges and Why You Should Consider Them

Best Alternative Colleges in the US & Why Should Consider Them?

Ever thought of attending a university where you don’t receive letter grades, but instead narrative evaluations from your professors, or one where you get to voice your opinion without thinking twice?

Introducing ‘Alternative Colleges’. Unknown to most Indian and other international students, the student body from these colleges welcome students from all ethnicities, races, gender, sexuality with open arms. These colleges are non-conforming and follow uniquely designed curriculums, that can only be termed ‘liberal’ and ‘liberating’.

Here’s a list of colleges you could consider:

1) Pitzer College, California

Part of the Claremont Consortium, Pitzer is one of the most reputed alternative colleges. A small liberal arts college consisting of just over 1000 students in their Undergraduate Program, it is known for its “progressive thought, social responsibility, environmental sustainability, and open social attitude.”

First in the country to offer the Secular Studies major, which has courses such as God, Darwin, and Design. Pitzer’s community government is known to take decisions on faculty promotion and curriculum. Individualism is treasured here, sometimes fiercely.

In the 1970s, Pitzer students saved a California craftsman-style house from a wrecking ball and moved its individual pieces to campus. It now serves as a study space and restaurant for students.

2) Oberlin, Ohio

Named as the college that invented non-conformity, you’ll find the annual Drag Ball an experience in itself. It is the first college to accept women and minorities. Oberlin Conservatory of Music is one of the best performance schools. EXCO, the Experimental College offers townspeople and students the chance to learn together. You will find students talking about anything ranging from Japanese woodblock prints to Russian cinema. Social activism is huge.

3) Hampshire College, New York

Students design their own interdisciplinary concentrations and projects. Part of the five-college consortium with Amherst College, UMass Amherst, Smith College, and Mount Holyoke. The Kern Center looks into building environmental sustainability, making the campus a 100% solar-run. The best part is that you don’t get graded on your exams, instead, your professors provide you with ‘narrative evaluations’ (written evaluations and critiques). On similar lines, students don’t give tests but are expected to submit portfolios, evaluations, and self-reflections on academic development. No wonder they refuse to accept SAT/ACT scores.

The most unique feature of this college is the ‘Division System’ which ensures that there are as many curricula as students, on campus, each one curating their own with the help of faculty advising.

4) Sarah Lawrence, New York

For those who love writing, Sarah Lawrence is the place to be. You’ll get a ‘don’, a professor specifically assigned to mentor you through your college years. Academics are mostly independently procured, so you’ll need to be self-driven and independent. Writing, Literature, Visual Arts, Filmmaking, Psychology are popular majors. They have a great premed program along with strengths in the CS department. Professors meet their designated students weekly or biweekly following Oxford University’s tutorial system, ensuring students don’t fall behind. ‘Conference Work’, or research is nearly done by all students under the supervision of their ‘don’. Obviously, SL is high on student activism and you’d rarely ever meet a conservative on campus.

5) Reed College, Oregon

Quirky intellectualism – two words that describe Reed students. Steve Jobs attended a semester here before dropping out, going ahead to found Apple.

It follows the Honors Principle, similar to Quaker colleges. Students receive lengthy commentaries in the form of evaluations. Has the highest percentage of grads from a liberal arts college opting for PhDs in the future. ‘The Multicultural Resource Center’ celebrates student and teacher diversity through events, lectures, etc. There are six ‘language houses’ and each gets a native speaker. ‘Paideia’ is a weeklong program of non-credit, alternative classes such as how to speak with a French accent to the history of Batman. Tons of students participate in SEEDS (Students for Education, Empowerment, and Direct Service).

6) Bard College, New York

Known for its non-conformism, freshmen arrive three weeks before classes start for a ‘Workshop in Language and Thinking’. ‘Citizen Science’ is a unique 3-week workshop where students learn about topics like infectious diseases and teach these to the students in local schools. Bard conducts ‘Moderation’, a performance review in the middle of the year, where a panel of professors assess and provide feedback. Photography is the toughest major to get into, but is also known for programs like Languages and Literatures, Visual and Performing Arts, Human Rights, CS, Biology (similar to Sarah Lawrence).

Students can also devise their own syllabus from their tutorial and find a professor to sponsor it. Also, Bard allows you to take an Entrance Examination where students demonstrate their academic ability by submitting four 2500-word essays that get graded by profs.

Apart from these, other alternative colleges are Hamilton College, Occidental College, and Prescott College.

If you’d like to design your own path, need extensive teacher support, love student activism, are non-conforming, or have unique interests, do consider these amazing alternative colleges where you’re driven to make a change!

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