These 10 Colleges Are Higher Education’s Best Kept Secrets

3. Drew University (Madison, NJ)

Drew University
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

Drew University has been nicknamed “University in the Forest,” because its campus is tucked in the woods — though is still less than an hour from New York City by train.

The campus sits on William Gibbons’ 19th-century estate. (Remember the Gibbons v. Ogden case you learned about in American history? That’s him.) It’s been the background for a number of well-known films and TV shows, including “The Incredible Hulk” (2008), “The Sopranos,” and “Friday Night Lights.”

Drew University really began to gain national attention when former New Jersey governor Thomas Kean served as the school’s president from 1990 to 2005. He boosted fundraising efforts, expanded students’ student abroad opportunities, and renovated historical buildings on campus.

Today, Drew University offers even more opportunities for students, especially when it comes to hands-on experiences. These include a semester on Wall Street, where students attend classes twice a week in New York City’s financial district, and the Drew Summer Science Institute, which pairs students with faculty members to work on a full-time research project.

Additionally, students have interned at a number of big-name employers, including Goldman Sachs, Google, Sony Music, and CNN.

Drew makes our list of best-kept secrets, because although it hasn’t been featured on your classic “Top 40” lists, it’s been included in The Princeton Reviews lists for 385 best colleges, best value colleges, green colleges, and colleges that create futures.

2. Ursinus College (Collegeville, PA)

Ursinus College
Rob266, Pfahler Hall of Science Ursinus College, CC BY-SA 3.0

Have you heard of Ursinus College? Maybe not, but that’s why it tops our list as a best-kept secret. (It’s pronounced er-sigh-nus, by the way.)

Although it’s located in Collegeville, Pennsylvania, where the population is barely over 5,000, it’s only a 25-mile drive to Philadelphia and is within a three-hour drive to New York City, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C.

Like Beloit College and the University of Puget Sound (ranked fourth and fifth on our list), Ursinus College also made the list of top “Colleges That Change Lives.” One main reason? Its financial accessibility. All qualified students receive at least $21,000 in financial aid each year. And, although the school doesn’t require applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores, high scores can unlock bigger scholarship opportunities.

Additionally, students who graduate from Ursinus report feeling prepared for the “real world.” From the class of 2018, 94 percent of graduates went on to become employed, enroll in graduate programs, or take part in a service, such as the military or a fellowship.

This likely has to do with the fact that every Ursinus College student takes part in what it calls an Experiential Learning Project before graduation. These projects range from research to internships to study abroad programs to student teaching.

1. University of Puget Sound (Tacoma, WA)

University of Puget Sound
Joe Mabel, UPS – McIntyre Hall, CC BY-SA 3.0

Like another school on this list, The University of Puget Sound (abbreviated UPS) also landed a spot in Loren Pope’s classic text “Colleges That Change Lives.”

Pope described Puget Sound as a “bright spot on the map of American higher education” due, in part, to its beautiful location (two hours from ski areas and two national parks!), friendly students, and thoughtful professors.

In fact, The Princeton Review included Puget Sound in its list of top 20 schools with the most accessible professors. The school’s student-to-faculty ratio is 11:1, meaning there’s a good chance you’ll get to know your professor — even conduct research alongside them.

If you’re planning to earn your doctorate degree after graduation, Puget Sound will make sure you’re prepared. In fact, the college is ranked in the top 7 percent of schools whose graduates go on to earn doctorates. Additionally, The Chronicle of Higher Education ranked the school in the top 10 colleges with the highest number of Fulbright Scholars.

The University of Puget Sound’s graduates have gone on to attend grad school at Columbia University, Harvard University, Stanford University, and Yale University, to name a few. It also has alumni working at big-name companies, which include Amazon, Apple, Boeing, Microsoft, and Netflix. Talk about great connections!

Oh, and the university isn’t all about the academics. Students have a lot of fun, too. Be sure to ask about the history of the school’s hatchet.

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