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10 Best Small American Colleges

Updated on July 25, 2016

Choosing the right college to attend can be a game of chance. Until you actually start, it's difficult to determine if it's the right fit for you. Many colleges and universities are very large by any standard - huge campuses and huge population. This can be daunting and there are some who would prefer a more cozy environment in which to learn. Small colleges have many advantages. Smaller classrooms, more focused educational programs and a sense of community are to name a few. These colleges have clout despite their size.

EARLHAM COLLEGE - Located in Richmond, Indiana, Earlham College was founded in 1847 by the Quakers. It is an independent four year liberal arts college with an emphasis on fine arts, humanities, natural sciences and social sciences. The city of Richmond boasts a modest population of 39,000 while Earlham College has an enrollment of approximately 1200 undergraduate students. Earlham has been recognized for its library and for its commitment to fostering international awareness through academic study.

COLLEGE OF THE ATLANTIC - Located in Bar Harbor, Maine, College of the Atlantic was founded in 1969 as an alternative to traditional liberal arts colleges. It offers both a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Philosophy both in Human Ecology. This unique school allows students to design their own majors within three areas - arts and design, environmental studies and human studies. This close-knit college community has approximately 320 students at any given time and has received numerous accolades. It was cited as one of the best colleges and best educational values by Princeton Review.

WARREN WILSON COLLEGE - Located just outside of Asheville, North Carolina, Warren Wilson College was founded in 1894 by Presbyterians. Its academic programs combine work with study and social responsibility. With a college population of approximately 800 students, Warren Wilson College offers degrees in 40 different majors. It sits on an 1100 acre working farm where students are encouraged to get their hands dirty. It also offers an excellent MFA program in creative writing and has graduated many successful authors. It remains a prestigious learning community.

AGNES SCOTT COLLEGE - Located in Atlanta, Georgia, Agnes Scott College was founded in 1889 as an independent liberal arts college for women. Half of their students will study abroad before they graduate. Agnes Scott College offers degrees in 37 majors as well as pre-law and pre-medicine. The campus sits on 100 acres and was recognized as the second most beautiful campus in the country due to its old trees and gothic and victorian buildings. Student population is approximately 850 and it is respected for its academic and moral leadership and honor system.

SHIMER COLLEGE - Located in Chicago, Illinois, Shimer College was founded in 1853 and is a great reading college. With only approximately 100 students, Shimer offers three undergraduate majors in humanities, natural sciences and social sciences. Graduate courses for teacher development are also offered. The campus consists of 120 acres. They are avid believers in the benefits of reading the "great books" and all academic studies there include the reading of classic literature and thought.

WEBB INSTITUTE - Located in Glen Cove, New York, the Webb Institute is a renowned engineering college offering one academic option - a double major in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering. It is the only full-tuition scholarship program of its type in the country. This intense college boasts 90 students only and job placement after graduation is 100%. Students are immersed in a program that includes mechanical, electrical, civil and structure, marine and systems engineering. They also have courses in ship design. Students are sent off to sea as part of the academic program.

ALASKA PACIFIC COLLEGE - Located in Palmer, Alaska, Alaska Pacific College was founded in 1959 when Alaska became a state. It is known for its "Active Learning" program. They believe that how a student learns is as important as what they learn. They integrate Alaska's environment and history into all their academics. With a student population of a little over 1000, Alaska Pacific College is able to implement a curriculum of experimental learning along with classroom studies with individuals in mind. They offer a variety of undergraduate degrees as well as reputable graduate programs.

COGSWELL POLYTECHNICAL COLLEGE - Located in Sunnyvale, California, Cogswell College was founded in 1887 specializing in digital art and animation, audio technology, computer and software engineering and, of all things, fire science. Full time student population is approximately 106 with about 115 students part time. Their curriculum is a combination of arts and engineering and students are able to shoot movies, create 3D animation, design software, edit and mix music soundtracks and much more. Cogswell College's undergraduate program is intense, creative and individualized.

GODDARD COLLEGE - Located in Plainfield, Vermont, Goddard College was founded in 1863 as the Green Mountain Central Institute. It is an innovative college that specializes in writing and is always restructuring its programs through educational experiments. Goddard offers intensive residencies toward its MFA degrees in creative writing and interdisciiplinary arts. It has graduated many successful poets and writers. Students and faculty work together both in classroom and on campus.

DIGIPEN INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY - Located in Redmond, Washington, DigiPen Institute of Technology had its start in 1988 as an art and computer engineering institute with an emphasis on video game design. With approximately 883 students, DigiPen offers undergraduate degrees in game design, computer engineering and real-time interactive simulation. It also offers a Master's degree in computer science. Many of DigiPen's students have placed in the professional category at the prestigious Game Developers Conference.

The current economic situation has put strains on these fine small colleges yet they continue to offer a great community of learners. Colleges don't have to be large to be successful and these are just a few examples of those that are.

Do you think smaller colleges are better than big ones?

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    • suziecat7 profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Kootheanchwah - Sorry it's taken me so long to respond. Warren Wilson is great!

      Collegedad - Thanks - hope it can be helpful.

    • collegedad profile image


      5 years ago from The Upper Peninsula

      Very informative! My daughter will be looking for a small school in a couple of years. This will come in handy I'm sure.

    • kootheancheah profile image


      7 years ago from Penang, Malaysia

      I used to go to Warren Wilson College 30 years ago and have the fondest memories there. Wonderful place and Asheville, too.

    • suziecat7 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Dolores - I attended Goddard College many years ago. It was so laid back. I never finished my MFA but remember my experience there with fondness. Thanks for reading.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      8 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Suzie - I wish I was a kid ready for college. The College of the Atlantic would be the one for me. One of my sons attended St. Mary's College, a public honors college in St. Mary's County, Maryland. With a student population of 2,000, it's beautiful, on the St. Mary's river, and on the site of the 1st capitol of the state with lots of opportunity for archeological digging etc. Small colleges may not offer the diversity of larger ones, but the intimate settings are great.

    • suziecat7 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Asheville, NC

      IntimatEvolution - Glad you followed Habee in - nice to see you.

    • suziecat7 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Habee - sometimes I think we'd all be smarter without them (just kidding).

    • IntimatEvolution profile image

      Julie Grimes 

      8 years ago from Columbia, MO USA

      Another college that use to have a lot of clout, is Stephens College, Columbia, MO. Neat hub idea. I followed Habee in here, and I am glad I did.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 

      8 years ago from Georgia

      My mom wanted me to go to Agnes Scott, but I wasn't interested - no boys!

    • ethel smith profile image

      Ethel Smith 

      9 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Exceptionally useful hub for American readers :)

    • suziecat7 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Thanks all. I think there are many benefits to attending a small college - teacher/student ratio for one. Also the tuition for these colleges are not too steep in comaparison to larger institutions.

    • wesleycox profile image


      9 years ago from Back in Texas, at least until August 2012

      I too would much rather go to a smaller college as opposed to a large one. This is a great hub.

    • profile image

      Nancy's Niche 

      9 years ago

      Very informative hub...Thanks for sharing the information...

    • Kebennett1 profile image


      9 years ago from San Bernardino County, California

      Very good and informative Hub. I have a daughter in a 2 year college right now. I will have her read this! She will be looking for a four year college very soon!


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