The 2017 Best Small Colleges ranking is based on key statistics and student reviews using data from the U.S. Department of Education. Compare small private and public colleges with less than 5,000 students.
Freshman:Whether its the Outing Club, the Literary Magazine, the Film Society, or an a Capella group, there is always something for every kind of person to get involved in. Also, people here are incredibly friendly and willing to go out of their way to help you. Bowdoin's size, with 1700 students, really enables this sense of community. If I could change one thing about Bowdoin, I would offer class credit for laboratory time. Also , this is just my wish , but I think Bowdoin should advertise more to the outside world. I grew up overseas, so most of my other friends had not heard of Bowdoin, or Brunswick for that matter. I can understand that I was surprised that not many people in United States knew about this school either. The social scene is great on the weekends, but for the most part exists only on the weekends as people work very hard during the week. As for food, you can guess exactly how delicious it is from just taking a peek at the NYtimes article and the college rankings. More about Bowdoin College
Junior:Pomona's largest assets are not its $2b endowment, its buildings, or its location, but rather its people. Here, some of the world's most inquisitive, interesting, and downright intelligent students come together in the pursuit of knowledge and with the intention of changing the world. Professors care deeply about students and are some of the most well-regarded in their fields, a rare combination that allows for students to do meaningful work and learn from people who love to teach, never a teacher's assistant. The admitted class of 2021 is made up of 56.7% domestic students of color, plus 11.4% international students, making Pomona's the most diverse campus in the country. More about Pomona College
Freshman:As a freshman in the second term, the experience here has been pretty positive. The coursework is definitely challenging, but it keeps me motivated to pursue higher goals. I am extremely grateful for finding such a like-minded community of scholars who are supportive and caring. More about California Institute of Technology
Alum:I graduated in 2002 and I still keep up with my professors, faculty, classmates, and most of all my fraternity brothers. The alumni connections are worth the tuition alone. It teaches you far more than what can be taught online or in a classroom alone. The best 4 years of my life! More about Washington & Lee University
Freshman:The school has an incredibly open community; cliques are fluid and almost anyone is welcome and can feel comfortable sitting with any group. Dining hall food is great, although there are few good restaurants in the area. Classes are fantastic and the trimester system works very well for people who live far away (winter break extends from before thanksgiving to after new years). In addition, the trimester system allows students to fit three academic terms into one year while focusing more intensely on less during those terms, all the while still leaving room for a long winter break. The biggest downside for me is that students seem less individual and more self-effacing than some other similar liberal arts colleges. More about Carleton College
Sophomore:Best college ever! I love everything about Colgate from the small class sizes to the food to the atmosphere to the people. Although, Colgate isn't every well known it shouldn't be looked over! Courses are challenging but very rewarding. More about Colgate University
College Freshman:I really enjoy being at my college. It is academically challenging while being engaging. The professors love teaching their subjects, and I have learned the value of a liberal arts education by taking classes in many different areas of study, which are helping me become a well-rounded scholar. I really like it here! The relatively small class sizes allow me to get to know my professors and classmates, which helps me learn better, as I can approach my professors comfortably during office hours and form study groups with my fellow classmates. I would choose my school again if I could do it all over because it has everything I want and need: small classes, passionate professors, engaging courses, welcoming atmosphere, beautiful location, and the list can go on! More about Williams College
College Sophomore:The campus is beautiful, it's FAR, far away from where I used to live (Seoul, Korea), and all the students and professors are so immersed in what they love to learn. I absolutely love it! However, there have been a few issues where the administration hasn't dealt well with students suffering from mental disabilities or other illnesses. More about Amherst College
Sophomore:AMAZING school! You get best of both worlds: small, women's liberal arts college with all the resources and facilities of a large, co-ed, Ivy-League university. Plus, you get to live in NYC. You get a campus feel since it is on the Upper West Side ( residential area). Barnard women get degrees from Columbia University, graduate at Columbia University graduation, take classes at CU and join CU clubs/sororities/sports/ societies. Barnard women can also eat at Columbia dining halls, study in all 22 CU libraries, and use the same academic buildings. Columbia students take classes at Barnard and use Barnard libraries/cafeterias/buildings. It's a great campus environment. BTW, acceptance rate is 14.8% now (on Niche it still has a very old acceptance rate). Gets more competitive with each year as more people learn about it. More about Barnard College
Sophomore:I loved the campus and its proximity to Philadelphia. Haverford has a lot to offer, so long as you make an effort to use your resources. The fact that the school is so small makes it a bit limiting not just socially but also professionally, seeing as big recruiters generally don't come her. However, it has the reputation for being academically excellent, and the curriculum is rigorous enough to exercise your critical thinking, creativity, and work ethic. More about Haverford College
College Freshman:Although Harvey Mudd is very difficult, and teachers will definitely push you with hard coursework, I've so far rarely felt alone. Teachers are accessible, there are always other classmates to work with and get help from, and the environment feels very positive in general, with a lot of interest in the wellbeing of the students. It's a great challenge. More about Harvey Mudd College
College Senior:I've had some great classes and experiences at CMC, and a few that weren't so great. Anyone coming to CMC should be aware that the social scene is pretty centered on alcohol and partying (though there is a substance free dorm with a strong culture, and a surprisingly high number of people who don't drink/go out). Thankfully, the parties are on campus, hosted by the student government, and open to everyone. There isn't a whole lot of the sketchiness or exclusivity that usually comes with frat parties at larger schools, since parties are open to everyone. I see this as a huge benefit of the school, though I no longer regularly attend parties.
It's really easy to get involved in things you're interested in, whether that's student government, a club, or research. Research opportunities are probably more available for Econ majors than others, and in the sciences/engineering you won't have the same kind of research experiences you would at a school that has real researchers.
We have some great professors here. Philosophy is by far the best, and there are some excellent professors in probably all of our other departments as well. In my opinion as someone majoring in both, our government and economics departments aren't deserving of the reputations they have. I wouldn't come here looking to study science, engineering, or pre-med, unless I'm also really interested in studying the humanities/social sciences. Classwork is generally reasonable, though challenging. People are motivated, but not super competitive with each other or stressed out, which is great.
Many CMC students are smart, motivated, and interested in their academic subjects. Others are more interested in partying. Many are a mix of both. People are not particularly artsy or creative; if you are, you might feel that side of yourself slipping away over your four years here (though we're getting better and now have a dedicated music space on campus). It can feel small after 4 years, but overall great! More about Claremont McKenna College
Freshman:As a freshman in college who is in his second trimester at Middlebury College, I can say I made the right decision. The school is great and the academics are superb. Be prepared to do lots of work and many late nights, but by the end of the semester, you feel accomplished. The teachers are great and everyone is really friendly. Now, to give the real truth on how it is to be a person of color on campus. As a person of color, you may feel alone. There is very little diversity on campus, the majority being predominately white, and you may feel like you stand out. However, majority of people are accepting of anyone no matter race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation etc...and I have never felt unsafe on middlebury campus and it really is a great community. If you going to Middlebury, be ready for heavy course load, bad Atwater parties (you will understand) and meeting friends that will last you a life time! More about Middlebury College
Freshman:One semester into Swarthmore and I feel as if I am a completely different person. I have just grown so much here and been forced to think in ways that are much different than the ways high school necessitated from me. I discovered that I am actually more of an extrovert and less of an introvert; This epiphany dawned upon me after the realization that I could, at Swarthmore, engage in deep and lengthy conversations with other students. While individual achievement was emphasized at my High School, I've managed to develop new networking skills with the principle of never working alone and achieving together. Another thing that stands out about my experience at Swarthmore is that I haven't had the chance yet to operate once again under a cynical mindset, everybody is so nice here. I've learned to trust people again! More about Swarthmore College
Sophomore:The campus and the college itself are great, other than the lack of diversity. However, the location isn't prime, as there's no much to do outside the campus community, unless you have a car and are able to drive to other places. Also, it's Maine so the winters can be very long, cold, and gloomy. But, you already knew that because it's Maine! More about Bates College
College Freshman:While there are always people (professors included) that one does not like, generally the professors are super engaging, great teachers and want to help their students! Most classes are challenging and professors always offer their help. More about Davidson College
Freshman:I am currently a freshman at Colby. I am a member of the Women's Soccer team and am currently pursuing a Biology/Pre-Health major with the aspiration of going to medical school. Colby has provided me so many great resources, not just academically, but also in terms of networking, and helping me create my future beyond Colby. The student body is incredibly diverse and everyone is super friendly. Colby is also a really active school. The Outing Club is super popular, there is so much local outdoor recreation. There's a college ski pass to Sugarloaf, Loon, and Sunday River for the winter. I am also a Colby Cares About Kids Mentor which is a really cool volunteering program a Colby. Colby students are matched with a student (usually low-income) in the local Waterville area school district. There are so many ways to get involved inside and outside of Colby. It really is a school that is what you make of it. More about Colby College
College Freshman:I love my school. Its a lot of work. The professors demand a lot from you, because they want you to learn and do well. I was a January admit, so me and 30 other January admits had the option to take classes in London out first semester. People who are jans do many different things, from work at home to study abroad. The transition to campus has been a little tough. The academics are much more rigorous here than they were in London. People here are generally welcoming and friendly but coming in mid year is a bit tough socially because many of my classmates had already gone through the making friends and figuring out what do to stage. Commons is generally good. It does get old after awhile, but its not too bad. It is worse having to walk in the next morning and awkwardly dodge your hook up from last night. The community here is great! Everyone is very supportive of one another. Many students go and support their friends in sports, or art shows, or plays, etc. Feb fest is a fun time of the year. For a week in February the school has all sorts of activities going on. They range from Mr. Hamilton (male beauty pageant), to chocolate tasting, to black light sledding, to cheering on the hockey team. More about Hamilton College
Senior:Grinnell is an academic rigorous school with a strong sense of diversity and community. Some people find the location to be a negative based on where its located, but I find it to be a positive. We have students coming from all over the country and world, so its definitely a global school, but there is not only a strong community, but students actively choose to be there. They provide many opportunities on and off campus too for students. Provides great financial aid and resources for all students to take advantage of. Many clubs and organizations to join and many concerts, events, performances and speakers to keep you entertained. More about Grinnell College
Freshman:As a first year at Reed College, I have so far enjoyed my experiences. The academics are challenging but ultimately satisfying. I have complied a short list of the pros and cons of Reed college. Pros: Focus on the learning rather than the grades; Small classes; Liberal standing on most social problems; Nerdy and Geeky students that are obviously well educated; Small campus; little focus on sports or bodily appearance; can form close bonds with the professors; beautiful campus and fairly okay food Cons: Some students/ professors have a bit of a haughty attitude; First and some of second year classes are lecture based (not like how the school was advertised to me); The school is a large majority white and that can effect academic subjects/ silence the people of color in the community; some professors listen and respect their students others do not; drugs are very prevalent but you can avoid them More about Reed College
College Freshman:Lafayette is amazing. Small enough to get personalized attention from your professors, big enough to have a vibrant social scene and plenty of research opportunities. Additionally, Lafayette students strike the perfect balance of socially active and academically devoted. Wouldn't have done anything differently. More about Lafayette College
College Freshman:The academics are great, workload hard but manageable. The access to the 5 College Consortium and PVTA lets you basically take any class you can think of. Career services is great if you're an Econ or STEM major, less helpful if you're in the other social sciences and humanities. There are ample opportunities and funding for internships and studying abroad. The social scene is what you make it. In the quad, there is a general social atmosphere that (to me) makes college less stressful. Also good parties on the weekends! Other areas of campus tend to be quieter and have more study-heavy atmospheres, especially Green Street. More about Smith College
Freshman:I love the community and the support at Wellesley. From the moment I set foot on Campus, I felt to natural to be in this community. I am currently a freshman but I think Wellesley is growing to be my home. Food is amazing and since we have five dining halls, we can choose to go anywhere. The campus is stunning and is such a safe place to walk around even at like 2 in the morning. The professors are all passionate and willing to give the most in every class. The work load is not small but manageable. They are setting us up for success! More about Wellesley College
Alum:The College has an exceptional tradition and especially high academic standards. Its alumni are close and tightly-knit... a great thing for friendship and professional interests. The campus is among the most beautiful in the country and if Worcester is not Boston, it is lively and within easy travel not only to Boston but to ski country to the West and North. Though (like Boston College and Georgetown) it has a Catholic history, kids who are not Catholic will find it a hidden treasure and on a par with New England's finest liberal arts colleges. Not to be overlooked! More about College of the Holy Cross