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Best Colleges

Ranking the best Catholic colleges

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Catholic colleges in the United States have a long and proud history, with many considered among the best institutions of higher learning in the country.

The team at Authority.org has compiled data from numerous research organizations and literally thousands of student reviews to determine the best Catholic Colleges of 2020.

Here is our list:

1. Notre Dame University

Apply to Notre Dame

Authority.org “score” : 99
Location: South Bend, IN
Average net price: $28,768
Acceptance rate: 18.9%
Graduation rate: 96.6%

Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana was founded in 1842 by Edward Sorin of the Congregation of the Holy Cross. The school was originally an all-male institution, but during the 1960s, it slowly transitioned to accepting female undergraduates. There are currently 8,500 undergrads at the school who pursue academic excellence with the same zeal with which they pursue spiritual fulfillment.

Notre Dame is regularly ranked among the nation’s top research universities. Yet, as an institution, it remains committed to traditional values. Students are encouraged to pursue spiritual development within the context of their Catholic faith and to learn about the sacraments and other aspects of Church doctrine.

2. Boston College

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Authority.org “score” : 97.8
Location: Newton, MA
Average net price: $26,567
Acceptance rate: 32.4%
Graduation rate: 92.6%

With so many world-class colleges and universities in the Boston area, Boston College sometimes gets lost in the mix. The school is located some six miles west of downtown Boston, in the Chestnut Hill area of Newton, Massachusetts. Boston College was established by Jesuits and received its charter from the state of Massachusetts in 1863. It currently occupies a 175-acre campus renowned for its green spaces and Gothic architecture.

Boston College is best known as a college football power, but it never veers far from its Jesuit roots. Students are encouraged to find ways to put their education to work in the service of their faith. And there are more than a dozen faith-based groups active on campus to help facilitate that goal.

3. Georgetown University

Apply to Georgetown

Authority.org “score” : 97.6
Location: Washington, DC
Average net price: $30,107
Acceptance rate: 15.7%
Graduation rate: 93.9%

Georgetown University was founded in 1789 and today occupies 125 acres of prime real estate in the nation’s capital. The university attracts many who wish to pursue careers in politics and governance, but also those intent on ensuring their education is conducted within a Catholic framework. The school has a long list of distinguished alumni and is regularly ranked as one of the best colleges and universities in the country.

Georgetown is the oldest Jesuit university in the US and is, in many ways, a model for other Catholic institutions of higher learning that came after it. There are daily masses in the chapel during the school year, along with various other activities including a freshman retreat and a weekly tea service hosted by the Chaplin where people of different faiths come together.

4. College of the Holy Cross

Apply to Holy Cross

Authority.org “score” : 95.3
Location: Worcester, MA
Average net price: $29,050
Acceptance rate: 39.6%
Graduation rate: 91.7%

The College of the Holy Cross was founded in 1843 by the second Bishop of Boston, Benedict Fenwick. He chose Worcester as the site of his college after encountering resistance from Protestant politicians in Boston. Holy Cross today has more than 2,800 undergraduates and occupies a 170-acre campus in Worcester’s College Hill neighborhood.

Although a small college, Holy Cross has a number of distinguished alumni including Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the nation’s covid-19 response team in Washington. Holy Cross has nine full-time chaplains who administer to students’ spiritual needs and encourage them to find ways to integrate academic pursuits with their faith.

5. Loyola University Maryland

Apply to Loyola

Authority.org “score” : 95
Location: Baltimore, MD
Average net price: $22,300
Acceptance rate: 75.3%
Graduation rate: 80.8%

Loyola Maryland was founded in 1852 by John Early and several other members of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits). Currently, there are some 4,000 undergraduate and 1,900 graduate students enrolled at Loyola. The Loyola campus covers 79 acres in Baltimore. The school also maintains the Rising Phoenix Retreat Center in the mountains west of the city.

Loyola Maryland is a classic example of a Jesuit school in that it integrates rigorous academic expectations with ambitious spiritual expectations. Social activism is encouraged, and students regularly engage in community actions intended to enhance justice and foster an appreciation for diverse opinions.

6. Villanova University

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Authority.org “score” : 94.9
Location: Villanova, PA
Average net price: $36,968
Acceptance rate: 29%
Graduation rate: 90.9%

Villanova University was founded in 1842 by members of the Order of Saint Augustine. Villanova is selective when it comes to admissions, accepting 29% of applicants. The school currently occupies a 260-acre campus in Villanova, Pennsylvania, and hosts 6,500 undergraduates and 3,500 graduate students. Those students get to choose from 40 majors and nearly a dozen interdisciplinary areas of study.

Villanova is regarded as one of the best universities in the nation as far as academic rigor and overall value. At the same time, it remains firmly rooted in the Augustinian tradition. More than half the students at Villanova identify as Catholic, and freshmen students are required to attend a seminar to familiarize themselves with the Augustinian order.

7. Saint Louis University

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Authority.org “score” : 93.6
Location: St. Louis, MO
Average net price: $31,460
Acceptance rate: 64.4%
Graduation rate: 70.5%

St. Louis University is the oldest university west of the Mississippi. It was founded in 1818 by the Sulpician Catholic Bishop Louis-Guillaume-Valentin Dubourg. There are 8,072 undergraduate and 4,474 graduate students enrolled in St. Louis University. The school offers 91 undergraduate majors and dozens of areas of concentration for graduate students. Popular undergraduate majors include psychology, nursing, and computer science.

For much of its history, St. Louis University was under the administration of the Jesuit Order. In 1967, however, that began to change. At that time, much of the school’s governance was shifted to a board of lay trustees. The Jesuits and the Church in general, retain significant influence at the school and spiritual development is promoted hand in hand with academic achievement.

8. Saint Mary’s University

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Authority.org “score” : 93.3
Location: San Antonio, TX
Average net price: $17,522
Acceptance rate: 79.9%
Graduation rate: 59.5%

Saint Mary’s University is the oldest Catholic institution of higher learning in the American Southwest. The school was founded by members of the Marianist Order in 1852 and today boasts an undergraduate population of 4,000. Saint Mary’s is divided into six main departments, including the much-heralded Greehey School of Business and Saint Mary’s University School of Law.

Students at Saint Mary’s are encouraged to enhance their spiritual growth through participation in numerous religious clubs and organizations that are active on campus. These include prayer circles, bible study groups, and groups that promote a greater understanding of the sacraments.

9. La Salle University

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Authority.org “score” : 93.2
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Average net price: $25,937
Acceptance rate: 79.3%
Graduation rate: 62.4%

La Salle University was established in 1863 by Catholic Archbishop James Wood and, for its first century, was an all-male institution. In 1970 the school began admitting women to its undergraduate programs, and today there are more than 3,900 undergraduates with a more-or-less even mix of women and men. The school occupies a 130-acre campus in Philadelphia.

While La Salle is not known for being an overtly religious institution, the Catholic faith, and spirituality in general, are important aspects of its character. The school’s University Ministry and Service Program provides community-based service opportunities that include helping out at homeless shelters and food banks.

10. Santa Clara University

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Authority.org “score” : 92.9
Location: Santa Clara, CA
Average net price: $33,738
Acceptance rate: 53.6%
Graduation rate: 84.3%

Santa Clara University was founded in 1851 by members of the Jesuit Order, who continue to administer the school to this day. The school occupies a 106-acre campus at the southern end of San Francisco Bay and hosts more than 5,400 undergraduates. The university also offers a full range of Master’s and Doctoral Degrees through its six colleges.

In any given year, approximately half the students attending Santa Clara University are Catholic. The other half of the student body is comprised of Jews, Hindus, Protestants, Muslims, and those with no avowed religious preference. The school maintains numerous spaces on campus where students can pray or meditate. There are also quite a few student-based religious organizations active on campus.

11. St John’s University

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Authority.org “score” : 92.1
Location: Collegeville, MN
Average net price: $25,020
Acceptance rate: 80.6%
Graduation rate: 85.2%

St. John’s University was founded in 1857 and is a perennial presence on national lists of ‘best liberal arts colleges’. The school is noted for its robust foreign study program and its insistence on academic rigor. The school has a 1,400-acre campus in Collegeville, MN, and students enjoy the benefits that come with its $200 million-plus endowment.

Students at St. John’s are expected to engage in community service and to participate in various leadership programs. St. John’s requires that all students live on-campus for the full four years of their attendance. The school is also inextricably linked to nearby College of St. Benedict with students at both schools able to attend classes at the other.

12. Marquette University

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Authority.org “score” : 90.7
Location: Milwaukee, WI
Average net price: $38,421
Acceptance rate: 89.3%
Graduation rate: 79.7%

Marquette University was founded in 1881 and has grown to be the largest private university in Wisconsin. It is a Catholic University administered by the Jesuit Order. There are currently 8,500 undergraduates sharing the school’s 93-acre campus in Milwaukee. Marquette University includes the colleges of Education, Engineering, Health Sciences, Nursing, Law, and more.

The French played a key role in the settlement of the Wisconsin territory (1). And the school is named for Father Jacques Marquette, a French Jesuit priest. Marquette University exemplifies the Jesuit spirit of exploration and discovery and actively promotes the spiritual development of its students through on and off-campus activities.

13. DePaul University

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Authority.org “score” : 90.2
Location: Chicago, IL
Average net price: $20,612
Acceptance rate: 68%
Graduation rate: 59%

DePaul University is the largest Catholic university in the country by enrollment with more than 14,500 undergraduates and nearly 8,000 graduate students. It was founded in 1898 and named for Saint Vincent DePaul. The university offers students more than 250 areas of study, and professors, rather than teaching assistants almost always lead classes. The school has a $700 million endowment and employs nearly 1,000 full-time, and 1,800 part-time faculty.

The DePaul Division of Mission and Ministry coordinates religious activity and focuses attention on those that strengthen the spiritual development of students. In addition to being a top-tier Catholic university, DePaul is considered one of the best schools in the country for students with disabilities.

14. Duquesne University

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Authority.org “score” : 88.5
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Average net price: $28,961
Acceptance rate: 71.7%
Graduation rate: 73.8%

Duquesne University first opened its doors in 1878 under the name ‘The Pittsburgh Catholic College of the Holy Ghost’. In its first year, the school hosted 40 students and had six faculty members. Today, Duquesne has a half-billion-dollar endowment and is host to more than 9,300 undergraduate and graduate students.

Duquesne was founded by members of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit and remains the only Spiritan college or university in the world. Duquesne also maintains the ‘Duquesne in Rome’ program, where Duquesne students spend a full semester studying in the eternal city. While there, they attend a Papal audience at St. Peters and take day pilgrimages to sites outside the city, including Assisi.

15. Le Moyne College

Apply to Le Moyne

Authority.org “score” : 87.3
Location: Syracuse, NY
Average net price: $23,130
Acceptance rate: 64%
Graduation rate: 67.8%

Le Moyne College is a relatively new addition to the US academic landscape, having been founded right after the end of World War II. It has the distinction of being the first Jesuit College to be coeducational right from the start. Today, Le Moyne has just over 2,800 undergraduates and nearly 700 graduate students on its rolls and occupies a 160-acre site in Syracuse, New York.

Le Moyne’s Jesuit administrators see the college as a diverse community of people striving to incorporate meaning and value into their academic and personal lives. The school embodies the Jesuit passion for academic excellence and community service. Masses are held six days per week in the chapel and encourages those who play a musical instrument to join in the ‘Joyful Noise’ program.

16. John Carroll University

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Authority.org “score” : 85.6
Location: University Heights, OH
Average net price: $28,765
Acceptance rate: 85%
Graduation rate: 74.1%

John Carroll University was founded in 1886 by members of the Jesuit Order as an all-male college. Its original name was St. Ignatius College, but in 1923 it was renamed in honor of the first Catholic Archbishop in the US, John Carroll. Today, John Carroll University has 3,000 undergraduates enrolled in dozens of majors including marketing, finance and biology.

At John Carroll, the spiritual growth and wellbeing of students is always at the forefront. The school’s core mission stresses the importance of community service and encourages a certain level of civic activism to promote fundamental rights and justice. The Jesuit tradition of educating both mind and spirit is evident in all on and off-campus student activities.

17. Molloy College

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Authority.org “score” : 85.4
Location: Rockville Center, NY
Average net price: $27,949
Acceptance rate: 76%
Graduation rate: 75.7%

Molloy College was established in 1955 by the Sisters of Dominic. It is located on an expansive campus in Rockville Center, NY, an hour’s drive north of New York City. At its inception, it was a female-only institution. But by the early 1980s it had become coeducational. The school currently hosts just over 3,500 undergraduates and offers more than four dozen degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral levels.

Molloy College views itself as being rooted in the Dominican tradition of spirituality and study. The faculty are tasked with developing rigorously trained individuals who are community-oriented and ethically sound.

18. Seton Hall University

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Authority.org “score” : 83.1
Location: South Orange, NJ
Average net price: $27,563
Acceptance rate: 73.2%
Graduation rate: 61.9%

Like most colleges in the United States, Seton Hall was founded in the 19th century as the country was undergoing rapid expansion and change. The school was founded by the future Archbishop of Baltimore James Roosevelt Bayley, who named it in honor of his aunt, Elizabeth Seton. Today there are more than 4,400 undergraduate and nearly 1,400 graduate students enrolled at Seton Hall.

The school’s mission is to promote the spiritual development of its students in tandem with their intellectual development. Seton Hall has an active Campus Ministry that helps provide moral and spiritual context to the students’ academic pursuits.

19. Catholic University of America

Apply to Catholic University

Authority.org “score” : 83
Location: Washington, DC
Average net price: $32,731
Acceptance rate: 82.6%
Graduation rate: 68.8%

The Catholic University of America is the only Pontifical university in the United States. It was founded by US Catholic Bishops with the approval and guidance of the Vatican in 1887. Initially, the school was a graduate research center, but in 1904 began accepting undergraduates. Today, the school serves 6,000 undergrads and more than 3,300 graduate students.

More than three-quarters of the student body identifies as Catholic, and fostering an active life in the Church is part of the school’s mission. To that end, the ministry at the school is divided into those who advise and assist freshmen and those who work with upperclassmen. The ministry also plans retreats, coordinate liturgies and empowers faith-based student organizations.

20. Saint Anselm College

Apply to Saint Anselm

Authority.org “score” : 82.8
Location: Manchester, NH
Average net price: $31,268
Acceptance rate: 76.1%
Graduation rate: 72.9%

Saint Anselm College was founded in 1889 as part of an effort to reconcile French and Irish Catholics who had settled in central New Hampshire. It is one of the oldest Catholic colleges in New England, and the only one with a functioning Benedictine Abbey on school grounds. There are currently a little over 2,000 students enrolled at Saint Anselm.

Saint Anselm reflects the Benedictine virtues of community service and constant spiritual development. The Meelia Center for Community Service facilitates student interaction with the larger world. Students are also required to take three theology courses, one of which must be Biblical Theology.

21. University of San Diego

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Authority.org “score” : 82.1
Location: San Diego, CA
Average net price: $34,752
Acceptance rate: 49.8%
Graduation rate: 79.1%

The University of San Diego was founded in 1949 as an all-women’s institution. In 1972 it merged with San Diego University and assumed its present name and location. The school currently plays host to 5,714 undergraduate and 1,773 graduate students. The school’s current endowment of slightly more than $500 million is among the largest of any university founded since the end of World War II.

On spiritual matters, the University of San Diego takes its lead from the Second Vatican Council, which sought to unite the efforts of Catholic colleges and universities and encouraged them to reach out to people of other faiths. The principles that underpin school activities are a commitment to serving others, and the general elevation of the human condition.

22. University of Dayton

Apply to the University of Dayton

Authority.org “score” : 80.8
Location: Dayton, OH
Average net price: $32,721
Acceptance rate: 71.7%
Graduation rate: 78.6%

The University of Dayton is one of three Marianist universities in the United States. The school was founded in 1850 and occupies a 388-acre campus in the southern part of Dayton, Ohio. 8,700 undergraduates and more than 2,400 graduate students are currently enrolled at the university, which offers more than 80 degree programs. Research is a major activity at the school.

Members of the Marianist Order had governed the school until recently, when successive lay presidents were appointed, a move that has generated more than a little controversy. Nonetheless, masses are still held every day in the school chapel and residence halls. And the school is still guided by the Marianist belief in the importance of working with the poor, and educating both mind and spirit.

23. Gonzaga University

Apply to Gonzaga

Authority.org “score” : 79.9
Location: Spokane, WA
Average net price: $32,623
Acceptance rate: 64.8%
Graduation rate: 82.9%

Gonzaga University was founded in 1887 by a Jesuit missionary and named after a 16th century Jesuit who died while attending the plague victims in Rome when he was but 23 years old. Gonzaga University occupies a 150-acre campus in Spokane, Washington, and offers its students more than 90 areas of academic concentration.

The school epitomizes the Jesuit focus of rigorous intellectual and spiritual development as well as the example of its namesake to serve the greater community. Members of the student body are drawn from various faiths, and there are nearly two dozen faith-based student organizations active on the Gonzaga campus.

24. College of Saint Benedict

Apply to Saint Benedict

Authority.org “score” : 79.5
Location: St. Joseph, MN
Average net price: $27,961
Acceptance rate: 80.6%
Graduation rate: 85.2%

The College of Saint Benedict is a female-only school with 1,764 undergraduates as of this writing. The female-only edict is a bit misleading, however, since the school shares resources – including classes – with nearby (ostensibly) all-male St. John’s University. Popular areas of study at Saint Benedict include business, nursing, economics, political science, and the performing arts.

Along with St. John’s, the College of Saint Benedict is known for its robust foreign study program. Students regularly spend entire semesters in places as far-flung as Chile, Japan, Northern Ireland, and Australia. Of course, while studying abroad, students are expected to embody the Benedictine virtues of spiritual openness and modesty.

25. Siena College

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Authority.org “score” : 78.7
Location: Loudonville, NY
Average net price: $27,588
Acceptance rate: 77.9%
Graduation rate: 75.1%

Siena College was founded in 1937 and occupies a 170-acre campus in rural Loudonville, New York, not far from the state capital of Albany. The school is primarily an undergraduate institution, with 3,214 undergrads currently enrolled, as opposed to only 33 graduate students. Major areas of study for Siena College students include business, marketing and psychology.

There are numerous student-run, faith-based organizations on the Siena campus in addition to an active Friary. The Campus Ministry facilitates spiritual activities on campus by planning and hosting social events, arranging for service opportunities and deploying volunteers into the surrounding community.

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Best Colleges

How to Write a College Essay

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With the sheer number of highly-qualified college applicants yearly, getting admission into U.S. universities is becoming increasingly difficult.

But you could make your application stand out by submitting a compelling college essay.

Life is not a bed of roses. We’ve all had our fair share of challenges, setbacks and failures. These experiences make for great stories.

Thankfully, this article will guide you to make your story stand out. Come along.

Find Your Story

There is probably a time when life’s obstacles became a springboard to later success. Or a time you did something noteworthy or extraordinary.

You could tell a compelling story about these experiences. Find a story by answering questions like these:

  • Has someone ever done something for you that made you happy and thankful in an unusual way?
  • Have you ever questioned a generally-held belief? Could you share what prompted the thinking and the outcome?
  • Have you done something that’s ahead of your time? 
  • Has there been an accomplishment, event or realization that sparked a period of personal growth in your life?
  • Or do you have any story you think the world will love to read?

How do you turn your answers into an enthralling narrative? Let’s find out.

Writing a College Application Essay Outline

Many people sit down to write only to realize they’re stuck on what to write. Some go through the arduous task of completing the essay just to discover that it sounds disjointed or not engaging enough. 

Albeit, creating an outline for your college essay before writing could help you avoid these unpleasant experiences. An outline enables you to organize your thoughts and take charge of the direction of the story. It also ensures you don’t mix up things or miss any exciting parts.

Outlines help you tell fascinating stories that get the admission officer’s attention. It’s a scaffold for building your story into an engaging literary adventure.

Moreover, outlines break your writing into smaller parts. This structure is particularly important for people who don’t find it too comfortable working long hours. So using an outline allows them to work on the essay piece-by-piece.

Let’s explore how to write an outline.

Choose a Topic That Excites You

Writing a winning college essay is not as easy as it sounds, but one way to shine through it is by writing on a topic that interests you. Choosing the topic you love makes you write creatively in ways that’ll wow your audience without scrambling and scrapping for ideas.

The exciting thing about college essays is that you’re at liberty to write on anything as long as it addresses the issues in the prompts.

However, avoid topics that are too broad to be adequately covered. Always pick one incident and tell a compelling story about it.

Decide How to Open the Essay

Just like you, thousands of college applicants are going to submit their essays too. Of course, this means that the college admission committee will be reviewing a lot of college essays. And there’s no guarantee they’ll have enough time to review each essay.

But you can make them spend more time reviewing yours by hooking them with the opening statement. 

This boils down to deciding how to open your essay. Should you start with an anecdote, a question, or a dialogue?

When you decide on the best approach, put it down in your outline.

Brainstorm Supporting Ideas

Here’s an opening statement of one of the winning college essays for Duke University.

This opening statement will hook many reviewers and keep them glued to the screen. It’s a soulful buildup to the main story, but it doesn’t tell the story. It’ll require other supporting details to tell a compelling and complete story.

So, you’d need to brainstorm supporting ideas for your essay. Put down as many ideas as possible on a piece of paper. Don’t organize them yet. Just allow your thoughts to flow freely.

Keep listing them until you’ve had enough to build your story.

Label the Ideas

Now sort through the heap of ideas and organize the thoughts into logical flows. One way you could do this systematically is by labeling the ideas A, B and C.

A typical essay has three components: introduction, body and conclusion. So, label the ideas that introduce your topic as “A.” Label those that are best at supporting your main idea as “B” and “C” for those you think could help conclude your thought or reflect the main idea.

Remove those that didn’t fit into any of the labels.

Now armed with a working outline, start telling your story.

Writing a College Essay Introduction

If you miss the introduction, then you’ll definitely miss the rest of the essay.

It’s probably the most crucial part of your essays and the most challenging to write. Your only target here is to grab attention and get your audience asking for more. Bring all their senses to life and make them experience the story as if they’re physically present.

But one thing you should avoid is writing the intro such that the audience can predict the next paragraph or direction of the story. Doing this will make the story lose its essence.

Make it compelling, experiential, but endless.

It should build up emotions, anticipations and then leave the audience floating in the air. A sure way to do this is by telling the most compelling part of the story in the intro and then build the story around it.

Show originality in your story. Make it unique and creative. Avoid clichés and worn-out similes and metaphors. 

Phrases like “as sweet as strawberry wine,” “her voice is as sweet as music from Apollo’s lyre” are more engaging and creative than common phrases like “as sweet as sugar” and “as sweet as honey.”

These phrases are bland, canned and they weaken the story. So avoid them.

The intro is your chance to get your f00t at the door. Don’t mess it up.

College Essay Introduction Examples

Let’s look at some real examples of winning college essays’ introduction.

Here’s an intro from a winning essay for the University of Pennsylvania.

“So I began to explore.” 

This statement will leave a lot of readers floating in the air. The truth is most readers will be eager to find out what the lad was exploring and the outcome, and this means they’ll have to continue reading to find out.

The writer shared a story of his community service experience at the African Diseases prevention Projects, a non-profit organization associated with several universities, in his essay and his role in creating its first high school branch.

The next two paragraphs provide supporting details to the intro.

The intro makes the supporting paragraphs unpredictable. You can’t tell the story by merely reading the intro. More so, this intro is that it makes the readers feel something — it awakens their emotions.

Readers can easily immerse themselves in the story to feel what the lad felt in Liberia.

Here’s another example of a winning intro. This essay is for Cornell University.

After reading this intro, two things will run through your mind. You’d want to know the grocery bag’s content and what each item represents to the writer. 

And the only way you could find out is to continue reading.

The intro is immersive. It invokes multiple senses. The readers can envision the writer standing in a vast high school hall in front of his or her locker, trying to unlock it. They could also feel the metallic click of the vault as it opens.

It’s unlikely the readers can predict the direction of the story by just reading the intro. The writer is in charge of the narratives, and the readers can only experience the true story by tagging along. 

Here are three things you should have in mind while writing your intro:

  • Keep it unpredictable. You’ll kill your story if the readers can predict the rest of the story from the intro.
  • Make the intro experiential. Your audience should be able to experience the story through their senses. Awaken as many as possible.
  • Always give the readers reasons to move to the next paragraphs. Get them excited and leave them floating in the air.

Writing a College Essay Conclusion

You steal attention with the intro and then use supporting details to build the story.

The conclusion is the point where you tie everything together to address the issues raised in the prompt. It’s not the summary of your story — it’s the denouement. 

If the intro is the mountain peak, then the conclusion should be the valley. 

It’s where you reflect how the story inspires you or inform who you are today — this is the main point of the story, the essence of your college essay, and a deciding factor if you’ll get the scholarship or admission.

Always ensure your conclusion addresses the essay prompt.

For instance, if your essay responds to the second prompt of the 2021 to 2022 common app essay prompts, then the conclusion should reflect how the setbacks and challenges informed the person you are today.

No matter the prompt you are responding to, the conclusion should be all about you. Don’t divert the attention from yourself.

It’s the last thing your reviewer will read. So end it powerfully. It’s your only opportunity in the essay to convince them that you’re qualified for admission or you merit the scholarship.

Always end your essay in a positive tone. Avoid these stock phrases:

  • In conclusion
  • In a nutshell
  • In wrapping it up
  • In the end
  • As a result
  • Everything considered
  • All in all

These phrases will weaken your essay and make it sound bland and boring.

College Essay Conclusion Example

Here, we’ll explore some conclusions of real examples of winning college essays.

This conclusion is from a winning essay for Cornell University. It’s the concluding part of the essay with the second intro we just reviewed above.

The conclusion flows logically with the rest of the story. The writer didn’t break this flow or weaken the essay by introducing any stock phrase.

The last sentence of the conclusion focused on the writer. It didn’t divert attention away from the writer. It beams the light on the writer and makes a strong case why he or she deserves the admission — it addressed the prompt.

Here’s another example from a student admitted to Brown University.

This student shares an exciting story of an event during her sophomore year in high school in her essay. It makes a great read.

The essay’s concluding part highlights how that event inspired who she is today. It also makes a strong case for her personality and addresses the prompt squarely.

The student ended her essay powerfully, focusing all the beam on herself, not on her friend or the event.

Keep these four things in mind when writing your conclusion:

  • Don’t divert attention from yourself. Focus the beam on yourself to illuminate your strength, qualities and values. Your aim here is to let the reviewers see why you’re deserving of their admission.
  • Allow the story to flow smoothly. Avoid the use of stock phrases.
  • Ensure to address the prompt in the conclusion. 
  • Avoid using negative tones in conclusion, it diffuses the energy.

Writing a College Essay About Yourself

One mistake some people make when writing a college essay about themselves is pretending to be who they are not. Your story will be bland, disingenuous and you will scramble for ideas.

And most times, the reviewers will see through this charade.

If you are not a “spider-man,” don’t claim to be one. The essay’s essence is not to reward super-humans but to give the reviewers a glimpse into your personality. 

Most of them would want to know how your past experiences informed the person you’re today or if you’re self-aware how you could improve as a person.

Just write naturally, and allow your personality to shine through the essay. 

Don’t be afraid of showing vulnerabilities or emotions. Of course, they are part of what makes us humans, and they also make your story look original and complete.

Opening the story with an anecdote helps involve the readers in the story when they read the first line and set off the stage for something extraordinary and immersive. Also, present yourself, in the latter part of your essay, as someone who loves learning.

Of course, most schools would love to admit students that are passionate about learning.

Keep the sentences short and punchy. Write in active voices and first-person pronouns. Avoid details that’ll introduce unnecessary characters into your story. You don’t need to muddle up your story with too many characters.

Your essay is all about you. So own it.

College Essay Examples

Here’s a real example of a college essay written for the “Tell us your story” common app essay prompt. The essay is from a student whose interest is to study foreign language and linguistics in college.

Let’s take a look at the intro.

The writer opened the essay with an anecdote, and right from the go, it pulls the readers in and immerses them in the story. The writer has been to 29 different countries, and each has given him a unique learning experience. Full Stop!

That’s where he ended the intro.

Of course, if you want to learn about those experiences, then you’ll have to continue — a nice trick to get the readers glued to the story.

Here are a few things that make his intro works:

  • It tells the personal story of the writer.
  • The story gives the readers a reason to continue reading.
  • It’s written in first person and active voice.

In the next paragraph, the writer uses three short but punchy sentences to share his experiences in France and two other countries, telling the story chronologically.

In the third paragraph, we got to know why this student is interested in studying foreign languages and linguistics. Reading through this paragraph, the admission officers will realize the writer has a passion for the course he is applying to study.

The writer shares other places he had visited in the other paragraphs while still keeping the story exciting and engaging.

Towards the end of the essay, the writer shared how his experiences made him a better person. According to him, languages brought to his life interpersonal connection.

While closing the essay, the writer reemphasized his passion for learning and language.

Here are other things that make the conclusion work:

  • It didn’t divert attention from the writer.
  • The writer didn’t use any stock phrases. He allowed the story to flow smoothly.
  • The conclusion ended on a positive note.

How to Write a College Essay When Your Life is Boring

If you haven’t done much in life or you’ve not had lots of opportunity to share your skills, then you might be wondering, “What should I write about if my life is boring?”

Although this is valid question in your unique situation, remember that you can write on any topic. So living in a small town or settlement or not haven’t done much can be a valid reason for the college you’re applying to to accept you.

As long as you can make your personality shine through the story, the topic is of little consequence. You don’t need to have an earth-shattering experience before you could write an essay that stands out.

Every day of our lives is a story and the things around us too. Just pick anything that could give people a sneak peek into your life and write about it. You can transform them into a powerful story.

If you don’t know where to start, answering these questions could inspire you:

  • What did you want to become while growing up compared to what you have become now, how you’ve changed, and why?
  • What was it like growing up with your parents?
  • What’s your favorite subject in school, why, and what real-world impact has it had on you or other people in your life?
  • What do your friends like best about you and what unique opportunities has it given you?
  • If you could be president of your country for a day, what would you change? 
  • What is unique about having a boring life that people with a busy life might miss out from?
  • Why are you choosing the college? Why not another?
  • What makes you think you deserve the admission?
  • Who is your role model, and why?
  • What generally-held belief do you find repulsive?

No matter the topic you chose, the reviewers are more interested in knowing who you are and how your experiences and choices inspire the person you’re today. Nobody cares about why vanilla is your favorite ice cream flavor.

They’re only interested in knowing how it shapes your experience or world outlook. Don’t lose sight of the end goal. Your essay should address the prompt.

How to Format a College Essay

While writing your essay, should you double-space or single-space? Is there any need to include the title? What font and font size is best suited for the essay?

These are some of the things that leave a lot of students confused. Here, we’ll be sharing the best ways to format a college essay.

So, let’s take a look at them:

  • Use double spaces to separate paragraphs. 
  • Avoid using italics and bold. You might lose the formatting when you copy and paste them into the text box. There is an exception, though. You could use them if you’re submitting your essay as an attachment.
  • There’s no need for a title, they eat into your word count unnecessarily.
  • The text box doesn’t support bullet points. So, avoid them.
  • If there is no specified file format, save your attachment as a PDF, this will help prevent Word Doc’s formatting issues.
  • Use standard fonts like New Times Roman and Georgia and 11 or 12 point font sizes.
  • Don’t exceed the word count limits.
  • Use a 0ne-inch margin if you are sending your essay as an attachment.
  • Avoid all caps, unnecessary symbols and hashtags.
  • Write only in black ink on a white background.

After writing your essay, use Grammarly premium to edit effectively. Also, seek other people’s help while editing. Trust me, there will be many things you do not notice, but they will be able to pick out.

Run this process through at least three people.

Edit your essay ruthlessly. Pay attention to worn-out phrases, unnecessary details and sentence fragments. Check out for punctuation errors, long sentences and weak verbs.

Avoid all unforgivable mistakes that might hinder you from submitting a winning essay.

A Quick Summary of How to Write a College Essay

Here’s a quick summary of how to make your college essay stand out from your peers.

  1. Outline your essay before writing. This will make your work easier, smoother and more engaging.
  2. Start your essay with the most compelling experience and build your story around it.
  3. Avoid topics that are too broad to be adequately covered.
  4. Avoid anything that will make the readers predict the next paragraphs.
  5. Write in short sentences, active voices and the first person pronoun.
  6. Make your personality shine through the essay, and make the reviewers see why you are deserving of the admission or scholarship.
  7. Be original, show creativity in your writing. Avoid worn-out phrases, cliches and boring details.
  8. Don’t claim to be who you are not. Most reviewers will see through the lies.
  9. The conclusion must address the prompt.
  10. Format your work based on specified standards and edit it ruthlessly.

Write Your College Essay

You have the top ten takeaways to write your best college essay. Whether you’re writing a college essay about “why this college?” or an essay about yourself or responding to any of the Common App prompts, these tips will help you deliver a winning essay.

 

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Best Colleges

Ranking the best value colleges

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The best value colleges and universities offer a combination of a quality academic program and an attractive net price.

The research team at Authority.org examined more than 100 colleges known to provide an above-average academic experience to determine which are the best value colleges of 2020.

Here is our list:

1. Stanford University

Apply to Stanford

Authority.org “score” : 99.5
Location: Stanford, CA
Average net price: $13,261
Acceptance rate: 4.7%
Graduation rate: 93.8%

Stanford University was founded in 1885 by Leland and Jane Stanford. Leland Stanford was an entrepreneur who wound up serving one term as California Governor and two terms as a US Senator from California. Jane Stanford would wind up running the university for years after her husband’s death.

Stanford hosts 7,000 undergraduates and is renowned for its International Relations program, its School of Engineering, and for being extremely selective in the admissions process. Notable alumni include SpaceX founder Elon Musk, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, golfer Tiger Woods, astronaut Sally Ride and novelist John Steinbeck.

2. US Military Academy at West Point

Apply to West Point

Authority.org “score” : 99.4
Location: West Point, NY
Average net price: $0
Acceptance rate: 11%
Graduation rate: 83.8%

When it comes to value, it is hard to beat the US Military Academy at West Point. Not only does the academy waive the application fee, but they also waive tuition and provide an annual stipend of some $10,000. In other words, you will make money attending West Point. Of course, that would not mean much if the education was second-rate. Fortunately, it is anything but.

The US Military Academy at West Point was founded in 1801 and currently hosts 4,300 cadets. Cadets study everything from information technology, physics, and engineering to history, philosophy, and psychology. Notable alumni include former Presidents Ulysses S. Grant and Dwight Eisenhower, current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, novelist Edgar Allen Poe, and 2nd man on the moon Buzz Aldrin.

3. Princeton University

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Authority.org “score” : 98.5
Location: Princeton, NJ
Average net price: $10,027
Acceptance rate: 6.4%
Graduation rate: 96.8%

Princeton University was founded in 1746, making it one of the oldest colleges in the US. It is located on a 600-acre campus in rural New Jersey that is famous for its neo-gothic, or ‘collegiate gothic’ architecture. Princeton is a relatively small school enrollment-wise with 8,300 total students but is typically rated among the best overall universities in the nation.

Princeton admits only 6% of applicants, with 97% of those admitted completing the four-year undergraduate program. Notable Princeton alumni include Presidents James Madison and Woodrow Wilson, Vice President Aaron Burr, and Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayer, and Elena Kagan. Current Fed Chairman Jerome Powell is another Princeton alum.

4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Authority.org “score” : 98
Location: Cambridge, MA
Average net price: $18,971
Acceptance rate: 7.2%
Graduation rate: 89.9%

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology was founded in 1861 by Barton Rogers, a former University of Virginia professor who had relocated to Boston. Barton’s idea was to establish a school to address the technological challenges of the day and to meld that technical education with a standard liberal arts curriculum. Today the school occupies much of the north side of the Charles River opposite Boston’s Back Bay.

At a net cost per year of nearly $19,000 it might seem like MIT is not such a great value. However, that cost must be measured against the incredible prestige of having MIT on your resume. Notable alumni include second man on the moon Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin, former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, astronaut Ronald McNair, and world-renowned architect I.M. Pei.

5. Harvard University

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Authority.org “score” : 97.8
Location: Cambridge, MA
Average net price: $14,327
Acceptance rate: 5.2%
Graduation rate: 97.6%

Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the US. It also has the largest endowment of any university in the world, currently valued at some $40 billion. Tuition and fees at Harvard add up to more than $52,000. But the school goes out of its way to arrange financial aid for its students, thereby drastically reducing their net cost.

Harvard will make sure you can pay your tuition, but you must be accepted first. And that is not easy. The school takes only 5% of applications. Like MIT, Harvard’s value must be judged by the doors it opens. Notable alumni include former presidents Barack Obama, John F. Kennedy, John Adams and John Quincy Adams.

6. Yale University

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Authority.org “score” : 97.1
Location: New Haven, CT
Average net price: $18,627
Acceptance rate: 6.9%
Graduation rate: 96.9%

Yale University was founded in 1701 and is the third-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States after Harvard and the College of William and Mary. Yale is a mid-sized school with 6,000 undergraduates and some 7,500 graduate students. Yale occupies nearly 400 acres of central New Haven and is the largest employer in the city.

Yale is notable for its outstanding libraries, the Yale University Art Gallery, the Peabody Museum of Natural History, and its world-class faculty. Notable alumni include Presidents William Howard Taft, Gerald R. Ford, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton. Other distinguished alumni include actress Meryl Streep and Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

7. Duke University

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Authority.org “score” : 96.3
Location: Durham, NC
Average net price: $19,785
Acceptance rate: 9.9%
Graduation rate: 96.2%

Duke University can trace its roots to 1838 when it was founded by Methodists and Quakers and given the name The Brown School. The school would undergo several more name changes before settling on Duke in honor of wealthy benefactor James Buchanan Duke. The school offers undergraduates 50 majors and 52 minor areas of study.

Duke University enjoys the benefits of a nearly $9 billion endowment. It currently hosts some 16,000 full-time students and occupies an enormous suburban campus of 9,000 acres. Prominent Duke alumni include former President Richard Nixon, journalist Charlie Rose and current Apple CEO Tim Cook.

8. Rice University

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Authority.org “score” : 95.7
Location: Houston, TX
Average net price: $20,237
Acceptance rate: 15.9%
Graduation rate: 90.6%

Rice University (officially William Marsh Rice University) was founded in 1912 and occupies a 300-acre campus in Houston, Texas. Rice University offers its undergraduate population of some 4,000 students more than 50 major areas of concentration. The school is known for its world-class research centers and receives more than $100 million in research grants annually.

The university was founded using money donated by industrialist William Marsh Rice, who left the 2020 equivalent of $200 million to facilitate the creation of the school that bears his name. Notable alumni include former US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, former US Secretary of State James Baker, astronaut Peggy Whitson, and billionaire inventor/philanthropist Howard Hughes.

9. UNC Chapel Hill

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Authority.org “score” : 94.7
Location: Chapel Hill, NC
Average net price: $16,032
Acceptance rate: 23%
Graduation rate: 90%

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is the oldest public university in the country. It was founded in 1789 and is the only public university in the US to confer Bachelor’s Degrees during the 18th century. During the Civil War, the university fell on hard times and was ultimately forced to close between 1870 and 1875. Today, however, it boasts 19,000 undergraduates and 11,000 graduate students.

Students at UNC Chapel Hill can pick from 71 major areas of study. There are also more than 180 graduate and doctoral degree programs. While state law requires 82% of students be from North Carolina, there is still plenty of room for out of state students. Notable alumni include 11th President of the United States James Polk, former US Senator John Edwards, and basketball star Michael Jordan.

10. Brigham Young University

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Authority.org “score” : 92.5
Location: Provo, UT
Average net price: $12,974
Acceptance rate: 52.4%
Graduation rate: 59.2%

Brigham Young University is a private school owned and run by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The university occupies an idyllic location between Utah Lake on the west and the Wasatch Mountains on the east. The school is known for its numerous research programs. Today, BYU as its known hosts more than 30,000 undergraduate students.

Many notable scientists have been associated with BYU over the years including the inventor of television, Filio T. Farnsworth, Nobel Prize winning physicist Robert Millikan, and the inventor of the artificial diamond H. Tracy Hall. Notable alumni include Senator Mitt Romney, NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young and Boston Celtics President Danny Ainge.

11. University of Virginia

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Authority.org “score” : 92.3
Location: Charlottesville, VA
Average net price: $23,680
Acceptance rate: 27.3%
Graduation rate: 93.3%

The University of Virginia can trace its lineage to 1819 when it was founded by former President Thomas Jefferson. The original governing board of the university included three presidents; Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe. Jefferson’s helped devise the curriculum, chose the location and designed many of the original buildings.

The university excels in the field of hypersonic flight research. The US Air Force, the National Science Foundation, and other government institutions have granted the school many millions of dollars to study the issue. UV’s library is one of the biggest of any American university, containing more than five million items, including two original copies of the Declaration of Independence.

12. Columbia University

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Authority.org “score” : 90.6
Location: New York, NY
Average net price: $21,195
Acceptance rate: 6.6%
Graduation rate: 95.7%

Columbia University was founded in 1754 and is the oldest institution of higher learning in New York State. The school was originally named ‘Kings College’, but renamed in the aftermath of the American Revolution. Columbia today is a selective school, admitting only 6% of applicants.

Columbia is well-regarded for its international relations program, medical school, business school, and law school. Notable alumni include Alexander Hamilton, legendary investor Warren Buffet, aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart, current US Attorney General William Barr, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and former President Barack Obama (class of ’83).

13. Williams College

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Authority.org “score” : 90
Location: Williamstown, MA
Average net price: $18,979
Acceptance rate: 14.6%
Graduation rate: 95.6%

Williams is a small but highly respected liberal arts college located in western Massachusetts that was founded in 1793. The estate of the founder, Ephraim Williams, stipulated that donated money should be used to establish a ‘free school’. Over the course of the intervening 200+ years, there has been robust debate over exactly what that means.

Williams is the second oldest college in Massachusetts after Harvard. It offers undergraduates 36 major areas of study and has a small number of graduate students. Notable alumni include the 20th President of the United States James Garfield, former AOL CEO Steve Case, former New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, and television journalist Mika Brezinski.

14. Colgate University

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Authority.org “score” : 88.9
Location: Hamilton, NY
Average net price: $23,058
Acceptance rate: 28.1%
Graduation rate: 89.6%

Colgate University was founded in 1819 and occupies a spacious campus in upstate New York State not far from Syracuse. The school offers its nearly 3,000 undergraduates 56 major areas of study. It also runs a small but highly regarded Master of Arts in Teaching program. The school is considered selective, accepting only 28% of applicants.

Colgate is renowned for its foreign study program, which sends students to study for full semesters in Japan, India, China, Australia, and elsewhere. During their four years at the school, nearly 2/3 of all undergrads will wind up studying abroad. That is one of the highest percentages of any American college or university.

15. Georgia Institute of Technology

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Authority.org “score” : 88.2
Location: Atlanta, GA
Average net price: $13,291
Acceptance rate: 23.4%
Graduation rate: 84.5%

The Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech for short) was founded in 1885 as part of the federal government’s Reconstruction efforts. It began by offering degrees in mechanical engineering only but quickly broadened its focus. Today, more than 32,000 students attend Georgia Tech.

Georgia Tech is one of 52 institutions nationwide designated Space Grant colleges, and many of its students are directly involved in research related to outer space and space flight. The school offers students 36 undergraduate majors and nearly four dozen minor areas of concentration. In addition to its space research and engineering programs.

16. United States Merchant Marine Academy

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Authority.org “score” : 87.4
Location: Kings Point, NY
Average net price: $6,796
Acceptance rate: 22.2%
Graduation rate: 97.2%

The United States Merchant Marine Academy was founded in 1943 and is located in Kings Point within view of the Throgs Neck Bridge over the East River in New York. It is one of the nation’s service academies and trains officers for the Merchant Marine and various branches of the military.

People come to the USMMA for different reasons, but all are bound to fulfill the academy’s service obligation. This can be done by working in the civilian maritime industry, joining the Naval Reserve, working on a US-flagged merchant vessel or joining the armed forces of the United States. Notable alumni include astronaut Mark Kelly, former Rear Admiral Philip H. Green, and former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card.

17. University of Florida

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Authority.org “score” : 86.3
Location: Gainesville, FL
Average net price: $12,343
Acceptance rate: 42%
Graduation rate: 86.7%

The University of Florida was founded in 1853 in Ocala, Florida, and moved to its current Gainesville home in 1906. The University is one of the five largest in the nation by enrollment, with more than 52,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The school is also a college sports powerhouse whose various teams (known as the ‘Gators’) have won more than 40 national championships.

The University of Florida offers more than 100 majors for undergraduates and some 200 graduate degree programs. The Reitz Student Union on campus assists students with career development and job placement. Notable alumni include former Senator Bob Graham, former North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue, actress Faye Dunaway, astronaut Kevin Ford and Senator Marco Rubio.

18. Cal State Polytechnic Institute

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Authority.org “score” : 85.1
Location: Pomona, CA
Average net price: $6,976
Acceptance rate: 55.1%
Graduation rate: 63%

California State Polytechnic Institute is one of the state’s two public polytechnic institutions of higher learning. It was founded in 1938 and is located about an hour due east of downtown Los Angeles in Pomona, California. The school is driven in large part by STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) research grants.

Given its focus on high-end research and its very reasonable net cost Cal State Polytechnic is an attractive choice for many seeking a high ROI on the college investment. Notable alumni include aviation pioneer Burt Rutan, astronauts Gregory Chamitoff and Frederick Sturckow, and former Congressman Jeff Denham.

19. James Madison University

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Authority.org “score” : 84.6
Location: Harrisonburg, VA
Average net price: $10,018
Acceptance rate: 75.2%
Graduation rate: 82.8%

James Madison was founded in 1908 as an all-female school that would prepare women for jobs in the burgeoning industries of the south. In 1946 the school began to accept men for the first time, and today its student body is approximately 60% female to 40% male. The school offers 115 degree programs at the Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral levels.

James Madison has quietly established a reputation for being one of the top universities in the American south. While it is not considered overly selective, it does demand a high degree of intellectual rigor of its students, many of whom go on to prominent careers. Notable alumni include Kathy J. Warden, CEO of Northrop Grumman, and numerous state representatives and mayors.

20. University of California Los Angeles

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Authority.org “score” : 83
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Average net price: $14,309
Acceptance rate: 16.1%
Graduation rate: 91.3%

The University of California Los Angeles is one of the oldest public universities in California and the largest, enrollment-wise. It’s 43,500 students partake of 337 degree programs covering the entire academic spectrum. The school can trace its origins to 1881. But it wasn’t until 1919 that it acquired a permanent home.

UCLA is nationally recognized as a leading university in the fields of medicine, dentistry, and public health. The university’s film school is also a magnet for those intent on breaking into the movie industry in nearby Hollywood. In addition, the school is highly regarded for its engineering program. And, of course, many people from other states are drawn to the agreeable LA climate.

21. Purdue University

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Authority.org “score” : 82.9
Location: West Lafayette, IN
Average net price: $13,746
Acceptance rate: 57.5%
Graduation rate: 74.6%

Purdue University was founded in 1869 with money donated by entrepreneur John Purdue and land donated by the federal government under the Morrill Land-Grant Act (1). The school opened its doors in 1874 with a focus on technology and agriculture. That first year saw 39 students. Today, nearly 32,000 students are enrolled in the school’s undergraduate and graduate programs.

Purdue offers students more than 200 majors to choose from in everything from applied sciences to criminal justice and mechanical engineering. Purdue has also made many notable contributions to the nation’s space flight program and has graduated more current and former astronauts than any other American College or University.

22. Vanderbilt University

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Authority.org “score” : 82.2
Location: Nashville, TN
Average net price: $19,959
Acceptance rate: 10.9%
Graduation rate: 92%

Vanderbilt University is named for its founder, 19th-century railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt. The school opened its doors in 1873 with Vanderbilt’s $1 million cash endowment as setting the school on solid ground right out of the gate. Today, the Vanderbilt University endowment has grown to $6.25 billion, and the school enrolls more than 13,000 full-time students.

Vanderbilt is renowned for its Peabody College of Education, its Blair School of Music, and its Owen Graduate School of Management. In addition, the world-class Vanderbilt University Medical Center serves the health and wellness needs of the Nashville community and beyond.

23. University of Texas

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Authority.org “score” : 81.7
Location: Austin, TX
Average net price: $13,308
Acceptance rate: 36.5%
Graduation rate: 79.3%

The University of Texas at Austin is one of the nation’s largest universities by enrollment with 40,000 undergraduate students and nearly 10,000 graduate and Doctoral students. UT was founded in 1883 and became a full university in 1929. The school has a $4 billion endowment and plays host to the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library, and operates numerous research facilities.

The school is a major recipient of STEM grants and has globally recognized schools of pharmacy and engineering. The school is also a significant force driving the growth of the technology industry in and around Austin. For those interested in athletics the Texas Longhorns are a perennial college football powerhouse.

24. University of Iowa

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Authority.org “score” : 81.5
Location: Iowa City, IA
Average net price: $15,103
Acceptance rate: 86%
Graduation rate: 71%

The University of Iowa was founded in 1847. It is the oldest university in the state and also one of the largest, with 24,000 undergraduates and 9,000 postgraduate students. The university is classified as an ‘R1’ research institution by the Carnegie classification board (2), indicating ‘very high research activity’. Iowa is also known for its programs in fine arts and the law.

The University of Iowa is considered a ‘public Ivy’ institution, meaning the school provides an Ivy League type experience at a public university price. The university has produced a number of renowned writers, including playwright Tennessee Williams, Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Marilynne Robinson and Flannery O’Connor, winner of the National Book Award for fiction.

25. Florida State University

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Authority.org “score” : 80.8
Location: Tallahassee, FL
Average net price: $14,582
Acceptance rate: 49.2%
Graduation rate: 79.5%

Florida State University was founded in 1851 and has grown into the second-largest university by enrollment in Florida, with more than 41,000 students. The school is a renowned research institution, earning an ‘R1’ designation from Carnegie. An indication of the school’s commitment to leading-edge research is its contribution to the Large Hadron Collider outside Geneva, Switzerland.

Florida State University also makes significant contributions to the social sciences, including criminal justice, penology, various aspects of public policy, and more. The school also leads the Sunshine State in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics grants that drive a high degree of intellectual rigor. Given all that, the very reasonable net cost represents a significant value.

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Best Colleges

Ranking the best trade schools

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Trade schools serve a valuable purpose in the overall economy, training the next generation of professionals while enabling members of the current workforce to enhance their career trajectory.

The research team at Authority.org has weighed the relative merits of hundreds of institutions to determine the best trade schools of 2020.

Here is our list:

1. Bates Technical College

Apply to Bates

Authority.org “score” : 98.6
Location: Tacoma, WA
Average net price: $3,913
Acceptance rate: 100%
Graduation rate: 40.5%

Bates Technical College was founded in 1940 as a stand-alone technical program in the basement of an elementary school. The program proved very popular and, within two years, had an official name (the Tacoma Vocational School). In 1944 LaVerne Bates became the school’s director and would ultimately provide the school with its current name. The Bates Technical College practices open enrollment and currently serves some 10,500 students.

Bates Technical College offers Associate Degrees in Applied Science, along with literally hundreds of certificate programs in everything from Culinary Arts to Construction, Information Technology, Engineering Technology, Allied Health, and Business Management. The school also offers numerous apprenticeship opportunities.

2. Manchester Community College

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Authority.org “score” : 98
Location: Manchester, NH
Average net price: $13,734
Acceptance rate: 100%
Graduation rate: 15.2%

Manchester Community College in Manchester, New Hampshire was founded in 1945 in part to provide returning war veterans with the training they would need to re-enter a changed industrial landscape. The school is located on a 57-acre campus on the Merrimack River just north of downtown Manchester and plays host to more than 3,000 students.

Manchester Community College offers those students more than 60 Associate Degree and professional certificate programs. In addition, the school runs frequent workshops and short-term programs intended to facilitate professional development. Those certificate programs include Accounting, Dental Assistant, Computer Network Technology, Computer-Aided Design, Photography, Marketing, Public Relations and Web Technology.

3. Minnesota State Community and Technical College

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Authority.org “score” : 96.7
Location: Fergus Falls, MN
Average net price: $10,235
Acceptance rate: 100%
Graduation rate: 36.1%

Minnesota State Community and Technical College was founded in 2003 via the merger of an existing community college and the Northwest Technical College. The combined school offers more than 70 Associate Degree and certificate programs as well as more than two dozen online programs. Currently, there are more than 9,000 full-time, part-time and online students enrolled at the school.

The school offers those students an array of study options. Associate Degrees are offered in Fine Arts, Science, and Applied Sciences. Certificates at Minnesota State Tech are available for Business Administration, Information Technology, HVAC, Construction Management, Cybersecurity, 3D Technologies, Massage Therapy, Paralegal and much more.

4. Fox Valley Technical College

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Authority.org “score” : 96.5
Location: Grand Chute, WI
Average net price: $9,969
Acceptance rate: 100%
Graduation rate: 57%

Fox Valley Technical College can trace its roots to 1967 when the State of Wisconsin legislature divided the state into 16 educational districts. That move spurred the creation of the Fox Valley Technical Institute, which, in 1987, was renamed the Fox Valley Technical College. Today, the school hosts 6,670 undergraduates on its main campus in Grand Chute and its satellite campus in Oshkosh.

Fox Valley Technical offers its students more than 200 Associate Degree, certificate and diploma programs and operates nearly two dozen apprenticeship programs. The school also runs an FAA-certified flight school (1), which allows students to train as aircraft maintenance or aircraft electronics technicians. This component of Fox Valley is run out of the Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh.

5. State Technical College of Missouri

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Authority.org “score” : 94.9
Location: Linn, MO
Average net price: $7,918
Acceptance rate: 100%
Graduation rate: 74%

The State Technical College of Missouri was founded in 1961 as the Linn Technical Junior College, and some still refer to it as ‘Linn Tech’. By 1968 the school had outgrown the ‘Junior’ designation, and by the early 1990s it began conferring Associate Degrees. Over the course of the past 20 years, the school has seen its star rise considerably, and it is now often ranked among the best trade schools in the nation.

Missouri State Tech offers dozens of certificate programs designed to enhance a person’s career options. Those courses include Accounting, Agriculture and Turf Equipment, Civil Engineering Technology, Drafting, Heavy Equipment Operations, Biomedical Engineering, Welding, and Aviation Maintenance. To name just a few.

6. San Jacinto College

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Authority.org “score” : 93.9
Location: Pasadena, TX
Average net price: $8,790
Acceptance rate: 100%
Graduation rate: 29.1%

San Jacinto College was founded in 1960 under the name the East Harris County Union Junior College. The school has gone through a couple of name changes since, while expanding both physically and in the number of programs it offers. The first class way back in 1961 consisted of 876 students. Today, there are more than 28,500 full and part-time students enjoying the high-quality educational programs offered by San Jacinto.

The school offers a dizzying number of certificate and career/technical programs lasting anywhere from 6 months to 2 years. Those programs include Art and Design, Accounting, Business Office Systems, Computer Information Technology, Electronics Technology, Medical Coding, Real Estate, and Welding.

7. Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute

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Authority.org “score” : 93.5
Location: Wooster, OH
Average net price: $17,307
Acceptance rate: 100%
Graduation rate: 41.5%

Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute, or Ohio State ATI as it’s known, was founded in 1969 and given the mandate to provide comprehensive agricultural training. Ohio State ATI is a small school, with just over 600 full-time students. The school practices open enrollment, so there is no need to worry about being squeezed out during the application process.

Ohio State ATI offers courses in wood science, agricultural research, plant nutrition, equine health, soil fertility, greenhouse management, and crop production, to name just a few. The school regularly confers more Associate Degrees in agricultural sciences than any other two-year institution in the country.

8. Hutchinson Community College

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Authority.org “score” : 92.8
Location: Hutchinson, KS
Average net price: $7,698
Acceptance rate: 100%
Graduation rate: 49.9%

Hutchinson Community College is located in the town of Hutchinson, about 1 hour northwest of Wichita. It was founded in 1928 and christened Hutchinson Junior College. Over the years it has undergone numerous name changes and seen its program offerings expand to include Associate Degrees in the art and sciences and numerous transfer programs for those wishing to pursue a BA or BS in a four-year college or university.

Hutchinson also offers a significant number of certificate programs for those looking to learn a new trade or upgrade their marketability. Students can train to be an EMT, home health aid, computer support specialist, diesel mechanic, and more. Some of these courses can be completed in as little as 16 weeks.

9. William Rainey Harper College

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Authority.org “score” : 92.3
Location: Palatine, IL
Average net price: $6,938
Acceptance rate: 100%
Graduation rate: 30.6%

William Rainey Harper College (often simply called Harper College) was established by the state of Illinois in 1965 and named for the first president of the University of Chicago. The school officially opened its doors in 1967 and has been an important part of the Palatine, Illinois community ever since.

William Rainey Harper offers students dozens of ways to earn an Associate Degree before transferring to a four-year college to complete their Bachelor’s. In addition, Harper offers upwards of 40 certificate and diploma programs that enable students to enhance their skillset and increase their earning potential once they enter, or re-enter, the workforce. Certificate programs typically last anywhere from four months to two years.

10. Lake Area Technical Institute

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Authority.org “score” : 91.4
Location: Watertown, SD
Average net price: $12,394
Acceptance rate: 100%
Graduation rate: 70.7%

Lake Area Technical Institute was founded in 1965 and was the first technical school in North Dakota. In the years since its founding, it has gone on to amass a great deal of praise for the quality and diversity of its programs and faculty. The school maintains a student-friendly 17:1 student to faculty ratio, which undoubtedly has something to do with its outstanding reputation.

Lake Area Technical Institute offers 15 online degree programs and 30 on-site study courses, including courses in agriculture, aviation, diesel mechanics, and nursing. More than 2,600 students are currently enrolled in its full-time, part-time and online programs. The school also has an outstanding employment assistance program and successfully finds jobs for 99.9% of those who graduate.

11. Gateway Community College

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Authority.org “score” : 90.7
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Average net price: $7,194
Acceptance rate: 100%
Graduation rate: 25.9%

Originally called Maricopa Technical College, Gateway Community College opened its door in 1968. At the time, it was the only technical college in Arizona, and it is still, by most standards, the best. The school has expanded its offerings right from the start and over the years added a Children’s Learning Center, an Automotive Center, and a Center for Health Careers to its program.

Students who attend Gateway Community College have more than 120 areas of concentration to choose from. Certificate programs include Electrical and HVAC, Phlebotomy, Computer Support Specialist, Dental Assistant, Automotive Repair, Meat Cutter, and Welding. The school also offers numerous Associate Degree programs.

12. Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics

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Authority.org “score” : 89.8
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Average net price: $28,972
Acceptance rate: 100%
Graduation rate: 86.5%

The Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics (PIA) first opened its doors in 1929. And while many of its students profit from its computer engineering, data processing, truck and bus driver, and other trade programs, most come for the renowned aeronautics training it provides. The school is located in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania at the Allegheny County Airport, where students are sure to get plenty of hands-on experience.

PIA is regularly ranked at or near the top of two-year trade schools by national publications. But because of its cost and relatively narrow focus, we have it a bit lower down our list. Still, if you want a career in aeronautics or aviation, this is the place to be. The school also has a first-class employment assistance program that does a remarkable job placing those who finish the full course.

13. Lancaster County Career and Technology Center

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Authority.org “score” : 88.9
Location: Willow Street, PA
Average net price: $12,426
Acceptance rate: 100%
Graduation rate: 77.7%

The Lancaster County Career and Technical Center was established in 1970 when it was called Lancaster County Area Vocational and Technical School. Since then, the school has matured and significantly increased its technical and vocational offerings. The LCCTC accepts students of all ages and backgrounds and provides them the means to find a rewarding place in the workforce.

Students at the LCCTC can choose from a wide range of courses including, but certainly not limited to, automotive repair, computer-aided design, plumbing, welding, vehicle inspection, security, electrician, and EMT. The school also provides comprehensive tutoring, counseling, career advice and job placement assistance for graduates.

14. Carolinas College of Health Sciences

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Authority.org “score” : 88.2
Location: Charlotte, NC
Average net price: $16,963
Acceptance rate: 24.4%
Graduation rate: 47.5%

Carolinas College of Health Sciences is a more traditional institution of higher learning in many ways, than some of the other trade schools on our list. Nonetheless, it has a very specific mandate to train young people to become the health professionals of tomorrow. The student-faculty ratio at CCHS is an incredible 5:1, and the school offers non-traditional students credit for life experience.

The Carolinas College of Health Sciences is owned and operated by Carolinas HealthCare System, and students benefit from the real-world clinical experience that relationship provides. The school is small and offers a variety of Associate Degrees. Most students who complete the two-year program have a job waiting for them at the time they graduate.

15. Holmes Community College

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Authority.org “score” : 87.6
Location: Goodman, MS
Average net price: $5,723
Acceptance rate: 100%
Graduation rate: 27.4%

Holmes Community College in Goodman, Mississippi, was founded in 1911. The town of Goodman donated 40 acres of land to the school, and a further 42 acres were purchased to create the school’s 82-acre campus. Holmes offers students a plethora of academic and vocational pursuits and confers Associate Degrees, diplomas and technical certificates.

While some of Holme’s 5,800 students come to study the liberal arts and sciences, most pursue training that will provide a career path or enhance their current career. Areas of study include automotive repair, computer repair, graphic design, welding, construction, and heavy equipment repair. The school maintains an agreeable 22:1 student to faculty ratio so everyone gets the attention they need.

16. Elgin Community College

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Authority.org “score” : 86
Location: Elgin, IL
Average net price: $5,640
Acceptance rate: 100%
Graduation rate: 34.8%

Elgin Community College was founded in 1949 by an act of the Illinois Legislature. The school offers a wide range of courses in the liberal arts and sciences, as well as vocational training, technical training, and career enhancement courses for all kinds of students. In all, Elgin offers more than 130 types of degrees, diplomas, and certificates.

But Elgin Community College does not stop there. They also offer high school equivalency testing, citizenship classes, ESL classes, and more. But it is the technical and vocational training most students come for. Courses cover automotive repair, computer-aided design, dental assistant, EMT training, massage therapy, paralegal, welding and much more.

17. Sowela Technical Community College

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Authority.org “score” : 85.3
Location: Lake Charles, LA
Average net price: $8,441
Acceptance rate: 100%
Graduation rate: 37%

Sowela Technical College in Lake Charles, Louisiana was founded in 1938 by the Louisiana State Legislature. The school went through several incarnations during its first few decades of existence. But since the 1990s, it has grown and matured into one of the most innovative and vibrant centers of learning in the area.

Sowela confers Associate Degrees, technical diplomas and certificates in some two dozen programs including Industrial Production, Secretarial Science, Computer Networking, Criminal Justice and Telecommunications. The school also offers a fast-track 16 week Associate of Applied Science degree for qualified students.

18. Frontier Community College

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Authority.org “score” : 84.9
Location: Fairfield, IL
Average net price: $2,835
Acceptance rate: 100%
Graduation rate: 41.5%

Frontier Community College was founded in 1974 and was initially named Illinois Eastern Community College Continuing Education Facilities in Fairfield. Over the years it has grown into a significant educational institution in its own right. It now offers both two and four-year degrees, along with technical certificates in numerous fields.

Frontier Community College offers programs in the liberal arts, the health sciences, the humanities, and more. It also offers certificates in everything from sports management to automotive technology, graphic design, fire science, paramedicine, and many other subjects. The college also partners with nearby Fairfield University to offer students the chance to pursue a Bachelor’s degree while attending Frontier.

19. Mt. San Antonio College

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Authority.org “score” : 84
Location: Walnut, CA
Average net price: $3,023
Acceptance rate: 100%
Graduation rate: 22.6%

Mt San Antonio College opened its doors in 1946. It’s located in Walnut, California, which happens to be one of the less aggressively developed areas of Los Angeles County. Mt. San Antonio College is one of the largest institutions on our list, with a current enrollment of 30,000 full and part-time students. The highest degree obtainable from MSA is an Associate Degree.

Mt. San Antonio has a highly regarded aircraft maintenance and aviation program that has received national recognition. Students can train to become air traffic controllers. Or they can obtain an Associate Degree in Commercial Flight or Aviation Science, which greatly increases their odds of finding employment in the aviation industry.

20. Johnson College

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Authority.org “score” : 83
Location: Scranton, PA
Average net price: $18,637
Acceptance rate: 96.4%
Graduation rate: 72.7%

Johnson College is named for Orlando S. Johnson, who made his fortune in coal and used some of his money to found the school that bears his name. Johnson College opened in 1912 to provide vocational training to local youths. Over the years it has grown into an impressive junior college offering more than a dozen Associate Degree programs, while still providing top-notch technical training.

95% of Johnson College’s 455 students are full-time, and the school maintains a student-friendly 17:1 faculty/student ratio. The school’s mission is to help students enter into the workforce on solid footing and facilitate career advancement. The beautiful 44-acre campus provides all the amenities a college student would expect, including laboratories, a student resource center, a gymnasium, a cafeteria and more.

21. Western Iowa Tech Community College

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Authority.org “score” : 81.7
Location: Sioux City, IA
Average net price: $8,349
Acceptance rate: 100%
Graduation rate: 41.9%

Western Iowa Technical Community College was founded in 1966. Its main campus is located in Sioux City, with smaller satellite campuses in Cherokee, Le Mars, Denison, and Mapleton. WITCC confers Associate Degrees and issues certificates and diplomas, depending on the field of study. And there is a lot to study at WITCC. A full 170+ programs.

Western Iowa Tech hosts about 2,500 full-time students and nearly 4,000 part-timers. The school maintains an agreeable faculty to student ratio of 25:1, and those faculty members are very well regarded. Those looking to hone their workforce credibility will find a lot to sink their teeth into at WITCC, including programs in agribusiness, carpentry, industrial welding, residential plumbing, and cybersecurity, just to name a few.

22. Asnuntuck Community College

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Authority.org “score” : 80.5
Location: Enfield, CT
Average net price: $8,920
Acceptance rate: 100%
Graduation rate: 45.4%

Asnuntuck Community College was founded in 1972 and awarded a total of 32 Associate Degrees to members of its first graduating class in 1974. There are currently some 1,600 students at Asnuntuck. Some are pursuing technical training to enhance their employment options while others will move on to traditional four-year colleges after graduation.

Asnuntuck derives its name from the Native American word for ‘fresh water’ and is a reference to the nearby Connecticut River. A high percentage of Asnuntuck students are pursuing technical training at the school’s Manufacturing Technology Center. The MTC facilitates the transition from school to work life, and nearly all MTC graduates have a good job waiting for them when they leave the school.

23. Ridgewater College

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Authority.org “score” : 80.3
Location: Willmar, MN
Average net price: $11,782
Acceptance rate: 100%
Graduation rate: 47.5%

Two hours west of Minneapolis in the town of Willmar you’ll find Ridgewater College. The college currently serves some 3,700 full and part-time students who study everything from agribusiness to arts and humanities and nursing. The school maintains a better than average faculty to student ratio of 20:1 and operates within the standard semester-based academic year.

Ridgewater College was founded in 1996 and has proven quite popular. It is often ranked the number 1 community college in the state. Students interested in honing their job skills may study construction trades, automotive trades, engineering, information technology, public safety, marketing, cosmetology, and much more. For non-traditional students, the school offers credit for life experience.

24. Southwest Wisconsin Technical College

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Authority.org “score” : 79.4
Location: Fennimore, WI
Average net price: $9,875
Acceptance rate: 100%
Graduation rate: 56.1%

Southwest Wisconsin Technical College was founded in 1967. It was created by the legislature for the express purpose of training young people to work on the modern farm. It has since expanded to cover more than 70 areas of concentration. The school is located in Fennimore, Wisconsin, about two hours due west of Madison on US 18.

SWTC serves a nine-county area and offers everything from traditional liberal arts to vocational training. The school runs a much-heralded Farm Operations and Management program that covers as aspects of running a 21st-century agricultural enterprise. There’s also a cosmetology department that runs a working salon which provides skincare and other services to students and the public.

25. North Dakota State College of Science

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Authority.org “score” : 78.6
Location: Wahpeton, ND
Average net price: $11,010
Acceptance rate: 100%
Graduation rate: 52.7%

North Dakota State College of Science was founded in 1903 by the North Dakota legislature. It offers students the chance to study more than 80 different subjects and obtain a degree, diploma, or certificate, depending on the program. The school offers traditional liberal arts courses as well as technical programs designed specifically to enhance a person’s employment potential.

North Dakota State College of Science is located near the border with Minnesota, about two hours drive south of Fargo. The school offers technical programs related to agriculture, auto body repair, Caterpillar heavy equipment servicing, culinary arts, building construction and more.

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