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Ranking the best colleges for international relations

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With diametrically opposing worldviews generating conflict on an almost daily basis, the study of international relations has never been more important than it is today.

Authority.org has compiled data from dozens of sources spanning the academic and political spectrum and determined that the following are the best colleges for international relations in 2020.

Here is our list:

1. Yale University

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Authority.org “score” : 99.4
Location: New Haven, CT
Average net price: $18,627
Acceptance rate: 6.9%
Graduation rate: 96.9%

Yale University was chartered in 1701, making it the 3rd oldest college in the United States. Yale is located in New Haven, Connecticut, and occupies a significant portion of New Haven’s downtown area. Yale benefits from an endowment worth an estimated $31 billion, which is the 2nd largest endowment of any university after Harvard.

Yale is known for its world-class Fine Arts program, Yale-New Haven Hospital, and the fact that it is a breeding ground for Presidents. Presidents William Howard Taft, Gerald R. Ford, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton are all Yale alums. As are four of the current nine US Supreme Court justices.

2. Georgetown University

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Authority.org “score” : 99.2
Location: Washington, DC
Average net price: $30,107
Acceptance rate: 15.7%
Graduation rate: 93.9%

Georgetown was founded as a Catholic university in 1789 and is located just a few miles down the Potomac River from the White House. Georgetown has a reputation for being very selective, accepting just 15% of applicants. As you might imagine given its location, international relations, political science and economics are all popular areas of study for Georgetown students.

The Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown is one of the nation’s foremost schools focusing on international relations. Founded in 1919, the Walsh School has graduated numerous influential figures including former Senator Richard Durbin, former Sec of State Alexander Haig, former President Bill Clinton, King Abdullah of Jordan and many more.

3. Harvard University

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Authority.org “score” : 99
Location: Cambridge, MA
Average net price: $14,327
Acceptance rate: 5.2%
Graduation rate: 97.6%

Harvard is the oldest institution of higher education in the United States. It was founded in 1636 and named for John Harvard, one of its initial benefactors. Harvard is routinely ranked the best university in the world, has the largest endowment of any university in the world and has graduated 8 US presidents and 160 Nobel Prize laureates.

The primary vehicle for the study and practice of international relations at Harvard is the Kennedy School of Government, named after the former President and Harvard alum. The Kennedy School offers numerous undergraduate courses, master’s programs in public policy and international development, and four doctoral programs.

4. Stanford University

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Authority.org “score” : 97.5
Location: Stanford, CA
Average net price: $13,261
Acceptance rate: 4.7%
Graduation rate: 93.8%

Stanford is a mid-sized university with just over 7,000 undergraduates. It is one of the most selective universities in the nation, accepting less than 5% of applicants. With the global focus shifting increasingly toward Asia, Pacific Rim institutions like Stanford are playing an increasingly important role in the conduct of the East-West dialogue.

Stanford University students majoring in International Relations are required to spend at least one quarter studying abroad. In the classroom, the focus is on political science, history, economics, and global politics. The Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford prepares graduate students for careers in diplomacy, politics and more.

5. Columbia University

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Authority.org “score” : 96.9
Location: New York, NY
Average net price: $24,231
Acceptance rate: 6.6%
Graduation rate: 95.7%

Originally named ‘King’s College’ in honor of George II of Great Britain, the school was named Columbia College following the American revolution. The royal charter was also revoked, and the school placed under the direction of a newly appointed board of trustees led by Alexander Hamilton. Columbia is located on the upper west side of the island of Manhattan, in the neighborhood of Morningside Heights.

Being located in the nation’s largest city (and one of the centers of global economics and diplomacy), Columbia is ideally suited to provide its students with a well-rounded education in international affairs. The study of international relations at Columbia is divided into two fields: international security and international finance and economics.

6. George Washington University

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Authority.org “score” : 96.3
Location: Washington, DC
Average net price: $31,956
Acceptance rate: 41%
Graduation rate: 83.5%

Like Georgetown, George Washington University is located just miles from the centers of power in Washington DC. There are more than 11,000 undergraduates at George Washington, a good many of them studying international relations. Many GWU graduates stay in the DC area to take jobs in government, government-related think tanks, NGOs with international reach and more.

Students of international relations at George Washington are taught to look behind the curtain to better understand the forces driving conflicts and geopolitical movements. More than 3/4 of GWU students majoring in international relations spend at least one semester abroad, expanding their understanding and looking at complex issues from different perspectives.

7. University of Pennsylvania

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Authority.org “score” : 95
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Average net price: $10,605
Acceptance rate: 9.3%
Graduation rate: 94.7%

Simply called ‘Penn’ by most students, the University of Pennsylvania was founded in 1740 by Benjamin Franklin, who would also become its first president. Franklin espoused a curriculum that focused on the study of government and economics and emphasized the value of public service. Penn has graduated 46 US governors, 32 senators and 14 foreign heads of state.

Penn students who major in international relations study the different players and forces present in the international arena. While national governments are the primary focus, attention is also given to NGOs, multinational corporations, religious groups, terrorist organizations, and the media.

8. American University

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Authority.org “score” : 94.7
Location: Washington, DC
Average net price: $36,567
Acceptance rate: 29.4%
Graduation rate: 80.7%

The American University is a private research university. Like Georgetown and GWU, it is based in Washington DC, near the mechanisms of international power. American University opened its doors in 1814 and was intended to promote ideals of public service. AUDC occupies a 90-acre campus just a couple of miles up Massachusetts Ave NW from the US Naval Observatory.

American University is home to the United States Foreign Policy and National Security Program. The goal of the program is to produce international affairs experts able to step into various positions in government and private industry that require a high degree of analytical skill and international wherewithal.

9. Dartmouth College

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Authority.org “score” : 92.6
Location: Hanover, NH
Average net price: $30,421
Acceptance rate: 10.4%
Graduation rate: 94.1%

Dartmouth College is one of the oldest colleges in the country. It was founded in 1769 and occupies a spacious 31,000-acre campus in beautiful Hanover, New Hampshire. Dartmouth is an Ivy League school with 40 departments offering 57 majors. Dartmouth students enjoy the facility and faculty benefits that come with the school’s nearly $6 billion endowment.

The Dartmouth Department of Government offers intense, illuminating courses for those majoring in international relations. A sampling of their courses include ‘War and Peace in the Modern Age’, ‘Psychology and International Politics’, and ‘Nuclear Weapons, Physical and Strategic Effects’. Courses like these and many others explore the complex circumstances that drive international relations.

10. Brown University

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Authority.org “score” : 91.9
Location: Providence, RI
Average net price: $27,238
Acceptance rate: 8.5%
Graduation rate: 96%

Brown is the 7th oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. It was founded in 1764 and is located in Providence, Rhode Island. Brown is very selective in its admissions process, accepting only 8% of applicants. It is a mid-sized university with 6,730 undergraduates. Brown has graduated 54 members of Congress, four secretaries of state and numerous other public figures.

The Watson Institute for International & Public Affairs at Brown provides a multidisciplinary focus for students wishing to pursue a career in government, diplomacy, or other careers with international implications. Students study political science, economics, anthropology, history, religion, and more. In all, some two dozen academic departments contribute to the Watson Institute curriculum.

11. Tufts University

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Authority.org “score” : 91.3
Location: Medford, MA
Average net price: $32,620
Acceptance rate: 14.9%
Graduation rate: 93.4%

Tufts University is located mostly in Somerville, Massachusetts, just north of Boston, although they also maintain a medical school campus in downtown Boston. Tufts is a mid-sized university with just over 5,500 undergraduate students. Tufts is sometimes overshadowed as a school for studying international relations by its nearby neighbor, Harvard. But it shouldn’t be.

For students wishing to pursue a career in international relations, the Fletcher School at Tufts offers comprehensive training. The School focuses on the importance of international law as a facilitator of international cooperation and diplomacy (1). But it also emphasizes the geographic and economic issues that underlie, and in many cases, undermine understanding between nations.

12. Johns Hopkins University

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Authority.org “score” : 90.7
Location: Baltimore, MD
Average net price: $27,868
Acceptance rate: 12.5%
Graduation rate: 93.6%

Johns Hopkins University was founded in 1876 and named for its first benefactor. Hopkins was an entrepreneur who donated $7 of his own money to get the University up and running (a contribution worth approximately $150 in today’s dollars). Johns Hopkins is best known for its world-class medical center, but many students of international relations are drawn here as well.

For those wishing to pursue careers in government or diplomacy, Hopkins offers the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. Those enrolled in the Nitze School study political science, sociology, economics, and other subjects as they pertain to the building and maintenance of international cooperation. Many Nitze School students spend at least one semester studying abroad.

13. Northwestern University

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Authority.org “score” : 90.2
Location: Evanston, IL
Average net price: $24,047
Acceptance rate: 9.2%
Graduation rate: 92.8%

Northwestern is located just outside Chicago, IL, and hosts 8,100 undergraduate and more than 13,000 postgraduate students. Only 9.2% of applicants are admitted to Northwestern, making it a very selective school. Economics and psychology are the most popular majors, but the school is also known for its outstanding International Studies Program.

Undergraduates in the International Studies program are exposed to various events designed to enrich and inform and expand their intellectual horizons. The school maintains a Global Cafe where IS students meet and discuss the issues of the day. Graduate students are also encouraged to mentor undergrads in the IS program through the Global Cafe mechanism.

14. Colgate University

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Authority.org “score” : 88.6
Location: Hamilton, NY
Average net price: $23,058
Acceptance rate: 28.1%
Graduation rate: 89.6%

Colgate University has a total enrollment of just under 3,000 undergraduates. It is located in Hamilton, New York, and was founded in 1819. Colgate offers 56 majors in areas of concentration ranging from psychology to international relations. Colgate is selective, with only 28% of applicants being accepted.

Colgate offers a highly regarded International Relations program that exposes students to the real-world mechanisms of law, justice, political decision making, and conflict resolution. Students in the IR program are encouraged to develop their analytical and theoretical skills and are shown how to potentially put them to work in the real world.

15. College of William & Mary

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Authority.org “score” : 87.4
Location: Williamsburg, VA
Average net price: $19,720
Acceptance rate: 35.9%
Graduation rate: 90%

William and Mary is the 2nd oldest institution of higher education in the US after Harvard. It was founded in 1693 and played a key role in educating many of the nation’s founders, Presidents Jefferson, Monroe and Tyler all graduated from William and Mary. There are 6,250 undergraduates and 2,440 postgraduates enrolled at William and Mary. The College is also the birthplace of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society.

The College of William and Mary, while no longer the breeding ground of US Presidents it once was, retains a robust International Relations department. The IR program at the school focuses on the numerous factors affecting international relations, including the role played by NGOs, terrorist organizations, multinational conglomerates and more.

16. Cornell University

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Authority.org “score” : 86.9
Location: Ithaca, NY
Average net price: $31,230
Acceptance rate: 12.7%
Graduation rate: 93.6%

Cornell was founded in 1865 by Ezra Cornell and maintains a 745-acre campus in Ithaca, New York. Cornell was founded as a co-educational institution and today has slightly more than 15,000 undergraduate and 8,000 graduate students. Cornell admits 12.7% of applicants, indicating they seek quality first and foremost.

A majority of the university’s departments are involved in some way in the training of IR students through the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies. Students at the Einaudi Center study the economic, religious, political, historical, and cultural forces that drive both understanding and cooperation, as well as conflict and conflict resolution.

17. University of Michigan Ann Arbor

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Authority.org “score” : 85
Location: Ann Arbor, MI
Average net price: $31,308
Acceptance rate: 26.5%
Graduation rate: 90.1%

The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor is the state’s oldest university. Founded in 1817, it predates the establishment of Michigan as a state. The school originally called Detroit its home but moved to a 40-acre campus in Ann Arbor in 1837. Michigan has one of the largest endowments ($12.4 billion) of any non-Ivy League school, and counts former President Gerald R. Ford among is alumni.

Students at Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy study a full range of topics related to the building, maintenance, and repair of international relations. Courses cover everything from international law, foreign relations, economic policy, military affairs, history, religion, culture, and much more. The goal is to create well-rounded experts who can assume important roles and make an immediate difference.

18. University of Notre Dame

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Authority.org “score” : 84
Location: South Bend, IN
Average net price: $28,768
Acceptance rate: 18.9%
Graduation rate: 96.6%

Notre Dame is a Catholic University occupying a 1,216-acre campus just outside South Bend, Indiana. There are currently just over 8,600 full-time undergraduates studying at Notre Dame, and nearly 97% of freshman admissions can expect to finish the entire four years and graduate. Notre Dame maintains a very agreeable faculty-student ratio of 8:1.

Notre Dame students studying international relations learn how internal politics, national security, national identity, religion, economics, and more influence the behavior of governments. The school also offers the Notre Dame International Security Center, the Kellogg Institute for International Studies, and the Kroc Institute for International Peace. Notable graduates include former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

19. US Military Academy at West Point

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Authority.org “score” : 82.7
Location: West Point, NY
Average net price: $0
Acceptance rate: 9.6%
Graduation rate: 83.8%

The US Military Academy at West Point was originally a defensive fort overlooking the Hudson River north of New York City. In 1801 President Jefferson led the effort to establish a military academy at West Point, and it has been thus ever since. West Point is the oldest of the US military academies and currently hosts approximately 4,500 undergraduates.

A military academy may seem an unlikely place to develop diplomats, but two former US presidents, several cabinet secretaries and the 2nd man ever to walk on the moon all graduated from West Point. West Point cadets study International Relations mostly through a military lens. Although they are also required to study economics, trade, conflict resolution, and how countries cooperate (or don’t cooperate).

20. University of Southern California

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Authority.org “score” : 81.5
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Average net price: $30,232
Acceptance rate: 16%
Graduation rate: 91.8%

The University of Southern California, known as USC, was founded in 1880 and currently enrolls some 19,000 undergraduates and 27,500 graduate students. USC is selective in who they admit. But once admitted, students stand a 91% chance of graduating. The main University Park campus in Los Angeles covers 299 acres and includes the Center for International and Public Affairs.

The Center for International and Public Affairs at USC is one of the oldest such centers in the world. The Center prioritizes a diverse range of worldviews and encourages students to see international relations from a wide-ranging perspective.

21. Boston University

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Authority.org “score” : 79.7
Location: Boston, MA
Average net price: $37,065
Acceptance rate: 25.1%
Graduation rate: 85.1%

Boston University is located in the western part of Boston near Fenway Park and between Brookline and the Charles River. BU, as it is called, has a current enrollment of some 34,000 students split almost evenly between undergraduates and graduate students. BU offers its students more than 300 major areas of study. There are also more than a hundred foreign study programs.

BU students focusing on a career in international relations study at the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies. Undergraduates seeking a career in government, policy making, diplomacy or international trade can choose from a plethora of world-class courses in political science, sociology, religion, economics and more.

22. Washington University St. Louis

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Authority.org “score” : 78.3
Location: St. Louis, MO
Average net price: $28,540
Acceptance rate: 16%
Graduation rate: 91.9%

Washington University St. Louis was founded in 1853 and is located on a 346-acre campus in central St. Louis, Missouri, and serves 7,600 undergraduates and 7,400 graduate students. Washington University admits only 16% of applicants and has an academic staff of 3,800+ members. The University has several Nobel Laureates and Pulitzer Prize winners among its alumni.

Many are surprised to learn that Washington University has a nearly $8 billion endowment. It puts the fruits of that endowment to good use with its International Affairs program. The program brings in many of the best and brightest minds as guest lecturers and offers numerous opportunities to study complex global issues abroad.

23. Emory University

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Authority.org “score” : 77.6
Location: Atlanta, GA
Average net price: $28,540
Acceptance rate: 22%
Graduation rate: 88.9%

Emory is one of the oldest institutions of higher learning in the US. It was founded in 1836 and currently occupies a 631-acre campus on the outskirts of Atlanta. Emory has more than 15,000 students enrolled in its undergraduate and graduate programs. At various times the faculty has included former US President Jimmy Carter, Desmond Tutu, and the 14th Dalai Lama.

Because of Emory’s ability to attract world leaders to both teach and lecture, its International Studies program is very highly respected. The program seeks to expose students to distinguished individuals with unique perspectives and to shape their worldview into one that is multifaceted and mindful of the various forces that affect our world.

24. University of Chicago

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Authority.org “score” : 75.9
Location: Chicago, IL
Average net price: $25,455
Acceptance rate: 8.7%
Graduation rate: 91.7%

The University of Chicago was founded in 1890 using a give from John D. Rockefeller and a matching gift from the American Baptist Education Society. Land was donated by the founder of Field’s Department Stores, Marshall Fields. The University played a crucial role in the development of the atomic bomb, and later in the development of nuclear power.

The University of Chicago maintains the Committee on International Relations. The program is known for its intellectual rigor and the encouragement of diverse perspectives on past, current, and future events. The Committee values the development of keen analytical skills and encourages out-of-the-box thinking on complex issues as a way to arrive at greater understanding.

25. Brandeis University

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Authority.org “score” : 75.3
Location: Waltham, MA
Average net price: $31,308
Acceptance rate: 34.2%
Graduation rate: 85.1%

Louis Brandeis was the first Jewish US Supreme Court Justice. The university that bears his name was founded in 1948 and occupies a 235-acre campus in Waltham, Massachusetts, about half an hour by car outside of Boston. The school host 3,600 undergraduates and 2,100 graduate students.

The International and Global Studies Program at Brandeis is a major draw. Attracting young people from all over the nation interested in pursuing a career in international relations. The Program explores the forces at work shaping the international community, including the effects of globalization on national economies, national identities and the environment.

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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

Apply to the University of Texas

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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