Bigger is not necessarily better. At least that is certainly not the case when it comes to college towns. In fact, students across the country are doing their homework to find small-town colleges for many reasons.
Small town campuses offer a spirit of community that can sometimes escape metropolitan areas. Nothing evokes the feeling of the traditional, American college experience like a small campus. When students elect to attend a small school, they are choosing not only a charming environment or vibrant student life, but a thoughtful place to begin their college journey.
2016 Online Education Trends Report: Learn how online programs are changing the face of higher education.
U.S. Military Academy At West Point
Known by many names–West Point, The Academy, The Point and the Army among them–this prestigious institution is located in West Point, New York. The scenic gray-and-black granite campus is 50 miles north of New York City and overlooks the Hudson River. The site itself is a national landmark and tourist destination, and is home to scores of monuments, historic sites and buildings and the oldest museum in the U.S. Army.
Around Westpoint, many of the attractions–like Flirtation Walk, the cemetery and museum–are geared to educate visitors and residents about either the Academy or the the monuments on campus. However, the town also offers easy access to wineries, the Walkway over the Hudson, restaurants and outdoor recreation. New York City, of course, is only a 45-minute drive from campus for those who need a break from the rigors of tradition and the stunning Hudson River Valley views. In the city, visitors can take in Broadway musicals, world-renowned dining, museums and sporting events.
Students who learn at Dartmouth are part of a close-knit community anchored by campus life. Scholars take part in educational programs and research, of course, but they also have access to cabin rentals, Dartmouth’s Cross Country Ski Center, Moosilauke Lodge, hiking, the Appalachian Trail (which runs through campus), and the Connecticut River. Dartmouth’s Outing Club, open to all, is the country’s oldest and largest collegiate outing club.
With access to nature, a robust, active student life and an admirably sustainable campus, it’s no wonder students at Dartmouth receive an incredible, nationally recognized education. Economics, political science and history are among the most popular programs at this rural college. The education and engineering programs at Dartmouth are also nationally recognized. Whatever the program of interest, nearly half of the students at this institution receive scholarships to offset the cost of tuition, making programs as affordable as they are exceptional.
The campus at Williams College is situated in the foothills of Mount Greylock in Williamstown. Students at Williams College revel in the town’s rural setting, which is scenic and enjoys all four seasons. For the outdoorsy, there is a state park, forest and nature preserve in-town. The campus routinely participates in a tradition called Mountain Day, which involves the cancellation of all classes in order for students to climb Stony Ledge. Metropolitan students will appreciate the Billsville House Concerts and the annual Williamstown Film Festival. Williams College is also home to the oldest observatory in operation, the Hopkins Observatory.
The college places a strong emphasis on experiential learning and community involvement; these practices are incorporated whenever possible into the curriculum at WC. Students study, in nearly equal measure, English, history, economics, math and political science.
Located in the small town of Middlebury, this college is nestled between the Adirondacks and the Green Mountains in the scenic Champlain Valley. The college believes learning is part and parcel of its environment, which includes a campus that was the first in the country to develop an environmental sustainability program in the 1960s. The campus’ College Snow Bowl offers 17 trails and is a popular destination for New England residents. The campus’ proximity to the valleys and mountains also provide a perfect opportunity to observe and research the sciences in a living laboratory.
All freshmen at Middlebury are asked to spend their first year on-campus. Here, students have access to more than 170 student clubs and organizations, as well as team sports like alpine skiing, cross country running, squash and lacrosse (as well as the traditional offerings like football and baseball). This involvement in the campus has led to a 95% retention rate and a 94% graduation rate (2013-14 academic year).
Located 40 miles outside Minneapolis and St. Paul, this rural college describes its academic environment as one where students are more likely to cooperate than compete. A small campus (roughly 2,000 students per year) means personalized attention and a tight-knit community; at Carleton, most students are required to live on-campus, making collaborative learning that much more likely. Students who graduate from this college are notoriously well-rounded and are required to engage in argument and inquiry, writing, intercultural and physical education studies, among other topics.
A historic river town situated along the shores of the Cannon, this college town is shared by Saint Olaf College, lending this locale an exciting character strongly shaped by the liberal arts.
Built on a Hamilton hillside, Colgate is a private college where students revel in the immaculate grounds and carefully preserved circa-1827 architecture. Undergraduates are required to spend their first three years on-campus at Colgate, where approximately half of the student body participates in Greek life.
This scenic campus places a high-priority on sustainability, and hopes to make its campus, which is consistently recognized as one of the most beautiful in the country, carbon neutral by 2019. There are 10 miles of walking paths, some of which lead out to a town Forbes named one of the friendliest in the nation.
The student-faculty ratio at Colgate is only 9:1, which guarantees students will receive as much personal attention as they feel they need. The campus offers 54 majors, the most popular of which are economics, liberal arts, psychology and history. Some of the popular minors at Colgate include creative writing, LGBTQ studies and Medieval and Renaissance studies. Service learning is an important focus of this college, and students are also drawn to the campus for its diversity and amiability.
This private university is located three miles from New York, Washington D.C. and Philadelphia. There are many cultural attractions in the nearby town of Lewisberg, such as museums, festivals, boutiques, shopping districts and dining. The area surrounding this rural college is robust, and offers easy access to state parks outdoor recreation. Nature enthusiasts will appreciate the easy access to activities like cycling, hiking, kayaking and fishing across the Susquehanna Valley. The Outdoor Education and Leadership Center is a great resource for learning more about what the area has to offer.
While the neighborhoods surrounding the college are all intact or repurposed Victorian homes, Bucknell’s facilities have recently received a facelift. Athletic offerings include an Olympic-sized pool, state-of-the-art fitness center and 18-hole golf course. The campus has been outfitted with modern buildings and technology, and some of these changes have garnered recognition for their beautiful design and function.
There are more than 50 majors and 65 minors to choose from at Bucknell, including a popular five-year dual program that combines engineering with either management or liberal arts.
Located 35 miles from Cleveland, Oberlin offers 47 academic majors and an additional 42 minor concentrations. 73% of classes at Oberlin have fewer than 20 students attending at any given time, and the student-teacher ratio is a modest 9:1. In addition to popular programs like music, history and political science, the college also has a student-run experimental college.
Oberlin’s sustainable campus is able to generate more power than it actually uses through its implementation of solar power, green technology and other energy-saving features. There is a strong emphasis on music studies at this green college, which houses the nation’s oldest continually operating music conservatory. Through its robust musical program, Oberlin offers students access to more than 500 recitals and concert events every year, as well as 40 dance, theatre and opera performances ― many of them offered at no charge. This popular area of study draws nearly 15% of the college’s student body to campus.
Virginia Military Institute
The oldest of its kind, VMI is a state-supported military institution. Students at this college are known as cadets, and it is a requirement that these students participate in Reserve Officer’s Training Corps (more commonly know as ROTC). To prepare students for a life of military service, the on-campus housing and academic regimen is adapted from life in the Corps. Student housing is known as the Barracks, where there is strong emphasis on maintaining tidy living quarters.
Academics and recreation are an important part of the experience at this Lexington campus. The Chessie Nature Trail is a popular attraction for nature lovers. This 7-mile hike connects Lexington to Buena Vista and is open year-round, frequented during the warm summers and cool winters. The campus also offers many clubs and organizations to cadets that reflect a modern interest in technology, community service and music. Tourism in this area is an important part of the economy and educational experience. Students can enjoy the Lee Chapel, home of Stonewall Jackson and an intimate, bed-and-breakfast community environment.
90 miles northwest of Columbus, the Sandusky River runs right through Tiffin. Once home to many thriving institutions, like glass and porcelain manufacturers, this distant town now cherishes the relics of its industrial past. Museums that can offer a glimpse into what Seneca County, Ohio used to be include the American Civil War Museum, Doll Museum, Tiffin Art Guild Gallery and Seneca County Museum.
The campus offers more than 34 majors and 35 minors. All freshmen, sophomores and juniors at Tiffin are required to live on-campus unless their primary residence is located less than 45 miles away from the school. Some of the most popular programs at TU include criminology and forensics, forensic psychology and organizational management. For those interested in Tiffin’s offerings but not close enough to commute, the campus offers several satellite locations and a robust online campus.
Grove City College
Roughly 50 miles outside Pittsburgh, Grove City is home to Grove City College. A family-oriented burgh, Grove City has been called the crossroads of the East. The revitalized and rustic downtown area is bustling with shops and eateries in a safe, neighborly atmosphere. The city’s largest outdoor recreational area, Grove City Park, offers students and residents access to a well-maintained golf course, ball fields, pond and boat docking area.
GCC, a private, conservative Christian institution, feels right at home in this welcoming small town atmosphere. The university places an emphasis on humanities in its core curriculum. There is an overarching theme of building strong moral character on campus, with an emphasis placed on imbuing students with a strong sense of social responsibility. In an effort to encourage students to take part in a global community of Christian service, the campus makes efforts to encourage students to study abroad for a summer, a semester or even a year.
Brigham Young University - Hawaii
Home to the fifth oldest Mormon temple in the world, Brigham Young University’s acceptance rate of only 35% reflects its high academic standards. Some of the most popular subjects studied at BYU-Hawaii include business, education, interdisciplinary studies and subjects associated with the areas of parks and recreation and fitness studies.
As small towns go, students can get too much more intimate than Laie. Located along the northeastern coast of Oahu, Laie rests between Hau’ula and Kahuku, and is nearly 40 miles north of Honolulu. The town has a shopping center and a handful of fast food restaurants, but its other main point of interest outside the college campus is the Polynesian Cultural Center, Hawaii’s number one paid visitor attraction. A large open-air museum and park, the center offers a glimpse into the culture of the seven Polynesian island nations.
St. Olaf College
This private, Evangelical institution encourages its students to seek out and fulfill a life of faith and service. Steeped in traditional Lutheran educational values, this college prides itself on providing students with an engaging community that welcomes all faiths with an academically rigorous education. The campus places a strong emphasis on sustainability and works harder every year to reduce its carbon footprint. Featured repeatedly in the guidebook Colleges That Change Lives, St. Olaf is praised for its popular study abroad programs, robust offerings in science and mathematics and for its celebrated music department. The college has been recognized again and again by many other respected ranking institutions, as well.
Forty-five minutes from Minneapolis and St. Paul, Northfield is a historic river town with a population of 20,000. Downtown Northfield is within walking distance of campus and offers a picturesque glimpse into its 19th century roots. Nearby are 325 acres of restored wetlands, woodlands and native tallgrass prairie, which the campus and its students own and maintain.
Georgia Southern University
This remote Georgian town is located 200 miles southeast of Atlanta and 170 miles north of Jacksonville. The campus is also one hour from historic Savannah, Hilton Head Island and the Atlantic Coast, offering easy access to a wide range of cultural and natural resources for learning and for recreation.
The university prides itself on offering a large-scale research setting, with a small, focused environment. It is Georgia’s largest and most comprehensive higher learning institute, offering more than 124 different degree programs. Liberal arts, nursing and computer science are among the top programs at GSU for undergraduates, while graduates often pursue degrees in subjects like teaching, education and business. While the college is proud to offer strong traditional academic programs, it also offers studies in fashion design, economic development and manufacturing engineering.
SUNY at Geneseo
Geneseo is located in the historic village of the same name in the upstate, Finger Lakes region of New York. Located 30 minutes from Rochester, the campus is 10 minutes from hiking and kayaking at Letchworth State Park, and just one and a half hours from Niagara Falls. SUNY Geneseo’s campus is a rich, traditional college, featuring brick walkways, shade trees and flourishing ivy. Nearly 70% of the town’s residents work with or are affiliated in some way with the college, making this verdant Genesee Valley campus a true college town.
This selective university is a premier liberal arts college. The campus aims to develop socially responsible citizens of the world, not just academically but holistically, who are equipped with the aptitudes and skills to live a productive and fulfilling life. The college offers 54 undergraduate majors, as well as several dual degree opportunities and chances to study abroad. Sociology, education and biological science are among the most popular programs for undergraduates at SUNY Geneseo, while graduate students enroll most often in education and business courses.
In the foothills of the Ozark Mountains, 50 miles north of Little Rock, lies Harding University’s Searcy campus. The school is the largest private college in Arkansas. Situated amidst breathtaking views, rivers and state parks, there is also no shortage of opportunities for nature lovers to get out and explore their environment at Harding.
Harding is a private Christian liberal arts college, and the curriculum is imbued with the ideals of service, community and actualizing academic potential to better serve others. Building good character is an important part of the Harding mission statement and a characteristic for which the college has been recognized more than once. The college, which continues to grow and renovate its campus, currently offers more than 100 major and minors to students of all denominations.
Truman State University
Kirksville is a rural town located three hours southeast of Des Moines and four hours northwest of St. Louis. Small-town life means the town offers a very welcoming atmosphere for college students. There are always events sponsored by the town, ranging from concerts and outdoor performances to outdoor recreation such as fishing, biking, boating, hiking and swimming. The historic downtown is home to unique shops, locally-owned restaurants and historical attractions.
A small-town atmosphere and campus is beneficial to students at Truman, in that it means more individual attention from faculty. With a student-teacher ratio of only 16:1, most classes at Truman have 24 students or less. Because service and experiential learning are an important part of the Truman experience, all undergraduates are required to participate in some form of internship. There are 30 disciplines on offer at this college, with six open to graduate students.
A 655-acre campus in rural Greencastle, DePauw prides itself on the supportive and insulated community experience it provides students. Upperclassmen are assigned to guide first-year freshman through the nuances of college living through the DePauw Mentor Program, easing the transition. Students are required to live on-campus at DU. Fellowship programs in management media and scientific research offer semester-long internship experiences and guest lecturers to motivated and career-focused students.
For a break from Greencastle’s robust academic offerings, major cities like Indianapolis and Bloomington are less than an hour’s drive away. However, with a 520-acre nature park, over a dozen historic buildings, nine covered bridges and scores of restaurants and shops in Putnam County, students do not often have need to stray too far.
Missouri University of Science and Technology
Originally known as the Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy, Missouri S&T is part of the University of Missouri System. Engineering, computer and physical science and mathematics are among the most popular programs at this tech-focused college. Engineering feats, architectural advancements and mining accolades are major examples of the academics Missouri University prides itself on the most. An example of this is the college’s Solar Village, a community of student-built solar-powered homes.
Located in South Central Missouri, Rolla is found amidst the 1.5 million acre Mark Twain National Forest. The Meramec Valley boasts a diverse landscape, rich with rivers, natural areas, and pre-Civil War railroad history. The Audubon Trails Nature Center is perfect for nature lovers who love to float the river, hike, bike and kayak. Rich in arts and culture, shopping and more, Rolla offers something for every taste.
Georgia College & State University
Located near the grounds of the former state capitol, this institution was designated as Georgia’s state liberal arts academy in 1996. The main campus is decked out in traditional Corinthian architecture. Red-and-white columned buildings, tree-lined boulevards and green lawns offer a distinctive southern charm to the learning environment. Students can either live in apartment-style housing or in the suite-style residence halls. Classrooms are updated to provide students with the latest learning technologies, and most offer class sizes between 15 and 30 students.
The Oconee River flows a half mile east of downtown Milledgeville on its way to the Atlantic Ocean. Five miles to the northeast of this town is Lake Sinclair, a man-made lake that borders several counties. Downtown Milledgeville is a historic area that dates back to 1803. Local points of interest include the Lockerly Arboretum, Memorial Hill Cemetery and the Flannery O’Connor Memorial Room.
University of Mississippi
The University of Mississippi, affectionately called Ole Miss, is the largest university in the state. Business, science, biological science and education are a few popular undergraduate majors offered at this institution, which also boasts a major medical school and renowned law school.
There are 100 majors to choose from at the university, many of which have received national recognition for their academic rigor and student success rates. Freshmen are required to live on campus, where there are abundant opportunities to connect with Greek life and student clubs and organizations.
Oxford is located in the North Central Hills region of Mississippi, known for red clay hills that are densely forested. The city has a burgeoning arts scene and diverse dining options, many of which reflect the college’s southern heritage.
Appalachian State University
Unlike some colleges, Appalachian State encourages students to participate in on-campus research opportunities. There are over 150 undergraduate and graduate programs, as well as a college of music. The academic landscape at ASU is rigorous, campus life is energetic and the setting is outstanding. The college prides itself on applying all of the best qualities of a successful research institution to their small-town liberal arts atmosphere.
Small classes sizes and personal, one-on-one attention characterizes the ASU experience. The average class size at ASU is 26 students, and the student-to-faculty ratio is 16:1. One of 16 colleges in the University of North Carolina system, Appalachian is situated in Boone, hugged by the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Once a trading post of the fabled Daniel Boone, the town has cool summers and chilly winters. Travel journalists have celebrated Boone as a four-season outdoor adventure destination.
Gustavus Adolphus College
This private Minnesota college still holds dear the Swedish, Lutheran heritage upon which the institution was founded in 1862. Christian values and faith are integral to the curriculum, which aims to foster students with the aptitudes and scholarship necessary to work toward a just and peaceful world. Closeness, above-average support from faculty and students and strong work ethic are at the heart of an education at GAC. Small class sizes are common, with a student-teacher ratio of 11:1 that works out to an average class size of just 15 students per course.
The Swedish heritage remains an important element not just at the college, but also in the St. Peter community. Festivals, shops and eateries reflect the historic ethnic diversity of this charming town. Although the campus is beautiful and offers so much to residents, the college recognizes the importance of an international understanding of topics taught in the U.S. For this reason, a little more than half of the student body has traveled abroad in their studies with GAC.
A public university of Ohio, Miami students make up nearly half of the residents of this seven square-mile town. Since freshmen are required to live on campus, there is no shortage of student activity to be found: 500 student organizations and clubs ensure there is never a dull moment on the 2100-acre campus. Miami offers over 120 different bachelor’s programs for undergraduates, while grad students select from over 60 master’s programs and 12 doctoral degrees. Nursing, business and education are consistently popular programs at this fringe-town campus.
Located only 35 miles from Cincinnati, students at MU are never far from the city life if they have a yen for arts, culture and dining outside of the rustic campus setting. However, there is plenty to do in Oxford: festivals, natural areas and nightlife are all close at hand at this charming, small town. Residents agree with the unofficial campus motto: “To think that in such a place, I lived such a life.”
Fort Valley State University
Fort Valley is one of the largest public colleges in Georgia. Some of the more popular undergraduate offerings at Fort Valley include criminal justice, psychology and political science. This historically black college has led the nation, as a public land grant university, in research and advancements in agriculture and agribusiness. Today, the campus offers a robust Greek life, with more than 70 fraternal and sorority organizations, as well as 8 Division II NCAA varsity sports.
Fort Valley is the renowned home of the nation’s peach industry, and despite its name was never home to a fort. (Some believe the town’s name is the result of a filing error, and that is was originally dubbed Fox Valley.) Today, Blue Bird (maker of most of the country’s school busses) are made in the city. Pecan, tomato and strawberry farms are also part of this scenic, southern Georgia town. The campus is also located very near the gorgeous Massee Lane Gardens, a nine-acre camellia garden.
Mississippi State University
Roughly 170 miles southeast of Memphis, Starkville is home to many beautiful parks, including a rose garden maintained by the university’s horticultural program. The Starkville Jail was the inspiration for the Johnny Cash song of the same name, and the city features several preserved neighborhoods with Tudor- and Victorian-style architecture. Some historic homes in the Nash Street, Greensboro and Overstreet districts even contain relics of earlier times, such as attached smokehouses and cookhouses. The area is home to many Southern festivals, street fairs, farmers’ markets, museums, dining and shopping areas, which means students never have to travel far to find excitement off-campus.
However, MSU is a lively place. MSU still observes many of its time-honored traditions, like rattling cowbells at sports games, visiting the annual Drill pep rally to cheer with Bully, the live bulldog mascot. Formerly known as Mississippi A&M College, MSU’s varsity teams compete in about 15 sports as members of the NCAA Division I Southeastern Conference. With over 300 campus clubs, and more than 30 fraternities and sororities, there is always something going on at Mississippi State.
SUNY College at Brockport
Rolling grass fields and wooded lands characterize Brockport, which is located on the historic Erie Canal. 16 miles from downtown Rochester and 45 miles east of Buffalo, this town is only a short drive from the Canadian border. Brockport is known as “a Victorian village on the Erie Canal,” and the 2.2 square-mile town is home to a mere 8,300 people. Public art, small shops and restaurants are some of the offerings in this pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly town, but the the campus offers just as many diversions for students at this State College of New York.
Some of the campus’ athletic facility highlights include an outdoor stadium that seats 10,000, an ice arena that seats 2,000, a state of the art fitness center and baseball complex. The fine arts center provides a beautiful facility for creative students, and includes a dance theater and studio that seat more than 250. There are also two art galleries on campus. With facilities like these, it is no wonder 91% of freshmen choose to live on campus at one of 12 residence halls, and why many juniors and seniors live at the on-site townhome complex. There are 49 undergraduate majors and over 50 master’s degree programs at Brockton, including 26 concentrations of interest for teacher certification.
Oklahoma State University
Freshmen are asked to live on site at residence halls at OSU, where they can choose from suite-style living or apartments-style housing. On campus, students will find 30 dining choices and more than 450 campus organizations and clubs. There are more than 200 majors offered at OSU, including pre-law, pre-health and pre-veterinary programs.
The main campus is located in Stillwater, Oklahoma, home to five lakes and popularly known as “Tornado Alley.” The city has several theatres and many dining options, and is home to a diverse economy involved in aerospace, agriculture, publishing, manufacturing and software development. Food trucks, car shows and bike nights are some of the events Stillwater residents look forward to connecting over.
SUNY at Fredonia
Located in a Chautauqua County in New York, Fredonia had a population of roughly 11,230 in 2010. This village is actually located in Pomfret, south of Lake Erie. The town was founded in 1825, and a natural gas line was struck that powered a handful of stores and a gristmill. That site evolved into the Fredonia Gaslight Company in 1858 and became the first natural gas company in the U.S. The town, nestled amongst vineyards of western New York, has been described as classically elegant yet contemporary village. Students who venture off-campus will find quaint shops, friendly neighbors and quiet streets.
Students who appreciate modern architecture will delight in the contemporary setting at Fredonia, which was designed by I.M. Pei and Henry Cobb and has garnered awards for its quality. The college aims to educate, challenge and inspire students to become connected, creative and responsible members of society. The performing arts program at Fredonia is robust and attracts a high number of applicants. There are over 100 majors available to undergraduates at Fredonia, as well as 15 master’s programs for graduate students. The college also offers a Lifelong Learning program that features credit and noncredit classes for non-degree seeking students.
College of Wooster
Mentored undergraduate research is the primary focus at the College of Wooster. All graduates take part in some form of creative or comprehensive cumulative project, demonstrating the skills and proficiencies gained during their time at this premiere liberal arts institution. The senior capstone project, known as Independent Study, consists of a year-long, in-depth research program into a study that demonstrates the analytical, communication and creative skills learned during their time at the college. This self-described unpretentious college has a student-teacher ratio of 11:1 and offers 43 majors and 7 minors to its undergraduates.
Located nearly 50 miles outside Cleveland, the college is close to the City of Wooster city park system, which includes trails, two pools, and a disc golf course. Nearby is the Ohio State Secrest Arboretum, mountain biking trails at Vulture’s Knob and the 1,000-acre Mohican State Park. The city has a diverse economy, and many restaurants and shopping venues for indoor adventurers to explore. For students looking for part-time work, it is worth mentioning that Site Selection magazine ranked Wooster/Wayne County the fastest growing “micropolitan” in the U.S. for new business growth.
University of North Georgia
The college offers more than 100 associate and bachelor’s degrees, as well as 13 master’s degrees and one doctoral program. There is a focus on co-curricular learning at UNG, dealing with leadership opportunities and community engagement. For graduate, there are several master’s opportunities available entirely online. The campus is one of the four campuses in the University of North Georgia network offering pre-professional degree programs.
Roughly an hour outside Atlanta, the UNG campus is tucked away inside the Blue Ridge Mountains and flanked by the Chattahoochee National Forest. Outdoor recreation abounds in this remote town, and students find no shortage of hiking, hunting and camping opportunities. As the site of the first gold rush in 1828, there are many historical sites and museums to enjoy for the indoor enthusiast in Dahlonega, as well as restaurants and shopping within walking distance of campus.
SUNY at Cortland
There are 67 undergraduate majors and 30 graduate majors at the State College of New York at Cortland. Situated between Syracuse and Binghamton, this 191-acre school offers a modern environment for students to learn. 14 of the 30 buildings on campus provide housing for half of the student population that live on site. Freshmen are required to spend at least four semesters living at the Cortland campus. The campus has made it a priority to advocate for healthy living, with a focus on an ever-increasing level of student involvement on campus and in the community.
This central state college’s location is at the heart of seven intersecting valleys in central New York State. The downtown business district, outfitted in Victorian architecture and small-town charm, is just a short stroll from campus. Students will find both academic and leisurely reasons to explore this land of glacial lakes and sweeping vistas. Cortland’s Outdoor Education Center is located at Raquette Lake in the Adirondack Mountains, as well as the nearby Hoxie Gorge Nature Preserve and the Brauer Education Center on the Helderberg Escarpment near Albany. Formerly known as Camp Pine Knot, the Huntington Memorial Camp is also part of the outdoor education center and is a National Historic Monument and Landmark.
University of West Georgia
Academic excellence and a vivacious campus life characterize the University of West Georgia. The school provides students with the tools to excel in a global marketplace. The campus is known for producing the majority of the state’s educators and nursing graduates and has a fully functional, state of the art forensic anthropology lab. The campus offers 93 majors, as well as a handful of online programs for students-at-large.
The location is set in the progressive southern-style city of Carrollton, Georgia, with plenty of access to restaurants, nightlife and culture. Named one of the best small southern towns and a Georgia City of Excellence, this town welcomes the diversity that college life brings to the community. Take in the arts at the brand new Cultural Arts Center, or explore the city with more than 33,421 acres of public and private park facilities.
SUNY at Plattsburgh
A comprehensive four-year college, Plattsburgh is part of the 64-campus State University of New York. The campus also has an extension campus, Plattsburgh at Queensboro, which is located on the campus of SUNY Adirondack, that offers four-year and six-year degrees with a career-focus such as healthcare or psychology. The Plattsburgh campus offers more than 60 degree programs, as well as a robust collection of internships that give students real career connections and hands-on experience.
This upstate campus is located near Lake Champlain and not far from the Adirondack Mountains. Burlington is the closest major city to this rural college and can be reached via ferry in approximately an hour. In New York, Albany is the next nearest city, and is located 140 miles south. Because the Canadian border is only miles from the Champlain Valley, the city and college value an ongoing positive relationship with their neighbor to the north. Students often make day trips to the cosmopolitan city of Montreal or spend a day out with their peers at the nearby Lake Placid.
Allegheny, a liberal arts college with a strong identity of academic excellence and persistent growth, is recognized nationally as a place where students create “unusual connections.” Students collaborate and interact in such a way here as to thrive because of their individuality, learning to complement the strengths of others and grow. Students are required to declare both a major and a minor at Allegheny and are asked to complete a practical capstone project that adds hands-on experience to a burgeoning career in the making. There are more than 2,500 internship opportunities available through this campus, and more than 75% of students successfully complete such learning experiences.
There is a 203-acre recreation area around the campus, and the Bousson Forest nature preserve offers another 283 acres for exploration. The town of Meadville has a long history of economic growth, which provides students with many opportunities to take part in a variety of roles and industries. Meadville is within driving distance of Chicago, Cincinnati, Baltimore and New York City, but the campus itself is insulated by woodlands and a diverse landscape that experiences all four seasons.
SUNY at Oneonta
SUNY Oneonta offers students small class sizes, undergraduate research opportunities and plenty of chances to interact with faculty at an attractive price. Community and academics are central to the Oneonta mission, which aims to engage, mold and inspire. The campus offers impressive facilities, and students can pursue more than 40 undergraduate majors, seven pre-professional academic tracks and six cooperative programs, many of which are typically exclusive to colleges that rival this campus in size and funding. As part of the First-Year Experience, 3,000 students live on campus in one of 15 residence halls, some of them themed.
The beautiful campus, nestled in the foothills of the Catskills in Central New York, offers a peaceful and scenic setting study as well as self-discovery. The city of Oneonta rests in the valley below the campus and offers beautiful views, changing foliage and boundless natural beauty. Halfway between Albany and Binghamton, Oneonta offers students a safe, friendly small-town atmosphere with a very sincere sense of community.
South Dakota State University
A land- and sun-grant university, South Dakota State places a certain emphasis on liberal arts, nursing, agriculture and engineering. Experiential learning is vital to an education at SDSU, as is research, public service and academic rigor. With an impressive 175 fields of study, 73 majors, 71 minors and 47 master degree programs, there is something for every scholar at South Dakota State. The campus has also received national recognition for its online offerings, which connect the research-focused education of South Dakota State with students across the country.
The campus is located in the friendly college town of Brookings, which is in eastern South Dakota 55 miles north of Sioux Falls. With bike trails, a vibrant downtown and public parks to enjoy, Brookings is a family friendly community that welcomes its college neighbors. Nearby Lake Campbell and Pointsett offer camping, hiking and watersports. There is also a robust historic district to explore, several museums, nature park and an arboretum.
SUNY at Oswego
Located on the shores of Lake Ontario, the campus offers more than 110 programs. The 700-acre campus houses 13 residence halls in order to accommodate students, all of whom must live on-campus if they are 21 or younger. The campus encourages students to interact, not just in their on-site living accommodations, but also through more than 150 clubs and student organizations on-campus, including several opportunities to participate in varsity and intramural sports. Students at Oswego pride themselves on the positive impact their service learning and research has on the local environment and community.
Just 40 miles outside Syracuse, the campus is located in the charming town of Oswego. There are concerts, plays and art performances hosted on as well as off campus and a number of parks to explore. Amazing views of both Lake Ontario and the Oswego River are never far, and the downtown area consists primarily of 19th century architecture. Shops, restaurants and historical attractions reflect the rich history of the area, and students who love the outdoors will find opportunities to hike and hunt, fish and camp not far from campus.
A private Christian college, this campus offers its Christ-focused student body 111 areas of study to choose from. The campus is nationally recognized for its Christian community, strong scholarly focus and impressive student satisfaction scores. The campus places a Creationist focus on science and biology studies; a minor in Bible studies is an important part of nearly every curriculum. Daily chapel services and Christian missions are just a few of the ways students contribute to the community when not learning. The university is also home to HeartSong gospel groups and more than 60 ministry teams that serve at places like churches, schools and social agencies.
The 400-acre campus is certainly an idyllic setting to study nature, science, philosophy and liberal arts. Located between Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati, Cedarville is only 30 minutes from some of the best antique shops (in Waynesville and Springfield), historic attractions, bike paths on the Ohio-Erie Bike Trail, Cedarville Opera House programs and much more. For nature enthusiasts, the nearby Indian Mound Reserve offers visitors great hiking opportunities and a circa-1825 cabin.
Indiana Wesleyan University
Indiana Wesleyan University, a comprehensive Christian university, is committed to liberal arts and professional education. Students will find state-of-the-art facilities and residence halls on this Marion campus, where there are more than 100 majors that encompass studies for ministry professionals, teachers and entrepreneurs. Whatever students choose to study, they can be sure their journey will guide them to service learning opportunities and chances to give back to their communities on a local and global scale.
From covered bridges to museums to trails, Marion has something to offer for everyone. Visitors can golf on the Arbor Trace Golf Course, tackle over seven miles’ worth of trails on the Cardinal Greenway, camp or take in the scenic riverwalk. The town is small but outfitted with all of the modern conveniences students hope to find at college: dining, shopping and wholesome recreational activities, all without ever having to leave the city.
This selective, traditionally Lutheran college focuses on combining a strong liberal arts curriculum with an emphasis on professional experiences. The college offers more than 60 majors at its updated, modern campus. One of the hallmarks of a Susquehanna experience is the guarantee that every student is able to study for at least two weeks abroad through the Global Opportunities program. Hallmarks of this nationally recognized curriculum include the demonstration of “richness of thought, natural world exploration, human interaction, intellectual acumen and an emphasis on making personal and professional connections.”
Susquehanna is roughly 40 miles from the Pennsylvania state capitol of Harrisburg. The town rests in the heart of the Susquehanna River Valley and has been cited as one of the prettiest and friendliest campuses in the U.S. For students interested in exploring the region, New York City, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Baltimore are all roughly three hours away. In Selinsgrove, there are any number of events to keep the town connected, such as Late Night Shoppers Night and Dog Days festivals. For outdoor lovers, the Susquehanna River and Isle of Que are nearby to explore.
Louisiana Tech University
Louisiana Tech is a selective public university, committed to academically rigorous programs and recognized for their curriculums in the fields of science and engineering. Business, liberal arts, health and education studies are among the most popular majors for undergraduate and graduate students. The campus offers a first-year experience rich in opportunities to get involved in service learning, clubs and Greek life. However, students at LTU choose to learn, research, creativity, public service and economic development are important themes that span disciplines and recreational pursuits at this nationally recognized campus.
This pedestrian-friendly campus is lined with shade trees, and students frequently gather at the Lady of the Mist fountain near the center of campus quadrangle. The campus itself is outfitted in a Colonial Revival style of architecture. Students that venture off the 280-acre campus will enjoy exploring the friendly southern town of Ruston. The town has many parks, lakes and biking trails.
Michigan Technological University
Michigan Tech is a 925-acre public research university set in Houghton, Michigan. Originally established to train mining engineers to work in the local copper mines, the campus now offers over 100 majors and minors across five unique colleges. Recognized by the Reader’s Digest as one of the safest campuses in the U.S., MTU is of modest size and can be crossed in a matter of minutes. This is largely because much of the campus consists of tall buildings. Hands-on experience is a hallmark of a Michigan Tech education, where students can take part in internships with such cutting-edge firms as GE Aviation and Dematic.
The campus sits on a bluff overlooking Portage Lake and is a naturally beautiful place to learn. There are outdoor adventure in spades at Houghton, with students able to hike, boat, fish, swim, ski and bike. Stargazing is a popular pastime along the shores of nearby Lake Superior; on some clear evenings the Northern Lights can be seen.
Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania
Less than an hour north of Pittsburgh and an hour south of Lake Erie, Slippery Rock’s most popular programs include parks and recreation, business, nursing and education. There are as many on-campus student organizations to choose from at Slippery Rock as there are student student service opportunities, which demonstrates the student body’s commitment to improving their community. The facility is updated and modern, but the values at this college reflect its neighborly, rural setting. One of the main draws of the college for students is its welcoming, safe atmosphere.
This safe atmosphere, one of the prettiest places in Western Pennsylvania, has undergone a recent facelift, thanks to a $4 million renaissance grant designed to rejuvenate this quaint college town. Old fashioned street lamps and a gazebo lend a rustic charm to downtown Slippery Rock, while storefronts have recently been updated and transformed to accommodate students and tourists. Prairies and lakes, hiking and camping, boating and fishing are all right outside the campus in the town of Slippery Rock.
Ohio Northern University
Located 80 miles northwest of Columbus, there is so much to see and do in rustic Ada, Ohio. The area is home to an Amish community and visitors can explore the culture of Old-Order Amish on a scenic back road tour. Stargazers will delight in the ONU Observatory, and for history buffs, there are Victorian era homes and log cabins that are either preserved or restored to reflect the lives of early settlers in the area. From railroads to antiques, there’s something of old Ada to explore in town.
In order to offer a balance to small-town life in Ada, students at Ohio Northern reside in one of 60 modern residence halls or apartment style living quarters. The campus consists of modern dormitories and academic buildings, which combine cutting-edge technologies with updated architecture to offer students a vibrant campus experience and home-away-from-home. The college is proud of its small class sizes, nationally ranked programs in science, art and professional programs and its sustainability initiatives. There are more than 70 majors to choose from at Ohio Northern’s five colleges, and more than 200 clubs available when students are ready to explore their interests and unwind.
University of Nebraska at Kearney
There are 120 undergraduate majors and 20 pre-professional programs to choose from at the Nebraska, as well as 27 graduate programs. While there is a definite focus on undergraduate programs at Kearney, the university is also positioning itself as destination college for vital graduate programs and online degree offerings as well. The university’s hands-on, one-on-one mentorship is a national model for fostering creativity and research.
While Kearney is a modern, up-and-coming city, the home of UNK is set on preserving its traditions and heritage. A bustling economy means a range of local internship opportunities are available right off-campus, and the safe neighborhoods and spirit of community have earned the town a national reputation as a wonderful place to settle down. Downtown is a place of brick-paved streets, where visitors will find parks, bike trails and hiking not far from the city limits. Outside cultural events and festivals, of which there are many, Kearney’s location along the Platte River affords residents a chance to observe spectacles like the Sandhill crane migration. Two-and-a-half hours east of Omaha, four hours from Denver and five hours from Kansas City, Kearney is located in the center of America’s heartland.
Due to its affiliations with the Lutheran Church, it is no wonder tradition and a strong ethical code are central to the college’s identity. Founded by Norwegians in 1861, it is a source of pride that the campus embraces diversity among its students and faculty. All faiths are welcome at this liberal arts college, where students study performing and visual arts, social science and business more than any other major. The campus is solely a bachelor’s degree granting institution, which means students will receive a comprehensive education where their academic success is the first, foremost and only priority on campus. With more than 60 majors and preprofessional degrees to choose from, there is a discipline for nearly every interest at this small-town Iowa school.
From museums to wineries, students will be surprised at all the wonderful things scenic Decorah has to offer. Art studios, theatre houses and outdoor music festivals appeal to the liberal sensibilities, while activities like hunting, boating, fishing, hiking and biking are all available to nature lovers. Cross country skiing is available seasonally right outside town. Though Decorah may be small, the bluff country of northeast Iowa is as vibrant as it is scenic.
Clarkson is home to students who seek a challenging and rigorous environment. Students at CU benefit from nationally recognized programs in media and design, entrepreneurship and supply chain management. Scholars change choose from 50 undergraduate majors, nine interdisciplinary programs and many graduate programs. When students want to unwind, there are more than 80 student clubs and organizations to explore.
Clarkson students are just as passionate about recreation as they are about academics. Two hours from Montreal and 90 minutes from Ottawa, Potsdam students are not far from the Adirondacks and Lake Placid. Potsdam is located along the banks of Raquette River and is characterized by tree-lined boulevards, historic brick buildings and many restaurants and shops that are campus-friendly. For recreation with a more metropolitan bent, New York City makes a great day trip for Clarkson residents.
George Fox University
This nationally recognized Christian college in Oregon consists entirely of committed Christian students and faculty. Young scholars come to George Fox to grow spiritually as well as academically, and here they receive personal attention and opportunities not only to learn, but also to serve Christ on a global scale. Christian service and experiential learning are as important to students at George Fox as academics, which is why the college hosts Serve Day and Serve Trips, which allow students a day free from courses that allows them to head out into their community and render services to those in need, in whatever capacity, in their community. Outside these opportunities to grow in faith, the campus offers six seminary degree, 40+ bachelor’s programs and a dozen graduate programs.
The campus in Newberg is larger than some small colleges, with a population of roughly 20,000 people. Downtown Newberg is historically preserved for the most part, and here students will find a retro movie theatre, coffee shops and galleries. Hillside vineyards, state parks and working farms characterize the Newberg city limits, but residents love to come together for events and festivals. Nearby, the Chehalem Parks and Recreation District houses 11 parks that offer recreational Frisbee golf courses, sports centers (including a skatepark and BMX track) and nature trails.
Black Hills State University
Black Hills State University is home to 75 two, four and six-year degree programs. The campus has earned a reputation for outstanding academic programs that challenge the traditional rigors of the college experience through a dynamic learning community. Traditional programs such as business and liberal arts are the most popular degrees offered at Black Hills, although the campus also offers exciting programs in photography, outdoor education, sports media and hospitality management.
The campus at Spearfish is less than an hour and a halfs’ drive away from more than 2,000 climbing, hiking and bouldering sites. The Northern Black Hills for which the campus is named offer students access to other diversions like ice climbing, mountain biking and snowboarding. Spearfish Canyon, one of the oldest and most idyllic canyons in the west, is a haven for outdoor lovers. A waterpark, disc golf courses and campgrounds are all short drives to town or right outside it. Wyoming is just ten minutes from campus for students looking for a summer trip, and Mount Rushmore is only 65 miles away.
What are the benefits of a small town college?
Small town colleges are ideal for students who value being part of a tight-knit community. Most students live on campus and have abundant opportunities to get involved, whether it be in school clubs or outdoor activities. For those looking for a more personalized education, small schools offer smaller classes lead by dedicated professors and advisory systems. It’s far easier to establish a mentor relationship, design your own independent study and focus without distraction when attending a small town college. Best of all, small town colleges offer affordable tuition and housing.
Key things to consider with small town college?
Small town colleges offer narrower curriculums due to their size. Students should research small schools focused on their area of interest, such as liberal arts colleges. These small schools will offer specialized professors, courses and degree plans. A deeper immersion in a subject will better prepare students for the job market after graduation. Before choosing an institution, prospective students should visit the campuses they’re interested in to get a better understanding of the academic and campus settings.
Who might want to attend a small town college?
Students invested in a highly personalized education with opportunities to stand out will thrive at small town colleges. Additionally, some of the most well regarded liberal arts colleges are nestled in small towns. Large-scale collaborative learning is also possible, whereas it isn’t practical at large institutions.