The college experience is one of the most expensive and meaningful investments of time, effort, and money an individual will make in his or her lifetime. As of 2012 the average student loan debt of 70 percent of graduating seniors was $29,400. Entering the workforce with that much debt—or more—is just one of the reasons that choosing a college or university carefully is so important.

However, for a huge number of students making their way to college, money isn’t everything; in fact, it may not even be the main thing. The college years are, and should be, filled with new experiences and expansion of the student’s worldview. Many students choose to take on socially responsible projects on their journey. Schools throughout the U.S. have vastly different approaches to fostering the ability of students to make these kinds of journeys; that is the purpose of this guide.

BestColleges intends with this guide to assist students in making informed choices regarding the social conscious possibilities of their educational options. Depending on interest, students can pursue acceptance at schools that offer classes or even entire programs about ethical practices, conservation, or similar issues. Many schools promote fantastic volunteer projects, and internship opportunities. And the various American colleges and universities score very differently when it comes to green initiatives, and sustainability.

Methodology

Using data collected by Teach for America and the Peace Corps, we’ve compiled a list of the 32 schools with the most socially conscious alumni in America. Teach for America assesses the “Top Colleges and Universities Contributing Graduating Seniors to Teach for America’s 2013 Teaching Corps,” while the Peace Corps assesses its list of the “Top Colleges 2013” for Peace Corps participation. To make our final list, each school had to appear on both of these rankings.

Our final list of 32 schools is not ranked, and it is organized by school size. We’ve arranged them according to Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching’s basic size classifications for colleges and universities. “Large schools” have 10,000 or more undergraduates in attendance, “medium schools” have 3,000 to 9,999 undergraduates in attendance, and “small schools” have fewer than 3,000 undergraduates in attendance.

The Schools

Large Schools: 10,000 or more undergraduates in attendance

  1. 1. University of Florida – Gainesville, FL

    Florida’s Center for Leadership and Service is the primary service programming organization at UF. CLS creates structure and support for anyone in the UF community that wants to get involved in community service. Programs include Florida Alternative Breaks for students who want to volunteer between quarters and the Gator Global Initiative, a social impact conference held on campus. The CLS also organizes an annual service awards ceremony to acknowledge the efforts and accomplishments of service-oriented UF students, staff and alumni.

    • Undergraduate enrollment for 2012: 27,485
    • 59 Teach for America participants
    • 107 Peace Corps participants
  2. 2. University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, MI

    One of the most notable service engagement programs offered at UM is The Public Service Intern Program. This unique program prepares and supports students while they pursue and complete public service related internships in Washington D.C. PSIP has supported social service for more than 40 years, and around 80-100 Michigan participate each year.

    • Undergraduate enrollment for 2012: 43,462
    • 67 Teach for America participants
    • 93 Peace Corps participants
  3. 3. University of California – Berkeley, CA

    UC Berkeley students are famously justice and service-minded. The programs offered by the historic The UC Berkeley Public Service Center are too many and diverse to cover here, but suffice it to say that many of the nation’s and the world’s most important public servants have worked directly with the PSC since it was first established in 1967. Now, more than 4,000 students provide service to off-campus communities through the Center.

    • Undergraduate enrollment for 2012: 35,899
    • 69 Teach for America participants
    • 85 Peace Corps participants
  4. 4. University of Washington – Seattle, WA

    The Carlson Leadership and Public Service Center works to integrate service learning into the academic experience of every Washington student. Staff and students at Carlson engage with the wider student and alumni populations by arranging campus-wide days of service, bringing public advocate speakers to campus, and maintaining partnerships with volunteer organizations throughout the world. The Carlson Center also works closely with the school’s career and alumni offices, making it easier for Huskies to connect with service opportunities after graduation.

    • Undergraduate enrollment for 2012: 28,754
    • 42 Teach for America participants
    • 107 Peace Corps participants
  5. 5. University of Wisconsin – Madison, WI

    The Morgridge Center for Public Service provides a semester-long Badger Volunteers program for Wisconsin students who want to gain experience in education, sustainability and public health in the Madison community or even abroad. The school also awards undergraduates stipends and credits for specific collaboration projects through their Wisconsin Idea Fellowships Program. Since its founding in the1960s, Morgridge has largely used student interns to reach out and engage Wisconsin alumni about participating in its activities.

    • Undergraduate enrollment for 2012: 30,863
    • 45 Teach for America participants
    • 103 Peace Corps participants
  6. 6. University of Texas – Austin, TX

    UT’s Austin campus is home to a number of offices and programs dedicated to connecting students to service learning opportunities that will enhance their academic experiences. Current and former students from all majors and degree levels are supported through The Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice, the Bridging Disciplines Program, the Dean Jack Otis Social Problem and Social Policy Lecture Series, and the Free Minds Project, among others.

    • Undergraduate enrollment for 2012: 39,977
    • 73 Teach for America participants
    • 61 Peace Corps participants
  7. 7. University of California – Los Angeles, CA

    The UCLA Volunteer Center offers a wide array of programs for its campus community and alumni network. Volunteers can choose from one day volunteer and fundraising events or can choose to participate in longer term projects and internships that take place in over fifty locations in the Metro LA area. UCLA also boasts one of the most active alumni volunteer networks in the nation. The Center maintains an Alumni Scholars program to leverage alumni networks and help UCLA students find volunteering opportunities and internships that best meet their academic, professional and service goals.

    • Undergraduate enrollment for 2012: 27,941
    • 40 Teach for America participants
    • 85 Peace Corps participants
  8. 8. University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, NC

    UNC’s Center for Public Service connects its Chapel Hill campus to its community and the rest of the world by providing service learning opportunities like alternative spring break trips, internship placements at local public health organizations and on-campus seminars in economic development and sustainability. internship placement, sustainability. The Center also helps to develop and implement service-based coursework in diversity and social involvement.

    • Undergraduate enrollment for 2012: 28,437
    • 57 Teach for America participants
    • 62 Peace Corps participants
  9. 9. The Ohio State University – Columbus, OH

    The Service-Learning Initiative at OSU is dedicated to bridging the gap between a student’s academic life and their social lives. Since 1914, the Initiative works to increase access and interest in public service by creating community-based coursework for the wider student population and hosting campus-wide volunteer days and workshops.

    • Undergraduate enrollment for 2012: 43,058
    • 38 Teach for America participants
    • 80 Peace Corps participants
  10. 10. University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign, IL

    The Public Engagement Office at UI takes service-based learning a step further than most school’s volunteer centers. Students, alumni and staff make up two organizations dedicated to increasing levels of community involvement, the Civic Commitment Task Force and the UI Senate Committee on Public Engagement. Community partnerships are maintained and catalogued in a service database of over 350 opportunities for Illinois students to choose from. These two organizations also organize an annual Public Engagement Symposium on the Urbana-Champaign campus.

    • Undergraduate enrollment for 2012: 32,256
    • 56 Teach for America participants
    • 54 Peace Corps participants
  11. 11. Arizona State University – Tempe, AZ

    ASU Community Connect offers an impressive directory of resources for teachers, nonprofits, business owners, families and civic workers from its alumni network. Current students also have hundreds of opportunities to get involved with area health clinics, schools, and development agencies. The service learning courses, camps, workshops and internships they organize receive high levels of enthusiasm and participation from current ASU students.

    • Undergraduate enrollment for 2012: 59,382
    • 42 Teach for America participants
    • 62 Peace Corps participants
  12. 12. University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, MN

    The Community Service Learning Center is dedicated to its community partners in the Twin Cities and surround areas. The Center supports and develops service learning classes in tandem with these partnerships and through its Community Engagement Scholars Program offers students University recognition for their service work with these community partners which include over 200 nonprofits in and around the Twin Cities.

    • Undergraduate enrollment for 2012: 34,469
    • 58 Teach for America participants
    • 43 Peace Corps participants
  13. 13. University of Virginia – Charlottesville, VA

    Through its Learning in Action page, UV connects students to social entrepreneurship, community service and internship opportunities in the Charlottesville area and beyond. Members of the campus community as well as alumni can follow events and updates on UVA’s service calendar. The list of programming and notable dates includes one-day service events like Pancakes for Parkinson’s, service internship periods and grant and fellowship deadlines.

    • Undergraduate enrollment for 2012: 14,641
    • 45 Teach for America participants
    • 55 Peace Corps participants
  14. 14. Penn State – University Park, PA

    Penn State’s Global Programs office presents students and alumni with unique opportunities to explore new parts of the world through service. Among their international NGO and nonprofit partners are the Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology. Students participating in this program travel to Tanzania to study the dynamics of malaria and sleeping sickness on rural communities there. Alumni can connect with one another or participate in these programs by plugging in with Penn State’s International Alumni Network.

    • Undergraduate enrollment for 2012: 39,192
    • 43 Teach for America participants
    • 55 Peace Corps participants
  15. 15. Cornell University – Ithaca, NY

    The Cornell Public Service Center supports student-run volunteer programs, community work study programs, and service learning curriculum development. The Center also helps students connect with its impressive network of social entrepreneurs working in every imaginable development sector — education, public health, sustainability, energy, socially minded tech and more. The Center also helps alumni secure funding for new community and service based programs and initiatives.

    • Undergraduate enrollment for 2012: 14,261
    • 55 Teach for America participants
    • 40 Peace Corps participants
  16. 16. University of Maryland – College Park, MD

    The College Park Scholars Program is dedicated to grooming UMD students into globally-minded, service oriented graduates. It serves this mission by providing students with the service-learning curriculum and volunteering experiences they need to identify their service goals and how to implement them. Participating UMD students also directly engage with alumni of the program, and often find new opportunities to make a career of community outreach through this network.

    • Undergraduate enrollment for 2012: 26,538
    • 42 Teach for America participants
    • 53 Peace Corps participants

Medium Schools: 3,000 – 9,999 undergraduates in attendance

  1. 1. George Washington University – Washington D.C.

    The Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service makes good use of its D.C. location to connect students with civically-minded alumni in the area. The community service and engagement opportunities at GWU are hard to beat. Students gain invaluable experiences by attending workshops, planning events and interning with area alumni policy makers, social justice advocates and NGO workers.

    • Undergraduate enrollment for 2012: 10,464
    • 37 Teach for America participants
    • 53 Peace Corps participants
  2. 2. American University – Washington D.C.

    The Center for Community Engagement and Service at American creates global involvement and public service opportunities for students and alumni in both D.C. and abroad. Students also have a lot of input when it comes to organizing and prioritizing service projects. Alternative spring breaks, study abroad programs and community-based initiatives change each year to reflect the passions of its students.

    • Undergraduate enrollment for 2012: 7,212
    • 23 Teach for America participants
    • 55 Peace Corps participants
  3. 3. Georgetown University – Washington D.C.

    At Georgetown, public service has a long legacy. For over twenty years, The Center for Social Justice promotes public service amongst students and alumni in numerous ways including: summer global immersion programs, alternative spring break programs, the summer of service internship program that brings alumni and students together.

    • Undergraduate enrollment for 2012: 7,552
    • 40 Teach for America participants
    • 31 Peace Corps participants
  4. 4. Boston College – Boston, MA

    Like Georgetown, this Jesuit college makes social justice and involvement a high priority in both the classroom and off-campus. BC offers students and alumni the opportunity to engage in Volunteer and Service Learning Center, enroll in service-oriented courses, or participate in a variety of community partnerships maintained by the school.

    • Undergraduate enrollment for 2012: 9,100
    • 29 Teach for America participants
    • 36 Peace Corps participants
  5. 5. Tufts University – Medford, MA

    As the primary service organization on campus, The Office of Community Relations offers volunteer and community service opportunities for students and alumni in partnership with members of the community. The OCR prioritizes projects that make a local impact or help to integrate the Medford community to activities on campus. Community members, alumni and current students can stay connected by following updates on Tufts Neighbors page.

    • Undergraduate enrollment for 2012: 5,255
    • 35 Teach for America participants
    • 26 Peace Corps participants
  6. 6. Northwestern University – Evanston, IL

    The Center for Student Involvement organizes service opportunities for students, alumni, faculty and staff of Northwestern. Many of the service projects are created in partnership with members of the community. The center also works hard to engage students with service projects early on in their college careers and the effect seems to be lifelong. Their on-campus efforts include many volunteering organizations and the popular Freshmen Emerging Leaders Program.

    • Undergraduate enrollment for 2012: 8,397
    • 33 Teach for America participants
    • 23 Peace Corps participants
  7. 7. Emory University – Atlanta, GA

    Emory takes a highly active and local approach to public service campaigns. The Center for Community Partnerships coordinates the Community Engaged Learning Initiative to find new ways to integrate education and social justice at Emory. Resulting programming helps students, alumni and staff become meaningfully and directly involved with the groups and organizations serving high-needs communities in Metro Atlanta.

    • Undergraduate enrollment for 2012: 7,656
    • 28 Teach for America participants
    • 27 Peace Corps participants
  8. 8. Washington University in St. Louis – St. Louis, MO

    Wash U’s Community Service Office organizes an impressive array of service trips, volunteering programs, and leadership training events for both current and former students. The also school promotes a service-minded culture throughout its network by recognizing notable alumni with service awards and assisting alumni service groups who are looking to secure funding for new initiatives.

    • Undergraduate enrollment for 2012: 7,259
    • 30 Teach for America participants
    • 23 Peace Corps participants
  9. 9. Tulane University – New Orleans, LA

    Tulane’s Center for Public Service has been integral in providing Tulane students and alumni meaningful ways to reach out to residents of New Orleans still coping with the losses and devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Alongside its work with local agencies, the center advises and supports the school on its public service graduation requirements and service learning coursework.

    • Undergraduate enrollment for 2012: 8,423
    • 26 Teach for America participants
    • 23 Peace Corps participants
  10. 10. Dartmouth College – Hanover, NH

    The William Jewett Tucker Foundation provides local, national, and global public service opportunities for the Dartmouth community. Students and at least 25 local community partners and alumni collaborate on local service projects. Educational service trips and community-based learning are also part of the Dartmouth public service experience for students.

    • Undergraduate enrollment for 2012: 4,193
    • 33 Teach for America participants
    • 14 Peace Corps participants
  11. 11. Gonzaga University – Spokane, WA

    The Center for Community Action and Service-Learning (CCASL) coordinates Gonzaga’s service immersion program and a student engagement program. The service requirements at this Jesuit university are well known to residents of both Gonzaga and the city it calls home. GU students are commonly found working in Spokane’s homeless shelters, family support centers and low-income schools. Alumni keep this spirit of service alive by participating in the mentoring programs and adult service initiatives sponsored by both the CCASL and the school’s highly active Knights of Columbus chapter.

    • Undergraduate enrollment for 2012: 4,729
    • 23 Teach for America participants
    • 24 Peace Corps participants

Small Schools: fewer than 3,000 undergraduates in attendance

  1. 1. Smith College – Northampton, MA

    Smith’s Community Service Office operates long- and short-term community placements, a study abroad program in China, volunteer training programs, and community-based learning opportunities. Mentoring, volunteering, and support programs also abound for alumnae.

    • Undergraduate enrollment for 2012: 2,664
    • 16 Teach for America participants
    • 16 Peace Corps participants
  2. 2. Denison University – Granville, OH

    Denison’s wide array of public service opportunities are organized by the John W. Alford Center for Service Learning, the Denison Community Association and its 24 student service committees. Students participate widely in the service projects to earn both school credit and experience as they complete federal work study, service-integrated coursework, and community service internships.

    • Undergraduate enrollment for 2012: 2,385
    • 15 Teach for America participants
    • 17 Peace Corps participants
  3. 3. Grinnell College – Grinnell, IA

    Grinnell is a small Lutheran college that prioritizes and promotes public service education among students and alumni. As such, students connect with public service opportunities in unique ways, including Grinnell’s Liberal Arts in Prison Program, a service-minded theater group called the Neverland Players, and an alternative spring break program.

    • Undergraduate enrollment for 2012: 1,664
    • 14 Teach for America participants
    • 16 Peace Corps participants
  4. 4. Whitman College – Walla Walla, WA

    Whitman’s Student Engagement Center helps bridge the gap between the campus community and surrounding Walla Walla. Thanks to the partnerships created by the SEC, students can choose to volunteer in dozens of ways. Programs often involve tutoring, mentoring or volunteering labor. Since the Walla Walla area has a high number of transitioning migrant workers, one of the school’s most popular service programs is dedicated to equipping Whitman students to tutor English, math and reading to seasonal workers and their families.

    • Undergraduate enrollment for 2012: 1,539
    • 14 Teach for America participants
    • 16 Peace Corps participants
  5. 5. Colorado College – Colorado Springs, CO

    Through Colorado College’s Collaborative for Community Engagement, students can choose to pursue public interest fellowships, community-based research opportunities, and a community-engaged leadership certificate program. The alumni community is active and mentoring is encouraged.

    • Undergraduate enrollment for 2012: 2,004
    • 11 Teach for America participants
    • 18 Peace Corps participants
  6. 6. Colby College – Waterville, ME

    The Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement most notably connects students and alumni to public service activities through the Colby Cares About Kids program, the Oak Institute for Human Rights, and a number of other student-run volunteer groups.

    • Undergraduate enrollment for 2012: 1,863
    • 12 Teach for America participants
    • 14 Peace Corps participants
  7. 7. Mount Holyoke College – Washington, DC

    Mount Holyoke’s Leadership and Public Service program leverages the school’s ce brings service-oriented curriculum, co-curricular workshops, and lectures from policy makers and advocates to campus. experiential learning opportunities, opportunities for professional networking with alumni and other community members, internships, and seminars on public policy. The college draws its public service mission in part from the Women in Public Service Project.

    • Undergraduate enrollment for 2012: 2,322
    • 10 Teach for America participants
    • 15 Peace Corps participants