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The Top 10: Top New England Colleges 2012

Monday, March 05, 2012


Meet the schools, big and small, that took top honors in GoLocal’s first ever super ranking of the Top Colleges of New England.

#1 Yale University

The New Haven home of New England's top college and Handsome Dan the bulldog: Yale University. Photo: Yale University.

Number One. One wonders if it ever gets old for the renowned Ivy League in New Haven, Connecticut, that consistently ranks among the top universities in the world. Yale is among the oldest institutions of higher education in the world and the third oldest in the United States. Founded in 1701, in the then-colony of Connecticut, Yale constitutes, along with Princeton and Harvard, what has long been known as “the Big 3”. Named after Elihu Yale, a Welsh merchant, who donated proceeds and books in 1718, the school’s official color is

“Yale Blue,” which is always bedecked by their beloved bulldog mascot, “Handsome Dan.” Yale boasts an amazing roll of alums from every generation and all walks of life including Nathan Hale, Eli Whitney, Gerald Ford, Paul Newman, and Sonia Sotomayor. For the Class of 2015, 27,283 students applied and only 2,006 were accepted. This 7.35% acceptance rate was the lowest in school history.

Yale Ranking Highlights

#4 World’s Best Universities (US News & World Report)
#3 National Universities (US News & World Report)
#1 High School Counselor Ratings (US News & World Report)
#2 Best College Newspaper (Princeton Review)
#4 Great Financial Aid (Princeton Review)
#14 Dorms like Palaces (Princeton Review)
#17 Happiest Students (Princeton Review)
#1 Happiest (Daily Beast)
#3 Greenest (Daily Beast)
A+ for Academics, Food, Housing, Diversity, Facilities, Girls, and Guys (College Prowler)

What Yale students say:
“The residential college system helps foster a sense of family at Yale. It's a huge part of student life, and you've always got your residential college at your back.”
"You will find a wide array of students from every walk of life and from all over the globe. There is no way to stereotype the student population here."
"There are basically no rules, or if there are, they are not very enforced."

#2 Harvard University

Celebrating 375 years of international prestige: Harvard University. Photo: Harvard University.

At constant battle with New England neighbor Yale University for bragging rights, this storied university in Cambridge, MA, places #2 to its rival in the first-ever super ranking of New England schools. Last year, Harvard celebrated its 375th anniversary. The long-lived bastion of learning takes its namesake from its first benefactor, John Harvard, who is honored by a legendary statue on campus. Many of Harvard’s living alumni base of 323,000 still return to campus to bedeck the statue with fun decorations before pulling out their wallets. Harvard has the highest endowment in the world, a staggering $32 billion. Funds like these have allowed Harvard to establish itself as one of the top research universities in the world and a number one destination for students everywhere. This attraction has led to a stream of alumni enviable by any institution, from John F. Kennedy to Conan O’Brien, and from Matt Damon to Barack Obama. Some things in life are just meant to last. Harvard is one of them.

Harvard Ranking Highlights

#2 World’s Best Universities (US News & World Report)
#1 National Universities (US News & World Report)
#1 High School Counselor Ratings (US News & World Report)
#1 Best College Library (Princeton Review)
#9 Great Financial Aid (Princeton Review)
#1 Healthiest (Daily Beast)
#2 Happiest (Daily Beast)
#6 Overall Ranking (Forbes)
A+ for Academics, Food, Housing (Campus Prowler)

What Harvard students say:

"Rules and laws are bent and broken with regularity - and few people get hurt."
"Harvard has no real student center. The Loker Commons, an area that offers pool tables, computers, study areas, and some mediocre restaurants, is Harvard’s most novel attempt at a student center. Undergraduates have placed a great deal of pressure on the University to build a student center, but Harvard has yet to find an area to build one."

#3 Massachusetts Institute of Technology

International center for science, technology, and Greek Life: Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Photo: MIT.

Blowing a technically precise hole in the Ivy grip on national dominance is MIT, long-regarded as one of the top schools in the world. Sharing a Cambridge address with Harvard University, MIT matches its counterpart with its academic prowess and history. Incorporated by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on April 10, 1861, MIT has been producing intellectuals for centuries. Among its sprawling 168-acre city campus, the school boasts one of the world’s largest nuclear reactors. In the past decade, MIT’s School of Engineering has consistently ranked as the best in the nation. With such an intelligent student body, one would question why their mascot is a beaver named Tim. A paradox worthy of scientific investigation.

MIT Ranking Highlights

#3 World’s Best Universities (US News & World Report)
#5 National Universities (US News & World Report)
#1 High School Counselor Ratings (US News & World Report)
#1 Top 10 Business Programs (US News & World Report)
#1 Top 10 Engineering Programs (US News & World Report)
#9 Overall Ranking (Forbes)
#2 Students Study the Most (Princeton Review)
A+ for Academics, Diversity (College Prowler)

What MIT students say:

"Greek life is huge at MIT, with the majority of guys and about a third of girls affiliated. The party scene revolves around Greek life, but the main purpose of joining a fraternity or sorority is to have a supportive environment during your four years at MIT. People generally don't discriminate based on affiliation. If you do become affiliated, you'll find yourself hanging out with your brothers/sisters for most of the time."
"It’s really diverse. If you’re white and want to see what it’s like to be a minority for once, this is the place to experience it. Well, at least on the East Coast. The diversity isn’t just racial; it extends to personalities, beliefs, religions, and so on."

#4 Brown University

Rhode Island's pride is the nation's envy: Brown University. Photo: Brown University.

Brown is the pride of higher education in Providence, Rhode Island. Similar to its Ivy League counterparts, Brown boasts an impressive history. Founded in 1764, Brown was the first university in the country to accept students regardless of religious affiliation. Today, current undergraduate students can pursue studies in more than 70 concentrations, while graduate students are able to study in another 70 programs. The diversity of programs offered at Brown attract a rich array of students from all over the country, who learn to call Providence home. Brown and the city of Providence have been linked for nearly two and a half centuries and the partnership is one which both institutions pride themselves on (although recent budgetary woes in Providence have put this relationship under pressure). So throw on your “seal brown” colored t-shirt, walk the streets of College Hill, and discover what it means to be a Brown Bear.

Brown Ranking Highlights

#15 National Universities (US News & World Report)
#6 Best Undergraduate Teaching Programs (US News & World Report)
#3 Happiest Students (Princeton Review)
#4 Best College Newspaper (Princeton Review)
#7 Best College Radio Station (Princeton Review)
#8 Greenest (Daily Beast)
A+ for Academics, Campus Strictness, and Diversity (College Prowler)

What Brown students say:

"Brown's academic strength lies in its flexibility. Though some of the required courses for your major may be ‘ehh,’ there are always plenty of fantastic electives available for students - and they run the gamut from Egyptian hieroglyphics to analysis of C.S. Lewis's novels. The sky's the limit."
"I'm not an athlete, but I do like to go to certain sports games. Sometimes I find myself wishing the I went to a school that supported their teams more.”

#5 Bowdoin College

Highly personalized education at the highest level: Bowdoin College. Photo: Bowdoin College.

Don’t let its size fool you. Elbowing its way into the top 5 is this very small, extremely strong liberal arts college. Tucked away on the southeast coast of Maine in Brunswick, Bowdoin remains one of higher education’s best kept secrets. What makes Bowdoin so great? Students can expect an extremely personal relationship with their professors and a highly individualized course of education when there are 9 students for every 1 professor. Furthermore, 99% of Bowdoin professors have a PhD or the highest degree in their field. Bowdoin is extremely selective in its applicant pool, only accepting 16.5% of all applicants. So if you want to be among the 485 students who enter Bowdoin every year, than start hitting the books. And then grab a down coat. Brunswick is quite cold in the winter, but it shouldn’t be too bad for a Polar Bear.

Bowdoin Ranking Highlights

#6 National Liberal Arts Colleges (US News & World Report)
#2 Best Quality of Life (Princeton Review)
#2 Best Campus Food (Princeton Review)
#5 Happiest Students (Princeton Review)
#7 Dorms like Palaces (Princeton Review)
#3 Best Food (Daily Beast)
#5 Happiest (Daily Beast)
A+ for Academics, Food, Housing, Girls, and Guys (College Prowler)

What Bowdoin students say:

"We have a house system instead of a Greek system, sort of like Harry Potter. You are a member of a house the moment you arrive on campus and can be as involved as you like. Personally, I felt like my house was a family waiting for me when I got here.”
"There are a lot of small liberal arts colleges out there where you can get comparable academic experiences and close learning and living environments, but there are very few located so close to the ocean and in such a beautiful place. Some of my best memories from the past four years - from sailing practice on Casco Bay, to climbing Mount Katahdin with my closest friends - are very much rooted in a sense of place. Bowdoin does a lot to foster this."

#6 Williams College

Top-flight academics and one of the silliest mascots ever known: Williams College. Photo: Williams College.

Private, residential, and liberal arts combine to define Williams, this small, highly ranked college in the northwest corner of Massachusetts. The origins of the college can be traced back to 1793 when Ephraim Williams, a Massachusetts militia officer bequeathed funds for the foundation of a school. Today, this 2,000 student strong institution located in Williamstown boasts a student to faculty ratio of 7:1 and an applicant acceptance rate of 17.1%. A defining feature of Williams is its tutorial system, which is modeled after English universities, Cambridge and Oxford. Their campus also has the oldest extant astronomical observatory in the United States. If you thought that was impressive, Williams’ Chapin Library holds first prints of the American Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, Bill of Rights, and the United States Constitution. If only our founding fathers knew that their precious declarations of freedom would one day be held by an institution whose mascot is a Purple Cow.

Williams Rankings Highlights

#1 National Liberal Arts Colleges (US News & World Report)
#2 Best Value/Liberal Arts (US News & World Report)
#3 Best Undergrad Teaching Programs/Liberal Arts (US News & World Report)
#9 Best Classroom Experience (Princeton Review)
#4 Best Return on Investment (Daily Beast)
#1 Overall Ranking (Forbes)
#3 College Rankings 2009 (Washington Monthly)
A  for Academics (College Prowler)

What Williams students say:

“There has been more of an emphasis in the past few years to increase socio-economic and racial diversity and it has been paying off. But, the school is still largely white, upper-middle class.”
“Professors cater to students' needs, open their doors all the time for people to stop by and ask questions, and seem to care deeply about intellectual enrichment.”

#7 Dartmouth College

A hub of vibrant college life in rural New Hampshire: Dartmouth College. Photo: Dartmouth College.

Tucked away in the north country’s Hanover, New Hampshire, is the 4th Ivy League in the 2012 Top 10. Dartmouth traces its roots back to Puritan minister, Eleazar Whitlock who in 1769 established a school whose principal goal was to educate Native Americans and English youths. 242 years later, Dartmouth has shed its frontiersman image and emerged as one of the nation’s best colleges. With a total student enrollment of just under 6,000, Dartmouth is the smallest school in the Ivy League. Regarded as one of the prettiest campuses in the nation, Dartmouth sprawls across 269 acres of rural New Hampshire and includes “The Green,” a massive grass-covered field in the middle of campus. Due to its rural location, many students participate in a popular and active Greek system. Perhaps that’s why among their unofficial mascots, “Keggy the Keg” is the school’s favorite.

Dartmouth Rankings Highlights

#11 National Universities (US News & World Report)
#7 Best Value/National (US News & World Report)
#1 Best Undergraduate Teaching Programs/National (US News & World Report)
#2 Most Popular Study Abroad Programs (Princeton Review)
#7 Best Quality of Life (Princeton Review)
#3 Best Return on Investment (Daily Beast)
A+ for Diversity (College Prowler)

What Dartmouth students say:

"There is definitely no typical student—there are frat guys, sorority girls, actors, engineers, econ geeks, uber-intellectuals, uber-non-intellectuals, athletes, ex-athletes, and kids that you never see because they're always in the library. There is a little bit of geek in everyone, but it's a healthy thing."
“As far as the social scene goes, it's pretty predominantly Greek. Once you're 21, you can go off campus to the bars, but there's enough variety among the houses that you can get varying degrees of intensity in your partying. There's everything from low-key to pretty-near idiotic.”

#8 Amherst College

The home of the Lord Jeffs as well as top-notch academics and athletic life: Amherst College. Photo: Amherst College.

A member of the 5 College Consortium and one of the Little 3, Amherst College has established itself as one of the premier liberal arts colleges in the country. Located in Amherst, Massachusetts, the school is an exclusively undergraduate institution with about 1,700 students. Until 1975, Amherst was an all men’s college before opting to turn co-educational (which means women’s athletic teams have to adapt the mascot Lord Jeffrey to Lady Jeffs). Today, the male to female ratio has largely evened out but one statistic that has continually remained low is Amhert's student to faculty ratio, now standing at 8 to 1. The motto of Amherst is “Let them give light to the world.” Beyond this light, Amherst also gives music. Known by some as “the Singing College,” Amherst has many a capella and singing groups that frequent on campus stages and locations around the area. After all, when it comes to Amherst College, what’s not to sing about?

Amherst Rankings Highlights

#2 National Liberal Arts Colleges (US News & World Report)
#1 Best Value/Liberal Arts (US News & World Report)
#11 Dorms like Palaces (Princeton Review)
#2 Best Return on Investment (Daily Beast)
#1 College Rankings 2009 (Washington Monthly)
A+ for Academics, Facilities (College Prowler)

What Amherst students say:

"The most amazing and unique thing about Amherst is that it is connected to four other colleges in the Five College Consortium--this affiliation has allowed me to take many courses and meet a range of people I would never have met by attending one college alone. The connection to a large public university is particularly great; it gives me access to a vast amount of coursework, facilities and resources (especially in the departments in which we are limited, like Music) from the personalized, cozy vantage point of an Ivy-League-level liberal arts college."
“Everyone's really nice, and usually pretty athletic, but not too jocky. Everyone cares about academics, but I would describe very few as actually nerdy. Attractive girls are few and far between.”

#9 Colby College

Life is good for the Mules of Waterville, Maine: Colby College. Photo: Colby College.

“Stubborn as a mule,” is a phrase that one doesn’t normally associate with excellence. Colby College on the other hand, has no problem with mule-ish tendencies, and based on its success few can deny its approach. Colby is a small, liberal arts college established in 1813. Its rural campus, home to around 1,800 students, can be found on Mayflower Hill in the quiet city of Waterville, Maine. Colby was the first all-male liberal arts college to accept female students when in 1875, Mary Caffrey Low attended and became the valedictorian. Since then, male and female students alike have enjoyed the phenomenal community feeling that comes with going to a small school. It seems appropriate then that current president of Colby College is William D. “Bro” Adams. If any figure of authority can go by “bro,” than that’s cool with us. Embrace the mule.

Colby Rankings Highlights

#21 National Liberal Arts Colleges (US News & World Report)
#6 Professors Get High Marks (Princeton Review)
#6 Most Popular Study Abroad Programs (Princeton Review)
#9 Campus Food (Princeton Review)
#8 Happiest (Daily Beast)
#20 Rank Overall (Forbes)
A+ for Food, Girls, and Guys (College Prowler)

What Colby students say:

"I'm freaking out about a midterm exam coming right up. We work really hard here at Colby, but Colby has a way of blowing expectations out of the water. I expected to study all day, but instead I learned to roll a whitewater kayak, sang some Latin hymnals, had some really funny but insightful conversations (one with a brand new friend, and one with my tenured professor), and tasted some bizarre Brazilian spicy dish. Any day at Colby can be a pleasant surprise. Just take advantage of the brilliant professors, the friendly atmosphere, and the good life. Enjoy!"
“You're free to pretty much do as you please at Colby. Campus strictness comes into play if you're abusing yourself or others or dorm property, but other than that, all is fair game. You can do anything you want in your room, as long as it doesn't bother your neighbors. Everyone is very considerate, and this is oftentimes what governs 'strictness', how conscientious you are.”

#10 Middlebury College

An international focus from the Green Mountains of Vermont: Middlebury College. Photo: Middlebury College.

Comprised of students from all 50 states and an array of different countries, the 2,400 undergraduates that attend Middlebury College will attest that it is indeed a Top 10 school. Known as a “Little Ivy,” Middlebury offers students 44 majors across a rich variety of academic fields. Similar to every school in the 2012 Top 10, Middlebury has a history full of firsts. Founded in 1800, Middlebury was one of the first all-male liberal arts colleges to become co-educational when it did so in 1883. It was also the first institution of American higher education that offered a bachelor’s degree to an African American in 1823. Over the years, Middlebury has continued its pattern of excellence, most prominently in language instruction, international studies, and an impressive environmental studies program. With so much going for this school, its no wonder that students are proud to be Panthers.

Middlebury Rankings Highlights

#29 National Liberal Arts Colleges (US News & World Report)
#16 Best Value/Liberal Arts (US News & World Report)
#12 Best College Library (Princeton Review)
#12 School Runs like Butter (Princeton Review)
#4 Greenest (Daily Beast)
#8 Best Return on Investment Best (Daily Beast)
#40 Overall Rank (Forbes)
#23 College Rankings 2009 (Washington Monthly)
A+ for Food, Facilities (College Prowler)

What Middlebury students say:

"People might complain about the party scene not being ragin' enough, or the lack of nightlife in the town of Middlebury, but I thought that didn't matter one bit when you spend all your time with a group of people who are smart, interesting, and engaged in life but also knows how to have a good time. Everyone is involved in a million fascinating things that you'd never find out about unless you get to know them..."
"...Everything is personal at Middlebury. If you have a problem there will be a person who will help you in person, especially when it comes to financial aid issues (understanding loans, finding scholarships, etc.) I got some financial aid, had an off-campus job for some cash on the side, but overall it was incredibly expensive. BUT, apparently the alumni give tons of $$ back to Middlebury..."

Note: All quotes about colleges courtesy of College Prowler. For the entire list of the Top New England Colleges 2012, go here.

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