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Sunny College Options: A Look at High Quality Colleges with Great Weather

You’re a high school student or a parent thinking about college options. Naturally, institutions with strong students and professors, classes where students count, and a staff, which goes the extra mile to retain them are appealing. Lifestyle is also important, however, and battling snowdrifts and months of freezing weather isn’t where you want to put your energy. You’ve heard about UCLA and the University of Southern California (USC), but you’re searching for additional high quality American college options in sunny or temperate locations. This piece is intended to assist you in this selection process. Schools found in warm or temperate climates, without the high national visibility which often comes from major Division I sports conferences, have been chosen. Four of our liberal arts colleges are found in Claremont, California, thirty miles from downtown Los Angeles. This is not an aberration since clusters of strong national institutions can also be found in less temperate regions as the Boston and Philadelphia areas, among others. Criteria for identifying quality schools are followed by an identification of schools that you can explore. Concluding comments then follow.

Criteria for High Quality Colleges:

The institutions highlighted in this work are all in the top 25 of US News and Report’s 2011 rankings of the best national universities and liberal arts colleges. They receive at least a 75 on a scale of 100 for undergraduate academic reputation as delineated by presidents, provosts, and deans of admissions at peer institutions as well as selective public high school counselors. Moreover, the schools retain at least 90 percent of their freshman, have fewer than twenty students in at least 50 percent of their classes, and draw at least 69 percent of their freshman from the top 10 percent of their high school graduating classes.

Strong National Universities

• California Institute of Technology, Pasadena (http://www.caltech.edu): The almost two to one ratio of men to women in this school, which excels in engineering and the sciences, could be particularly appealing to science oriented women. The annual New-Years day ritual, the Tournament of Roses parade, takes place in this sunny locale.

• Rice University, Houston (http://www.rice.edu): This multicultural institution with a minority population of 40 percent is generous in its financial aid packages. In 2010, 41 percent of undergraduates received financial aid with the average package exceeding $25,000.

• Emory University, Atlanta ( http://www.emory.edu) This top twenty-five university retains 95 percent of its freshman. Its suburban setting in the economically dynamic Atlanta metropolitan area is an asset for undergraduates interested in creating job networks.

Strong National Liberal Arts Colleges

• Pomona College, Claremont, California (www.pomona.edu): Tied for number six among national liberal arts colleges by US News and World Report, Pomona is the highest ranked warm weather school in this category. Two thirds of this esteemed institution’s students are in classes with fewer than twenty students and 92 percent of its students come from the top tenth of their high school classes.

• Davidson College, Davidson, North Carolina (http://www.davidson.edu): A top ten liberal arts school, Davidson has a proud academic tradition extending back to 1837. It is particularly strong in the social sciences and humanities and offers intimate classes with almost three quarters enrolling under twenty students.

• Claremont McKenna College, Claremont, California (http://www.claremontmckenna.edu): Founded in the immediate aftermath of World War II, Claremont McKenna with its number eleven US News ranking has established itself as a premier national liberal arts school. It receives a highly respectable rating of 83 in the undergraduate academic reputation index.

• Harvey Mudd College, Claremont, California (http://hmc.edu): With a student body of less than 800, this college offers high powered academics in intimate class-room settings. Its students, 94 percent of who come from the top 10 percent of their high school classes, are predominately drawn to engineering, computer science, and the physical sciences.

• Scripps College, Claremont, California (http://www.scrippscol.edu) An all-female school, Scripps is an ideal setting for students seeking individualized attention in a supportive environment. Over 80 percent of its classes have under twenty students. The social sciences and humanities are particularly popular.

Concluding thoughts…

Getting a first rate education in an institution devoted to undergraduate studies doesn’t have to translate into cold winter walks to classes. Year around sun bathing may not be the norm at all of our warm and temperate high quality institutions, but students won’t have to leave their shorts and T-shirts at home.

David Dickson is on the college admissions counseling team for Top Test Prep. For more information on Top Test Prep’s private tutoring and test prep programs, call (800) 501-Prep.