Disclosure: I am a recent graduate of Hampden-Sydney who has had a successful professional career to date and is currently preparing to apply to a handful of Ivy League business schools. I know you asked for an unbiased response, so please forgive me for violating your first wish. That withstanding, I would like to correct a few inaccurate statements made in this thread and answer a few questions posed herein.
1. Academic rigor - It was correctly stated that HSC is easy to get into and hard to stay. As a component of fulfilling the college's mission "to form good men and good citizens in an atmosphere of sound learning", the college does not require a 1300+ and a 4.0 to win admission. The college is much more concerned with the product leaving the school than the product entering the school. Because of the college's focus on the final product rather than merely SAT's and GPA's entering the freshman class, the curriculum is designed to put maximum focus on enhancing the students' learning experience. Due to the small class sizes (student to teacher ratio ~ 10:1; average class size ~14), students must keep up with work and readings. Furthermore, classes are structured as more of a Socratic dialogue than a lecture. This set-up allows young men to develop the ability to think on their feet, develop logical solutions to problems, and express those solutions in a persuasive, concise manner.
2. Placement success - The average acceptance rate to graduate schools is around 50%. HSC men gain acceptance 80% of the time. Why is it so much higher than the national benchmark? The knowledge gained through the HSC experience parallels the competencies needed for success in the graduate school admissions process.
The first component of graduate school applications is the LSAT, GMAT, MCAT or GRE. HSC men excel on these tests because of the robust, well-rounded nature of their liberal arts education.
The second component of the graduate school application process is the application itself. Because of our rhetoric program, which teaches men how to write gramatically and persuasively, our men write very compelling essays.
Finally, the third part of the application process is the interview. HSC men really shine in interviews because they are able to speak from a much more diverse set of experiences than applicants from other schools. Though HSC is small (~1,100 students), it still has all the leadership positions that a larger school would have. Therefore, you have much greater opportunity to step forward and take on leadership challenges. And, because the community is small, you are able to see your initiatives through to completion and watch real change take place as a result of your efforts. It is much more difficult to plan, execute, and effect real change at a large school with many thousands of students and lots of red tape. Rhetorically speaking, which of those two alternatives do you think provides a young man with real, tangible experience developing his own self-confidence and leadership abilities?
3. UVA, U of R, Wake, Emory, etc. are all excellent schools. However, HSC was recently ranked higher than all of them. Go to Forbes.com and search "best colleges in South". Now, the Forbes rankings are different than Princeton Review and others. Whereas Princeton is primarily concerned with what goes into the school - GPA's & SAT's - Forbes is concerned with output. Intuitively, I think this makes sense. Do you pay for your kids to go hang out with other really smart kids, or do you want to pay for them to learn? Forbes takes the latter approach and considers the debt levels kids have upon graduation, job and graduate school placement rates and alumni giving (i.e., did you think highly enough of the school to give back?) among other relevant, output focused factors.
4. Someone mentioned that the four year graduation rate is 60%. Actually, it is a bit higher. Historically, it has floated between 66% and 68%. As some of you may be aware, girls are currently kicking boys' butts in the classroom. Overall, 57% of undergraduate students are women compared to only 43% men. The split is even more pronounced at liberal arts schools. The 4-year graduation rate for men is also considerably lower than that of women. HSC's 4-year graduation rate is in line with national averages (despite being 100% men) and significantly higher than the national 4-year graduation rate for men.
I hope this is helpful to you and your family as you weigh your options. Please congratulate your son for me - having options is a GREAT thing. I hope that he will elect to join the HSC brotherhood! If he, or you, would like to chat, I'd welcome an email: matthewjguill@**********