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Hidden Gem Colleges - PA and Midwest

jcmom716jcmom716 Registered User Posts: 312 Member
Last summer my son (now a junior) and I toured a few schools and he has decided he prefers smaller LAC's or universities. He also doesn't want to be too remote, but has not completely dismissed it. We are a family looking for merit aid. This spring break we are scheduled to visit Juniata, Dickinson, Muhlenberg, and Ursinus. Not all of these (or maybe none?) could be considered a hidden gem. Side note: For those with knowledge, I would love to hear feedback on any of these schools!

Looking ahead, we would try to visit a few more in April and May. What are some hidden gem colleges in the Midwest and PA? My son is hoping to stay within OH, PA, IN, MI, IL, and possibly NY. He is a good student, good test scores (ACT 32+), and is an average nice kid with a somewhat quiet personality until he finds his group. He is not concerned with rankings and can find friends most places although would prefer to stay away dominant greek life. Thanks for your input!


Replies to: Hidden Gem Colleges - PA and Midwest

  • NJWrestlingmomNJWrestlingmom Registered User Posts: 273 Junior Member
    My son has a friend at Ursinus, playing lacrosse, and he loves it. It's very expensive but he did get a lot of merit. His younger brother will be going to Dickinson next year, also playing lacrosse, and got good merit.
    Depending on your son's grades, Elizabethtown and Lebanon Valley are small PA LACs that give good merit, both with really pretty campuses. They are both under 2,000 students, so maybe too small? We're going to York College's accepted student day next Saturday for my son to hopefully make a decision! It has about 5,000 students, is a private but only costs about $30,000 and depending on SAT/GPA they offer up to $9000 per year in merit.
    There are really so many in PA! Good luck!
  • Levin67Levin67 Registered User Posts: 12 New Member
    Denison (OH) and Beloit (if he's not opposed to Wisconsin). Both offer significant merit aid.
  • mamaedefamiliamamaedefamilia Registered User Posts: 2,580 Senior Member
    If your range extends to Wisconsin, then Lawrence in Appleton, as well as Beloit. In Ohio, Denison, College of Wooster, maybe Case Western (university, not LAC, but not large and has a nerdy vibe and Greek life, while significant, tends to be service-oriented. NY: St. Lawrence and Union, perhaps? (I know these only by reputation and discussion here on CC).
  • thumper1thumper1 Registered User Posts: 63,509 Senior Member
    Lawrence, Denison, Otterbein, Earlham, Beloit.
  • gardenstategalgardenstategal Registered User Posts: 3,081 Senior Member
    Earlham and Denison are both generous. Gettysburg and Union also give merit aid. Of those, only Earlham has no Greek life. It's the smallest, but could be worth the look. Very friendly kids and warm community.

    Not sure if Allegheny has hit your radar; not sure how their merit is.
  • Snowball CitySnowball City Registered User Posts: 1,404 Senior Member
  • MidwestmomofboysMidwestmomofboys Registered User Posts: 2,854 Senior Member
    OH: Denison, College of Wooster; IN: Earlham; IL: Knox; MI: Kalamazoo College. All give merit and attract nice kids. None have dominant greek life, though Earlham and Kzoo are the only ones without greek life entirely.
  • KSMom1518KSMom1518 Registered User Posts: 210 Junior Member
    I went to Juniata and loved my 4 years there. If we lived closer we would definitely take DD18 to visit. As a parent my issue is transportation. There is no easy way to get there from Kansas. I grew up in PA so it wasn't an issue back then.
  • CorbettCorbett Registered User Posts: 2,656 Senior Member
    edited March 15
    There's a college guidebook that focuses specifically on the high-quality liberal arts colleges that you've probably never heard of (or "Hidden Gems", if you prefer). It's "Colleges that Change Lives", by Loren Pope. It's an inexpensive paperback, and public libraries often have it.


    The book covers about 40 schools nationwide, including many of the PA/Midwest schools mentioned in this thread, such as Juniata, Denison, College of Wooster, Earlham, Knox, Kalamazoo, Hope, Lawrence, and Beloit. If you want to learn more about these schools, or to find other schools like them, you might want to check it out. There is also a free website:

  • cellomom2cellomom2 Registered User Posts: 484 Member
    I'm wondering what your son's definition of not too remote is? Not too far away from home? or not in a super small town in a rural part of a state?
    My D wanted to go to an LAC that was not in a really small town and that can be a challenge to find. A lot of great LACs are in very small towns. She ended up at Lawrence in Appleton WI. The town of Appleton has a population of about 80k and surrounding metro area is about 200k. The campus flows into the downtown area that has a lot of fun shops and restaurants and a performing arts center. But it is remote in the sense that it is pretty deep into WI with the area outside of Appleton being pretty rural.
    Kalamazoo college is also in a larger town than a lot of LACs and is also very close to WMU which is a large state school. So there is a larger pool of college students in the area and there may be some things that Kcollege students could access at WMU such as cultural events at the performing arts center there.
  • DustyfeathersDustyfeathers Registered User Posts: 2,114 Senior Member
    edited March 16
    - Drake is a uni but may still suit your child as it has about 5K students
    - Wells is central NY, is small and, though stats are lower has some opportunity to take classes at Cornell--no Greek
    - Ithaca College has many different areas offered, arty, joyous, most people love its vibe and the town is a nice college town.
    - St. Olaf's--music, excellent academics and I've known happy people there.

    I echo--
    - Earlham (love it's egalitarian leanings, 800 acre campus, and excellent academics and I've known very happy people there)--no Greek life
    - Knox (I've know happy people there)--very little greek life
    - Lake Forest I've heard solid things about and it does have proximity to Chicago.

    In NY there's also Alfred's unique glass engineering program. It's truly unique. I beliee there's no Greek life. http://engineering.alfred.edu/undergrad/ges/

    While also not an LAC, but is not huge either, U of Rochester is a marvelous school. 22% Greek life.

    While not a hidden gem, not hidden at all, he may want to consider Haverford, as it's small LAC with the option to branch out to other schools as he's ready. You get the intimacy of a small LAC with as much or as little reach as the student wants. There are buses every few minutes to Bryn Mawr and slightly less often to Swarthmore. UPenn is part of the consortium and at least Bryn Mawr offers to pay for the train transport to Philly (11 miles away) for students who want to take classes there. Haverford does not have Greek LIfe.
  • wustl93wustl93 Registered User Posts: 127 Junior Member
    Denison University and Ohio Wesleyan University are both well-respected small LACs in OH. Each has some Greek life, but I haven't heard that it's an overwhelming presence, and each gives decent merit based aid. I also wonder if your son would consider the University of Dayton; it's a little bigger than Denison and OWU, but when S18 and I visited last year we thought it had the feel of a smaller tight-knit community. I know a handful of UD alumni and they are all successful people who seem to have loved their UD experience.
  • fleishmo6fleishmo6 Registered User Posts: 452 Member
    Right outside of philly on the other side of the river, The college of New Jersey[TCNJ], highly ranked academically
    really pretty campus.Div 3 for sports but does well nationally. Always ranked highly in all of the national publications.
    My oldest graduated from there, no problem getting a job upon graduation
    good luck
  • zoosermomzoosermom Registered User Posts: 25,962 Senior Member
    Susquehanna, Elizabethtown, Franklin & Marshall.
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