What don't we know yet about the "40 Colleges That Change Lives?"

<p>An earlier thread has raised questions about the completeness of the information given on some of the colleges profiled by Pope's book. Where many top schools are profiled extensively by many guides, and students can thus get several points of view on the school, other less well known schools do nt have many other reviews to compare.</p>

<p>Any comments, criticisms, accolades for the Pope schools?</p>

<p>I can't speak to the Pope book--we never consulted it--but I think it's a good idea to reflexively cross-check everything that's important to you. From a student's point of view, where you go to college is probably among the half-dozen or so biggest life decisions that you'll ever make. From a parent's point of view, it's more than likely the second biggest expense you'll ever incur after buying a home. I'm not suggesting getting input in a frantic, obessive-like way but a business-like project management approach.</p>

<p>D and we got multiple points of view about many issues with respect to several schools. It was all useful, whether the datapoints coincided or not.</p>

<p>I agree with TheDad. Like all college guides, the Pope book is a beginning, not an end. It's kind of like college rankings - they are meaningless if you rely only on them to judge if a school's quality and fit for any particular individual.</p>

<p>My daughter does have several of the CTCL schools high on her list and I have been impressed with many of the schools in the book when I delved into them on a deeper level on my own. My personal feeling is that Pope tends to be a little too much of a cheerleader in describing the schools - NO school in the country is as perfect as he makes these sound. Also the book is somewhat out of date at this point. There is also the issue of whether Pope benefits from promoting these particular schools (he sponsors a college fair for them, for example and several have "honored" him in one way or another. I've found that he does a poor job in describing the culture and feel of the different schools - there's a world of difference between a school like St. Olaf and a school like Reed, yet that doesn't come across very well in the book, in my opinion. </p>

<p>But again, I think the book is a good start for considering options you may not have heard of --- it's just that, like ANY guidebook, you need to do follow-up research on your own using a variety of sources to determine which schools are truly a good value, both academically and socially. With the internet, it is increasingly easy to dig out both positives AND negatives about EVERY school, no matter how small or isolated. It's just a matter of putting in the time to really analyze the information with an open mind.</p>

<p>Our son looked at the Pope book for some ideas during his junior year. He visited two, Clark University and Allegheny because it was on the way during our visit to Oberlin which was high on his list. He enjoyed both campus visits but applied only to Clark. Allegheny was too isolated for him. He thought the book offered some good information that could not be gotten from other sources.</p>

<p>I looked at it to and agreed with his opinion. However, it should be merely one of several sources of information in making a decision. A student shouldn't base his decision merely on UNNews rankings either. USNews offers good info and data but it need to be supplemented.</p>

<p>My only concern with Pope is that he has created a cottage industry for himself and seems to work in conjunction with the colleges in his book. This could compromise his objectiveness in my opinion.</p>

<p>I've never been a Pope fan. My family had personal experience hiring Pope a long time before he wrote the book and that experience was such that nobody in my family would ever recommend his services.</p>

<p>My biggest problem with Pope is that lots of kids do not finish these colleges and you can't figure that out from Pope. After the Guilford thread was posted yesterday, I checked some of the common data for Guilford. 71% of freshmen begin sophomore year. That's right...29% do not. That's one heck of a lot of people leaving after the first year. </p>

<p>For the kinds of kids most people who are willing to pay for LACs at this level are, the most important thing is that the kid gets a degree. Yes, it's oh so wonderful when someone who was an average high school student ends up getting a Ph.D. But Pope's emphasis on that is a little disingenous, because it's the percentage of Ph.D.'s awarded to graduates. I think it's a little more relevant to most people who seek out these schools because they think their kids will fall through the cracks at a big state university to know what percentage of the kids who begin end up getting a degree. That number isn't mentioned in Pope--at least it wasn't in the edition I read. </p>

<p>So, while any information about schools is useful, if I were a parent, the statistics I would check first for any of the colleges in Pope's book are the percentage of students who return for sophomore year and the percentage who get a degree.</p>

<p>I bought Pope's book and have used it to discuss colleges with my S. I think it's an important book simply because if you go into any Barnes and Noble in the country, you'll see a complete wall full of "Ivy Confidential", "Top Admissions Secrets of Elite Schools", yada yada yada -- and the overwhelming message is that your life will be a middling existence (at best) if you don't get into a "Top" school. Pope's books are some of the few that buck that trend, along with Harvard Schmarvard and a few others. </p>

<p>Having said that, I don't think CTCL is the be all and end all. His "Beyond the Ivy League" is better and contains more information. CTCL is often just a series of extended mash notes about these colleges. I think anybody who uses the book MUST use it simply as a jumping off point to look at schools they might not have otherwise considered, and to seek out other schools like those in the book IF that's what they want. Some people do better at large schools, and yes, have their lives changed for the better. Pope absolutely can't accept that, but it's true. </p>

<p>The book itself is pretty dated, and so some of the information is not reliable. Also, as noted by Jonri, Pope seems to completely ignore Freshman retention rate, which to me is a pretty important stat. The schools may change lives for those people who stick around and graduate, but that's not the whole story. </p>

<p>Finally, I think that with smaller schools the "leadership at the top" can really set the tone for the college, much more so than at larger schools. One very small snippet of info that I remember reading in the Guilford College thread is that the Dean, who was being so unhelpful, was brand new at the school. Maybe that's contributed to a different "feel" at the college. Who knows?</p>

<p>The Pope books provide a much needed service for the many students who are looking at colleges that are not included in the Fiske, Princeton Review, *******, Underground Guide, and other narrative guides. Though you are not going to get a complete story from any of these descriptions, I have found them great starting points and they have been fairly accurate in giving a general idea of what the school is like. Some of the drawbacks as well as the strongpoints of the school are listed. It would be nice to have some volumes that do the same for colleges that do not make those top 300 lists. You really do not need to get the detailed scoop on Harvard anymore, as there are so many sources of info about life there and many descriptions. But if you don't want a school in your area and it is not considered a top interest school, it really is difficult to get some kind of a feel for it. The problem with the Pope book is that he does have an agenda he is presenting and pushing. That overwhelms the descriptions he gives of those colleges. The lack of definitive stats is not an issue to me, as I do believe that to accompany these narrative reports a big fat fact book is needed, such as the USN&WR guide or the College Board guide. Those stats are also available on line. But it is difficult to get a handle on, say, Concordia College in NY, or Lesley in Del as those schools are a bit more than the sum of their stats.</p>

<p>Jamimon, did you mean "Wesley" in Del? We live in Dover and I can't say I've heard of Lesley!</p>

<p>Sorry, typo. Yes. Not many choices in Delaware! This one was a two year college in Dover that is now a full 4 year school.</p>

<p>Jonri, you are right... but you also have to consider that the college's statistics may reflect more about the kind of students it accepts than the quality of the college. As the parent of a college drop out - while I have some disappointment that my son's advisor didn't take a more proactive role with him - I have to also say that the same personal qualities that may have led him to choose his LAC might have been a big factor in why he didn't finish. My son's LAC tends to attract a lot of independent thinkers and creative or artsy types.... it does have a fairly significant number of students who don't finish, or don't manage to finish within 4 years .... but it also has a rather stunning number of people who have dropped out to do some very interesting things. (I think its dropouts on the whole have managed to achieve more fame than its graduates - which probably is why as soon as my son sent word that he was definitely not coming back, he began to receive lots of mail from the alumni association). So I saw my son kind of drift & explore there... then quit and find a job that became his raison d'etre... and I wonder if it is the same independent and somewhat rebellious streak that led him to choose his college that propelled him out when he found himself at loose ends. (This is not a Pope school by the way ... but my son did apply to at least one Pope school, which appealed to him for similar reasons, and also has a high dropout/low graduation rate). </p>

<p>Pope has an agenda, which is basically to "sell" private colleges that accept kids who do not have the kind of academic qualifications that are needed to get into the very top schools. This is probably borne of a successful counseling practice, in which I assume Pope managed to make a lot of families happy by steering the kids toward the colleges where their chances of success were better -- I mean, how many kids who drop out of Pope colleges for academic reasons would have fared even worse elsewhere? </p>

<p>But I also think Pope's work is helpful precisely because it does explore an alternative to the competitive, ranking-based system. Pope's book got my son thinking about what else a school might offer in terms of programs or environment, outside or beyond the type of criteria that is highlighted in books that focus on the "top" colleges. He and I both read the 40 colleges book as a set of examples; that in turn helped my son develop his mental picture of the "ideal" college for him, which happened to be the college where he ended up.... and, as noted, dropped out after 2 years. </p>

<p>So I agree - the college profiles in Pope's book need to be taken with a grain of salt. But the book does provide a lot of food for thought, and I think it does a tremendous service in terms of differentiating and exploring some lesser-known colleges.</p>

<p>I attended the "CTCL" tour and I thought it was very helpful.At the time, I was under impression daughter was going to attend Evergreen another school, but the admission people were very friendly and I talked a great deal to someone from Agnes Scott.It sounded great, but she did not want to leave the west coast. ( my daughter wasn't even there, I don't remember where she was, but she was out of the area- but I wanted to find out more info about the schools and I chatted with Mr Pope for a while, but I had impression he was very um, tired)I think the Pope books serve their purpose which is to get people thinking about schools that aren't necessarily top 20 in US News. and what is more radical, to start wondering if that really matters!</p>

<p>SBmom, thanks for starting this thread ( I posted the Guilford story yesterday). I agree with those who found Pope's books useful resources, and that there's a dearth of publications like them amidst all the others out there. I was so happy to find his books when we started doing the research-- they seemed like the voice of reason to me and brought a lot of schools to our attention that we would have overlooked otherwise. But Calmom expressed it well as does Jamimom and Carolyn: it's ONE source and can't tell us the whole story about any school. We have personally learned that it's important to dig deeper. </p>

<p>As an aside, before finding this wonderful website and all you kind people, I first inquired at the CTCL site about a parent's discussion forum. I learned they don't host one. I did receive a nice email response with contact info for Mr. Pope, who is apparently working on a new edition of one or both books. I'm going to send him our story, for what it's worth.</p>

<p>Its too bad that CTCL doesn't have a forum -- I think it would be nice if there were a board like this one, but geared to students who are looking for the type of schools that Pope profiles. But maybe he's afraid of opening the door to discussion that could include all the negatives as well as the positives about the colleges he lists - when you have a specific viewpoint or agenda to push, running an open discussion board can be risky. (In fairness, more likely it is simply that no one working for him has the time or inclination to moderate the board -- a poorly moderated board is even riskier, as users of the old PR board probably remember .... lots of nasty stuff used to go on over there because there was no one to put a stop to it).</p>

<p>Anyway, I do think it would be nice if there was a friendly place for kids whose academic records are shakier, or whose inclinations are more off the beaten track... as well as their parents. This board is great, but it can be very intimidating for a B student with a 1200-range SAT ... or for parents of kids who don't quite fit the model of perfection that looks good on an Ivy app.</p>

<p>As many other posters have noted, Pope's major contribution is getting a wider variety of schools on some students' radar. I also agree that BEYOND THE IVY LEAGUE is a better book than COLLEGES THAT CHANGE LIVES. </p>

<p>Pope's biggest weakness is his uncritical approach to the schools he covers. But I forgive him his hype, which is necessary just to get heard over the din mass culture and college marketing efforts put out on behalf of the Ivies, State U and the usual additional suspects. If his books' main theses were along the lines of "hey, here are some solid little schools some folks should be looking at, though they are not for everyone" instead of "these colleges change lives" how much attention would Knox et al have gotten over the past few years? </p>

<p>Now of course, demographics have pushed students and college counselors to pay more attention to lesser-known schools, but through the 90s Pope was doing everyone a favor with his efforts.</p>

<p>I read CTCL several years ago because my D had a checkered HS career. She attended five different high schools in four different states with a couple of wilderness program stints sprinkled among them. She had finally gotten her act together at her last school and read the book. Evergreen intrigued her (no grades! my kind of school!). Plus we had heard that both Evergreen and Prescott College attracted a number of former "wild children..." or are they free spririts? D actually knew a few people who had attended.</p>

<p>We saw an educational consultant who gave D a series of interest and aptitude tests. A few months later he presented us with a list of potential colleges which included Evergreen. He had no idea that she had already read about the school.</p>

<p>It was the only school to which she applied; she didn't even write the optional essay.
Her GPA and SAT were average. She's a sophomore now and is flourishing there. </p>

<p>I agree that Pope is too rah-rah for some of these schools, but I applaud him for championing the small, more obscure colleges that still provide a fine education. Certainly we would not have known about Evergreen if we hadn't read CTCL.</p>

<p>For me the book was a revelation. I didn't think there were any legitimate college options for my son other than community college or a specialized school like Landmark or Curry College. It was an extremely valuable resource. We did not rely on the book exclusively, but I would rate it as the single most valuable resource we used in this college search process, which includes all the "guides" listed by others, a college consultant and very supportive hs GC. I recognized that the author beats some of his points to death, and I take with many grains of salt his claims that his schools and their students are on a par with the Ivies (or even better!). How many times do I need to read about a freshman student who collaborates with his professor on research, has the prof's home phone # on speed dial and dines at the prof's house weekly, contrasted to the Harvard student who only sees his prof on TV until senior year? :) </p>

<p>The real eye opener for me was that there exist some truly excellent schools that are not highly selective in their admissions. Some of the schools in the book have used their newfound popularity to improve their stats, but others have not. During the past year my S visited 17 schools, 6 of which were included in the CTCL 40. He applied to 4 schools that had EA (or rolling) which were also his top 4 choices. We had a list of another 8 to apply RD. He was accepted at 3 (one deferred). No more apps! :) Just needs some overnight visits to decide where to go. We have gotten some great feedback on all these schools from current students, parents of current students and alumni, most of whom did not use the CTCL book to identify the school. </p>

<p>Unfortunately, my stress level has not subsided since my son's admission successes. Even before the Guilford thread I have been plagued by serious concerns about my son's ability to do college level work. But we are taking it one step at a time.</p>

<p>Just want to say that I think CC is a GREAT place for parents with kids in the B/C range to find ideas and exchange info. about college possibilities. We've had some wonderful threads on this topic in the past.</p>

<p>I'm also very interested in the comments from Kinshasha and Calmom about their kids picking sort of "alternative" schools. Those seems to be the type of schools my daughter is most attracted to as well and it is hard not to push her towards more "traditional" choices. I worry alot about whether she is going to end up coming home as a totally different person after her first semester because some of the schools she is most interested in are NOT what I would pick for her. But, perhaps I am just over-protective.</p>

<p>Kinshasa, its good to hear your daughter is doing well at Evergreen. We know several people who attended Evergreen and are doing well including a former head of OSHA. My older daughter had it as her first choice for years, ( can you believe our Republican governor was its biggest advocate?), but I hope that her sister will give it a look when she is ready</p>

<p>NJres, it was a revelation to me, too. Some years ago, when it came time for my oldest--a brilliant kid with a transcript that looked like a train wreck--to go to college, we had no idea where to turn, really only knew the well-known names. Someone recommended Pope's book. Not only did we get a good list of names to look into, we learned that it's possible to feel good about it! Now, this was back before CC (I think), and maybe there were other books like Pope's that I didn't know about, but it was a real eye-opener. Maybe it's a little too enthusiastic, as people are saying, but we got a lot out of it.</p>

<p>I read all of "40 ctcl, revised edition" and it was my bible during this often boring and repetitive college search. I often found myself feeling like I was being directly spoken to by Pope! I wish I could send her props, somehow. What a great help that book was!</p>