Hot Schools; Trends: Large, Small, Urban, Rural-What's Best for You? Here Are Our Picks for the Places Everyone's Talking about for 2005

By Kantrowitz, Barbara | Newsweek, August 23, 2004 | Go to article overview

Hot Schools; Trends: Large, Small, Urban, Rural-What's Best for You? Here Are Our Picks for the Places Everyone's Talking about for 2005


Kantrowitz, Barbara, Newsweek


Byline: BARBARA KANTROWITZ (With Jordana Lewis, Cathleen McGuigan and Vanessa Juarez)

Pull apart the DNA of a student's dream school and you'll find so many different strands. Perhaps it's the location, either in the rolling country- side far from anything resembling a sidewalk, or in the midst of a hip urban neighborhood. It could be a college's unique educational mission or the array of quirky personalities. Maybe it's the outstanding labs or libraries or theaters, even the fitness center. All the colleges on the Hot List for 2005 have one thing in common: they provide an outstanding education. But what makes them hot is their differences.

Although all have demonstrated continuing excellence, various qualities made many of them stand out this year. The Iraq war, as well as its aftermath, highlighted the importance of well-educated military leadership and made some students think of applying to Annapolis or West Point. The debate over Early Decision (ED) admissions policies prompted a number of applicants to try schools like Yale or Stanford that have led the effort to reduce ED stress.

The controversy over affirmative action motivated other students to seek colleges like Wesleyan that celebrate diversity. Another trend has been increased attention to quality-of-life issues: good dorms, good food, a range of student organizations. There's also a growing focus on life after college: Is the career center helpful? How many students get jobs or get into graduate schools? With annual costs at private universities topping $40,000, these are serious questions.

To compile this admittedly subjective list, we interviewed students, admissions officers and longtime observers of the admissions process. The applicant pool for all these schools has grown much stronger in recent years--not only in sheer numbers of applicants but also in test scores, grades and extracurricular accomplishments. Some schools on our list have international reputations; others aren't widely known. But they are all someone's dream school. Maybe yours? Herewith, 10 of our picks (to see the rest of the 25 hot schools, read the Kaplan-newsweek College Guide for 2005):

HOTTEST IVY

Yale University, New Haven, Conn.

Yale president Richard Levin has been a leader in efforts to change ED admissions policies, and that's probably one reason the university is at the top of so many ambitious students' lists. A record 19,682 students applied this year, but only 1,955 were admitted. Undergraduate-admissions Dean Richard Shaw says the number of campus visits has increased dramatically--a good indicator of a spike in future applications. Yalies say a big attraction of the undergraduate experience is the residential-college system. Students live in one of 12 colleges, each with its own character, under the guidance of a master and a dean.

HOTTEST BIG 10 SCHOOL

Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill.

With six undergraduate schools, Northwestern attracts budding actors, journalists, engineers and teachers--along with plenty of liberal-arts students still unsure of what to major in. Each school has a national reputation. Some standouts: the Medill School of Journalism, the School of Communication (which includes the drama and theater program) and the engineering school, which is a center of research in nanotechnology. When they're not studying, Northwestern students can take in Wildcats football or head into nearby Chicago.

HOTTEST ARCHITECTURE

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass.

President Charles Vest is leaving his mark with an ambitious $1 billion construction program that includes Steven Holl's Simmons Hall, a controversial aluminum-clad dorm that opened in 2002, and Fumihiko Maki's expansion of the Media Lab. The biggest buzz surrounds the new Stata Center, a computer-science building by Frank Gehry. The raucous, lighthearted exterior belies purposeful planning inside: the center not only contains labs for the "intelligence sciences" but also connects corridors and public spaces in a way that encourages spontaneous collaboration.

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