I had a tremendous experience last Thursday night when I attended the Colleges that Change Lives (CTCL) college fair in Dearborn, Michigan. This particular college fair is unique to others that I attend, in that the only schools permitted to attend are those who are members of the CTCL, an organization that was founded after education advocate and journalist Loren Pope wrote a book of the same name and included 40 colleges and universities from across the country. The schools he included in the book didn’t pay him for his endorsement (nor do they pay to be a part of the CTCL organization today); instead, Pope’s goal was to eke out the schools that best epitomized the ideals of higher education – those that not only prepared students for their careers, but also inspired, empowered, and instilled within their graduates a sense that their lives had truly been changed for the better.
(Needless to say, setting foot in a room amongst such educational powerhouses is, in itself, a life-changing experience!)
Each of the CTCL member schools has its own ethos, its own strengths, and its own weaknesses, just like any other college or university. And, just like their other higher educational counterparts, the CTCL schools all have their own unique personalities on campus. But what sets CTCL schools apart is an emphasis on the very same ideals that myself and my fellow independent educational consultants stress when we work with families:
- Fit. Not every college is a fit for every student – but every student who takes the time to invest thoroughly in his or her college search can find the right fit college for them! CTCL schools don’t just want any students to enroll each year – they want to bring in the right students because they know that if they have students who are a fit for their programs, both the school and the students will be more successful in meeting their goals.
- Personalized education. Lecture halls of 3o0 or even 500 students are nowhere to be found at CTCL member schools – nor are classes of the online variety. Instead, small class sizes, hands-on learning, and globalized thinking are emphasized for each student. Accessibility to professors is the norm – including dinners in their homes! – and none of the campuses have a crack big enough for a single student to fall through, a system that results in graduates who learn how to turn their weaknesses into strengths and how to turn their strengths into future success!
- Learning that is as broad as it is specific. Each of the CTCL colleges and universities have a liberal arts core at the heart of their educational model, which means that no matter what career fields their students aspire to, each one of them also gains a broad base of knowledge that helps them to think across many disciplines and can even help with smooth career changes in the future.
- De-emphasis on a school’s name. With such heavy emphasis on “name brand” everything in the twenty-first century, many students searching for a college immediately gloss over schools whose name they don’t immediately recognize, often because they fear that their degree won’t hold any value when they apply for jobs if employers don’t immediately recognize the name of the school they attended. But, while many CTCL schools do boast names that are famous (often as a result of their membership in the organization), they are also keenly aware that no college’s name alone is ever enough to guarantee success, both at the undergraduate level and beyond. All that matters is what their students learn inside their classrooms.
At the end of the day, every college is a life-changing experience for its students. For many of them, it’s their first taste of independence, of living away from home and being responsible for their own academic path. The friendships they forge and the lessons they learn will travel with them no matter where life takes them after graduation. So whether or not that student selects one of the 40 CTCL colleges in the U.S. or one of the others that makes up nearly 4,500 institutions of higher education in the country, the key to his or her success lies within the ideals of those 40 member schools; that is, if the school is the right fit and the student can learn the right skills that will carry him or her forward into a successful, rewarding career – and life! – then that student’s life will be truly and forever changed.
And isn’t that what higher education is all about?
(Want help finding that right fit school? Contact me and let’s start the search today!)