Southwestern University is one of the colleges included in an updated edition of the influential book Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges.

Southwestern was included in the original edition of Colleges That Change Lives, which was published in 1996. The original book was written by Loren Pope, former education editor of The New York Times and longtime education consultant.  

Pope wanted to help high school students find colleges that help them develop a lifelong love of learning and provide the foundation for a successful and fulfilling life beyond college. In many cases, these turned out to be colleges that weren’t necessarily very well known. Distinguishing attributes of the colleges he selected include:

  • Low student-to-faculty ratios that foster collaboration, engaged learning, and personal attention. Classes are taught by professors, not teaching assistants.
  • Faculty who are dedicated and passionate about teaching, advising and mentoring undergraduate students.
  • A commitment to undergraduate education that focuses on the liberal arts and sciences. Opportunities for undergraduate research are prevalent.
  • A living and learning environment that is primarily residential and emphasizes the benefits of community, personal growth, participation, and involvement.
  • Smaller student enrollments that allow students to be known and recognized as individuals.
  • Out-of-classroom learning opportunities that provide students with an added perspective about themselves, their interests, and the global community. Participation in internships, study abroad, service to others, and special interest activities is common and expected.
  • These schools take into consideration everything about an applicant − not just their numbers on an application.
  • Alumni networks that help graduates with professional and career development opportunities as well as foster lifelong friendships based on an involved and engaged undergraduate student experience.

Southwestern was one of three schools in the Southwest that were selected for the book. The other two are Austin College in Sherman, Texas, and St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

“Southwestern University is very proud to have been included in every edition of this book,” said President Jake B. Schrum. “This book tells prospective students and their parents what our graduates have told us for years − that Southwestern University provides an education that engages minds and transforms lives. We all know that there are many other entities engaged in the business of ranking colleges, but few of them go into the depth that CTCL does when evaluating the quality of an educational experience. It is only through their qualitative, in-depth approach to evaluating a college − truly getting to know the school and its students − that the value of the Southwestern  educational experience, with all its nuances and intricacies, can be adequately measured. I can think of no other assessment that better captures who we are as a residential liberal arts institution.”

After the original edition of Colleges That Change Lives was published, the schools featured in the book joined together to form a nonprofit organization with the same name. That organization sponsors college fairs around the country that invite students to meet with representatives from all the participating colleges.

Many students who have come to Southwestern said they were influenced by either the book or a CTCL fair.

“Mr. Pope managed to capture the unique and subtle attributes of Southwestern in a way that resonated strongly in defining the type of university I was seeking,” said Will Molidor, a 2012 graduate who now works as an admissions counselor at Southwestern.

Christine Bowman, director of admissions at Southwestern, said the book also has allowed Southwestern to get to know students who are looking for the opportunity to learn in a collaborative environment.

“It has been great national exposure for a mission in which we believe very strongly,” she said.

Revised editions of Colleges That Change Lives were published in 2000 and 2006. After Pope died in 2008, his family hired Denver-based education writer Hilary Masell Oswald to compile an updated edition of the book. Oswald visited Southwestern in 2011 to affirm Southwestern’s inclusion in the new book and interviewed students from two dozen departments as well as faculty members Emily Niemeyer, Carina Evans and Rick Roemer.

While Oswald found that some things had changed at Southwestern since the last edition of the book (such as the construction of several new buildings), she found that “What hasn’t changed is Southwestern’s greatest virtue: its ability to foster close bonds between students and their teachers.”  

She cites several programs that facilitate this, including the Paideia program, the Financial Analyst Program, the King Creativity Fund and the Chemistry Department’s Welch Summer Research Program, which enables students to collaborate with faculty members on their research.

“It’s a good and exciting time to be at Southwestern if you’re looking for a place that helps you discover your passions and develop them,” the book concludes.

The revised edition is available from Penguin Books for $17. Southwestern plans to make copies of the book available at the Georgetown Public Library and all of the high schools in Georgetown.