You should not remove a college from consideration because you have never heard of it – or because you think its “name” doesn’t have the kind of bite you’re looking for. It’s important to understand the difference “prestige” and “reputation”.

Larger universities are sometimes considered prestigious, which is a notion created and helped by a broad range of dynamics and variables.

For example, most regard the University of Notre Dame as a highly prestigious university, and deservedly so. That viewpoint is helped by an incredibly large and supportive alumni base (approximately 132,000). Who has ever heard of the Fighting Irish football team? On September 10, 2010, NBC’s Sports’ telecast of the Notre Dame – Michigan game was watched by 7 million viewers. 7 million viewers. People have heard of Notre Dame. If you’re from Thomasville, Georgia or Florence, Oregon, you have heard of Notre Dame.

But ask John Q. Citizen from Florence, Oregon, if he has ever heard of St. Olaf College in St. Olaf, Minnesota. In 2008, St. Olaf produced two Rhodes Scholars – two! Over the past two decades, only two other liberal arts college in the nation have had the honor of having two selections in a single year. They’ve produced four since the year 2000 and nine since the college’s founding. St. Olaf has a student to faculty ration of nearly 12:1. According to the National Science Foundation’s Survey of Earned Doctorates, St. Olaf ranks No. 1 in mathematics and statistics; No. 2 in religion and theology; No. 3 in arts and music and foreign languages; No. 6 in chemistry; No. 8 in physics; and No. 10 in biological sciences among the nation’s 213 baccalaureate colleges in the number of graduates who go on to earn Ph.D.s.

To top it all off, in 2007-08, St. Olaf sent 661 of its 3000 students to study abroad. St. Olaf is No. 1 nationally out of bachelor-degree institutions in the number of students who study abroad. This is one serious academic place.

 

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