Mythbusters and Hidden Gems: Going to a Good College

I always chuckle when I suggest a college name to a family and someone responds, “I’ve never heard of that.” Um, yeah. That’s why you need me. I’m a professional educational consultant. I know about more colleges than the average Joe. Fear not, for behold: I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all anxious students and misguided but well-meaning parents of the world. There are many, many more awesome colleges out there than the relatively few you have heard of! 

In fact, there’s actually a naive arrogance or even complacency in assuming that the only good colleges out there are only the ones you’ve heard of. Relying on the colleges discussed only within your family or social circle, or relying on rankings to decide which colleges are good for any unique individual implies that the, oh, I’d say nearly 2,000 other colleges and universities in the US are completely irrelevant. Guess who has heard of those colleges? The faculty, the administration, the employers, the graduate school admissions committees, and the generations and generations of people who have graduated from those colleges and gone on to amazing graduate programs and successful careers and happy lives! 

The reality is: the most selective (and most popular) colleges are not adding thousands or even hundreds of beds any time soon. The 5% acceptance rates aren’t going to change unless some kind of seismic shift happens in secondary education or college admissions. There is no way left to game the system. 

So, the only choice in doing this process right and effectively is to go back to the basics: focusing on quality of education, comfortable and safe campuses, nurturing faculty, nice students who will become lifelong friends, and exciting opportunities for intellectual and personal growth. Students: you aren’t choosing a vacation destination. You’re choosing the place that will give you the environment you need to become the best you in four years. You don’t need lazy rivers or fancy laundry apps or concierge services in the dorms or an algorithmically-selected roommate who is exactly like you. You need good ‘ole fashioned college.

Therefore, I’m going to showcase over the next few issues some universities that bust the myths of popularity, places that people need to start considering seriously in order to escape the mania college admissions has become. 

First, I always like to find examples of influential people who went to underrated colleges:

  • Joe Biden, President of the United States: University of Delaware
  • Tim Cook, CEO of Apple: Auburn University
  • Bob Iger, CEO of Disney: Ithaca College
  • Oprah Winfrey: Tennessee State University
  • Colleen Hoover, best-selling novelist: Texas A&M Commerce
  • Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader: University of Louisville
  • Hakeem Jeffries, House Minority Leader: Binghamton University
  • Brad Pitt: University of Missouri
  • Kourtney Kardashian: University of Arizona
  • Kumail Nanjiani, actor, comedian: Grinnell College…ever heard of Grinnell

Let’s start this series by looking at Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa. Okay, I know a lot of folks living in big, glittery cities are immediately going to stop reading when they see the word Iowa. Stay with me here. 

Grinnell fun facts:

  • 1,700 students
  • Open curriculum – if you’re looking at Brown or Wesleyan or Vassar, you should also look at Grinnell.
  • $2.9 billion endowment
  • Top notch science equipment, facilities, graduate-level research available for undergrads
  • 18% international students
  • 45 countries and 105 programs for study abroad
  • 3,000 internships in US and abroad
  • 1 million books and documents in the library
  • 365-acre environmental research area with 10 different ecosystems and 113 species of birds
  • At Grinnell, freedom of speech is absolutely sacred. In fact, the only thing not tolerated at Grinnell is intolerance.

Graduate schools attended by Grinnellians:

  • California Institute of Technology
  • University of Cambridge
  • University of Oxford
  • Columbia University
  • Harvard University
  • Yale University
  • MIT
  • Stanford


  • Microsoft, Google, 3M, JP Morgan Chase, Department of Justice, Deloitte, Dana Farber, Apple, Amazon, Cigna, Cisco, Fidelity, Goldman Sachs, IBM, Meta, Salesforce, Spotify, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute…to name a few!

Where do Grinnell alumni live? 

Top cities are: Boston, NYC, DC, Minneapolis. Ergo, you don’t have to go to college in Boston or NYC in order to build a life there.

Grinnell is definitely selective; the students going there are sharp, and the professors want to work with curious, adventurous young people who enjoy learning. Grinnellians are proud of who they are and what they do at their impressive college, and they don’t care what other people think. Students looking at highly selective small liberal arts colleges in New England should strongly consider adding Grinnell to their list. If you want to go to college to learn and become an adult, you don’t need flashy gimmicks. You need a place like Grinnell. 

Next month…we’ll look at a college with 5,400 undergraduates, a beautiful residential campus in a big city, and strong sports – they’ve won 34 NCAA National Championships across 18 Varsity sports. Where could it be? Read the next newsletter to find out!

About The Author

Amy Christie, M.A.