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10 Best Small Colleges in Pennsylvania

10 Best Small Colleges in Pennsylvania

5. Swarthmore College

Swarthmore College is a private liberal arts college located in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. The college campus is 11 miles southwest of Philadelphia. The school was founded in 1864, and it is known for being one of the earliest coeducational colleges in our country. The total enrollment is 1,581. Swarthmore College ranks 6th in “Best Value School” and 3rd in “Best Undergraduate Teaching”.

The college was originally founded by the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), but today it has no religious affiliation. There are over 100 different clubs for students to participate in. There are two fraternities and one sorority. Study Abroad is a very popular option for the student body, and about 40% of the students participate in this program. Swarthmore students can take courses at Bryn Mawr and Haverford colleges through the Tri-College Consortium.

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Some rights reserved by musical photo man

All students are invited to participate in the traditions of the school. Some of those traditions are Crum Regatta where students race in homemade boats down Crum Creek. Worthstock, another honorable tradition, features live music, dancing, and food. The most popular majors are Social Studies, Visual and Performing Arts, Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Computer and Information Sciences and Support Services, Languages, Literature, and Linguistics.

Ninety-five percent of all students live on campus. There are 20 NCAA Division III varsity sports teams at Swarthmore College. Fifty-two percent of the students receive some kind of financial aid, and the average need-based scholarship is $44,256. The tuition and fees are $49,104, with room and board costs at $14,446. The average student loan debt after graduation is $28,280. The average starting salary upon graduation is $44,000

4. Cedar Crest College

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Some rights reserved by Madilworth

Cedar Crest College is a private liberal arts women’s college in Allenstown, Pennsylvania. The school was founded in 1867. There are 1,388 students enrolled at the school. The college campus is in a suburban setting, and it is ranked 6th according to “Best Colleges: Regional Colleges North”. It is ranked 2nd in “Best Value Schools”.

The student to faculty ratio is 10:1 and 75% of classes have fewer than 20 students. Men may pursue a master and bachelor degrees at evening classes or weekend study. The college offers more than 50 majors ranging from Fine Arts and Environmental Biology to Nursing Science and Business Administration. Cedar Crest College is known for its Nursing Program, and it is one of the most popular majors. There are also majors in Communication, Film Studies, Performing Arts and Theatre.

Many student clubs and organizations exist, and students also have the opportunity to study abroad. Lees Hall and Fitness Center is open to students for their personal use. The basketball and volleyball teams practice and play their games there as well.

The Falcons compete in NCAA Division III. They participate in the Colonial States Athletic Conference. The athletic teams are basketball, tennis, cross country, field hockey, lacrosse, soccer, softball, volleyball, and swimming. There are two club sports which are cheerleading and equestrian.

Cedar Crest College is also known for its tradition of Wishing Steps. Cedar Crest women would walk with their sweethearts to the Allen Rose Garden. The woods that are walked through leading to the Allen Rose Garden has become known as “Proposal Park” because legend has it that if you and your date counted the same number of steps while walking to the park and sealed your wish with a kiss, you would get a proposal at the end. The Wishing Steps have been ranked 10th on the 25 Most Romantic College Traditions.

Tuition and fees for Cedar Crest College are $36,825. With room and board at $10,933. Ninety-two percent of full-time students receive some kind of need-based assistance. The average need-based scholarship or grant award is $24,082. The acceptance rate at Cedar Crest College is 68%. The average student debt upon graduation is $33,144. The average starting salary upon graduation is $40,000.

3. Gettysburg College

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Some rights reserved by Gettysburg College

Gettysburg College is a private liberal arts and sciences college founded in 1832 in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It is right next to where the famous Civil War battle of Gettysburg was fought. There is an enrollment of 2,600 students pursuing more than 68 academic programs.

The main thrust of Gettysburg College is to provide learning through experience with an extensive career network and countless co-curricular services and off-campus study activities. The student to faculty ratio is 9.6/1, and the average class is 18 students. One year out of college, 95% of Gettysburg graduates are on a career track or in graduate school.

There is much to do on campus at Gettysburg. There is the Sunderman Conservatory of Music, the Majestic Theater, a professional performing arts center, The Eisenhower Institute of Public Policy, Musselman Library, and the John F. Jaeger Center for Athletics and Recreation and Fitness. As mentioned above in my opening sentence, the campus is adjacent to the Gettysburg Battlefield National Park, it is 1 hour away from Baltimore, 90 minutes from Washington, DC and 2 hours from Philadelphia.

Gettysburg is ranked 4th in the nation for its mid-length study abroad programs at a top liberal arts college in Pennsylvania.  There are all kinds of opportunities for students to get involved at Gettysburg. The are public service programs; there are performing arts groups, more than 120 clubs and organizations on campus ranging from government to outdoor adventure. There are challenge course trips and backcountry trips as well.

There are over 800 events a year that are happening on campus ranging from art exhibitions to comedy night, to coffeehouses, films and theater productions. College athletics is also a big part of Gettysburg College life. Gettysburg hosts 24 NCAA Division III teams known as the Bullets, and there are club, intramural and recreational sports programs as well.

The acceptance rate at Gettysburg College is 39.8%. Gettysburg was named a “Best Value College” for 2014 by the “Princeton Review”. There is more than $50.5 million awarded in financial aid yearly, over 80% of the student body graduate in 4 years. The tuition cost per year is $50,860., with room and board at $12,140. The average student debt upon graduation is $19,284. The average starting salary upon graduation is $$43,000.


Jamie Stewart America Unraveled's resident expert on all things higher ed!


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