Princeton Review ranks Michigan independents among tops in nation

Sometimes, it’s hard to make sense of college rankings. That’s why the Princeton Review’s annual list of best colleges is so popular: Unlike other systems, it bases its rankings on the opinions of the one group that really matters.

The students.

It’s little surprise, then, that yet again several Michigan independent colleges were listed among the nation’s 380 best by the college prep service.

Alma College, Albion College, Calvin College, Hillsdale College, Hope College and Kalamazoo College were named among the best schools in the Midwest. K-College, Calvin and Albion made the review’s list of top schools nationwide.

It’s a huge honor because the Review surveys more than 130,000 to come up with the list, asking them about dozens of topics from academics and food to their professors and social experience.

The review was generous in its praise for Michigan independents:

Albion has a “great reputation,” a “rigorous but rewarding” academic experience that “encourages questions [and] thinking” all the while aiming to “provide personal attention to each student.”

Alma “takes pride in preparing students for graduate/professional school or for entering directly into the work force.”

Calvin is an “incredibly supportive and collaborative community” that stresses “social justice and sustainability.” It integrates “Christian faith and learning” but “religion [isn’t] forced.”

Hillsdale “offers the traditional, classically-based, liberal arts with teaching faculty and a strong core curriculum.”

Kalamazoo is a “unique” and “close knit” school where students “feel like a name rather than a number.” Its professors are “one of the best things about the school.”

The Princeton Review also singled out Calvin and Hilldale for on separate lists ranking the most schools with the most religious and most conservative students and schools with the least amount of partying.

Separately, Hillsdale was named in the Top Ten nationwide for schools whose professors are the most accessible and knowledgable and schools that are the most beloved by students.

That’s high praise indeed.

But it’s typical of the experience at Michigan’s top 15 independent colleges and universities.

The schools are guided by passion and community. Class sizes are small enough so students not only know their professors, they form lifetime bonds. Professors pride themselves on working closely with students to help them forge their own path, buck conventional wisdom and find a new way.

It’s an experience that simply isn’t available at traditional universities. And despite what you may have heard, independents are often less expensive and boast higher four-year graduation rates than four-year institutions.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.