August — the start of the college application season. For many students, this is a pivotal moment in their academic careers. During this process, high school seniors across the United States submit applications to a variety of colleges and universities in the hopes of continuing into higher education. To many, going to a college of their choice could mean getting a jumpstart into their career and professional aspirations.
If you happen to be an upcoming senior, choosing where to apply is one of the most important decisions during the process. Most likely, you have considered applying to some of the widely recognized top-ranked colleges, such as an Ivy League school, Stanford, or MIT. Many of those top schools do have a well-deserved reputation for academic excellence and great job placements. However, that does not mean that lower-ranked institutions are worse. In fact, plenty of universities throughout the country offer a great education, despite being lesser-known than traditional “top colleges”. With that in mind, here are some underrated colleges that can serve as a stepping stone for an equally successful career.
University of the Pacific- Stockton, CA
The University of the Pacific is a private Methodist university in Stockton, California. It is ranked as the 133rd best national university by the US News and World Report (USNWR) and 238th Forbes. Pacific is also ranked as the 53rd best value school in the nation by USNWR, which demonstrates the high quality of a Pacific degree when compared to the cost of attendance. Pacific is a well-rounded school and is known for its accelerated three-year professional programs in dentistry, pharmacy, and law, as well as its strong health sciences program. Pacific students also have access to high-quality job mentorship and engineering co-op programs, as well as a strong alumni network. Additionally, Pacific has been placed as high as 49th on Payscale’s rankings for median mid-career salary. The average SAT score at the University of the Pacific ranges from 1070-1330, and the average ACT score ranges from 22-30. Pacific’s acceptance rate is 64.9%, and its four-year graduation rate is 71.3%. The annual total cost of attendance (COA) at Pacific, which includes tuition, room and board, meals, and any other direct and indirect expenses, is $68,684.
Clarkson University- Potsdam, NY
Despite being ranked as the 124th best national university by USNWR and the 207th best college in America by Forbes, Clarkson University’s graduates have a proven track record of career success. Clarkson is known for its STEM and business majors. Its entrepreneurship program, as well as its engineering and management program, consistently top national rankings, though the university has solid liberal arts programs as well. Clarkson’s undergraduate body also has one of the highest rates of student internships in the nation, ensuring that graduates will be well-prepared for their careers. Payscale ranks Clarkson 64th in the nation for twenty-year return on investment (ROI) for tuition and 43rd for mid-career median salary. Additionally, Clarkson University holds a low 9.9:1 student-to-faculty ratio. The average SAT score at Clarkson ranges from 1160-1350, and the average ACT score ranges from 23-30. Clarkson’s acceptance rate is 74.6%, and its four-year graduation rate is 71%. Clarkson’s annual total COA is $70,228.
Stevens Institute of Technology- Hoboken, NJ
The Stevens Institute of Technology is one of the oldest technological universities in the US. It is currently ranked 80th in USNWR’s national university rankings and 152nd on Forbes. Stevens is a school that focuses on technology, entrepreneurship, and research. The school hosts two National Centers of Excellence — facilities selected by the United States government to conduct specialized research — and has a range of unique majors, such as Quantitative Finance, which combines different aspects of mathematics, finance, and computer science into a degree program. The cost of a Stevens education yields high returns. Stevens is ranked 17th in mid-career median salary ($147,700) and twenty-year ROI ($847,000). The average SAT score at Stevens ranges from 1330-1480, and the average ACT score ranges from 30-33. Stevens’s acceptance rate is 40.0%, and its four-year graduation rate is 82.8%. Stevens’s annual total COA is $75,770.
Colorado School of Mines- Golden, CO
The Colorado School of Mines is a public university within the Colorado State University System. Though it has a good regional reputation, it is largely unheard of in many other parts of the country. Ranked as the 88th best national university by USNWR and 92nd by Forbes, Mines is a highly specialized school with only two of its twenty-one available majors not being in either the natural sciences or engineering. As a result, Mines’ engineering programs are highly regarded. In 2013, BBC even referred to Mines as “America’s best engineering school”. With a twenty-year ROI of almost one million dollars and a mid-career median salary of $144,800, Mines’ career outcomes are comparable with many of the highest-ranked colleges on USNWR. The average SAT score at Mines ranges from 1160-1460, and the average ACT score ranges from 27-33. Mines’ acceptance rate is 53.1%, and its four-year graduation rate is 77.6%. Mines’ annual total COA is $37,255 for in-state resident students and $57,955 for all other students.
Babson College- Wellesley, MA
Babson College is a prime example of an overlooked school. A Babson education is on par with many of the best schools in the nation, and it currently sits at 40th on Business Insider’s rankings of American universities. However, despite its strong undergraduate programs, Babson receives much less attention relative to other top-ranked colleges and universities. A small college with an undergraduate population of only 2,361 students, Babson is a private school focused exclusively on business. Babson is known for its unique entrepreneurial program, in which students are required to launch a business during their first year. Babson also offers a study abroad program for juniors and seniors in which students study in India, China, and Russia over the course of a school year. Career-wise, Babson graduates are some of the most successful in the country. Babson’s mid-career median salary is ranked as the 10th highest in the United States by Payscale, and its twenty-year ROI ranks 24th in the country. The average SAT score at Babson ranges from 1270-1450, and the average ACT score ranges from 28-32. Babson’s acceptance rate is 24.4%, and its four-year graduation rate is 91.2%. Babson’s annual total COA is $76,410.
When deciding which colleges to apply to, remember that there are tens of thousands of colleges across the United States and around the world. Some may be better suited for different students, and each school is unique in its own way. While applying to schools, choosing a university may very well be one of the most crucial points in the entire process. While rankings can be a good indicator of academic quality, it is also important to note that they are not perfect determinators. Though some schools are ranked lower than others, the vast majority of them will still provide you with a high-quality education.
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